Written by Chris Floyd
Saturday, 14 July 2007
Here’s an update on the previous post. The NYT has now followed up on the killing of their reporter, Khalid Hassan, in Baghdad. He was apparently gunned down by militiamen after his car had been diverted into the backstreets by an American roadblock. It was a two-stage hit; he was forced off the road by a black Mercedes and shot, but survived. As he was calling his mother to say that he was OK, a second car came along, carrying a gunman who shot Hassan twice more and killed him.
The impenetrable murk which covers the atrocities on all sides in Iraq will almost certainly make it impossible to determine just who killed Hassan, and why. As the NYT’s John F. Burns reports:
The murderous turmoil in Baghdad has reached a point where many families never know the killers of their loved ones, or their motives. Sunni insurgents? Shiite militias? Killers who mimic one or the other, while pursuing more private motives of greed, spite or revenge? Or, in Mr. Hassan’s case, the nature of his employment, which placed him doubly at risk: as an Iraqi journalist, and as an Iraqi working for Americans?
With a police force that barely functions because of the bludgeoning it has taken from Sunni insurgents — and that has spawned Shiite death squads — families can rarely hope to see killers tracked down. Now, that may be the fate of Mr. Hassan’s family, for whom he was the principal breadwinner. After his parents separated during his teenage years, Mr. Hassan supported his mother and four sisters, all under 18, by selling cosmetics door to door and, for the last four years, using a polished colloquial English learned through movies, for The New York Times.
Hassan’s neighborhood is riddled with the virulent sectarian strife that Bush’s rape of Iraq has unleashed — and which the “surge” is ostensibly designed to quell. But as we’ve often noted here, the United States — and tag-along Britain — have themselves been waging a relentless “dirty war” in the country since the first months after the invasion, arming some violent groups, infiltrating and steering others, throwing in with murderers, torturers, thieves, extremists and provocateurs, setting in motion a multitude of deep-delving plots whose ultimate consequences are far beyond the control of their begetters.
Hassan’s family — Palestinians who came to Iraq in 1948, fleeing Israel’s takeover there — believe that Hassan was most likely killed by operatives of the Mahdi Army, loyal to cleric Motqada al-Sadr, who, as we noted yesterday, has been one of the mainstays of the Bush-backed Maliki goverment. If so, then Hassan was killed by the very forces that Bush has empowered in the conquered land. Burns notes that Shiite extremists have been entering Hassan’s district in police uniforms, then changing into mufti to carry out their killings. Thus they are almost certainly Iraqi policemen who have been trained, armed and paid by American forces.
Hassan’s death is just one more of the “excess deaths” caused by Bush’s war. The number of such deaths — i.e., in excess of the ordinary death rate under Saddam’s regime — was estimated at some 650,000 last year by The Lancet, the authoritative medical journal whose findings on the death count were upheld by Tony Blair’s own experts (although Blair himself mendaciously derided the figures, as did Bush). Follow-up studies using the Lancet’s rigorous methodology have advanced that figure to almost a million by now — more than were killed in Rwanda. An equivalent death toll in the United States would be roughly 12 million people — twice the size of the Holocaust.
We know about Hassan’s killing because he worked for a Western news organization. But most of these “excess deaths” are just tiny droplets in a vast and spreading swamp of blood. They fall without notice in the wider world — but their echoes will still be reverberating in the lives of our children and grandchildren.
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