By Dave Lindorff
Child victim of America's "collective punishment" assault on Fallujah by ThisCantBeHappening
According to news reports , 15-year-old eighth-grader Jaime Gonzalez, who was shot and killed yesterday by police in his middle school in Brownsville, TX, was hit three times: twice in the chest and once "from the back of the head."
Police say they were called by school authorities because Gonzalez was carrying a gun, which turned out to be a realistic-looking pellet gun, a weapon that uses compressed air to fire a metal pellet which, while perhaps a threat to the eye, does not pose a serious threat to life.
There is now a national discussion going on in the media about whether police used excessive force in the incident, and there is, in Brownsville and at Gonzalez's school, both anger and mourning. The boy had reportedly been a victim of bullying.
Let me say unequivocally from the outset that, yes, police used excessive force. Unless there were other children who were being held hostage by Gonzalez (there were not), or who were near him and being threatened (there were not), the police had no reason to kill him. Furthermore, there is the question of why three shots were fired, why they were fired at the chest of a child with clear intent to kill, and of course, there's that shot to the back of the head, which is simply unjustifiable under any circumstances.
But having said that, I want to call attention to another point, that gets beyond this one case of overkill by police: the double standard of concern when it is an American kid and when it is foreign kids who are killed.
I'm referring here to Iraq and Afghanistan, where thousands of kids even younger than Jaime Gonzalez, most of whom were not even armed, have been killed by American bombs and by the guns of American soldiers, and whose deaths evoke not the slightest word of sympathy or regret from either the killers themselves or the leaders, military and civilian, who issue the orders that led to their deaths. Nor is any concern about this slaughter of innocents expressed by the millions of Americans whose taxes pay for this ongoing atrocity.
Take Fallujah, a city of 300,000 in Iraq that in 2004 was the scene of one of the most brutal and brutish fighting of the US invasion of Iraq.
In what was clearly a war crime to rival anything the Nazi Wehrmacht engaged in during World War II, the Bush/Cheney administration and the Pentagon ordered the leveling of Fallujah in retaliation for the killing by resistance fighters of four Blackwater mercenaries in the city, and the hanging of their burned bodies from a bridge over the Euphrates River. The assault on the city was a pure case of "collective punishment," a tactic which is expressly declared a "war crime" by the Nuremberg Charter, drawn up and approved by the Allies at the end of World War II, and encoded in the Geneva Conventions in 1949.
The assaults on Fallujah, first in April, when the onslaught was called off because of nationwide protests in Iraq over the massive civilian casualties, and then in November when a larger and even more devastating assault was mounted that leveled nearly half the buildings in the city, also featured more war crimes, including the deliberate attack on and bombing of hospitals, and the executing of captured and wounded enemy fighters.
One of those crimes though, well documented by American reporters (though none of those from the mainstream press ever labeled what was happening as a war crime), was the deliberate entrapment of all "combat-aged males" in the city before the assault began. Under the Geneva Conventions, all civilians must be allowed to flee the scene of a battle or impending battle. Furthermore, since 1970, all those under 18, even if they are armed fighters, are granted "protected status" and must to be offered special protection by military forces.
Instead, as AP reporter Jim Krane wrote at the time , the US military ordered a cordon of Marines and members of the British Black Watch regiment to be placed around Fallujah in mid-October, three weeks ahead of the announced assault on the city. Civilian residents were urged to flee. But they had to pass through checkpoints, before being taken to heavily guarded refugee camps, and at these checkpoints, all males between the ages of 15 and 55 were turned back. Since the Pentagon was estimating the number of insurgents in the city at only about 4000, it was clear that most of those boys and men were civilian non-combatants. Krane, asking about this, quoted a 1st Cavalry Division officer who declined to be identified as saying of those who were denied safe passage from the future free-fire kill zone, "We assume they'll go home and just wait out the storm or find a place that's safe."
Easy words, but with over 10,000 buildings flattened in the ensuing US blitz on the city, finding safety would have been quite a challenge, and in fact well over 6000 civilians were killed in the nine-day attack in November.
There was no remorse expressed at this slaughter, which included many 15-year-old boys just like Jaime Gonzalez, and younger kids too. Not by President Bush or Vice President Cheney, not by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld or L. Paul Bremer, the jack-booted proconsul who headed up the US occupation administration in Iraq at the time, or by any of the commanders on the ground who set the rules of engagement for the assault. Nor was there any outrage expressed by the bulk of the American people in whose name this slaughter was conducted. Instead, the "victory" was cheered and the Marines were dubbed "heroes."
Apparently for Americans murdering young Iraqi boys and civilians in general is no big deal, any more than it is a big deal when helicopter gunships mow down young boys collecting wood on a mountaintop in Afghanistan, or execute sleeping students in a raided compound.