My Surrender, by Andre Bohrer
Original photo removed
In the latest WikiLeaks document dump is the story of two Iraqi men who were killed by a guncraft while appearing to surrender. A military lawyer said “they cannot surrender to aircraft, and are still valid targets.” The difference in the American version of war is that they have lawyers and documents to excuse torture and murder, and courts and media to actually pore through it later. On the whole, however, the American misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan are a much greater tragedy than even the war in Sri Lanka. By many accounts, over 100,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq alone, not directly by the military but also by the carnage the US occupation unleashed.
This is not to excuse Sri Lanka’s conduct in the war. I am sure that we have had many incidents like these American ones listed below:
Misunderstandings at checkpoints were often lethal. At one Marine checkpoint, sunlight glinting off a windshield of a car that did not slow down led to the shooting death of a mother and the wounding of three of her daughters and her husband. Hand signals flashed to stop vehicles were often not understood, and soldiers and Marines, who without interpreters were unable to speak to the survivors, were left to wonder why.
According to one particularly painful entry from 2006, an Iraqi wearing a tracksuit was killed by an American sniper who later discovered that the victim was the platoon’s interpreter.
The only thing that makes America redeemable is that they can talk about this in public and hopefully learn from it. In Sri Lanka we simply say that no civilian blood was shed and ‘move on’. I should say borderline redeemable, because the US has still tortured hundreds, killed hundreds of thousands, disrupted the lives of millions and spent billions ‘learning a lesson’ they should have learned in Vietnam. It’s honestly horrifying. I was just reading that for the cost of a single soldier stationed in Afghanistan for a year, they could build 20 schools.
Still, there are tons of international groups within the US who – because they can discuss US atrocities – don’t outright condemn it. Which perhaps they should. But the lesson here globally, I think, is not that the US are hypocrites and therefore to disregard all criticism. That simply leaves us with a status quo of atrocity. I think the more vital lesson is that talking about this openly may actually make punishment less likely than trying to cover it up. Or it could be that the lesson is that having the most guns and the most money means that you can kill and people can talk and you don’t much need to worry, cause no one can punish you anyways. I think the real lesson is the latter, but I’d like it to be the former.