Sunday, July 02, 2006

Marketplace Massacre

Today is the first Sunday in July but that big color photo on the front page of today’s NY Times is not a scene of vacationers cavorting on the beach. Those crowds in the sunny (not Suni!) Sadr City district of Baghdad are wading in water created by burst pipes damaged by a car bomb that killed more than 60 in an Iraq market.

It’s our weekend celebration of Independence Day, America’s annual celebration of freedom. Like Shavuot, a covenanted people commemorate the receiving of a critical declaration (in this case the Declaration of Independence rather than the Ten Commandments).

Meanwhile, our attempt to free others has gone terribly awry. A few weeks ago when Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki acted as if he were the freely elected leader of an independent country and suggested that he might offer amnesty to some insurgents, American politicians from both the left and the right cried foul.

The Prime Minister eventually said that attacks on American soldiers would not be pardoned. He was quoted in the NY Times as saying, “Americans came to Iraq to help make it free. . . . Therefore, out of respect for their contribution to Iraq, no pardon will be offered to their killers . . .”

But should he be compelled to tie his hands to paper over our gravest shortcomings? Consider the report in yesterday’s paper that American soldiers raped an Iraqi woman in her home and then killed her and three family members, including a child. Had the soldiers only (only!) killed innocent civilians, we might be inclined to imagine scenarios of mistaken identity or extreme stress under combat conditions leading to a deadly outcome, but once the sexual violation is added to the event, potential excuses dissolve.

The U.S. soldier who was recently kidnapped and killed in Yusufiya was from the same unit as those accused of rape and murder. If the Iraqi Prime Minister wants to offer amnesty to those related by tribe or blood to innocent victims of American troops, especially those who were violated and tortured before they were murdered, we the people of the United States should hang our heads in shame and proclaim our faith in the One True Judge. We should never be so arrogant as to proclaim “Our Country right or wrong” or reflexively defend the actions of those who disgrace the uniform they wear or violate their oath to defend liberty and justice for all.


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