Abu Ghraib and Falluja–a familiar kind of terror

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When the allies defeated Nazi Germany in 1945, it did not defeat Nazism–”the idea that one people could commit unspeakable acts of cruelty on another people in the name of a political ideology.

This hatred found new ground in Israel, where for decades Zionists have been practising collective punishment, humiliation and murder against Palestinians.

Now Israel is imparting its knowledge to the United States, which is inflicting the same atrocities on Iraqi civilians. Even the code name for the U.S. assault on the Iraqi resistance, “Operation Iron Hammer,” is identical to the name given to the Luftwaffe’s aborted 1943 plan to destroy Soviet power plants in the Moscow and Gorky areas–” Eisenhammer. From Nazi Germany to Israel to the U.S., fascism has proven to be highly durable, if difficult at times to admit.

The “good, democratic” U.S. is the still our official frame of reference, but that warmed over WWII image is no longer defensible. Even those who convinced themselves that the bombing of Afghanistan and destruction of Iraq were necessary must now be wondering what sort of ugliness drives the soul of the oh-so virtuous leader of the free world.

The stories and pictures of American GIs humiliating and terrorizing Iraqi prisoners and the murder of 600 civilians in Falluja seem to defy rational explanation, yet they are consistent with the Judeo-Christian chauvinism that somehow makes inhumanity toward Muslims acceptable, even laudable.

In Abu Ghraib, prisoners were forced to strip naked, masturbate and submit to humiliating domination and other indignities. To their jailers, these Iraqis were less than human–”untermenschen, as the Nazis would say. Most army recruits are now coming from the impoverished and sexually repressed Deep South, where biblical literalism and apocalyptic dementia distort patriotism and basic standards of human decency.* This region also happens to be a major source of Christian support for zionist colonization and moral absolutism.

Because pornography and public nudity are un-Islamic, to enforce homosexual conduct and domination is one of the worst abuses the jailers could inflict.

Israel’s connection to the abuse at Abu Ghraib is not overt, but U.S. military officers have long been interested in learning from Israel’s experience suppressing the Palestinian uprising. Forced nudity and humiliation are common tactics used in the Occupied Territories.

The handprint of Israel is easier to see in the even worse atrocity in the city of Falluja. In the first two weeks of April, 600 Iraqis, including 450 elderly people, women and children, were murdered. An article in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz called it a war crime:

“The sight of decapitated children, the rows of dead women and the shocking pictures of the soccer stadium that was turned into a temporary grave for hundreds of the slain–”all were broadcast to the world only by the Al Jazeera network. During the operation in Falluja, according to the organization Doctors Without Borders, U.S. Marines even occupied the hospitals and prevented hundreds of the wounded from receiving medical treatment. Snipers fired from the rooftops at anyone who tried to approach. This was a retaliatory operation, carried out by the Marines, accompanied by F-16 fighter planes and assault helicopters, under the code name ‘Vigilant Resolve.’ It was revenge for the killing of four American security guards on March 31.”– 

Such revenge killings have been declared a war crime under Article 33 of the 1949 Geneva Convention: “No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed,” and “collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.”

Collective punishment was a common Nazi terror tactic. On June 4, 1942, the notorious Reinhard Heydrich died from an assassination by Czech partisans. In retaliation, the Nazis razed the village of Lidice. In all, 173 men and boys were murdered, 198 women were sent to a concentration camp in Ravensbueck, and another 256 Czechs were murdered because they aided the assassination. Thousands of Czechs were also deported to other concentration camps in Austria and Germany. The name for arresting the families of people suspected of working against the regime or harming its officials was sippenhaft.

On April 18, 1996, Israeli forces inflicted sippenhaft against the UN refugee compound in Qana in Southern Lebanon in response to a Hezbollah rocket attack on an Israeli patrol. More than 100 Lebanese civilians, including infants were mutilated. “Not since Sabra and Chatila had I seen the innocent slaughtered like this,” wrote Robert Fisk. “The Lebanese refugee women and children and men lay in heaps, their heads or arms or legs missing, beheaded or disemboweled.”§

Of course, sippenhaft is standard practice against any Palestinian community. Israelis think nothing of firing missiles into crowded residential areas or of bulldozing whole neighbourhoods.

Lidice, Qana and Falluja–”the continuum of fascism persists, as does Israel’s domination of the U.S. “It is bonkers, insane,” a former senior US intelligence official told the Guardian. “Here we are–”we’re already being compared to Sharon in the Arab world, and we’ve just confirmed it by bringing in the Israelis and setting up assassination teams.”**

Some Israelis are training these teams at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, while others are in Iraq doing covert “consulting” work–”teaching the U.S. about sippenhaft, but none of this is designed to help the U.S. extricate itself from its quagmire. Terrorizing Iraqis serves Israel, not the U.S., but then Israel has no qualms about squandering U.S. lives, money and reputation to serve its own ends.

“When the Americans arrived there were only about 50 guerrillas,” Falluja resident Nada Rabee, told Reuters. “By the end of the week there were a few thousand. They are just making the situation worse.”– – 

Notes
* See Rick Salutin, “America’s fundamental sin of abuse,” Globe and Mail, May 7, 2004.
–  Orit Shohat, “Remember Falluja,” Ha’aretz, April 28, 2004.
§ Robert Fisk, “Massacre in sanctuary; Eyewitness,” The Independent, April 19, 1996.
**Julian Borger, “Israel trains U.S. assassination squads in Iraq," Guardian, Dec. 9, 2003.
– –  “Scale of Falluja violence emerges,” BBC News, April 12, 2004.

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Mr. Greg Felton is a Canadian writer on the Middle East. He writes a political column every second Thursday for the Canadian Arab News, and is writing a book on the rise of fascism in the U.S. He contributed this column to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from Canada.

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