The Innocence of American Imperialism
Another day, another American atrocity in Iraq revealed.
By now, it’s become a very familiar (albeit unfortunate) tale; gory pictures of American marines’ criminal shenanigans in third-world countries surface, with little to zero indignation from the mainstream media or the public, the Pentagon announces a full investigation and/or a “thorough” inquiry into the matter (which, for the uninitiated, are nothing more than shoddy euphemisms for letting the perpetrators slide through unpunished and their crimes un-probed), the story dies down quickly and the U.S. carries on preaching democracy and human rights the world over at the point of a gun… or a drone missile for that matter. Rinse, repeat.
After that horrendous milestone of a moral depravity that was Abu Ghraib, we thought we’d seen all that there was to see from America’s inglorious, democracy-spreading escapades in the region, but as it turned out; the Abu Ghraib torture fiasco was just the tip of the atrocities iceberg; a torrent of graphic images and videos has been leaking ever since, practically giving us ringside seats to America’s drive for total hegemony and laying bare the U.S. military for the morally barren apparatus of occupation, death and torture that it really is; from U.S. marines taking trophy pictures of their “kills” of indigenous people to sexual humiliation and physical abuses of captives and prisoners of war, we’ve even seen American soldiers, proudly wearing their psychopathologies on their military sleeves, urinating on the dead corpses of their slain victims. Now we have the burning of Iraqi corpses in the backyards of their own homes till they were no more than crumbled piles of ashes and charred skeletons, because apparently slaughtering them was not enough. Shock and awe indeed.
Courtesy of leaked pictures obtained and published by celebrity gossip and entertainment news website TMZ (evidently the burning of Iraqis is just that- entertainment, and is relegated to the-latest-Kardashian-spectacle type of tabloid news, only in the Land of the Stars and Stripes); again we are “treated” to a sneak peek into the horrible psyche of the American military during its literal obliteration of the city of Fallujah in 2004.
The pictures show U.S. marines emptying gallons of gasoline or benzene onto Iraqi corpses and setting them ablaze, giving a new meaning to the “liberation of Iraq”, another picture shows an American soldier kneeling down on the ground and pointing his machine gun to the skull of an Iraqi insurgent with a “triumphant” smirk on his face in what can only be seen as an apt metaphor for Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” banner.
The stomach-turning photographs were reportedly taken in 2004 in Fallujah, where, it seems that, the fate of those Iraqis who managed to escape the incineration of their city with scores of depleted uranium and cluster bombs was good ol’ fashioned gasoline bonfires.
Those pictures are merely the latest in a litany of atrocious leaks, from Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo and Afghanistan, which only goes to invalidate that whole “few-rotten-apples” theory that the Pentagon usually invokes in these cases, making it virtually impossible for us to keep track of just how many individual “rogue soldiers” and “lone crackpots” there are in the U.S. Army.
Predictably; the pictures have barely been a blip on the radar of the mainstream media, the blundering of Iraq is an old story now, everyone moved on and its lessons went unheeded; all swept under the pristine rug of “America’s Exceptionalism”, where the value of a human life remains terribly skewed and outweighed by the barrel of oil, imagine the (capitalist) outrage if those were Iraqi oil fields burning and not actual human beings with flesh and bone… and (presumably) human rights.
Even the Arab World seems marooned in its own moral bankruptcy nowadays. When the burning of Qurans generates more outrage and anger than images of burning Iraqis, you know we’re in trouble. Perhaps we’ve come to grow thicker skin; the avalanche of images of beheadings, feasting on human organs and pallid children starving to death that we’re being bombarded with from Syria (America’s new “democratization” sandbox) tends to do that, but I can’t help but wonder; will we awake from our deep moral slumber if some American lunatic preacher began another round of Quran burning or if (god forbid!), some hack director made another lousy anti-Islam internet movie?
Speaking of “The Innocence of Islam”, I think it’s high time a movie was made about the innocence of America’s Imperialism; chronicling one brutal occupation after another, a desolate collage of an imperial power hard at work, reigning terror and destruction all over Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and beyond, all of which offer huge (and bleak) reservoirs of source material. I imagine it would go something like this:
Fade into the opening scene; we are shown graphic images of scattered limbs on street corners, women in black veils shrieking their voices hoarse and barefoot children in ragged pajamas; faces and hair covered in dirt and clouds of uranium dust as they scour the rubble of what once was their home for anything that might bring a bit of warmth to their trembling bodies or respite to their man-made ordeal, the title card reads: Iraq 2003.
We cut to another scene; a couple of jubilant U.S. military officers posing next to a sweaty pile of naked prisoners, smiling contently as they marvel at their own “human-architectural” handiwork; a pyramid of dark skinned naked Iraqis -some of whom are old enough to be the soldiers’ parents-, keeping up with the all-American tradition of constructing beer-can pyramids and shrines of empty rum bottles; only this time it’s a shrine of shame and eroding human dignity, other prisoners are lined up against the wall, again butt-naked, faces covered in black hoods and forced to masturbate in unison for the sick, twisted viewing pleasure of their “civilized” western captors when they’re not busy urinating on other wounded detainees and electrocuting their private parts, of course Iraqi women prisoners are “fair game” for American army officers for whom rape and sodomization is the “standard operating procedure”, and underage Iraqi detainees receive “hands-on” crash courses in America’s sexually-driven “harsh interrogation techniques”. The title card reads: America’s Abu Ghraib torture prison and detention facility.
The rotten film rolls on to yet another scene; an Iraqi woman is giving birth in a hospital room, the baby is deformed; malformed facial features, especially his mouth and nose; yet another “depleted uranium child”, Iraqi mothers are destined to reap the bitter fruits of America’s brand of democracy and freedom for generations to come; in stillbirths, abnormal tumors, birth defects, newborn babies with extra limbs, enlarged heads or babies with one eye at the center of the face, like lifelong hideous reminders that the American military was here, that the American empire stampeded its way through here. The title card reads: Fallujah, Iraq.
Cut to the next scene; the setting this time is a wedding ceremony somewhere in Afghanistan which wouldn’t be complete without the “blessings” of the American military in the form of fighter jets, dropping their loads of bombs on the wedding party. In another scene; an American helicopter pilot is singing “Bye Bye Ms. American Pie” before blasting an Afghan farmer with a hellfire missile to which his comrade says “Nice!!!”. Joystick criminality at its most grotesque. The title card reads: America’s campaign of democracy and human rights in Afghanistan.
Moving on to the next ghastly scene; we’re still in Afghanistan, we are shown four U.S. marines –fully outfitted in their military uniforms with their big guns, oversized boots and an equally oversized zeal for humiliating locals- standing over bloodstained corpses of dead Afghans, and assuming the position one would normally take at public urinals, in an astonishing display of utter contempt for human life; we see our “heroes” engage in an old-school pissing contest against the motionless corpses lying on the ground beneath their feet, we hear one of the soldiers smugly exclaim “Oh Yeah!”, followed by a chuckle, laughter then ensues throughout the group as their own collective urine starts pooling underneath the dead Afghans, someone off-camera jokes: “Have a good day buddy!”, someone else mumbles something about “golden showers”, now the dead bodies are left covered in blood, dust and soaked in their killers’ piss. A good day indeed for democracy and common human decency.
The next scene takes us to a small village in Kandahar; a local family is awoken in the dead of the night to the charging footsteps of an American soldier, with his combat gear on, juggernauting his way through the Afghan family’s house and into the bedroom where the children are sleeping; and with more ease than a hot knife cutting through melting butter; the soldier machine-guns the sleeping kids like any red-blooded American on the hunt for third world “terrorists” is expected to do, right before butchering the rest of the family in the same ungodly manner, we see him loiter around the living room for a little bit; he then wraps up the bloody corpses of his own victims in blankets and sets them ablaze, a bonfire of yet another victory for America’s “War on Terror”; the world rests easy that the brave U.S. military has once again managed to rid us of yet another dangerous group of sleeping women and children in Afghanistan. The title card reads: the Kandahar Massacre.
Next we see a young man lying on the floor in a fetal position, shackled wrists and ankles with a connecting chain between them, trembling from the freezing cold of a darkened cell, his brain feels like mush and the blood in his veins run like burning acid from the last electroshocks session, there is almost not a single muscle in his entire body that hasn’t taken a beating, he is covered from head to toe in dark blue and red bruises and whipping marks; the pains of being repeatedly kicked and sodomized with broomsticks transcend physical injury into the realms of permanent psychological damage, for a brief moment we get a glimpse of how the systematic breaking of a human soul is done; living on a fixed daily diet of gentile torture, religious humiliation, sleep deprivation, sensory torment and temperature manipulation in exchange for forced “convenient” confessions, there is little to reflect on in this scene; only ear-splitting screams of bearded inmates in orange jumpsuits being tortured and the occasional water-boarding session, the title card reads: Guantanamo.
The movie would end with Obama’s “I-believe-that-America-is-exceptional” address to the United Nations Assembly last year.
Yes, America has grown to be quite exceptional in its brutality, ruthless invasions and savagery, America has an exceptional knack for torture and plundering third world countries into endless wars, and America has an “exceptional” track record that stretches as far as the eye can see in its contempt for humanity and anything even resembling human rights.
Ahmad Barqawi is a freelance columnist and writer.