Beyond the sensational news headlines of America's ‘humanitarian’ interventions and democracy-spreading escapades lies a grim reality; one of a brutal military occupation, systematic torture practices and abuse of basic human rights. Highlighting the way that America’s track record in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia, for example, is littered with such violations, does not in any way imply tacit approval for the home-grown regimes in the countries in which they intervene, whose dictatorships were often nurtured and supported by the intervening powers. But it does question whether such powers can claim the necessary moral high ground to occupy foreign lands, loot their resources and bomb their civilians to kingdom come, under the guise of democracy and human rights.
The entire world has witnessed at first hand what an imperial power, drunk on its military supremacy and callous sense of self-righteousness had in store for the indigenous populations on the receiving end in Afghanistan and Iraq; both countries have become disastrous cautionary tales for the kind of democracy that is defended by F-16s, indiscriminate high altitude bombings and Tomahawks. The heartbreaking consequences of the extensive use of white phosphorus and depleted uranium in the bombing of Fallujah city in Iraq seven years ago are still evident to this day in the city's deformed newborn babies. Leaked photos of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib reek with the gore and terror that took place behind its walls. The sweeping attacks of unmanned fighter jets have - so far - claimed the lives of innocent civilians by the hundreds in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where entire villages have become burial grounds for their inhabitants. While it has been almost three years since that woebegone George W. Bush-era, these things haven't changed a bit, on the contrary; predatory drone strikes have only increased in frequency and intensity; trigger-happy private military contractors still roam the streets of Afghani towns using local residents as dartboards for their automatic machine guns and ‘sport killing’ has become the preferred pastime for some US soldiers in Afghanistan. Recent (graphic) evidence of this sinister and dark reality came from the German publication Der Spiegel which has published photos of several US army officers, posing ‘victoriously’ with the bloody corpses of Afghan civilians.
One picture showed a soldier kneeling down on an Afghani victim; holding the dead body's head towards the camera with one hand and a cigarette in the other; invoking the image of a hunter celebrating his ‘kill’; another picture showed a different soldier assuming the very same position with the same victim, albeit with a smirk on his face. In a proactive move to offset the sting of criticism, the United States Army offered a meek apology, stressing that ‘rogue’ elements within the ranks of its military bore the brunt of the blame, and that the actions depicted in these photos were, according to a statement released by Col. Thomas Collins, “contrary to the standards and values of the United States Army."
Like a sleight-of-hand magician, Col. Collins wants us to believe that these were isolated incidents carried out by a handful of ‘bad apples’ within the US military; but in the light of the notorious Abu Graib scandal, the pictures of Guantanamo Bay detainees and last year's video footage of an American apache helicopter gunning down nine Iraqi civilians at close range in Baghdad; one has to wonder - how many individual ‘rogue elements’ will it take Col. Collins to realize (or admit) that there is in fact an endemic pathological pattern at play here? The parallels between this Der Spiegel story and two infamous ‘incidents’ on Facebook and YouTube involving the trophy pictures of Israeli soldiers taken with handcuffed and blindfolded Palestinian prisoners are both so eerie and horrid that it leaves little room for doubt that these armies cook in the same kitchen with the same toxic ingredients. These are images that reveal the true ugly face of an imperial super power inching closer towards complete moral breakdown.
Ironically, the revelation of these photos has itself taken a backseat to the ongoing escalation of yet another western military intervention; this time in Libya - one more oil rich country. But as the sea of innocent blood overflows in Libya, and the western coalition hands the whole operation over to the ill-famed NATO forces, we need to temper our exuberance and expectations for what Odyssey Dawn might eventually bring us, and pray that in a year's time we won't be confronted with ‘trophy’ photographs of Libyan civilian victims.