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:
June 29, 2016
Diana Johnstone
European Unification Divides Europeans: How Forcing People Together Tears Them Apart
Andrew Smolski
To My Less-Evilism Haters: A Rejoinder to Halle and Chomsky
Jeffrey St. Clair
Noam Chomsky, John Halle and a Confederacy of Lampreys: a Note on Lesser Evil Voting
David Rosen
Birth-Control Wars: Two Centuries of Struggle
Sheldon Richman
Brexit: What Kind of Dependence Now?
Yves Engler
“Canadian” Corporate Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
Return to the Gilded Age: Paul Ryan’s Deregulated Dystopia
Priti Gulati Cox
All That Glitters is Feardom: Whatever Happens, Don’t Blame Jill Stein
Franklin Lamb
About the Accusation that Syrian and Russian Troops are Looting Palmyra
Binoy Kampmark
Texas, Abortion and the US Supreme Court
Anhvinh Doanvo
Justice Thomas’s Abortion Dissent Tolerates Discrimination
Victor Grossman
Brexit Pro and Con: the View From Germany
Manuel E. Yepe
Brazil: the Southern Giant Will Have to Fight
Rivera Sun
The Nonviolent History of American Independence
Adjoa Agyeiwaa
Is Western Aid Destroying Nigeria’s Future?
Jesse Jackson
What Clinton Should Learn From Brexit
Mel Gurtov
Is Brexit the End of the World?
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Alabama Democratic Primary Proves New York Times’ Nate Cohn Wrong about Exit Polling
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
Stephanie Van Hook
The Time for Silence is Over
Ajamu Nangwaya
Toronto’s Bathhouse Raids: Racialized, Queer Solidarity and Police Violence
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail