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Atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan

Three Weddings and Lots of Funerals

by BRIAN CLOUGHLEY

George Bush, the Commander-in-Chief, tells lies.

Dick Cheney, the man who runs the Commander-in-Chief, tells lies.

Donald Rumsfeld, the man responsible for US defense except when things go wrong, tells lies.

So why should the US military do any different?

Here is a Reuters’ report of 20 October :

"FALLUJA, Iraq (Reuters) ­ US warplanes killed a family of six in raids against rebels led by Al-Qaeda ally Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi . . . A witness saw a man and a woman and four children, two boys and two girls, being pulled out of the rubble of a razed home in the rebel-held city of Falluja. The US military denied a family of six was killed, saying it launched four strikes against safehouses used by Zarqawi’s fighters.

"Intelligence sources indicate a known Zarqawi propagandist is passing false reports to the media," it said in a statement."

So the Reuters’ witness and Reuters’ television pictures and the dead kids are all part of a deep dark conspiracy to pass false reports to the world about US airstrikes in Iraq. The bodies of the kids don’t exist and the pictures must have been faked, because the US military tells us so. Dead boys and girls weren’t pulled from the debris of a building flattened by US bombs, in spite of the evidence of a witness, because the US military tells us so. And they are honorable people. So we believe them, don’t we?

The US military would do well to take heed of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’, when Friar John adjures Romeo to :

"come forth; come forth thou fearful man ;
Affliction is enamored of thy parts,
And thou art wedded to calamity."

For the US military is now bound by fetters of misplaced loyalty to the blatant lies of squalid politicians and has indeed become "wedded to calamity". And while on the subject of marriages, let us reflect on some of the weddings that the military has terminally and bloodily disrupted in the recent past.

 

***

"Four Weddings and a Funeral" is a British movie made a decade ago with a pretty weak story line and a lot of laughs if you understand the British sense of humor.

"Three Weddings and Lots of Funerals" is different. The story line in what I write here is strong enough, but there are no laughs whatever. It concerns the willful massacre of over a hundred innocent people by US aircraft at two wedding gatherings in Iraq and one in Afghanistan in the past 15 months.

These war crimes have not attracted publicity because the mainstream US media is not interested in following up even well-documented and irrefutable stories of US atrocities. (If these incidents had involved a British aircraft killing civilians the UK’s print media would have gone berserk and the defense minister would have been forced to resign.)

The people slaughtered at the wedding celebrations in Iraq and Afghanistan weren’t terrorists. They weren’t anything much, really, because they were just ordinary people ; wedding guests who had been enjoying themselves in their traditional way until the rockets and 50 cal rounds and 105 millimeter shells and monster bombs slammed explosively into them, ripping them apart in gouts of blood and gobbets of flesh.

For two main reasons the scores of wedding party dead have not excited the slightest interest or caused even the smallest concern in the US. First, those who were cut to ribbons were Islamic foreigners and therefore without doubt guilty of being associated with someone who might possibly have lived near somebody who was almost certainly linked to a person who knew how to spell ‘al Qaeda’ ; and, second, it is considered offensively and unforgivably unpatriotic to publicize US atrocities until it becomes obvious that the story is going to break, anyway, after which it becomes essential to moralize pompously and make sure the blame doesn’t become attached to anyone of importance. (A sergeant got eight years jail for torturing helpless prisoners at Abu Ghraib, but the man who authorized and encouraged torture, Donald Rumsfeld, walks free : that’s Bush administration justice.)

The main consequence of the non-happenings (for the wedding massacres were non-happenings so far as Washington and the American military, media and public are concerned) has been intensification of international loathing for the US and all it stands for. And this appalling outcome is evident not just in the immediate areas of the atrocities, and among the many hundreds of people to whom the victims were relations or friends, but very much wider. While there was little publicity about the wedding deaths in the US, there was a great deal elsewhere, and although some reaction was confined to shrugs and the comment "Well, what do you expect of Bush?", the main result was that existing fierce resentment against America in the Middle East, the Gulf and all round the Muslim world was made even more intense by the killings and especially by the cavalier attitude of the US military and the Bush administration to the horrific suffering inflicted on innocents by their weapons. Ordinary Americans, the decent people of America, are being held to blame for what has been done in their name.

When presented with evidence of war crimes, the neocon warniks always shriek "But what about . . ."?, meaning "What about the American soldiers who are being killed?" ; "What about the savage and disgusting beheading of hostages?" ; "What about the car bombs that destroy Iraqi children? ; and so on. Quite so : what about them indeed? Because nobody can believe that in some way these atrocities make it acceptable, justifiable or laudable for a United States AC-130s or helicopter gunships or B-52s (for God’s sake) to spray bullets, rockets, bombs and shells at groups of people who are celebrating weddings and have done no wrong. Nobody in their right mind could possibly approve of the killing of an American soldier. And nobody in their right mind would approve of the slaughter of innocent people, either.

Let us begin with the attack on the wedding party in Afghanistan at 1 AM on Monday July 1, 2002. This wasn’t just an AC-130 bloodbath, although one of these came along to have a yippee shoot. It involved the military application of force to the extent of a B-52 bomber plastering the area with seven 2,000 pound bombs.

It is the custom in Afghanistan and all over the region for people attending celebrations to fire guns in the air. This caused me a certain amount of concern when first I experienced it twenty-five years ago, but you get used to it. Anyone with the least knowledge of Afghanistan and Iraq knows that firing in the air is a commonplace event, and even the military spokesman at the Bagram US air base knew of this. But he disputed the fact that the firing was high-spirited and celebratory. No. It was "not consistent" with a celebration, said the colonel. "Normally, when you think of celebratory fire, it’s random, it’s sprayed, it’s not directed at a specific target. In this instance the people on board the aircraft felt that the weapons were tracking them and were trying to engage them." So the attack helicopters were being "tracked" by a raggy-baggy tribesman firing his AK-47, just like an aircraft is tracked by the radar of a surface-to-air missile system. How fascinating. Then the official line changed to claiming that the aircraft had come under "sustained and hostile fire". Rumsfeld said "I read in the paper there was a wedding. I just don’t know the facts."

Anyway, it doesn’t matter, because nothing was done about the butchery. It was all covered up, the innocent dead were buried, and it has all been forgotten. Who cares?

Nobody.

Just as nobody cares about the two wedding groups that were slaughtered in Iraq. The first one was in May this year, near the border with Syria. There was irrefutable television evidence of the bodies of young children being carried away from the village, which was flattened by US aircraft. This cannot be questioned, unless, of course, it was also part of the devilish plot against the US military by "A Zarqawi propagandist", who is so skilled that he can conjure up instant television film of dead kids. The BBC reported that "A US spokesman confirmed that about 40 people had been killed, but said the US forces had targeted a safe house used by foreign fighters." One of the survivors said "They hit two homes where the wedding was being held and then they leveled the whole village". The military deny there was a wedding. "We don’t believe there was a wedding or a wedding party going on" declared an honorable member of the US military. So the videos of the celebrations must have been faked by the ubiquitous "Zarqawi propagandist." They were very well done, and Associated Press showed the film of children larking around and general happy wedding scenes, including a man playing an electric organ. Later, the organist’s body was shown in a shroud. Clever stuff by the "Zarqawi propagandist".

There was no inquiry. There never will be an inquiry. The dead were only rag-heads, anyway. Who cares?

The most recent wedding carnage dealt by US airstrikes was on 8 October in Fallujah. It is approximately the same story : the groom was killed and the bride wounded. A total of 12 people were murdered in the onslaught. Yawn. Who cares? It must have been Zarqawi propaganda again.

The American public is told that this butchery is part of keeping up pressure in the war on terror. All these terrorist brides and grooms and terrorist kids rushing round in party clothes ; all the terrorist musicians and the terrorist wedding guests, by God, they have to pay for 9/11 because (as millions of Americans still believe), the Iraqis were responsible for 9/11. Well, they have paid. They died, horribly, and there have been lots of post-wedding funerals. And the dead have left a potent legacy, because for every one that was killed by US shells or bullets or rockets or bombs, there will be countless more recruits for the uprising in Iraq against America. Associated Press reported on 23 October that a little boy in Baghdad exclaimed "I want to be a pilot to fly an Iraqi warplane and fight the Americans", and this is but one tiny example of the overwhelming hatred for US forces felt by millions in Iraq and even more millions around the world. This feeling will endure forever. Well done, guys.

Official tactics are to make a stout denial that there were any innocent people killed by US bombs, coupled with righteous indignation that anyone could suggest that this could happen. Then comes the admission that maybe some kids were killed, and maybe a bridegroom or two, but, hell, they were in a safe house used by terrorists. And, mind you, the clincher on this one is now given as "Credible intelligence sources confirmed" that there were terrorists there. Then comes the flat proclamation that nothing happened to civilians ; nothing whatever. And their houses weren’t reduced to dust, either. Because it was all made up by "A Zarqawi propagandist".

And it works. It all works like a charm. It is amazing how it works so well. Nobody cares. The self-muzzled US media puts its hand on its collective heart and says "We can’t show this sort of stuff because it is unpatriotic to show US war crimes", and over ninety per cent of US citizens do not know what is going on.

George Bush, the Commander-in-Chief, tells lies.

Dick Cheney, the man who runs the Commander-in-Chief, tells lies.

Donald Rumsfeld, the man responsible for US defense (except when things go wrong), tells lies.

So why should the US military do any different? Especially when they receive such a helping hand from the media.

Brian Cloughley writes on military and political affairs. He can be reached through his website www.briancloughley.com