YASMIN ALIBHAI BROWN Independent/UK 10 November 2013
So now we know that Marine A shouted at a wounded Afghan insurgent: “Shuffle off this mortal coil”, and then shot him in the chest. Poetry and savagery. Fellow soldiers B and C were co-conspirators. C offered to “shoot him in the head”. No, said A. “Too obvious.” B recorded the murder with his head camera. The film was censored by the military court, but an audio recording was allowed. Marine A called on comrade loyalty. “Obviously this doesn’t go anywhere, fellas.. I’ve just broken the Geneva Convention” – an unusual moment of panic. Usually Western soldiers out East break international conventions with impunity. On Friday, Marine A was found guilty of murdering a wounded prisoner, a verdict which shows there is still some honour left in the armed forces.
The top brass knows such base acts are exploited by recruiters to terrorism. Lord Guthrie, former army Chief of Staff, wants Marine A severely punished. It’s a good call, but still propaganda. The truth is that Western armies and governments know they are not answerable to any overseer. They do what they damn well please. Always have. That egoism and exceptionalism has become more entrenched since 9/11 and the nebulous “war on terror”. Civilians have been raped, tortured and murdered by Western allies in Iraq and Afghanistan. We don’t even have numbers for them, let alone names. Facts and redress are routinely denied.
Last week I attended a screening of a film about drone attacks on areas of Pakistan. You can watch it for free on AmericasDroneWars.com. American director Robert Greenwald simply told the story of civilian victims of drones – innocents and their families who can’t understand why they must bleed, break and perish. Obama and our governing classes falsely claim that only really bad men with black beards are blasted away. Even bearded bad men are entitled to due process, and anyway, for every one of them, nine civilians die, according to the Brookings Institution). Nine-year-old Nabila ur-Rehman, from Waziristan, wounded with her siblings, and whose grandmother was killed, went to the US Congress to ask why. She is as brave as Malala but gets no tributes, no UN speeches, no fulsome praise.
Last week, Israel’s special world status was confirmed. Again. Tentative talks opened up between the most powerful global nations and Iran on Iranian nuclear capabilities. Up jumped Netanyahu objecting vigorously. Iran, he said was secretive, untrustworthy. And Israel? Open about its arsenal, is it? And really means what it says? Never. But rules of conduct and weapons control can’t apply to that protected satellite of the West. And as I write, apartments belonging to Palestinians are being demolished in Jerusalem. Hardly anyone knows or raises a protest. The UN is controlled by the Security Council, which is in turn mostly controlled by the US, France and the UK. While lesser nations are bossed about and ordered to obey democratic principles and international laws, the Western bloc jackboot those principles and disregard the laws.
The International Criminal Court only drags in Africans and ex-Commies. The US, UK and other friendly nations in the same club are guilty of presenting false prospectuses for war – guilty of torture, rendition, state terrorism, of killing civilians and of inciting civil wars in resource-rich nations. They exercise proxy control through dictators. They build up arms enough to end the world. They spy on millions, destabilising entire regions and then turning them into markets for the weapons industry. They are accountable only to themselves. Whatever they do is right because they do it, and none of it is open to interrogation.
These privileges were once accepted as inevitable. But not any more. No doubt some real and wannabe terrorists are motivated by a hatred of Western values. I have met a few in my time – hypocritical, hateful men and women who live freely in Europe yet attack those very freedoms. But many more are enraged by the grossly unfair geopolitical set-up. They burn with a sense of injustice and frustration. They don’t believe a spot on Newsnight will deliver a fairer deal. For them, the only way out of the hegemonic throttle is a worldwide guerrilla war. Our leaders won’t accept that. So be afraid. Be very afraid. I am. [Abbrev.]