|In Haditha, Iraq, Marines are alleged to have gunned down 24 civilians in a rage of revenge for a bombing that killed a Marine in November 2005.|
Our Marines killed more than a dozen unarmed Iraqi civilians and then tried to cover it up. Then they killed two more women, one of them pregnant and this time they could not cover it up as the witnesses spoke and the media published a report on the incident. Had people not spoken and had the media not reported, the alleged massacre committed by the marines might still have been an act of heroism done to defend our interests against terrorists. Who knows how many such incidents have been covered up because there were no witnesses or no one spoke about them.
|Hammurabi Human rights group shows covered bodies, which Hammurabi says, are of a family of 15 shot dead in their home in Haditha, in western Anbar province, Iraq.|
Can we draw a parallel between what the marines did and what Osama bin Laden did to us here in America on September 11? Some might call such an idea outrageous. Some may even say that it is unpatriotic to even think like this.
However, we need to analyze the motives of all people who commit injustices. In the case of Haditha killings we can draw parallels between what Osama bin Laden's 19 men did on September and what the marines did in Iraq.
In Osama's words he did what he did on September 11, 2001, to seek revenge for injustices that he accused the US of committing in the Middle East. He used religious idioms to justify it. The marine's say they carried out the killing to revenge for the death of one of their brother in arms.
But the parallel does not stop there. Osama claims that he is waging a war against the US to end Western hegemony and promote freedom for Muslims. The marines argue that they are in Iraq to promote democracy and freedom.
Ironically, we have two different reactions to the killings carried out by Osama and our marines. Osama's killings were declared as part of a civilization war. While our marines' massacre was described as an unfortunate event committed under stress. Osama's killing was presented as part of a universal war against democracy and freedom, while the atrocities of our marines was presented as an act of self defense. Osama was projected as a spokesperson of Islam, while our marines' were presented as individuals living the agony of war every day.
Osama's action resulted in the demand of changing Islam or removing passages from the Quran that he allegedly used to justify his action. While our marines' actions resulted in demands to have more inquiry into the background of these marines. In the case of Osama, Islam was declared a villain. In the case of marines, personal stress was described as the main reason behind the act.
Interestingly, a large number of the marines are said to be influenced by right wing evangelical church leaders such as Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Billy Grahm. For almost four years, many of our marines have often heard some of their religious leaders suggest that Islam promoted terrorism (Pat Robertson), Islam is an evil religion (Franklin Grahm) or Muhammad was a terrorist (Jerry Falwell). Of course there are many in the Pentagon who also speak the language of these right wing church leaders. Who does not remember General Boykin of the US army for making the statement that Muslims follow satanic cult or one of our previous attorney general, John Ashcroft for saying that in Islam God wants parents to send their children to commit acts of violence while in Christianity, God wants parents to teach mercy to their children. And of course who can forget the famous Bush line that we are on a crusade.
Obviously, in an atmosphere where hatred is preached from the pulpit, it is not unimaginable to think that our marines would consider "the other" to be less than human. But what lessons should we learn from these two incidents.
1. Institutions cannot be held responsible for the action of a few individuals whether they happen to be Bin Laden or marines.
2. Institutions might have individuals that promote violence and hatred, yet it is the individual who commits the act of violence.
3. Religion is not be blamed for either the attacks of Bin Laden or the massacre committed by the marines even though those who committed these heinous crimes often pretended to be religious.
Certainly, what was done by Osama was far bigger in scope and implications than what was done by the marines. But the motives for the two are apparently the same. Both were unable to find a better mechanism to deal with the injustices they perceived were done to them or their country or their community.
Both opted for senseless killing. Both killed innocent people who had no hand in initiating any act of injustice against them or their supporters. Both killed innocent people in reference to their association to a country or a community.
Both were merciless and both were in a state of denial for sometime. Osama kept people guessing about his action until he finally admitted that it was he who had selected 19 people to carry out the mission. The marines remained silent about it and tried to cover it up until people spoke out and challenged the official version. We should not be surprised to hear more gruesome acts of violence committed by our troops in Iraq. After all, we learned about many of our atrocities in Vietnam after the war was over.
With embedded journalists it is almost impossible to find the truth about the real situation in Iraq. Perhaps, we may have to wait for the end of the war to hear more of such stories. But by then it would be too late, at least for those who are victims of such acts.
Dr. Aslam Abdullah is editor-in-Chief of the Muslim Observer and the director of the Islamic Society of Nevada as well as the director of the Muslim Electorates Council of America.
I congrtulate Iviews for publishing this daring article. May God bless America and the world.