Sectarian Violence in Iraq: Not in my name

Until we meet again

With each day that passes, the uselessness of this war becomes ever more apparent. First, our leaders told us we were going to Iraq because of the weapons of mass destruction. As it was becoming clear that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, then they changed their tune to talk about how bad Saddam Hussein was, and thus his brutality was the reason for our invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Now, I agree that Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator and deserves to face justice for his horrific crimes. Yet, Saddam was just as brutal when this photograph was taken in 1983. So, that justification made absolutely no sense. But, that is in the past, and according to many people, we should move beyond the past. Fine, let us then talk about the present goings on in Iraq.

I want to discuss the charges filed against Steven D. Green, the former Army soldier who has been arrested for allegedly raping an Iraqi woman (who may have been as young as 15) and killing her and her three family members. This is the latest in a series of charges of atrocities against Iraqi civilians allegedly committed by U.S. forces “spreading democracy” in Iraq.

At the risk of sounding terribly naive, the charges are truly shocking to me. I know that this is not what America is all about. I know that Americans are not rapists and murderers. I know that Americans are – in their heart of hearts – a good people. I know all these things, because I am an American myself. I know that the actions of Mr. Green do not reflect the people or the country he represented in March 2006 when he allegedly committed these crimes.

Yet, I must ask: how many more atrocities are being committed in Iraq – in our names – that are not being reported? How many others Hadithas have been committed? How many other Iraqi girls have been raped and killed? What is happening in Iraq that is not being told to us?

Now, don’t retort by citing all of the truly horrific things that Muslim crazies and nutjobs are committing in the name of Islam. They neither represent Islam nor the majority of Muslims, despite what anyone may say. That is not relevant to the case at hand. Our enemy’s brutality does not justify or explain away our becoming brutal in return. We are not like our enemy.

Yet, what is truly going on in Iraq? We, the American people, have a right to know what our soldiers are doing in our name. And whenever they commit crimes, such as the alleged rape and murder of Abeer Qasim Hamza, then they must be punished severely. And they do not commit those crimes in my name (same goes with those Muslim monsters – they do not kill in the name of Islam). Not only that, there must be a thorough examination of the attitudes of American soldiers toward ordinary Iraqis and toward Arabs and Muslims in general.

When you read the account of what Mr. Green allegedly did, it speaks of a deep disdain for Arabs. His alleged actions speak of an attitude that his victims were little more than animals. This attitude, if it indeed exists, must be rooted out from our military.

And I must say something else: when the details of the alleged massacre at Haditha emerged, most Americans – naturally – were loathe to pass judgment until all the facts were in. And of course, they would never label all of the U.S. military as murderers because the actions of a few. With the charging of Mr. Green, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said:

“The president has full confidence in the military to investigate alleged crimes and to punish anyone convicted of abhorrent behavior that dishonors the proud traditions of our military. He will not comment on ongoing investigations so as not to prejudice the outcome; however, he believes that 99.9 percent of our men and women in uniform are performing their jobs honorably and skillfully and they deserve our full appreciation and gratitude.”

Retired Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the Army’s 1st Infantry Division in Iraq, told the Washington Post:

“The military is a reflection of society, and because of that there is always a percentage of soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors who get it terribly wrong.”

They are both correct. It is unfair to label all U.S. soldiers as rapists and murderers because of the actions of Mr. Green and those held in the Haditha slayings. Now, I am sure that many in the world at large, especially the Arab and Muslim worlds, are not as careful. I am sure many of them do label all U.S. soldiers as rapists and murderers and label America as “The Great Satan.” This is not right.

Well, I want to urge my fellow Americans to have this same attitude of care when it comes to Islam and Muslims. “By their fruits ye shall know them” I am told, and thus, the actions of the tiny fringe of Muslim fanatics show that all of Islam is bad. This is not fair. Just as “99.9 percent of our men and women in uniform are performing their jobs honorably and skillfully,” 99.9% of Muslims are not terrorists and murderers. 99.9% of Muslims do not believe they should “kill all the infidels.” 99.9% of Muslims do not engage in a “jihad” to subjugate everyone else.

The quickness of everyone to blame Islam and Muslims for every act (or even plot) of terrorism, including the recent Miami arrests, as well as the recent polls that show an increasingly unfavorable view of Islam on the part of Americans suggest that this careful attitude is not being applied to Islam and Muslims. This must change, and it will change when Americans get to know their Muslim neighbors better. And when they do, they will be surprised to learn that their Muslim neighbors are just like they are.

Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago physician and writer. He is the co-author of “The Beliefnet Guide to Islam,” published by Doubleday in 2006. His blog is at godfaithpen.com.


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