BAGHDAD, Iraq, July 6 — The United States ambassador and the top American military commander here together issued an unusual apology on Thursday for the rape and murder of a young Iraqi woman and the killing of her family, saying that the crime, in which at least four soldiers are suspects, had injured the “Iraqi people as a whole.”
I’ve seen many U.S. media stories make the same mistake the Times makes here. In virtually any context other than a crime committed by US soldiers, a 14 year old girl who was raped and murdered would be called a girl, not a “woman.”
“We understand this is painful, confusing and disturbing, not only to the family who lost a loved one, but to the Iraqi people as a whole,” the two senior officials said in a written statement. “The loss of a family member can never be undone. The alleged events of that day are absolutely inexcusable and unacceptable behavior.”
The statement is all the more unusual because no soldiers have been convicted yet or even formally charged.
What I find unusual about the statement, as quoted, is that whoever wrote the “apology” didn’t even read the news reports, or he’d know that four people — Abeer Qasim Hamza, who was raped before she was shot in the head; her parents Qasim Hamza Rasheed al-Janabi and Fakhriya Taha Muheisin al-Janabi, and her six-year-old sister Hadeel Qasim Hamza al-Janabi — had been murdered.
Not “a loved one.” Four loved ones. (Abeer’s two younger brothers were fortunately not home, which is presumably why they’re still alive.)
Does it need to be mentioned that all five soldiers arrested so far have been men?
Heart has been doing outstanding blogging about this appalling hate crime (here, here, here). In her first post about the rape/murders, she quotes the lyrics of a song written by an American soldier. A video that found its way on to the internet showed “The song… performed before thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq who could be heard wildly cheering and laughing in the background.” In the song, a seductive Iraqi woman tempts an American Marine into her home, where she and her insurgent family attempt to murder him.
They pulled out their AKs so I could see
And they said…
Durka Durka Mohammed Jihad
Sherpa Sherpa Bak Allah
(with humorous emphasis:)
So I grabbed her little sister, and pulled her in front of me.
As the bullets began to fly
The blood sprayed from between her eyes
And then I laughed maniacally
Then I hid behind the TV
And I locked and loaded my M-16
And I blew those little f*ckers to eternity.
The soldier had been planning to release a recording of his song, but in light of recent events he’s put off (or perhaps been ordered to put off) those plans. Not canceled them, mind you. Put them off.
A couple of right-wing bloggers (here here and here) find it ridiculous that Heart sees a connection between an ever-so-funny song about shooting an insurgent and her family to death, and the actual rape and murder that took place.
Seelhoff quotes the Hadji Girl song, and (with typical Feminist logic) segues from a discussion of a humorous skit of a Marine turning the tables on insurgents who attack him, to the case of several soldiers from the 101th Airborne Division of the US Army, not Marines, who have been accused by Iraqis of participating in an incident of rape and murder in the Iraqi city of Mahmoudiya.
(Note the author’s emphasis on the word “Iraqis” – the implication being that the story is not true. When this rape/murder was first reported in American media, the initial reaction of some in the rightosphere was to assume that it couldn’t possibly be true. See, for example, here and here: “…to take seriously the notion that FIVE soldiers gang-raped a girl, murdered her, burned her body, and then murdered her family to cover up the crime is simply beyond the pale. It would make a good movie script, but it’s just too far out there to even begin to take seriously.”)
I think Heart’s point is actually pretty simple: A culture in which a wacky novelty song about killing a seductive Iraqi insurgent and her family is popular and liked, is a culture that is encouraging misogyny and hate against women, and racist hate against all Iraqis. Did “Hadji Girl” cause these five soldiers to rape and murder? No, of course not. But the same cultural racism and misogyny that has (wrongly) convinced thousands of soldiers that “Hadji Girl” is acceptable as entertainment, also convinced these five (or possibly more than five?) men that it was acceptable to rape and murder an Iraqi family.
Oddly enough, right-wingers make this sort of connection all the time, when they (correctly) suggest that hateful anti-Israel propaganda stems is connected to murderous attacks on Israelis, even when there’s no evidence that any particular article was a direct cause of any particular attack. So why is the connection so hard to make when the hatred is directed at Iraqis and Iraqi women in particular?
I am in no way saying that this sort of thing is unique to Americans, or unique to soldiers. Gang-rape is always a weapon used against civilians — nearly always women and girls — in war, but it’s also used against civilians — nearly always women and girls — at home. Ms. Jared, in a comment left on Heart’s blog, linked to this recent story:
More arrests are likely in the rape of an 11-year-old girl by as many as 10 men, most of whom are football players at local community colleges, Fresno police said.
It’s not a coincidence that so many gang rapes are committed by young men in organizations – football, frat houses, the army, etc – which teach the young men that “being a man” is all-important. The sense of entitlement and manhood that convinced the young men in Fresno to rape is the same as the sense of entitlement and manhood that convinced the young men in Iraq to rape; the main difference, I would guess, is that the young men in Iraq had been subjected to a racist regime, devaluing Iraqi lives, which convinced them that it was all right to murder as well.
Please go read Heart’s posts. A lot of the info and links above came from Heart, and also from Feministing, Abyss2Hope, Feminist Law Profs, Footnotes From a Small Village, and Capitalism Bad Tree Pretty.
UPDATE: Ms. Jared, in comments, points me to this post from Riverbend, an Iraqi blogger:
Rape. The latest of American atrocities. Though it’s not really the latest- it’s just the one that’s being publicized the most. The poor girl Abeer was neither the first to be raped by American troops, nor will she be the last. The only reason this rape was brought to light and publicized is that her whole immediate family were killed along with her. Rape is a taboo subject in Iraq. Families don’t report rapes here, they avenge them. We’ve been hearing whisperings about rapes in American-controlled prisons and during sieges of towns like Haditha and Samarra for the last three years. The naiveté of Americans who can’t believe their ‘heroes’ are committing such atrocities is ridiculous. Who ever heard of an occupying army committing rape??? You raped the country, why not the people?
…Imagine your 14-year-old sister or your 14-year-old daughter. Imagine her being gang-raped by a group of psychopaths and then the girl was killed and her body burned to cover up the rape. Finally, her parents and her five-year-old sister were also killed. Hail the American heroes…
UPDATE 2: Punk Ass Blog has more on the misreporting of her age.
Comments on this post are open only to feminists and feminist-friendly people. Cross-posted on Creative Destruction.