Global Policy Forum

America's Moral Abyss


By Firas Al-Atraqchi

July 13, 2006

The rape and murder of a young Iraqi girl by US soldiers is exemplar of the fate of the Iraqi nation at the hands of its imperial tormentors.

In early 2003, an Arabic-language newspaper ran a cartoon depicting the nation of Iraq as a young girl being raped by a US soldier while several Arabs in traditional garb enthusiastically egged the soldier on. The message was simple: Iraq was about to be plundered of its wealth, stripped of its manpower, its expertise, its middle and educated classes, its infrastructure and its knowledge base. Like a rape victim, the country would be scarred, mutilated and contorted, never again to appear fully sovereign.

This vision became horrific reality in the town of Mahmoudiya in March 2006 when 16-year-old Abeer Qassem Hamza Al-Janabi was raped, shot and burned by a team of US soldiers who allegedly had been planning for a week to perpetrate their crime. Their plan included discarding their military uniforms and donning dark clothes (resembling that of militia or fedayeen ) to avoid identification as US military personnel. Abeer's family were executed in the assault, including her seven-year-old sister, so that none may point a finger of blame at the US military.

In the immediate aftermath, the US military cordoned off the area surrounding Abeer's house, announcing that her family were Shia and were murdered by Sunni "insurgents". We now know neither claim was true. Al-Janabi's neighbours protested that the family were Sunni, and that the girl had complained of harassment by US troops at a nearby checkpoint some time earlier.

Three weeks before the US military announced and opened an internal investigation, the alleged lead perpetrator of the rape of Abeer was discharged from the army on grounds that he was mentally unstable. The undeclared reason, according to some sources, was that the US military was aware of his conduct in Mahmoudiya and sought to avoid further embarrassment to a military plagued by atrocities in Abu Ghraib and Haditha, among dozens of other reports of human rights violations. Rather than face a court martial, "former" US Army Private Jeremy Green is being tried in a civilian court in Kentucky. Four other servicemen currently serving in Iraq have also been charged.

For Iraqis, Abeer's rape and murder mirrors the fate of the nation of her birth. Her attackers stalked her, watching her house for a week before launching their offensive. In the minds of many, this is synonymous with preparations for the invasion of Iraq itself, certain world powers continuously targeting Iraq, gathering intelligence (later proven misleading if not fabricated) and finalising plans that violated in totality the sovereignty of the country.

Further, Abeer's complaints of harassment are synonymous with appeals made by Iraq prior to the 2003 invasion; that it was not affiliated with Al-Qaeda nor did it possess weapons of mass destruction. Iraq appealed to neighbouring countries and the United Nations to bring to a halt the military juggernaut massing on its borders. But just as Abeer's neighbours proved unable to help in time, so too did the world community in failing Iraq.

Abeer's life as a whole is testament to the suffering of the Iraqi people. Born the year Iraq invaded Kuwait, Abeer lived out her infancy under the punitive sanctions regimen. She grew up different from other girls in the Arab world: an innocent child, yet punished for wrongs she could not begin to understand. By the time she turned 13, Iraq had been invaded and entire cities and villages were soon under siege. In the great war of liberation allegedly waged to stifle terrorism and liberate the Iraqi people from the stranglehold of tyranny, Abeer paid with her life at the hands of the liberator.

Despite the best efforts of senior officials to categorise Green's actions (and those of his unit cohorts) as aberrations, evidence increasingly emerging from Iraq indicates that similar crimes and human rights abuses are perpetrated on a near daily basis. In Hamdaniya, US soldiers planted a shovel and AK-47 on an Iraqi man they had just shot dead, aiming to bury the illegal killing by rendering the man an "insurgent" planting an improvised explosive device. In Haditha, a US military investigation led by Lt General Peter W Chiarelli has found officers negligent in not questioning contradictions in the accounts of an attack on a marines unit and the subsequent massacre of 24 civilians, including women and children. The criminal aspect of this investigation is ongoing. Regarding Abu Ghraib, two years on from the scandalous atrocities captured on camera and leaked to the press, thousands of pictures and video footage showing ongoing torture, human rights abuses and, according to New Yorker journalist Seymour Hersh, the rape of minors, remain unpublished.

The rape and murder of Abeer has created a momentum of outrage in Iraq prompting Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki to berate the US military in the sharpest rebuke to date. "There needs to be a plan to educate and train soldiers, and those who are brought to serve in Iraq shouldn't bear prejudices nor be reckless towards people's honour," he said. But who is to define reckless? While the US military's recruitment drives have failed to meet quotas, the standard of eligibility for military service has dropped, leading to questionable -- if not purposely lax -- screening of candidates.

In recent months, The Los Angeles Times and other US media have reported that members of various gangs have "infiltrated" the US military and are serving in Iraq where they hope to gain skills and expertise they can apply on their return to neighbourhoods in America. The media has also reported that gang graffiti has been scrawled on walls in Iraq, including proclamations of loyalty to the Aryan nation -- a statement usually made by white supremacists.

The notion that racist ideology exists among US military servicemen and women serving in Iraq is hardly new. In late 2004, British officers told The Telegraph that they viewed the US use of force as aggressive and disproportionate. They added that it was the belief of many British commanders that certain quarters within the US military viewed Iraqis as untermenschen, or sub-humans. Perhaps it is such dogma that facilitates the emergence of websites that display pictures of Iraqi dead or allows for songs to be written about the killing of an Iraqi girl and her family (Hadji Girl) by a US marine. Adding insult to injury, such songs are being bought up by radio stations in the US and will be available for download at a premium. The US military has a serious personnel problem on its hands and has all but lost the hearts and minds campaign it aimed to win among Iraqis. How could it be otherwise when Abeer's savage rape and murder stands as testament to the absence, at the core of the US military, of adherence to even the most fundamental tenets of ethics and human morality?

More Information on Iraq
More General Articles on the Occupation and Rule in Iraq
More Information on the Humanitarian Consequences of the War and Occupation of Iraq


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