WHEN WAR CRIMES AIN'T CRIMES
[Col. Writ. 12/16/06] Copyright 2006 Mumia Abu-Jamal
In the last few years, we've all seen nothing but mass violations of
virtually every international human rights treaty.
Torture, secret prisons, extraordinary rendition, violence against
civilians, orders to ignore the Geneva Conventions .... The list goes on
How has the American government dealt with this state of affairs?
It has virtually ignored it.
There have been a handful of military prosecutions against relatively
low level people, but there is a steel ceiling, above which the
prosecutors dare not go.
That's because the violations of international law go to the highest
levels of the U.S. government.
Writer Lila Rajiva argues, in her remarkable *The Language of Empire:
Abu Ghraib and the American Media* (New York: Monthly Review Press,
2005), that the tortures at Abu Ghraib prison on the outskirts of
Baghdad shows something deep and ugly in the American state:
"The Prometheans of today acknowledge no limits except of their own
imagining, and at least for now the world that they find themselves in
allows them the self-indulgence of that imagining. With such absolute
power comes absolute corruption, only not the corruption that the law
easily unmasks, the simple corruption of bribery and chicanery. The
occupation of Iraq displays ample evidence of that as well, but the
deeper corruption that rote the institutions of America today is one
legitimated by law, whose presence is revealed not in the courthouse but
in the solitary recesses of prison cells hidden from the light. Torture
is the insignia of this corrupt power. Torture is the deadly proof of
the metastasizing cancer of American empire." [p. 186]
Rajiva tells us many of the stories from Iraq that have been largely
whitewashed from the safe coverage that the corporate media airs. She
tells us the many cases where Iraqi women were raped by Americans, and
subjected to public humiliations.
Perhaps if more Americans read, saw or heard such accounts, they would
not be mystified by the steady growing of the insurgency in Iraq, which
is surely fueled, in part, by how Americans treated Iraqi men and women
in prisons there.
The corporate US media has done more to misinform its public than to
inform them. They keep Americans in the dark, while people all around
the world know more about America than Americans.
In this context, we can continue the illusion that the US is 'doing
good' in this new kind of colonialism of Arab lands. It is this mass
disinformation campaign that allows political figures to float the mad
idea of more troops in Iraq.
The somewhat tame Iraq Study Group report has come and gone, with
supporters of the military-industrial-complex working their media assets
to insure that their defense contractors keep getting paid.
Discussions over Geneva Conventions might as well be about treaties with
space aliens, as arcane as they are to most of us. But the Geneva
Conventions aren't rocket science. There are 4 of them. The first
governs wounded and sick soldiers; the second relates to the treatment
of war prisoners captured at sea; the third deals with treatment of
prisoners of war; and the fourth governs how citizens should be treated
in times of war. Under the articles of these conventions, people had
express rights to fair, humane treatment, family visitation, and the
right to be processed by "competent tribunal"[s]. As the flicks from
Abu Ghraib showed, in living color, folks were treated like dogs.
Geneva, though, to be 'quaint', didn't apply.
When it comes to the Empire, there is no higher law.
The Emperor has spoken: that is all that is needed to launch wars,
torture, terrorize, bomb, imprison, kill, obliterate.
That kind of logic can only lead to more disaster.
Copyright 2006 Mumia Abu-Jamal
[Source: Rajiva, L., *The Language of Empire: Abu Ghraib and the
American Media* (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2005).]
[Mr. Jamal's recent book features a chapter on the
remarkable women who helped build and defend
the Black Panther Party: *WE WANT FREEDOM:
A Life in the Black Panther Party*, from South
End Press (http://www.southendpress.org); Ph.
"When a cause comes along and you know in your bones that it is
just, yet refuse to defend it--at that moment you begin to die.
And I have never seen so many corpses walking around talking about
justice." - Mumia Abu-Jamal
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