Margaret Hassan has been murdered. That is the most probable conclusion from a video given to Al Jazeera yesterday. For one who met her and got to know her, even if just a little, it is hard to write and read that sentence. But Margaret Hassan–Umm Margaret–in Baghdad has been murdered.
Who killed her?
Desperate, fanatic people who thereby cast a dark shadow over their nationality, organisation, religion and philosophy. People who mistakenly believe that a better Iraq will emerge from such a crime and who cares nil for the welfare of the Iraqi people to whom she devoted most of her life and work. Or someone related to the occupation forces seeking to discredit the image of all Iraqi resistance.
Why she of all?
Because she was a courageous, principled and determined humanist who defied danger and could not be intimidated. She represented the best of the Western and the Arab world in one person and, thus, was a threat to the worst elements in both. For, alive she would remind everyone about the essential difference between genuine goodness and the grim reality of the self-proclaimed “good” policies of George W. Bush, Tony Blair and Ayad Allawi.
What caused her death?
The occupation itself and the governments responsible for it. Margaret Hassan was married to an Iraqi, lived for more than 30 years in Iraq, by and large simultaneously with Saddam Hussein’s brutal rule. She could live and work there, both with the British Council in the 1980s and with CARE. She considered herself an Iraqi and never thought of leaving the country during the various wars and constant human rights violations. Time and again, she voiced her deep concern to everyone she met–including us–about the inhuman consequences of the economic sanctions and the further suffering of the citizens in case the country would be attacked and occupied.
Margaret Hassan was not killed in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, she was murdered in the Iraq that has been created by Messrs Bush, Blair, Berlusconi, Fogh Rasmussen and other Western leaders and by U.S. ambassador John Negroponte as well as by the former exile CIA hand and hand-picked prime minister Ayad Allawi.
In their Iraq people are angry, very very angry. They are hateful of the West that has promised them a better life and delivered them one that is, in all ways but one–that Saddam dictatorship is gone–much worse than under Saddam.
Bush recently asked Blair to move British troops from the south to the troubled central Iraq including Baghdad. We heard Margaret Hassan on video, “Please help me. The British people, tell Mr Blair to take the troops out of Iraq and not bring them here to Baghdad. That’s why people like myself and Mr Bigley are abducted, and we might die.”
BBC put it all in perspective: “Her plea follows UK Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon’s announcement that 500 Black Watch soldiers and 350 support personnel will move from Basra to the US sector in central Iraq.”
That is the what–not who–that murdered Margaret Hassan.
Could Bush and Blair have saved her life? In principle, they could. But the logic of war prevented them: don’t give in, continue to the bitter end and let others pay the price. How much longer can this continue? How many more of these awful abductions will the world witness before we see a change in this policy which has caused such a trauma for the Iraqi people in general and for the families and loved ones of the wounded, the murdered and other dead? How much longer can Messrs Bush, Blair, Berlusconi, Fogh Rasmussen and fellow war-makers continue to let others pay for their own immoral and anti-intellectual policies?
The larger perspective
Just extend the space and the time around this tragedy, and you will see that is a history that leads up to the murder, there is a global political space in which it takes place. Margaret Hassan was killed by a completely misguided policy and formidable structure of male power, of hubris and ignorance, of playing it cool when knowing one is guilty, of cultural contempt together with a war machine that no one seems to control anymore, with no mercy–only formidable, brutal power.
Said Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, “Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.”
Tony Blair said “I think it shows you the type of people we are up against, that they are prepared to kidnap somebody like this.” Who is this moralizing Blair? A man of Christian faith whose troops brought nuclear weapons to the region last year, to be used “if necessary” in a country in which half the people are below 16 years of age.
That shows you which type of people the Iraqis are up against.
He who does not care for one cares for none, that’s the philosophy shared by state terrorists and the small group terrorist. It casts a long dark shadow over Western civilization.
We mourn the loss of our friend Margaret. She was the victim of her direct murderers and of several others. She was the victim of the war system and the brutalisation of the human mind it invariably causes. A flame of humanism and hope for the Iraqi people and the rest of us has been extinguished.
Christian Harleman is an associate at the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research.
Jan Oberg is director of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research.