Revolution #53, July 16, 2006
Rape and Murder of Abeer Qassim Hamza:
Bloody Reality of the U.S. Occupation
14-year-old Abeer Qassim Hamza lived with her family a few miles north of the Iraqi town of Mahmoudiya.1 She told her mother that U.S. soldiers would leer at her and try to make passes at her when she had to pass by the checkpoint near their house. The soldiers knew where Abeer lived—they had visited the house. The Washington Post reported in a July 3 article that Abeer's mother was worried for her child's safety and arranged to have Abeer sent to a neighbor's house, where she hoped her daughter would be out of danger.
But this didn't keep Abeer safe.
According to an FBI affidavit posted at the website FindLaw.com, four U.S. soldiers had been planning and talking about what they would do to Abeer. According to a July 1 Associated Press article, they spent almost a week planning the assault. On March 12, 2006, these soldiers went drinking and then changed out of their uniforms into dark clothes. One soldier covered his face with a t-shirt. In the afternoon, they burst into Abeer's house, armed with AK-47s.
According to the affidavit, Steven Green, a private in the Army, took Abeer's family -- her mother, Fikhriya Taha; her father, Qassim Hamza; and her 5-year-old sister, Hadeel Qassim Hamza -- into a bedroom and killed them. He came out, blood on his clothes, bragging about what he'd just done. Then he and another soldier took turns raping Abeer. When they were done, they shot and killed her. Then they set fire to her body.
When they got back to the checkpoint, with bloody clothes, they told the soldier guarding the checkpoint to keep his mouth shut. They burned their clothes, and then went back to manning the checkpoint, where women and girls passed by every day.
The July 1 Associated Press article reported that the rape and murders had been blamed on sectarian infighting between various factions in Iraq. According to Sydney's Daily Telegraph, the truth began to come out more than two months later, after two of the soldiers in Green's unit were killed in an attack and other soldiers said they thought it might have been in response to the rape and murders in Mahmoudiya.
On July 3, Steven Green was charged with rape and murder, and could get the death penalty if convicted. Green is no longer in the military. Unrelated to the rape and murders, Green had been discharged for what the military calls a 'personality disorder'"
On July 9, the Associated Press reported that four other soldiers, all who are still on active duty, were charged with participating in the attack, and another was charged with knowing about the attack and failing to report it. It is not clear if any of those charged were Green's commanding officers.
The question is not whether this is the only rape or assault that U.S. soldiers have committed on Iraqi women or men, or female soldiers in the Army. The only question is—how many? And how many have been covered up?
Throughout the history of the United States, everywhere U.S. soldiers have waged wars or occupations, or been stationed, local women have been treated as the victims and spoils of war. From the bloody frontier wars that began this country, where U.S. soldiers made trophies and souvenirs from the mutilated body parts of Native American women,2 to the rings of brothels and strip clubs surrounding every U.S. overseas base, to the rapes of women in places like the Philippines, South Korea, and Japan, where U.S. soldiers are often immune from prosecution by those country's laws. And this ugly legacy of the U.S. military is alive and well today in Iraq.
Rape and sexual assault are not just openly tolerated in the U.S. occupation of Iraq—they are encouraged. Look at what happened in Abu Ghraib. Men being forced to masturbate and pose naked. The rapes and sexual assaults of women, men, and children. All captured on thousands of photos depicting smiling soldiers. Soldiers testified that they were doing these things to “soften up” the prisoners for interrogation.
In an environment where a woman has every reason not to report a rape, it is impossible to know how many women have been raped and abused by U.S. soldiers. Many times women are blamed, shamed and punished for being raped. Woman who are raped know that they could be accused of “staining the family honor” and severely punished, even killed, especially in areas that follow a strict interpretation of Islamic law. (Sharia, or a strict interpretation of the Koran, condemns women to death for being raped—for engaging in the crime of having “sex outside of marriage.”)
This is the fifth time in only two months that the murder of Iraqi civilians by U.S. troops has come to light. Reuters news service published a timeline of 18 major incidents in three years: In March 2006, U.S. soldiers killed eight people, including a teenage boy, when they raided a home. In February 2006, a U.S. soldier killed an unarmed man in Ramadi and two other soldiers placed an AK-47 by the body, to make it seem that they had just shot an “insurgent” (a tactic taken straight from cops in the United States when they murder people and plant a “throw-down gun.”) National Public Radio reported on June 21 that seven U.S. soldiers killed a 52-year-old disabled man by dragging him into a ditch and shooting him, then throwing a shovel and an AK-47 by his body to make it seem he had been caught in the act of digging a roadside bomb. (See “Chronology: U.S. troops and civilian complaints in Iraq”).
And then, once again, even after five incidents reported in two months—the official chorus comes out like a sick refrain: “These were bad apples/isolated incidents/aberrations.”
But these crimes are NOT aberrations. They are a concentration of and reflect the very nature of the U.S. military and the U.S. occupation of Iraq: The constant fear of being killed at a wedding, or when walking down the street, or in your home. The sickening knowledge that your teenage daughter is being stalked by armed occupiers. The fear that you could be shot dead in an instant when driving through a checkpoint or whenever U.S. troops knock on your door. The daily humiliation of checkpoints and leering U.S. soldiers.
This is the nature of the U.S. occupation. And the unofficial policies of rape and murder are designed to break the spirit of the Iraqi people. The U.S. is enforcing a hated and brutal occupation on the people of Iraq. And an indispensable part of this is inculcating soldiers with a colonial mentality that treats the Iraqi people as subhuman and considers their lives worth nothing. Rapes, massacres, and brutal torture are inevitable when you have such a mentality, encouraged and backed from the highest levels of the military and up to the White House.
What does it mean when a senior official in the 4th Infantry Division of the Army says: “The only thing these sand niggers understand is force and I’m about to introduce them to it.” (From Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq, quoted in Andrew Bacevich's review in the London Review of Books, June 6.) Or take the lyrics of a song called “Haji girl,” written by a U.S. Marine, which celebrates the killing of Iraqis:
“Then I hid behind the TV
And I locked and loaded my M-16
And I blew those little f*ckers to eternity.
They should have known they were f*ckin’ with a Marine.”
(Posted at a pro-U.S. military site: Neveryetmelted.com)
And what does it mean that Marines in training chant: “Blood makes the grass grow, Marines make the blood flow.”
Add the blood of 14-year-old Abeer. Add her family to the hundred thousand who have been killed by the U.S. occupation of Iraq.3 This is the true nature of the U.S. military.
How many more Abeers? How many more Abu Ghraibs, Ramadis and Hadithas?
This bloody war, this murderous occupation must be stopped.
2. See Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee; excerpt posted at lastoftheindependents.com/chivington.html.
3.See the British newspaper The Guardian, October 29, 2004: "About 100,000 Iraqi civilians - half of them women and children - have died in Iraq since the invasion, mostly as a result of airstrikes by coalition forces, according to the first reliable study of the death toll from Iraqi and US public health experts."
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