Crimes of Opportunity
"It's a hard world for little things" - Night of the Hunter
This has to be brief, as I'm still not up to speed here.
Last December, Pfc Steven Green was the face of the Army's happy news story, "Coalition forces keep streets of Iraq safe." (And sure thing, there he is, preparing "to blast a lock off the gate of an abandoned home.") Six months later, he's charged with the rape of an Iraqi girl possibly as young as 14, her murder and the murder of her family, including her seven-year old brother Hadeel. (Her name was Abeer Qasim Hamza. It seems most reports don't bother with that detail. Nor that she was a child, and not a young woman.)
It was self-evident from the moment the story broke, despite the military's insistence to the contrary, that the subsequent abduction, execution and mutilation of two soldiers from the same platoon were acts of retaliation. (There's no indication the soldiers were themselves involved, though prior to his arrest Green attended one of their funerals.) And it's just as likely that, despite the official denials, his honourary discharge on account of a "personality disorder" was intended to preempt this particular embarrassment.
A Pentagon spokesperson called the slaughter of Abeer and her family "crime of opportunity." There's a lot of that going around these days.
Iraqi children are disappearing at an "alarming rate," many being sold into Europe, particularly the Netherlands and the UK. "However, there is no detailed information on who is buying them and for what reason." This can't help but remind me of the recent human trafficking scandal in Azerbaijan - very quietly received stateside - which saw the US embassy implicated in an operation "organized on a truly American scale," and ambassador Reno Harnish reassigned, perhaps alarmingly, to "the fight against bird flu."
There's a fractal component to the crimes and the tragedies of the United States in Iraq. The rape of a nation is more than a metaphor when it's repeated recursively in the rape of a young girl. Green and the rest - there are said to be three others accused, and more still who had foreknowledge of the attack and those who meant to cover it up - are simply the apes of power, emulating at scale the atrocities of their commanders and their Commander in Chief. And it's only the copycats, who mistake their license for entitlement, who are held accountable. Like conservative Judge Donald D. Thompson, convicted of indecent exposure, who masturbated in his courtroom during a grandfather's tearful testimony about a toddler's murder, and Republican consultant Carey Lee Cramer, convicted of abusing the child he used in a 2000 campaign ad to smear Al Gore. While, for the gangster lords of corruption to whom the system is beholden, planes will be made to fall from the sky, evidence disappear, and witnesses conveniently put themselves to death.
When Vladimir Putin impulsively lifted a shy boy's shirt and kissed his stomach last week, CNN posted it beneath the banner "Offbeat News." Now it may have been innocent, but the significance can't be entirely cultural, because it appears lost on Russians, too. (The most popular question selected for a forthcoming webcast interview amounts to Whatever were you thinking?)
Early in The Night of the Hunter, Robert Mitchum's murderous preacher gives thanks, saying "Lord, you sure knew what you were doing when you brung me to this very cell at this very time. A man with ten thousand dollars hid somewhere, and a widow in the makin'." If he were simply a hypocrite he wouldn't be nearly so frightening. Or dangerous.