By Hodan Yusuf
Last Sunday, many civilians in Afghanistan were shot dead in their sleep at point blank range by a US serviceman who had gone on a ‘killing spree’. There were reports from some eyewitnesses that there was more than one serviceman involved in the massacre. Some of the dead were even set on fire. As predicted, the excuses came in thick and fast from all corners of the US administration. On the same day, many other civilians were killed in Gaza and Syria. The Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu went as far as to praise the actions of his armed forces.
In a week when the US army was directly responsible for the cold-blooded murder of many women and children in Afghanistan, pinning any hope on America to bring solutions for the Syrians and Palestinians at the UN would have been falsely optimistic.
In addressing the Security Council on Syria, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday:
“We reject any equivalence between premeditated murders by a government’s military machine and the actions of civilians under siege driven to self-defence…
[the Security Council should not] stand silent when governments massacre their own people, threatening regional peace and security in the process.”
She also described President Assad as “cynical” for hosting former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on a peacekeeping mission, while at the same time launching a fresh assault on the town of Idlib.
This cynicism and hypocrisy is evidently not exclusive to Assad. Clinton and her government would never apply those hollow words to the plight of Iraqis, Afghanis or Palestinians. You would only have to rewind to the day before at the UN Security council to see the insincerity of those words become apparent. In addressing the escalation of violence in Gaza, Secretary Clinton was unwilling to afford the Palestinians the same context.
“Let me also condemn in the strongest terms the rocket fire from Gaza by terrorists into southern Israel,” Clinton told the UN Security Council…We call on those responsible to take immediate action to stop these attacks.”
A spokesman for the State Department, Mark Toner, asked later if the US also sought an end to the Israeli airstrikes, reiterated the US position of standing behind Israel. Israeli warplanes had been pounding the Gaza Strip for the fourth day, killing more Palestinians and raising the toll to 23. Toner told reporters in Washington: “We’ve been very clear that Israel has the right to self-defence… ”
Anyone with a conscience cannot help but be moved by images of dead, injured and grieving children and their relatives. It is convenient to tell ourselves that we are not responsible since we did not pull the trigger or drop the bombs and to turn a collective blind eye. Can our collective conscience be content with just this? Speaking out against wrongdoing is an intrinsic value and a commandment in Islamic teachings. The Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him] is reported to have said:
Whoever from amongst you sees an evil should change it by his hand, if he is unable to do so then he should change it by his tongue (by speaking against it), and if he is unable to do so then he should reject it in his heart – and this is the weakest of Iman/Faith.
It is our moral responsibility to speak out unequivocally against injustice. It is not enough to cry, tears will not stop the tanks of tyranny. Journalists like Marie Colvin and others especially local and citizen journalists, are dying in the hope that their witness testimonies to atrocities will trigger actions to end them. Empathy with our fellow human beings in times of oppression should motivate the seeking of justice. Crying reminds us we care enough to do something about it, while the American administration continues to add insult to injury.
Hodan Yusuf is a multi-media freelance journalist and mediator. She has a BA Hons in Human Geography and Environmental Policy, a Diploma in Journalism and an MSc in Conflict Resolution and Mediation Studies from the University of London.