Breaking the silence
While the public has once again been exposed to scenes of torture committed by US soldiers against Iraqi civilians the response has been remarkably muted. While the coverage allotted to reports of atrocities in the US media is in itself admirable, so ubiquitous have such images become that the general public appears to be suffering from compassion fatigue.
Scenes of violent acts being committed against civilians in the occupied territories and Iraq are daily fodder. Images of Israeli soldiers abusing Palestinian civilians, something that has occurred repeatedly since the beginning of the first Intifada, have recently received widespread coverage. It is surprising, then, that the public reaction has been so muted.
Before the war against Iraq was launched millions marched in the streets of London, Rome, Madrid and Berlin in protest. Where have their voices gone? Why have they not been moved by the scenes in Falluja, Samaraa, Al-Ramadi, and Abu Ghraib, or by the horrors in Gaza, Rafah, Ramallah, Hebron and Khan Yunis? Is the public becoming accustomed to such scenes?
It is silence that allows the horrors to continue. American, British and Israeli soldiers have trampled human rights and international conventions underfoot. Bush, Blair and Sharon have led their soldiers into actions that violate all norms as they attempt to lead us into a realm where the law of the jungle is the only law that prevails.
The Geneva Conventions hold commanders responsible for the acts of their men -- indeed, the international tribunal for war crimes in former Yugoslavia has tried Serbian, Bosnian, and Croat commanders for crimes committed by their soldiers. By the same token Bush, Blair and Sharon should be held accountable for atrocities committed in Iraq and in Palestine.
The silence has to end. Governments and international organisations appear unable to prevent the ongoing carnage. Maybe international public opinion will succeed where others have failed. A protest movement must begin and take to the streets in the world's capitals. Much is at stake and much needs to be done.