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WHAT WE THINK
Revelations about the rape and murder of an Iraqi girl show...
How U.S. occupation breeds war crimes

July 14, 2006 | Page 3

"ONE THING is for certain," George Bush said 18 months ago in a speech about Iraq's future. "There won't be any more mass graves and torture rooms and rape rooms."

That turned out to be another grotesque lie--because of the war crimes committed by the U.S. occupiers. In the months since, revelations of U.S. soldiers committing mass killings, torture in Abu Ghraib and other detention facilities, and now rape have only become more pronounced in their brutality.

The latest atrocity to come to light took place March 12 in the town of Al-Mahmudiyah. According to reports, then-Private Steven Green and at least two other soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division allegedly stalked 15-year-old Abeer Kasim Hamza for a week.

Green and other soldiers then raped and murdered Abeer--after first killing her mother Fakhriya Taha Muhsen, father Kasim Hamza Rasheed and 5-year-old sister Hadel. In an attempt to cover up the crime, the soldiers then burned the lower half of Abeer's body and set the family's farmhouse on fire.

"Never in my mind could I have imagined such a gruesome sight," Abu Firas Janabi, a cousin of Abeer's mother, told the Los Angeles Times. "Kasim's corpse was in the corner of the room, and his head was smashed into pieces," he said, and Fakhriya's arms had been broken.

In another room, he found 15-year-old Abeer, naked and burned, with her head smashed in "by a concrete block or a piece of iron."

"There were burns from the bottom of her stomach to the end of her body, except for her feet," he said. "I did not believe what I was seeing. I tried to fool myself into believing I was in a dream. But the problem was that we were not dreaming."

U.S. military officials admit that the killing of the family was originally attributed to "insurgent activity"--the same excuse given for the massacre in Haditha last November, when U.S. troops killed 24 Iraqis, including 10 women and children and an elderly man in a wheelchair, during a house-to-house raid.

In the past month, at least five separate incidents have come under investigation, leading to various charges of rape, manslaughter, murder, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and dereliction of duty against at least 20 American service members.

The attacks for which soldiers have been charged happened during a period between November 2005 and May 2006, begging the question: What about the atrocities that haven't yet come to light?

The military claims these cases were caused by "a few rotten apples." But war crimes like the rape and murder in Al-Mahmudiyah are the predictable consequence of an occupation that depends on the dehumanization of Iraqis as part of the justification for stripping them of the right to make the most basic decisions about their country and their lives.

Racist attitudes are drilled into U.S. soldiers before and during deployment--setting the stage for atrocities to be committed.

"If these events have occurred," former Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Jack Keane told ABC News, referring to horror in Al-Mahmudiyah, "then we can do better."

But do "better" at what--making the U.S. occupation run more smoothly? Make no mistake: When the Bush administration says it wants a "better" occupation, it means better at subduing the Iraqi resistance, better at covering up its atrocities and better at exploiting ethnic and sectarian divisions--a consequence of the U.S. divide-and-conquer strategies.

As Socialist Worker went to press, some of the worst sectarian violence in recent months was rocking Baghdad.

According to reports, members of Moktada al-Sadr's Shiite Mahdi Army killed as many as 61 people, women and children among them, in retaliation for the bombing of a Shiite mosque. Militia members reportedly set up a checkpoint at the entrance to the Jihad neighborhood of Baghdad, stopping cars and pulling people from their homes, and shooting anyone discovered to be Sunni Arab.

According to Muwaffaq al-Samarra'i, an aide to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, "Iraq has truly entered into a sectarian civil war; the matter is no longer merely one of sectarian hatred."

While some claim the U.S. must "stay the course" in Iraq to prevent a civil war, the truth is that it is the occupation that set the stage for this war by pitting Sunni against Shiite against Kurd.

Whether it was "Mission Accomplished" or the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, every supposed "turning point" in the U.S. occupation has been followed by a lurch deeper into crisis and violence.

Every day that the occupation continues only adds to the misery and suffering of ordinary Iraqis--and guarantees that more Hadithas and Abu Ghraibs and Al-Mahmudiyahs will take place. There is no future "right moment" to withdraw. The right moment for the U.S. military to get out of Iraq is now.

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