The shocking truth about the American occupation
Could Haditha be just the tip of the mass grave? The corpses we
have glimpsed, the grainy footage of the cadavers and the dead
children; could these be just a few of many? Does the handiwork
of America's army of the slums go further?
By Robert Fisk
Independent" -- --
I remember clearly the first suspicions I had that
murder most foul might be taking place in our name in Iraq. I
was in the Baghdad mortuary, counting corpses, when one of the
city's senior medical officials, an old friend, told me of his
fears. "Everyone brings bodies here," he said. "But when the
Americans bring bodies in, we are instructed that under no
circumstances are we ever to do post-mortems. We were given to
understand that this had already been done. Sometimes we'd get a
piece of paper like this one with a body." And here the man
handed me a U.S. military document showing with the hand-drawn
outline of a man's body and the words "trauma wounds."
What kind of trauma is now being experienced in Iraq? Just who
is doing the mass killing? Who is dumping so many bodies on
garbage heaps? After Haditha, we are going to reshape our
It's no good saying "a few bad apples." All occupation armies
are corrupted. But do they all commit war crimes? The Algerians
are still uncovering the mass graves left by the French paras
who liquidated whole villages. We know of the rapist-killers of
the Russian army in Chechnya.
We have all heard of Bloody Sunday. The Israelis sat and watched
while their proxy Lebanese militia butchered and eviscerated its
way through 1,700 Palestinians. And of course the words My Lai
are now uttered again. Yes, the Nazis were much worse. And the
Japanese. And the Croatian Ustashi. But this is us. This is our
army. These young soldiers are our representatives in Iraq. And
they have innocent blood on their hands.
I suspect part of the problem is that we never really cared
about Iraqis, which is why we refused to count their dead. Once
the Iraqis turned upon the army of occupation with their
roadside bombs and suicide cars, they became Arab "gooks," the
evil sub-humans whom the Americans once identified in Vietnam.
Get a president to tell us that we are fighting evil and one day
we will wake to find that a child has horns, a baby has cloven
Remind yourself these people are Muslims and they can all become
little Mohamed Attas. Killing a roomful of civilians is only a
step further from all those promiscuous air strikes that we are
told kill 'terrorists" but which all too often turn out to be a
wedding party or -- as in Afghanistan -- a mixture of
"terrorists" and children or, as we are soon to hear, no doubt,
In a way, we reporters are also to blame. Unable to venture
outside Baghdad -- or around Baghdad itself -- Iraq's vastness
has fallen under a thick, all-consuming shadow. We might
occasionally notice sparks in the night -- a Haditha or two in
the desert -- but we remain meekly cataloguing the numbers of
"terrorists" supposedly scored in remote corners of Mesopotamia.
For fear of the insurgent's knife, we can no longer investigate.
And the Americans like it that way.
I think it becomes a habit, this sort of thing. Already the
horrors of Abu Ghraib are shrugged away. It was abuse, not
torture. And then up pops a junior officer in the United States
charged for killing an Iraqi army general by stuffing him upside
down in a sleeping bag and sitting on his chest. And again, it
gets few headlines. Who cares if another Iraqi bites the dust?
Aren't they trying to kill our boys who are out there fighting
For who can be held to account when we regard ourselves as the
brightest, the most honorable of creatures, doing endless battle
with the killers of Sept. 11 or July 7 because we love our
country and our people -- but not other people -- so much. And
so we dress ourselves up as Galahads, yes as Crusaders, and we
tell those whose countries we invade that we are going to bring
them democracy. I can't help wondering today how many of the
innocents slaughtered in Haditha took the opportunity to vote in
the Iraqi elections -- before their "liberators" murdered them
Robert Fisk latest book is "The
Great War for Civilisation : The Conquest of the Middle East"
© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited
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