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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 3/30/12

War porn: The new safe sex

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The rules of engagement in Iraq were codified in a 182-page field manual distributed to each and every soldier and issued in October 2004 by the Pentagon. This counter-insurgency manual stressed five rules; "protect the population; establish local political institutions; reinforce local governments; eliminate insurgent capabilities; and exploit information from local sources."

Now back to reality. Fallujah's population was not protected: it was bombed out of the city and turned into a mass of thousands of refugees. Political institutions were already in place: the Fallujah Shura was running the city. No local government can possibly run a pile of rubble to be recovered by seething citizens, not to mention be "reinforced." "Insurgent capabilities" were not eliminated; the resistance dispersed around the 22 other cities out of control by the US occupation, and spread up north all the way to Mosul; and the Americans remained without intelligence "from local sources" because they antagonized every possible heart and mind.

Meanwhile, in the US, most of the population was already immune to war porn. When the Abu Ghraib scandal broke out in the spring of 2004, I was driving through Texas, exploring Bushland. Virtually everybody I spoke to either attributed the humiliation of Iraqi prisoners to "a few bad apples," or defended it on patriotic grounds ("we must teach a lesson to "terrorists").

I love a man in uniform

In thesis, there is an approved mechanism in the 21st century to defend civilians from war porn. It's the R2P -- "responsibility to protect" doctrine. This was an idea floated already in 2001 -- a few weeks after the war on terror was unleashed, in fact -- by the Canadian government and a few foundations. The idea was that the concert of nations had a "moral duty" to deploy a humanitarian intervention in cases such as Halabja, not to mention the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in the mid-1970s or the genocide in Rwanda in the mid-1990s.

In 2004, a panel at the UN codified the idea -- crucially with the Security Council being able to authorize a "military intervention" only "as a last resort." Then, in 2005, the UN General Assembly endorsed a resolution supporting R2P, and in 2006 the UN Security Council passed resolution 1674 about "the protection of civilians in armed conflict"; they should be protected against "genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity."

Now fast-forward to the end of 2008, early 2009, when Israel -- using American fighter jets to raise hell -- unleashed a large-scale attack on the civilian population of the Gaza strip.

Look at the official US reaction; "Israel has obviously decided to protect herself and her people," said then-president Bush. The US Congress voted by a staggering 390-to-5 to recognize "Israel's right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza." The incoming Barack Obama administration was thunderously silent. Only future Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "We support Israel's right to self-defense."

At least 1,300 civilians -- including scores of women and children -- were killed by state terror in Gaza. Nobody invoked R2P. Nobody pointed to Israel's graphic failure in its "responsibility to protect" Palestinians. Nobody called for a "humanitarian intervention" targeting Israel.

The mere notion that a superpower -- and other lesser powers -- make their foreign policy decisions based on humanitarian grounds, such as protecting people under siege, is an absolute joke. So already at the time we learned how R2P was to be instrumentalized. It did not apply to the US in Iraq or Afghanistan. It did not apply to Israel in Palestine. It would eventually apply only to frame "rogue" rulers that are not "our bastards" -- as in Muammar Gaddafi in Libya in 2011. "Humanitarian" intervention, yes; but only to get rid of "the bad guys."

And the beauty of R2P was that it could be turned upside down anytime. Bush pleaded for the "liberation" of suffering Afghans -- and especially burqa-clad Afghan women -- from the "evil" Taliban, in fact configuring Afghanistan as a humanitarian intervention.

And when the bogus links between al-Qaeda and the non-existent WMDs were debunked, Washington began to justify the invasion, occupation and destruction of Iraq via ... R2P; "responsibility to protect" Iraqis from Saddam, and then to protect Iraqis from themselves.

The killer awoke before dawn

The most recent installment in serial episodes of war porn is the Kandahar massacre, when, according to the official Pentagon version (or cover up) an American army sergeant, a sniper and Iraqi war veteran -- a highly trained assassin -- shot 17 Afghan civilians, including nine women and four children, in two villages two miles apart, and burned some of their bodies.

Like with Abu Ghraib, there was the usual torrent of denials from the Pentagon -- as in "this is not us" or "we don't do things these way"; not to mention a tsunami of stories in US corporate media humanizing the hero-turned-mass killer, as in "he's such a good guy, a family man." In contrast, not a single word about The Other -- the Afghan victims. They are faceless; and nobody knows their names.

A -- serious -- Afghan enquiry established that some 20 soldiers may have been part of the massacre -- as in My Lai in Vietnam; and that included the rape of two of the women. It does make sense. War porn is a lethal, group subculture -- complete with targeted assassinations, revenge killings, desecration of bodies, harvesting of trophies (severed fingers or ears), burning of Korans and pissing on dead bodies. It's essentially a collective sport.

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Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia (more...)
 

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