Monday, June 19, 2006

There are murderers and then there are murderers

Jeffrey's last post dealt with this article from dealing with the massive hurt done to Al-Qaeda In Iraq due to the loss of Zarqawi's address book. It's all very good news, but one paragraph in the article got me thinkin':

The damage done by the post- Zarqawi raids has spurred the Sunni Arab amnesty negotiations. These have been stalled for months over the issue of how many Sunni Arabs, with "blood on their hands", should get amnesty. Letting the killers walk is a very contentious issue. There are thousands of Sunni Arabs involved here. The latest government proposal is to give amnesty to most of the Sunni Arabs who have just killed foreigners (mainly Americans). Of course, this offer was placed on the table without any prior consultations with the Americans. Naturally, such a deal would be impossible to sell back in the United States. But the Iraqis believe they could get away with it if it brought forth a general surrender of the Sunni Arab anti-government forces. The Iraqis, after all, are more concerned with Iraqi politics, than with what happens in the United States. Iraqi leaders believe that the U.S. has no choice by to continue supporting Iraqi pacification efforts. However, the spectacle of amnestied Sunni Arabs bragging to Arab, European and American reporters about how they killed Americans, might have interesting repercussions.

Yeah...interesting. Of course "foreigners" would presumably also include those who killed Phillipino janitors and French NGO workers. By this standard, I guess Zarqawi himself could not have been convicted for bombing the UN office in Baghdad. The annoying thing is that it would be unacceptable to amnesty murderers of Shi'a Iraqis but not those of Americans in Iraq at the behest of the Shi'a Iraqi dominated government. But whatever.

It got me thinking about this Daily Star commentary by Rayyan al-Shawaf:

The Deep Hypocrisy in Nitpicking Arab Massacres

...Massacres of Shiites occur almost daily in Iraq. The death and carnage caused by the huge bombs strategically placed near Shiite mosques and in bustling marketplaces of Shiite-majority areas do receive coverage in both the Western and Arab media. Yet unless the bomb destroys a Shiite shrine, making reference to Shiites unavoidable, the Arab media by and large deliberately leave out the identity of the victims. This is symptomatic of a larger cultural problem: the majority Sunni Arab world's reluctance to identify and extirpate anti-Shiite calumny in its midst.

This is nothing new. Few in the Arab world paid much attention to Saddam Hussein's crimes against Shiites and Kurds, even when they reached genocidal proportions.
The Lebanese have long been familiar with this sort of duplicity, which in their country manifests itself in the selective commemoration of Civil War-era massacres. For years, convention has dictated that the only crimes afforded official recognition should be those committed by, or involving, Israel. The most notorious of these was the Sabra and Shatila massacre of Palestinians in September 1982. But this approach is selective.

To begin with, massacres committed by Palestinian militias (Damour, Chekka, and others) have been all but forgotten; the Lebanese Christian victims of these outrages are alone in commemorating them....Even those massacres in which Palestinians fell victim to Christian militias (Karantina, Tell al-Zaatar) have been deliberately ignored in favor of focusing all attention on Sabra and Shatila. As if that weren't hypocritical enough, the principal Lebanese role in the slaughter has been officially overlooked, while the involvement of the Israelis, who were surely facilitators, has been made to appear central.

Palestinian suffering at the hands of other Lebanese groups has similarly been relegated to obscurity.
What accounts for such willful blindness? Politics. It is politically incorrect to blame powerful Lebanese political parties and figures for their crimes. It is "traitorous" to blame Palestinians, who are the victims of Zionism, for anything. The argument is, Why antagonize this or that community? Political expediency invariably trumps human rights...

Now, look, I realize that the inequitable appreciation of the deaths of those outside one's own group is ubiquitous among all of humanity. Some Iraqis have complained about the widespread mourning over the death of journalist Steven Vincent and Jill Carroll, saying it was over-the-top considering the relative lack of attention granted to the many Iraqi journalists, like Fatah al-Sheikh, abducted and murdered in Iraq.

However, this is something different. This describes the deliberate and wide-spread distortion of a story so that it condemns someone involved peripherally or too a lesser degree (Americans, Israelis) and hides the central involvement of someone else (Sunnis, Arabs, Lebanese, Iraqis). This sort of managed history is the engine that powers the A.P.U. ... the massive delta between how Arabs and everyone else views the world.

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