By Arab News
America’s audacity is breathtaking. US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has demanded that Iraq provide total immunity to the US troops staying on beyond the scheduled pullout later this year. First, the US must invent a pretext to maintain its military presence in Iraq, not to mention thousands of “advisers,” private security contractors and mercenaries, notwithstanding President Barack Obama’s promised withdrawal from the Arab country. And now it has the temerity to demand “immunity” from Iraqi laws for its forces. Talk of adding insult to injury. The question is what are America’s brave soldiers afraid of if their hands are clean?
Truth be told, there is blood on the hands of folks who came claiming to liberate Iraq from tyranny and offer democracy and human freedom. As if the monumental lies about Saddam Hussein’s arsenal of WMDs before the invasion and the carnage and destruction that followed were not enough, the coalition of the willing had to visit every conceivable atrocity and savagery on a long suffering and vanquished people.
A million lives have been lost — all for a lie and the oedipal complex of an insecure president. A country that used to be one of the best in the region in terms of infrastructure, economic prosperity and development has been bombed back to the Stone Age. Indeed, the US invasion hasn’t just wrecked the oil-rich country, it has unleashed strife across the Middle East dividing the whole region along sectarian lines — something that never happened over the past millennium and half.
Is it any wonder then that most Arabs and Muslims believe that the US war in Iraq is spawned and driven by Israel and its friends in high places? And if the US troops in Iraq fear prosecution under Iraqi law for war crimes, they have every reason to be. Long after the fall of the Baathist regime in Baghdad, the coalition continued to routinely bomb heavily populated cities and towns and Iraqi families were gunned down as “terrorists” and insurgents at checkpoints.
The incidents such as the coldblooded killing of Iraqi civilians along with two Reuters journalists by the US troops in an Apache helicopter in 2007, revealed in a WikiLeaks video last year, were only a tip of the iceberg. The 2006 rape and killing of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl with her family in Mahmoudiya is only one of the many such crimes by the occupation forces that ordinary Iraqis wish could have been prosecuted in their own courtrooms.
Indeed, everyone who unleashed this unjust war on Iraq could be tried for war crimes under international law. They lied about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. They lied about Saddam’s links to Al-Qaeda and 9/11. They lied in UN about mobile weapon labs, uranium from Niger, Saddam’s ability to hit targets in Europe and much else. These lies served as the pretext for aggression against a sovereign nation, which in itself is an international war crime. They are also guilty of violating the UN convention on torture — remember Abu Ghraib? — and the killing of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Millions of Iraqis have taken refuge in neighboring countries. Can Iraqis ever hope for justice for these crimes? Or is international justice only reserved for the Saddams, Bashirs and Qaddafis of this world and the victors have a license to kill?