FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

When is Killing Arab Civilians Considered a Massacre?

by OMAR BARGHOUTI

Recent reports from Iraq indicate beyond doubt that the U.S. occupation army has embarked on a new “tactic” from its menu of atrocities, in an attempt to counter the burgeoning Iraqi resistance attacks against its soldiers. “Old-style” massacres of Iraqis have become so commonplace lately that even Iraqi “allies” of the U.S. were forced to unreservedly condemn them.

Among Western governments, alas, silence prevails. After all, the massacre victims are only Arabs. Not only is there an alarming apathy towards the horrifying spread of this phenomenon, but there is also a despicable aversion to calling it by its name. At the same time, many in the West go up in arms condemning the “massacre” of seals, whales, dolphins or a few white men anywhere around the world.

“Modern” massacres, that is the indiscriminate bombing — which last year included the use of phosphorus — of Iraqi civilian neighborhoods in “unruly” cities like Falluja and Qa’im, have always been a standard U.S. and British tactic. But those “clean,” remotely-executed and hi-tech acts of state terrorism were always easier for the world’s only empire and its lackeys to defend and present as “precision” targeting of “the enemy,” especially to a pathetically obedient media. The direct, messy murder of civilians, particularly by tying their hands and shooting them in the head, execution style, has not been as common, although it was practiced in several reported incidents in Iraq since the invasion. Now it is being reported more often, but in language that in effect, if not always by intention, leads to sanitizing it, even to normalizing it as a nasty, yet unavoidable, part of “war.” If this evasion from using the term massacre is not deliberate, it can only reflect a deep-seated racism among western journalists who cannot use the same ethical or professional standards in reporting the killings of Arab civilians that they normally use when dealing with “white” victims in comparable situations.

Just this month, for instance, the U.S. army committed at least two massacres, killing in cold blood tens of Iraqi civilians, including four children and a six-month old baby, yet neither of them was reported as a massacre. On March 15, near Balad, the Iraqi police reported the following:

“American forces used helicopters to drop troops on the house of Faiz Harat Khalaf situated in the Abu Sifa village of the Ishaqi district. The American forces gathered the family members in one room and executed 11 people, including five children, four women and two men, then they bombed the house, burned three vehicles and killed their animals.”

A local police commander said hospital autopsies “revealed that all the victims had bullet shots in the head and all bodies were handcuffed.” It is crucial to note that the Iraqi police force is recruited, trained and assigned tasks under vigilant U.S. supervision.

A similar massacre was committed in Haditha, in November of last year, as an act of revenge after a bomb attack on a U.S. marine force. A nine-year-old survivor of that crime, who lived in a house near the site of the killings, told Time magazine that after the explosion her father began reading the Qur’an. “First, they went into my father’s room, where he was reading the Qur’an, and we heard shots. I couldn’t see their faces very well, only their guns sticking into the doorway. I watched them shoot my grandfather first in the chest and then in the head. Then they killed my granny.” All in all, 15 Iraqis were butchered in this incident.

Still, the Guardian reporter, or editor, chose not to call either “event” a massacre. He also avoided any terms of revulsion usually used to describe similar “incidents,” particularly those involving white victims.

This last Sunday, March 26, another American massacre of Iraqis was reported in the Guardian. The Iraqi Security Minister, no less, described it as follows:

“At evening prayers, American soldiers accompanied by Iraqi troops raided the Mustafa mosque and killed 37 people. They [the victims] were unarmed. [US soldiers] went in, tied up the people and shot them all. They did not leave any wounded.”

Calling the mosque massacre a “raid,” the Guardian quoted U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson saying: “In our observation of the place and the activities that were going on, it’s difficult for us to consider this a place of prayer,” adding, “It was not identified by us as a mosque… I think this is a matter of perception.” Accordingly, the U.S. army concluded that “no mosques were entered or damaged.” Of course! No humans were massacred either, it would seem, as they were mere Iraqis. It is, after all, a “matter of perception.”

The Independent, which is typically more courageous in covering Iraq, reported the same incident as such: “US forces killed 22 people and wounded eight at a mosque in east Baghdad.” Though it did call the mosque by its name, the Independent still failed to call the “incident” a massacre. “The shooting,” “the killings,” but not a massacre.

To many Arabs, these massacres in Iraq evoke the memory of the Jenin refugee camp atrocities in 2002, when Israeli occupation forces bulldozed many homes and indiscriminately shot at any Palestinian who moved, leading to the death of tens and the injury of hundreds. The fact that the Palestinian armed resistance in the camp was exceptionally fierce — and heroic, one might add, causing the death of more than 20 occupation soldiers, was used as a pretext to justify the brutal killing of innocent civilians.

A BBC report on the initial findings of an Amnesty International investigation team — that visited the Jenin refugee camp right after the Israeli withdrawal from it — stated:

“A British forensic expert who has gained access to the West Bank city of Jenin says evidence points to a massacre by Israeli forces. [] Prof Derrick Pounder, who is part of an Amnesty International team granted access to Jenin, said he has seen bodies lying in the streets and received eyewitness accounts of civilian deaths.”

Then Israeli foreign minister, Shimon Peres, who initially told Ha’aretz that a “massacre” had taken place in Jenin, later retracting his statement, categorically stated that under no circumstances Israel should allow UN investigators access to the Camp. Indeed, Israel, supported by the U.S. and appeased by the UN General Secretary, Kofi Annan, refused to allow the UN to investigate the Israeli atrocities in Jenin. Whether the indiscriminate killings it committed in Jenin constituted a massacre or not was never allowed to be examined impartially by the UN. But what was abundantly clear by all objective accounts was the fact that Israel committed the following war crimes in Jenin:

“[T]he systematic prohibition on the provision of food, water, and medical supplies to the entire civilian population of Jenin refugee camp despite its urgent need of such supplies; systematic prohibition of medical care to the entire population of the camp when it was known many individuals were in urgent need of such care on account [of] injuries sustained during the conflict and/or medical conditions unrelated to it; the deliberate use of civilian non-combatants as human shields to facilitate military operations; torture, abuse, deprivation, and humiliation of men and boys arrested en masse solely on account of their status as residents of Jenin refugee camp; summary executions; implementation of a shoot-to-kill policy against individuals clearly identifiable as civilian non-combatants, on the pretext of strict enforcement of a prolonged curfew maintained without any interruption; deliberate destruction of buildings in which civilian non-combatants were known to reside without prior warning when provision of such warning would not have impeded military operations; and widespread destruction of property after the conclusion of military hostilities for punitive rather than operational objectives.”

The above and the early Israeli panic lead many in the media to suspect the occurrence of a massacre. Under unprecedented Israeli intimidation, accusations and threats, however, initial western media reports of a massacre in Jenin were quickly removed from circulation. Israeli-influenced media sources later attacked those who even entertained the thought of a massacre, particularly after the total number of Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers turned out to be “only” 56.

Whether in Iraq or Palestine, a crucial question poses itself: how many Arab civilians must be murdered in order for a massacre to be recognized as such in the patently hypocritical western media?

OMAR BARGHOUTI, independent political and cultural analyst who has published essays on the rise of empire, the Palestine question and art of the oppressed. He holds a Masters degree in electrical engineering from Columbia University, and is currently a doctoral student of philosophy (ethics) at Tel Aviv University. He contributed to the published book, The New Intifada: Resisting Israel’s Apartheid (Verso Books, 2001). He is an advocate of the secular, democratic state solution in historic Palestine. His article “9.11 Putting the Moment on Human Terms” was chosen among the “Best of 2002” by The Guardian. He can be reached at: jenna@palnet.com

 

 

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail