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Letter from Pakistan (2)

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
Posted: April 16, 2004

The torture of Iraqi prisoners by the United States personnel at Abu Ghrail, Saddam Hussein's notorious prison, marks the beginning of the end of America's occupation in Iraq. Such behavior is comparable to what British soldiers did on April 13, 1919, when they coldly and calculatedly massacred thousands of Indians at Amritsar, India. What happened at Abu Ghrail is analogous also to what happened in Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam, in 1954, when French soldiers tortured and brutalized Vietnamese, burnt their villages, rape their wives and children in the name of a higher ideal called freedom. They, too, were supposed to bring civilization to these backward people by the tip of their bayonets and the firepower of their guns. I suspect that April 2004 will have a similar significance in the American consciousness when in later years they contemplate their imperial designs.

The harsh truth is that the United States is the occupier in someone else's land even though they are puffed up with their own self-righteousness and what President Bush regards as his Jesus calling. Nothing typifies US hubris as the well-honed arrogance of Donald Rumsfeld, the messianic confidence of President Bush and the duplicity of Vice President Chaney. It must never be forgotten that Rumsfeld supplied the chemical weapons Saddam Hussein used on the Iranian soldiers and that the US ambassador to Iraq under George Bush, Sr., gave Saddam the wink and the nod to invade Kuwait. It is not beyond US duplicity to turn upon their ally when he ceases to serve their function.

When the neocons, a racist cabal in Washington, decided to invade Iraq in the aftermath of September 11, little did they think that these people who they regard as just above the status of animals would resist their adventurism? They were supposed to place garlands around their necks of US soldiers and strew flowers at their feet. Just the opposite occurred. Today, in the Muslim world, Americans are a hated and despised people. There is little the US can do to change the Muslims' views unless they stop trying to be the world's policemen and dissuade themselves that the people of the world want what America has. Significantly, Rumsfeld remains the chief architect of US strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In my visit to Karachi no one to whom I spoke supported the Saddam's sadism. Everyone saw him as a brutal dictator. They all seemed eager to differentiate Saddam's behavior from that of the masses of the Iraq people and Muslims in general. All of them seemed to be aware that Saddam was a client of the US and were not persuaded by US claims of neutrality. They believe the US went into Iraq to save Israel. President Bush's support of Ariel Sharon's plan for the West Banks did little to support his position in Iraq.

The American people will have to explain how a tiny group of extremists highjacked US foreign policy to carry forward their own (perhaps Israel's) rather than US agenda. They will also have to explain why they are using over 20,000 mercenaries from some of the most despicable regimes of the world to achieve a democratic transformation of Iraq. Most Americas don't know where America is going in Iraq and what it wants to achieve. The President says that the US wishes to extend its brand of democracy to Iraq yet we are told that 135,000 American troops, that is, foreign troops, will remain in Iraq until the end of 2005 and US will retain maintain the military control of that country even after it regains independence. That the US has tried to hold on to the coattails of the UN to get them out of this jam suggests that fragility of US position. Yet, neither the US nor the UN can bring freedom or democracy to a people, present them with the gift of freedom, or impose some form of democratic purity on them. One only has to look at the US example in Haiti, a country whose treasury it controlled from 1916 to 1933, to see how much America's promises match its achievements. Today, Haiti is one of the poorest countries and least democratic of all of the countries of the world. Sooner or later, the US will have to tell the world why it slaughtered close to 13,000 Iraqis (and still counting) to bring them democracy and why they incarcerated thousands of innocent persons. Like their Israeli counterparts, American soldiers continue to bust in people's houses, seize their male members and hold them incognito until they are satisfied there are not terrorist fanatics.

In their most recent act of brutality, the US smashed into the Mukhaiyam Mosque in Karbala, one of the holiest cities in Iraq, in search of Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, their most recent terrorist. One wonders why a young Iraq citizen fighting to preserve the independence and manhood of his country is deemed a terrorist whereas 135,000 soldiers from a foreign land are deemed freedom fighters. Perhaps Patrick Henry's heralded sentiments, "Give me freedom or give me death," does not apply in a land of heathens. I am sure that US will kill or capture al-Sadr. Eventually, they will pacify Iraq and achieve a short-lived military victory. In the end, the Iraqi people will not remember the overthrow of Saddam. They will remember the systematic brutality of the Americans, their sadistic behavior and the systematic destruction of their civilization. A US civilization of three hundred years can never match the sophistication of one that has been in existence for close to fourteen hundred years and which have cradled some of the most important achievements of mankind.

In speaking of the barbarity of Brigadier-General R. Dyer, the military commander of the Amirstar Massacre, Shashi Tharoor observed: "The Amritsar Massacre was not act of insane frenzy but a conscious, deliberate imposition of colonial will. Dyer was an efficient killer rather than a crazed maniac; he was merely the evil of the unimaginative, the brutality of the military bureaucrat. But his actions that Baisakhi day came to symbolize the evil of the system on whose behalf, and in whose defence, he was acting" (Gandhi.) I suspect that the same may be said of the US experiment in Iraq.

Consumed in their self-righteousness, George Bush, Dick Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and the entire apparatus of policy makers in Washington D.C. believe they can impose untold sufferings upon the people of Iraq once they tell the world that only a few terrorists, mostly from outside Iraq, stand in the way of their gift they wish to the people of Iraq and the blessing they so stubbornly refuse to accept. We must remember that the US was strafing Iraq for close to a decade before it invaded the country. The physical destruction they have wrought will take years to repair; the psychological punishment they have imposed upon the psyche of the people would take decades to undo.

In 1786, just before the explosion called the French Revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte wrote Sur le Suicide in which he revealed his thinking. In his hatred for the French, his suppressed eroticism and a ruthless desire for pleasure, he exclaimed in inflated language, "Frenchmen! Not content with bereaving us of all we cherish, you have, beside, corrupted our morals" (Frank McLynn, Napoleon).

I hope the people of Iraq do not make a similar cry: "Americans! Not content with bereaving us of all we cherish, you have, beside, corrupted our morals." If they do, it might be the most tragic legacy the American occupation leaves to the people of Iraq.

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