Mike Whitney: Whitewashing the Massacre in Najaf

By Mike Whitney  

So far, there are 2 things that we can say with certainty about the massacre of 250 Iraqis outside Najaf on Monday. First, we know that there is no solid evidence to support the official version of events. And, second, we know that every media outlet in the United States slavishly provided the government’s version to their readers without fact-checking or providing eyewitness testimony.

This proves that those who argue that mainstream news is “filtered” are sadly mistaken. There is no filter between the military and media; it’s a direct channel. In fact, all of the traditional obstacles have been swept away so the fairy tales which originate at the Pentagon end up on America’s front pages with as little interference as possible.

In the present case, we were told that “hundreds of gunmen from a ‘messianic cult’ (Soldiers of Heaven) planned to disguise themselves as pilgrims and kill clerics on the holiest day of the Shiite calendar”. We are expected to believe that they put their wives and children in the line of fire so they could conceal their real intention to lay siege to the city. (AP)

This is absurd. How many men would willingly drag their families into battle? In truth, these same tribes make the pilgrimage to Najaf every year to express their devotion to Imam Hussein and to celebrate the Shiite holiday of Ashura. There was nothing out of the ordinary in their behavior.

According to the Associated Press: “Their aim was to kill as many leading clerics as possible, including the main ayatollahs, which would include Iraq ’s main spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani….Najaf government officials indicated that the militants included both Shiite and Sunni extremists, as well as foreign fighters.”

Again, more unsubstantiated nonsense.

What we know now, is that there were no foreign fighters, no Yemenis, no Saudis, no Afghans, and no Al Qaeda. (as was originally stated) It was a group of Shiites who were rivals of the leading Shiite-led government (the SCIRI and Da’wa parties which represent Muqtada al Sadr and Abdel Aziz al-Hakim) and who don’t follow the Iranian born Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. They are Iraqi nationalists and suspicious of Iranian involvement in the new Iraqi government of Nouri al Maliki.

So what really happened?

Apparently, a fight broke out at a checkpoint between government forces and the rival Shiite group. Shots were fired, the violence escalated, and the Iraqi troops were quickly overpowered. So they called for backup from the US military saying that they were under attack by al Qaeda and Sunni insurgents. It was a complete fabrication; the troops clearly knew who they were fighting.  But the military believed it, sent in F-18s and helicopter gunships and buried the group under a carpet of bombs. (It is expected that women and children were killed in the bombing)

In fact, many in the media celebrated the slaughter of the Iraqi pilgrims as though they were revisiting the “Battle of the Bulge”. Here’s a typical account from the AP:

“US and British jets bombed and strafed the militants, the US Air Force said Monday. US F-16s and A-10 jets dropped 500-pound bombs on insurgent positions, the Air Force said”.

Say what you will about the corporate media; they still haven’t lost their appetite for carnage. Neither has the decider-in-chief who, when asked about the attack, answered, “My first reaction on this report from the battlefield is that the Iraqis are beginning to show me something.”

What the Iraqis “showed” Bush was how easy it is to dupe the US military into carrying out their genocidal reprisals against rival tribes. Just as the Mahdi Army and other Shiite militias are “laying low” while the US military ethnically cleanses Sunni neighborhoods throughout Baghdad, so too, the Iranian-sympathizers in the Iraqi government are now using American firepower to eliminate their traditional enemies.  

Apparently, Bush is as happy with this new arrangement as the Shiite warlords who now rule the country.

A spokesman from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense said that “200 terrorists were killed and 60 wounded” lowering the original estimates. But there were no terrorists; these were the families of Islamic devotees traveling to Najaf and Kerbala to fulfill their religious obligations. They were slaughtered on the MERE SUSPICION that they might be planning an attack, but there is no proof to support that claim.
Whatever the precise details may be, the official version is utter gibberish. That’s why the survivors of the attack are being prevented from speaking to the press. Just like the bombed-out wedding party in Anbar Province, or the Jessica Lynch fiasco; the official version is “always right” until the truth surfaces sometime later.

The bottom line is that the US military is now being used as an “enforcer” in tribal and clan-based disputes. This will make it even more difficult for Washington to prove that its honest broker who can reconcile the differences between the between the warring factions. With every reckless act of violence, the US becomes further mired in an “unwinnable” war. Only the American media thinks that’s something to cheer about.

-Mike Whitney contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com

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