Wednesday, April 4, 2007
The western rhetoric of apathy must not blind us to our obligation to challenge atrocities
(Jonathan Holmes is a writer, director and academic; his play Fallujah opens at the Old Truman Brewery, London, on May 1)
Wednesday April 4, 2007
"Rana Al-Aiouby was risking her life delivering essential medicine to the wounded in the Iraqi city of Fallujah when she witnessed first-hand the effect of chemical weapons deployment by US troops. Despite their prohibition under several international treaties and by the Geneva conventions, white phosphorus and a napalm derivative were used without discrimination on the civilian population of a city the size of Edinburgh throughout 2004.......
In the face of repeated independent verification, US forces have now acknowledged the use of chemical weapons, and yet there remains no sustained international outcry and no official response (let alone condemnation) from any government or the United Nations. The US has overthrown a regime while supposedly searching for phantom weapons of mass destruction, only to use such weapons on the newly "liberated" civilian population. The cold hypocrisy of such actions is outweighed only by its extravagant viciousness.
Seventy articles of the Geneva conventions were breached in the two separate months of siege warfare. Despite calls to abolish the conventions by the past and present Conservative leaders Michael Howard and David Cameron among others, they remain an essential bulwark against the bullying tactics of the powerful, and a poignant index of the increasing impunity of the neo-colonial project. Their ethos is that the innocent, the weak, the defeated and the injured be afforded all the protection possible in times of conflict. The ethos of the US government is that the weak and innocent are a hindrance to the acquisition of power and, occasionally, an opportunity for the expansion of profit.
In writing my play Fallujah, which weaves together eye-witness accounts from Rana and many others present during these attacks, what astonished me was the symmetry between the testimony of American soldiers and that of their victims: "Yeah, we napalmed those bridges," said Colonel Randolph Alles, of Marine Air Group 11, in an interview with James Crawley of the San Diego Union-Tribune. "The generals love napalm." The guys on the ground no longer bother dissembling, so confident are their masters that protest, should it happen, will be muted and ineffectual......"