25 July 2003
“Arabs have never been squeamish about death” — Robert Fisk, the Independent, July 2003
I’ve no doubt that Robert Fisk is a decent fellow with compassion for his fellow man and woman and deplores the invasion and occupation of Iraq, yet this quote, which opens the statement splashed over an enormous photo (with a red tint) of the two corpses of the Hussein brothers (ironically, the image has echoes of the photo of Che Guevarra after he’d been executed) on the front page of today’s Independent, speaks reams about the West and its state of self-delusion and the illusion it wants to foist on us. Had it been written let’s say in 1945, over a photo of concentration camp victims, it might well have read “Germans have never been squeamish about death” or the corpses of Native Americans, littering a Wild West landscape, “Native Americans have never been squeamish about death.”
Fisk, secure in his padded, journalistic world, goes on to tell us that:
“During the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, Iraqis became anaesthetised to death.”
And I suppose the wives, mothers and fathers of American soldiers who died in Vietnam also got anaethetised to death when their loved ones arrived home in body bags too. I have to be honest about this, but Fisk, who gets the entire front page of the Independent to himself and his masochistic fantasies, masquerading as an analysis of the ‘Arab mind’, makes me utterly sick to my soul.
Of course, Fisk and obviously the Independent, would have us believe that this kind of journalism is meant to make us feel bad about the ‘plight’ of the Iraqi and in its way, it’s meant to be an indictment of the West. It’s meant to make us view the West and and all its talk about ‘rights’, ‘freedom’ etc, as nothing but hypocrisy. Instead, it merely reinforces the notion of ‘us and them’, and conveniently of course, the ‘them’ are not white, nor are they Christian. Far from inducing empathy in the reader, it drives an even wider wedge between us and ‘them.’
Fisk’s ‘analysis,’ misses the point entirely with its focus on assumptions about how the Iraqis (who, as he points out ad infinitum in his article, don’t think like ‘us’) will reinterpret the photographs to fit ‘their’ mindset. That the release of the photos of the corpses of the Hussein brothers will just play into the hands of those Iraqis who want to turn the assassinated brothers into ‘martyrs.’ This is the worst kind of racism because it’s racism that masquerades as compassion for the ‘victim’; not the dead Hussein brothers but the Iraqis as stereotypes of Arabs. It also entirely misses the point as to why the Americans released the photographs.
What is missing from the entire story, is any kind of analysis that sets the propaganda war being conducted by the Imperium, and critically, people like Fisk’s role in the process, into any kind of context that makes sense of why the Americans, after much ‘soul-searching’, released the photographs. Never mind what Fisk offers us in the way of an analysis when he tells us that the Ba’ath militia men will just turn the photographs of the dead men into martyrs or that the Americans want to ‘prove’ that they really are dead. It’s an ironic twist that Fisk’s racism ‘piggyback’s’ on the racist ideology of the state. But now, we can all feel real bad about what we’re doing to Iraq and at the same time assuage our consciences because Fisk has, in flagellating himself and his ‘race’, taken it upon himself to express his guilt for all of us.
And to compound the obscenity that is the justification for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the Independent’s editorial, which I suppose reflects Fisk’s front page, has the bizarre headline “Even these corpses should be treated with some respect” (like splashing the photos over its front page?), and the following to say on the subject of the photographs:
“The public display of corpses for propaganda purposes is of course obnoxious [sic], and the parading of the enemy dead by the victors uncivilised, yet the case of Saddam Hussein’s sons is a special one.”
This odious editorial goes on to say,
“As part of an effort to establish for the sake of Iraq’s people that Saddam’s sons are dead, the Americans are justified in publishing the photographs of the bodies.”
Excuse me while I go outside and throw up. So it’s all for the sake of the Iraqi people? I didn’t realise. I thought it was to persuade the world that the invasion was justified and that the ‘coalition’ was winning the war of ‘hearts and minds.’
When I got back, I finished reading the editorial only to discover that the editors of the Independent hadn’t finished with me yet;
“It is important beyond Iraq too that the Americans have killed who they say they have.”
And if they haven’t, what then? Will it make an ounce of difference?
The question of course, of whether it was necessary to blow the house to pieces with anti-tank missiles, machine guns et al, and including apparently, a fourteen year-old boy (maybe he was carrying a gun, but of course, we’ll never know will we) doesn’t figure in the alleged justification that the Independent offers us in rationalising the Western mindset. Does it occur to the wordsmiths of the ruling elite, that the regime that the West was quite happy to prop up for years, when it suited their purposes, was no different from the one they invaded in April? That whatever crimes the Ba’ath regime committed, they committed with the full complicity of the very same people who now condemn them and go through the motions of soul-searching over whether its right or not to display photographs of the corpses of their erstwhile ‘friends.’