After the attack on Iraq a frequently heard comment from those with no interest in foreign affairs or much, from activists, journalists and political observers of all hues, was: “Soon no American or British citizen will be safe anywhere on earth, for decades to come.” It was repeated after Libya, at every sabre rattling at Iran. Throughout the meddling, funding and support for terrorists in Syria the phrase has resurfaced, as again after US Under Secretary Victoria Nuland boasted of her government’s $5 billion illegal coup in Ukraine. Guantanamo, renditions, secret prisons and US drone strikes are also cited. Abu Ghraib and other atrocities are unforgotten.
The predictions seemingly were correct. On September 25th 2013, the US Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs issued a “Worldwide Caution” for US nationals traveling anywhere on earth. On 10th April this year it was updated, further alerting travelers to “… the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the world.” (Emphasis mine.)
Threats are blamed on that old bogey man “… al-Qa’ida, its affiliated organizations and other terrorist groups” who also “continue to plan and encourage kidnappings of US citizens and Westerners …”
Information suggests that “terrorist attacks are also planned against U.S. interests in multiple regions, including Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics including suicide operations, assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings, and bombings.”
Targets may be “high-profile sporting events, residential areas, business offices, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, public areas, shopping malls, and other tourist destinations both in the United States and abroad where U.S. citizens gather …”
If the warnings are correct, it has to be wondered if the State Department has reflected on cause and effect. Having interviewed over the years, measured people of all walks of life, whose entire families, friends, colleagues have been victims of indiscriminate, random US attacks on a barely imaginable scale, atrocities which, the “international community”, had they been committed by any other nation, would condemn as crimes of enormity by rogue states, are lauded as “liberation.”
The bereaved, friends and helpers, try hour after hour to collect body parts — bits of bone, flesh, a bit of a skull or jaw and attempt to establish by skin colour, texture, which pathetic fragments belong to which beloved person, ensuring the right remains are placed together in the shroud, coffin, these pathetic shredded pieces of infants, children, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, brothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents. The atrocity unsurprisingly usually breeds an all-consuming desire for revenge with which, for anyone who has had direct experience and heard those of the relations, rescuers, it would be impossible not to understand.
One example stays indelibly engraved on my mind, over twenty years of unending US aggression. Mohammed was just ten years old when he went to overnight with his mother, brothers — including a baby brother just weeks old — and sisters during the 1991 attack on Iraq, to Baghdad’s Ameriyah air raid Shelter.
The Shelter, equipped with bunk beds, showers, generator-driven electricity, television, kitchens, was a haven of normality and safety in a city where the electricity and water system had been deliberately destroyed, being “carpet bombed” daily.
This temporary sanctuary was deliberately targeted by the US who had obtained the plans, identified the weak points, the ventilation shafts. All but fourteen of the several hundred mothers, children and elderly for whom the Shelter was reserved, were incinerated.
Mohammed was just ten when he survived the inferno. He rescued an old man “whose flesh came away in my hands” and a baby. His mother and siblings were incinerated. The attack happened on the anniversary of the start of the fire bombing of Dresden in World War 11.
He was twelve when we met. Quiet, dignified, articulate way beyond his years. His story, as so many victims of US bombs, drones and “surgical strikes” across the globe, would haunt the hardest heart.
Eventually I asked: “How do you feel about those who did this?” His composure cracked, perspiration broke out on his face, neck, and backs of his hands: “When I grow up, I am going to join the (elite) Republican Guard — and if I die and if I have to wait a thousand years, I will come back and get my revenge.” In the 2003 invasion, he would have been twenty two.