Thursday, December 29, 2011

And the war drum beat again!

In the past, military conflicts have been preceded by acts of aggression involving the occupation of land or resources, ethnic violence or stealing Helen away from her domineering husband. But today, the precursor of an armed invasion is often a concerted campaign of mis-information and a body of evidence that substantiates the eventual decision to take action against “the evil ones”.

Past experiences have included testimony to a US congressional committee that Kuwaiti children were tipped out of their incubators by Iraqi soldiers and left to die on the floor. It was this testimony, of a 15 year old Kuwaiti girl that tugged at the heartstrings of the American public and was the public relations coup that effectively sanctioned the US led 1990-1991 invasion of Iraq ( click here for a full account of this story). It was subsequently discovered that the girl was actually the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to Washington and had never been to Kuwait during the period in question.

More recently, it was the story of Gadaffi ordering his soldiers to rape all women who opposed him and aiding them in this pursuit by supplying them with Viagra-like tablets. Even the evidence of Ms Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Libyan expert, was ignored by news agencies when after an extensive investigation she found no evidence of these “mass rapes”. (click here for full story) They continued to quote the event as fact in the run up to and during “Operation Regime Change” in Libya earlier this year.

I would therefore not be surprised if reference to the recent judgment by Judge George B Daniels in a federal district court in Manhattan is used more and more frequently by the media in the upcoming months. He ruled that Iran and Hezbollah materially and directly supported al Qaeda in the September 11 attacks and are therefore legally responsible for damages to family members of the victims. I expect that reference to the judgment would leave out details like the fact that the ruling was based largely on the testimony of a handful of Iranian defectors or that Iran was not present to defend itself against any of the allegations made.

 So after 10 years, we finally learn that it was Iran that was responsible for the terrorist attacks. Who would have guessed? I was convinced that the Taliban should bear some of the responsibility, seeing as how they openly supported and protected Al Qaeda. Maybe the former ruler of Afghanistan? What about Saudi Arabia since 15 of the 19 hijackers responsible were Saudi citizens and so, for that matter, was Osama bin Laden? Former assistant Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz had a strong suspicion that it was actually Saddam Hussein who played a significant role in funding the attacks, so why not list him as a defendant. No, the families of the victims chose instead to sue Iran, Hezbollah and surprisingly amongst others, The Iranian Ministry of Petroleum, The National Iranian Oil Corporation and Iran Airlines.

So therefore, it would be safe to assume that should for example, an Iraqi civilian be tortured in Abu Ghraib detention centre, in violation of international law, he would have grounds to sue the US government, the US President, the US Dept of Defence and let’s say the US Dept of Agriculture (why not!). Surprisingly it appears that said Iraqi civilian would not be able to even sue the private military contractor responsible for the crimes, this, after the US military’s own internal investigations validated the claims.

The Center for Constitutional Rights in the US are trying to hold two US based military contractors (L-3 Services and CACI International) accountable for war crimes which include rape, mock executions, being forced to watch family members being raped, being dragged across the floor by genitalia amongst other more ‘everyday’ torture techniques like severe beatings and being hung in stress positions.  The tortured, none of whom were charged with any crimes, are still trying to get their day in court. It would appear that the companies involved are arguing in court that they should be exempt from any investigations against them because if military contractors can be sued, it put’s the US government’s interest in executing wars, “at stake”. If upheld, this would make private military contractors immune to any law, including war crimes, so long as it takes place on a “battlefield”. Unfortunately for the rest of us, the term “battlefield” is as loose a description as a “war against terror”!

Terrorists, Freedom Fighters, Allies, Enemies. Labels may change with the passage of time but the healthy dose of hypocrisy and lies to justify going to war remains a constant.

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