One can expect Margaret Hassan's killers to shun international humanitarian laws of war as well as Islamic law, both of which clearly prohibit killing non-combatants, much less an aid worker who helped save countless lives. But to witness the military of the world's superpower, which is armed with a $399 billion a year defense budget, violating the Geneva Conventions is extraordinary.
The Iraq war is illegal to begin with, according to Kufi Annan of the United Nations, but by bombing their cities and unleashing gunship helicopters on the civilian population, America's image is right up there with that of the Israelis in Occupied Palestine. While there are hardly any unembeded media in Iraq, the world has just started to discover a few rare examples of the war crimes we are committing in Iraq. We are taking our country down a very dark road. We cannot expect to be loved when we do this. A shattered, devastated Fallujah with charred bodies scattered in the streets and broken minarets is likely to fuel the resistance.
In some of the first public examples of such war crimes, Marines left a number of wounded insurgents in a mosque to die. Under the Geneva Conventions, they are obligated to take care of injured enemy fighters.
Then, a day later, the Marines killed one of the unarmed wounded men in the same mosque. The video of this gruesome scene aired in the UK four days ago and was finally shown in the US yesterday.
To their credit, the Marines have responded swiftly by removing the accused solider from duty and they are investigating the incident.
But there is much more they need to investigate:
During the siege and the fighting in Fallujah the media widely reported that US forces were only allowing women and children to leave the city while fleeing male refugees were being sent back. One report even mentioned several hundred male refugees who were checked by US soldiers for any residuals of ammunition to ascertain whether they were among the fighting insurgents. All of them came out clean but still they were forced to return back to a city that was constantly under US bombardment and sniper fire from both sides and had no food or water. If the US forces suspected them of being insurgents they could have arrested them. But sending them back into the city is cruel and a clear violation of the Geneva Conventions. Officers who ordered this must be investigated. LINK
A non-embedded Associated Press photographer who was rescued after walking several hours from Fallujah says that he witnessed US helicopters killing civilians, including women and children, who were trying to flee Fallujah by crossing the Euphrates River.
And there's more: media reports indicate that high ranking officers of the US military have blocked aid convoys to Fallujah. The International Red Cross and the Iraqi Red Crescent have repeatedly said American forces have stopped them from taking much needed food, medicine, blankets and water purification tablets to an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 civilians in the city. This is also a violation of the rules of war known as the Geneva Conventions.
Since the US controlled the only functioning hospital on the outskirts of Fallujah, the sole remaining medical facility was a clinic that was destroyed by a missile hit on November 9, killing 20 Iraqi medical staff and dozens of other civilians, according to reports from a doctor who survived the strike.
These are all war crimes that violate the Geneva Conventions according to the human rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
No one knows exactly how many civilians have been killed during the fighting between US forces and insurgents which has also claimed the lives of 49 US soldiers, and 1600 Iraqi insurgents.
According to American and British scientists though, more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the beginning of the war. Most of them have been killed by bombardment. The report, issued before the current Fallujah attack, intentionally excluded Fallujah's casualties because the extraordinary death toll of civilians there would render their scientific sampling problematic. If the data from this town is included, the study points to about 200,000 excess deaths since the outbreak of war.
The report notes that Iraqis are now 58 times more likely to die a violent death than before the war.
The killings of Christian Tutsis by Christian Hutus in Rwanda or Muslims in Darfur by Muslim Janjaweeds in Sudan have been presented as primitive tribal warfare. Some fanatics who do not represent Islam interpreted the events of 9/11 as terrorism. But how do we interpret our violation of international laws, which we helped draft, and which represent some of the best laws of our time. If we are not going to abide by these laws how can we expect, Hutus, Tutsis, Darfuris and the Janjaweeds of the world to live by these ideals?
In the global village of images, after scenes from the Abu Ghraib prison, the main image that will be left of Fallujah is going to be of an American soldier killing an unarmed, wounded Iraqi in a mosque. No wonder Arab television stations are showing this video repeatedly while they find the video depicting Margaret Hassan's execution gruesome enough not to broadcast.
We may continue to win military battles, but we have lost the battle for the hearts of Iraqis. Everyone wants freedom but not this way.
President Bush has repeatedly spoken about American morality. "We believe in the values that uphold the dignity of life, tolerance, and freedom, and the right of conscience," he said in this January's State of the Union speech.
President Bush is a self-professed born again Christian. I ask him: is this the Christian way? Does Jesus really want you to do this to your enemies? Is this behavior based on the teachings conveyed on the Sermon on the Mount?
I also ask President Bush why lower level soldiers are being punished for the disaster of Abu Ghraib while those responsible for allowing the abuses at the highest levels of government are not being held accountable. If we had taken proper action against the higher ups at that time, when the whole nation stood up condemning the abuse, we may have prevented the war crimes being committed now in Fallujah.
Although the president has repeatedly said this is not a war against Islam and Muslims, the Islamophobic environment which our policies are fostering abuse of Islam and Muslims.
President Bush once called this war a "crusade" but then Secretary of State Colin Powell assured the world that it is not. Unfortunately for Muslims, the brutalities of sanctions on Iraq which killed 500,000 children a year according to the UN, the Abu Ghraib images, and now Fallujah are adding to the historical memories of Crusaders who were considered brutal and uncivilized.
I don't know if anyone in our government understands how badly America is losing in the world today. Muslim Americans can help in bridgebuilding if they are considered an asset to America instead of suspects in the conflict.
Considering the amount of hate mail and threats I receive, I know that those who hate what I write read my articles. To those people, I have a request: we cannot kill people to spread freedom or democracy. Killing people is not a sure way of winning the hearts of their surviving brothers and sisters. If you really love justice, then be just to your enemy.
Unfortunately I don't see much changing in President Bush's second term. The man he has appointed US Attorney General, Alberto Gonzalez, is the same gentleman who wrote the infamous memo stating that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to the war on terrorism.
May God help us all. May He guide our president to save the lives of Americans as well as others in our global village. May He comfort the victims. May He change the hearts of the oppressors. May He stop victims from becoming wrongdoers. May He let human beings talk to each other to understand each other. Ameen.
"US Navy 050427-M-7267R-023 Marines assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, observe as Iraqi Security Force soldiers shoot during the marksmanship portion of the Combat Leaders Course" by U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl Thomas L. Rodman - This Image was released by the United States Marine Corps with the ID 050427-M-7267R-023 (next).This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US_Navy_050427-M-7267R-023_Marines_assigned_to_1st_Battalion,_6th_Marines,_observe_as_Iraqi_Security_Force_soldiers_shoot_during_the_marksmanship_portion_of_the_Combat_Leaders_Course.jpg#mediaviewer/File:US_Navy_050427-M-7267R-023_Marines_assigned_to_1st_Battalion,_6th_Marines,_observe_as_Iraqi_Security_Force_soldiers_shoot_during_the_marksmanship_portion_of_the_Combat_Leaders_Course.jpg