Thursday, November 25, 2004

Atrocity gifts

The tape recording is of a three-way conversation between the army watchtower, the army post's operations room and the captain, who was a company commander.

The soldier in the watchtower radioed his colleagues after he saw Iman: "It's a little girl. She's running defensively eastward."

Operations room: "Are we talking about a girl under the age of 10?"

Watchtower: "A girl of about 10, she's behind the embankment, scared to death."

A few minutes later, Iman is shot in the leg from one of the army posts.

The watchtower: "I think that one of the positions took her out."

The company commander then moves in as Iman lies wounded and helpless.

Captain R: "I and another soldier ... are going in a little nearer, forward, to confirm the kill ... Receive a situation report. We fired and killed her ... I also confirmed the kill. Over."

Witnesses described how the captain shot Iman twice in the head, walked away, turned back and fired a stream of bullets into her body. Doctors at Rafah's hospital said she had been shot at least 17 times.

On the tape, the company commander then "clarifies" why he killed Iman: "This is commander. Anything that's mobile, that moves in the zone, even if it's a three-year-old, needs to be killed. Over."

- Chris McGreal's 24 Nov Guardian article, titled Israeli officer- I was right to shoot 13-year-old child, confirms the worst fears of those in the Israeli peace movement and elsewhere that occupation corrupts the occupier absolutely.

One tiny tragedy among many, but it has more than usual iconic power. And it comes within days of US-led attack on Falluja, which motivates Rana Kabbani to write this:

All Iraqis watch as their homes and mosques are desecrated by soldiers who shoot injured men in the stomach in pre-emptive lunacy that mirrors that of their leader. They and a billion Muslims watched as Americans forbade families from burying their dead, and allowed stray dogs to gnaw the corpses of pregnant women and toddlers on the mean streets of what was once Falluja, during Id al-Fitr, Islam's Holy Feast. (Guardian, 23 Nov).

The US and its allies are investing a lot of political and real capital in trying to win hearts and minds. So far, the results are not encouraging.

Reading again Children Pay Cost of Iraq's Chaos, a 21 Nov Washington Post article cited in a previous post (The price of Falluja), the following struck me:

After the rate of acute malnutrition among children younger than 5 steadily declined to 4 percent two years ago, it shot up to 7.7 percent this year...

Iraq's child malnutrition rate now roughly equals that of Burundi, a central African nation torn by more than a decade of war [emphasis added]. It is far higher than rates in Uganda and Haiti....

Baghdad residents often point out to reporters that after the 1991 Persian Gulf War left much of the capital a shambles, Hussein's government restored electricity and kerosene supplies in two months.

Two hundred billion dollars or so on the Iraq campaign so far, and a major consequence has been to reverse basic human development. For comparison, the few billion dollars that US and others spend on Millenium Development Goals look like quite an intelligent investment.

And a Pentagon advisory panel says the US is failing in its efforts to explain the nation's diplomatic and military actions to the Muslim world (International Herald Tribune 25 Nov):

"America's negative image in world opinion and diminished ability to persuade are consequences of factors other than the failure to implement communication strategies" says the 102 page report [from the Defence Science Board].

Who wrote this? Homer Simpson?

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