Sunday,22 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1183, (6 - 12 February 2014)
Sunday,22 July, 2018
Issue 1183, (6 - 12 February 2014)

Ahram Weekly

The truth about US imperialism

More pictures of American atrocities in Iraq have recently been published, revealing the existence of a long-standing pattern, writes Ahmad Barqawi

Al-Ahram Weekly

Another day, another American atrocity in Iraq is 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 go un-probed); the story then dies down quickly and the US carries on preaching democracy and human rights the world over at the point of a gun or of a drone missile for that matter.

After that horrendous milestone of moral depravity that was the scandal at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, we thought we’d seen all that there was to see of America’s inglorious, democracy-spreading escapades in the region. However, as it turned out the Abu Ghraib torture fiasco was just the tip of the iceberg, and a torrent of graphic images and videos has been leaking ever since, practically giving us ringside seats to America’s drive for hegemony and laying bare the US military for the morally barren apparatus of occupation, death and torture that it really is.

 From US marines taking trophy pictures of their “kills” of indigenous people to the sexual humiliation and physical abuse of captives and prisoners of war, we’ve now even seen American soldiers, proudly wearing their psychopathologies on their military sleeves, urinating on the dead corpses of their slain victims. Now we see the burning of Iraqi corpses in the backyards of their own homes until they are no more than crumbled piles of ashes and charred skeletons, because apparently slaughtering them is not enough. This is 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 spectacle of tabloid news), again we have been treated to a sneak peek into the psyche of the American military during its obliteration of the city of Fallujah in Iraq in 2004.

The pictures show US marines emptying gallons of gasoline or benzene onto Iraqi corpses and setting them ablaze, giving a new meaning to the words “liberation of Iraq.” Another picture shows an American soldier kneeling down on the ground and pointing his machine gun at the skull of an Iraqi insurgent with a triumphant smirk on his face in what can only be seen as an apt metaphor for former US president George W Bush’s “mission accomplished” slogan.

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 old-fashioned gasoline bonfires.

The pictures are merely the latest in a litany of atrocious leaks, from Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo and Afghanistan, which go to invalidate the “few-rotten-apples” theory that the Pentagon usually invokes in these cases, making it virtually impossible for the rest of us to keep track of just how many individual “rogue soldiers” and “lone crackpots” there are in the US army.

Predictably, the pictures have barely been a blip on the radar of the mainstream media: the blundering in Iraq is an old story now; everyone has moved on and its lessons have gone unheeded, all swept away under the pristine rug of American exceptionalism where the value of a human life remains terribly skewed and outweighed by that of a barrel of oil. Imagine the 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 to be marooned in its own moral bankruptcy nowadays. When the burning of Qur’ans 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 now (America’s new attempt at “democratisation”) tends to do that. But I can’t help wondering whether we will awake from our deep moral slumber if some American lunatic preacher begins another round of Qur’an burning or if some hack director makes another anti-Islam Internet movie.

I think it’s high time that a movie was made about American imperialism that would chronicle one brutal occupation after another and show a desolate collage of an imperial power hard at work, raining down terror and destruction across Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and beyond, all of which would offer huge and bleak reservoirs of source material. I imagine it would go something like the following.

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 pyjamas. The people’s faces and hair are covered in dirt and uranium dust as they scour the rubble of what were once their homes 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 US military officers posing next to a pile of naked prisoners, smiling contently as they marvel at their own “human-architectural” handiwork. This would be a pyramid of dark-skinned naked Iraqis, some of them 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 naked, faces covered in black hoods and forced to masturbate in unison for the twisted viewing pleasure of their “civilised” western captors when the latter are not busy urinating on other wounded detainees.

Iraqi women prisoners are also “fair game” for American army officers for whom rape and sodomisation 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 film rolls on to yet another scene: an Iraqi woman is giving birth in a hospital room, the baby is deformed with malformed facial features, especially his mouth and nose since this is 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 centre of the face as lifelong reminders of the fact that the American military was once here and that the American empire stampeded its way through. 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!” This is 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 and this time we are shown four US marines fully outfitted in their military uniforms with their big guns, oversized boots and an equally oversized zeal for humiliating locals, standing over the blood-stained corpses of dead Afghans. Assuming the position one would normally take at public urinals, and 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 and laughter then ensues throughout the group as their own urine starts pooling underneath the dead Afghans. Someone off-camera jokes, “have a good day buddy,” and 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 human decency.

The next scene takes us to a small village in Kandahar, where a local family is awoken in the dead of the night by the charging footsteps of an American soldier with his combat gear on, juggernauting his way through the family’s house and into the bedroom where the children are sleeping. Then, 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, and then he wraps up the bloody corpses of his own victims in blankets and sets them ablaze in a bonfire of yet another victory for America’s “war on terror.” The world rests easy that the brave US 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, his wrists and ankles shackled with a connecting chain between them. He is trembling from the freezing cold of a darkened cell; his brain feels like mush and the blood in his veins runs like burning acid from the last electroshock session; there is not a single muscle in his body that hasn’t taken a beating. He is covered from head to toe in dark blue and red bruises and whipping marks. The pain of being repeatedly kicked and sodomised with sticks transcends physical injury into the realm 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 genital 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. In the background are the 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 US President Barack 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 in 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 resembling human rights.

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Amman.

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