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Behind the Talk about Haditha - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Some news leave behind more questions than answers about what is happening and why it is happening. One example was the commentaries on confirming the killing of Al-Zarkawi. In an age of very sophisticated surveillance means, one can only wonder whether it was truly impossible to eliminate Zarkawi before, or that timing was key. The Haditha massacre and the media talk about it last week might provide some answers.

Haditha was one massacre among hundreds of massacres committed against Iraqi civilians. With its precedents, however, no one stopped to ask questions about who is behind ethnic killings and why. Has it really been impossible to delve into those questions, or was it again that timing was not right?

Some news we got about Haditha were blatantly disrespectful of Iraqi lives. One was: “the officers were released of duty after killing 24 Iraqis.” Another: “Bush’s popularity will not be affected by the massacre.” All relevant reports indicate that the American soldiers in Iraq have been set loose in cities and villages, with no restraining codes of conduct. It is painfully ironic that only today, after three years of killing in Iraq, the American forces are subjected to “ethical training.”

The reason behind the last move might have been what the retired American army officer, Barry Mcferry, said in Time magazine: “Our forces cannot continue that way, and I’m afraid that the American people have started giving up on this war.” So, the US investigation of what happened in Haditha and the killing of Zarkawi might be well-timed signals of military victory and morality to the American people, whose majority now stands against the war.

Had the objective been a substantive change of policy towards war victims in Iraq, the investigation into Haditha would not have coincided with the Pentagon’s decision to omit an article form the Geneva Convention that prohibits “resorting to humiliating and abusive treatment of prisoners.” Other information resources have indicated that the US, in certain cases, might have to “deviate from strict commitment to international human rights criteria.”

Both incidents also coincided with forcing 10 out of 28 detainees at Guantanamo to stop their food strike. Also all coincided with Dick Marty, head of the European Committee for Legal Affairs and Human Rights, releasing his report on US transfer of prisoners. The report accuses Washington of legal procedures completely foreign to the European one, by arranging the transfer of “suspects” to illegal places. Fourteen European states have cooperated with the CIA in this regard. Marty called those operations “the international cobweb that transfers suspects and treats them like criminals, using tactics that were developed in reaction to new war threats.”

More coincident: the British police raided houses of Muslim residents in East London, under the pretext of a chemical attack threat. In Toronto a mosque was sabotaged with the claim that it received some youths preparing for terrorist attacks. John Updike published his novel “The Terrorist,” where the leading character is an American Muslim. Three British soldiers were set free after having killed an Iraqi civilian by drowning him in a river, in front of eyewitnesses. Similar incidents are ample.

Some people, somehow, have turned all Muslims to suspects, and made all Muslim Lives dispensable. From time to time, cosmetic operations are handy, such as the investigation of the Haditha massacre. Has the Western legal system become means to detain, torture and kill the so-called “suspects” with impunity? Or is it neo-racism against Arabs and Muslims, that has undeclared strategic goals: such as devouring Palestine, and expanding Israel beyond the Egyptian and Jordanian borders, as Giora Eiland once said? Is what lies behind the talk about Haditha a cosmic interval that precedes another round in the war on Arabs and Muslims?

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Prof. Bouthaina Shaaban is political and media advisor to the Syrian presidency, and the former minister of Expatriates. She is also a writer, and has been a professor at Damascus University since 1985. She received her PhD in English Literature from Warwick University, London. She was the spokesperson for Syria. She was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

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