Airline announcement: “To passengers waiting to board Flight ABC 123: your plane has been delayed by fifteen minutes. We thank you for your patience and regret any inconvenience.”
US Military in Iraq announcement: “To the 68 year-old man whose house we burst into in the middle of the night, firing stun grenades, and who we then handcuffed, hooded and dragged off to interrogate and then discovered was entirely innocent because we are a bunch of incompetent boobies, we regret any inconvenience.”
That’s the way it goes, folks. Explode into someone’s house at 4 in the morning, trash the place, steal valuables, rough up the elderly owner and terrify his wife, haul him and his sons away, and after the whole thing is realized to have been a total military balls-up announce that “It was determined that [the victim] was detained by mistake and should be released. Coalition forces regret any inconvenience and acknowledge Mr Hamid’s co-operation in resolving this matter.” Then forget all about it.
If anyone is wondering why US occupation troops (ignore the misleading garbage about “coalition forces”) are increasingly detested and regarded with fear and contempt by more and more Iraqis as the days go by, there is no need to look further than their act of swaggering incompetence on May 30, because it is typical of what they have been doing in Iraq since the invasion. The only reason we know about this particular case of arrogance and stupidity on the part of a bunch of clumsy thugs is because the man concerned, Dr Mohsen Abdul Hamid, is a major political figure. The citizens of the United States didn’t hear much about the shambles, and they know nothing whatever about all the other outrages because they do not involve high profile people. All the other smash crash and bash operations of cloddish violence against the civil population are reported only in non-US media.
The illegal abduction and gross humiliation of Dr Abdul Hamid are much more important than the bungling ineptitude of the US military commander in Iraq. (For it is he who is to blame. It was his cretinous subordinates who ordered the raid, and his delinquent barbarians who assaulted the house of an innocent family in dead of night. The buck stops — or should stop — right on the shoulders of the senior star-wearer.)
The case is specially important because the President and Prime Minister of Iraq protested to the United States of America about the US military’s bizarre treatment of one of their country’s most prominent politicians. The violation of his privacy and dignity and the statement by Iraq’s President that ” . . . no one gave prior notice to the Presidential Council about the arrest of Dr. Mohsen Abdul-Hamid. This way of dealing with such a distinguished political figure is unacceptable” are not to be brushed aside. Their expressions of deep concern were made on behalf of their citizens and have a direct bearing on bilateral relations and policy. But Bush Washington ignored the protests.
Failure to respond promptly, publicly and courteously to a head of state in such circumstances is one more example of calculated international vulgarity on the part of the Bush administration. It shows the weak countries of the world that Bush regards them with contempt. Bush would respond quickly enough to China’s head man (who personally despises him, with good reason), and if he didn’t reply to Russia’s Putin, his intellectual superior by some scores of IQ points, he would be put in his place very quickly. But little countries don’t matter. And little countries, to the Bush zealots, are those whose heads of state they can insult, bully and denigrate without fear of retaliation.
Last month, President Karzai of Afghanistan dared to raise the matter of the torture and murder of some of his citizens in the most bestial fashion by American soldiers.
There was then immediate release in Washington (let’s forget the word ‘leak’ ; this handout was a matter of Bush administration policy) of a cable from the US embassy in Kabul declaring that President Karzai is entirely responsible for the failure to counter the crisis of massive opium/heroin production in his country. This grotesque announcement was intended to deflect attention in America (the rest of the world doesn’t matter) from President Karzai’s expression of concern about the savagery of US soldiers in the prison camps they run. The ploy succeeded, of course. As intended by the Bush propaganda apparatchiks, most news outlets swamped the first story by the second — if indeed they had even mentioned Karzai’s protest, which many of them had not.
Deliberate release of the let’s-trash-Karzai cable was not only contemptible but ludicrous. The person in the Kabul embassy who composed it (if it is genuine) is either insane, or a sniveling understrapper of the Washington system, or absurdly and unbelievably ignorant of conditions in Afghanistan. Of course President Karzai can’t do anything to counter drug production or smuggling, because the 18,000 US troops in his country are forbidden to act against the drug barons and their private armies. The speedy publication of the State Department’s classified cable immediately after President Karzai commented on criminal actions against his citizens was intended to humiliate him and make it clear that if he ever dares criticize US soldiers who torture and murder his people, and thus their commander-in-chief, he does so at his peril.
The smear and jeer operation against President Karzai succeeded in spades. It wasn’t a shot across his bows: it was a broadside into his vitals. The poor fellow was shown publicly to be a nonentity whose words mean nothing, and his credibility in his own country was shattered. This malevolent and spiteful action by Bush Washington destroyed such authority as he had, and has set back the Afghan stability program by another decade or so. Well done, the deranged ninnies who at all costs defend The Great Leader against the slightest word of disapproval. What a bunch of squalid little jerks.
The warlords who control most of Afghanistan, almost all of whom are up to their necks in the drug trade, now know for certain that the President of Afghanistan is a mere figurehead. His request to Washington for some face-saving measure of control over US forces was rejected out of hand. The literate inhabitants of his country, all 30 per cent of them, now realize that the man they voted to be president is only a dancer to the tune of the occupying power. The illiterate majority, influenced by dangerous rabble-rousers, already firmly believed that Karzai is a mere tool of the invader, which is exactly how Afghan puppet politicians were regarded during the Soviet military occupation in the 1980s.
In similar vein, the President and Prime Minister of Iraq are supposed to be the leaders of a free country, because Bush keeps telling us that he has liberated Iraq and that it is now a democracy. But what “liberator” with any sensitivity would call the main military base in an occupied country “Camp Victory”?
Iraqis are a proud people, a fact which is regarded as quaint (where have we heard that word before?) by the Bush zealots and their smash-the-door-down occupation troops whose ferociously arrogant behavior began to alienate Iraqis immediately after the occupation began. If they had behaved as liberators rather than conquerors there wouldn’t have been an uncontrollable uprising. It’s too late now to reverse the hatred they have generated, but it would help to at least try to appear civilized by dropping such arrogant and triumphal (and, now, ironic) nomenclature as “Camp Victory”. And while we are covering naive, pathetic and immature behavior, the US commander of Iraq should give an order forbidding his troops to use the word “hajis” to describe its citizens. Perhaps he doesn’t know it is used. If so, he is failing in his duty. But if he does know that it is usual for his soldiers to scream “get the fuck out of the way you fucking hajis” at bewildered civilians, and does not forbid such atrociously insulting behavior, then he is a moron.
So it is not surprising, given the policy and atmosphere of Bush-induced exultant supremacy, that the leaders of the supposedly free nation of Iraq were not consulted about the pre-dawn arrest of the head of one of the most important political parties in their country, and that when they complained about it they were ignored. This is the Bush version of the spread of freedom, and the world has become accustomed to the use of uncouth boorishness in the US confrontation policy that has replaced diplomacy.
The few US reporters in Iraq know perfectly well that the humiliation of Dr Mohsen Abdul-Hamid was the most sensitive and important story in recent weeks, if only because it has had enormous influence on the Sunni community whose support is so critical in this terrible period of mayhem and murder. But no US paper or network gave it the cover it should have, simply because that would mean criticizing the US military and its goofy “we are the conquerors” policy for the occupation, which has been so utterly disastrous.
Media outlets that do not “Support Our Troops” to the hilt, by doing their utmost to conceal torture, murder, pre-dawn raids on innocent people, and destruction of towns on a scale reminiscent of the Nazis’ obliteration of Guernica, are doomed to suffer the Bush/Nixon revenge for “disloyalty”, which is malicious, poisonous and vindictive. Some of them try to tell some of the truth, but most just copy the US military mantra about its ruthless excesses that have alienated so many Iraqis and Afghans and horrified so much of the world. It’s a phrase we all know well. A comfortable and contemptuous non-apology for planes being late and innocent citizens being brutally persecuted: “We regret any inconvenience.” . . . .
BRIAN CLOUGHLEY writes on military and political affairs. He can be reached through his website www.briancloughley.com