Mallick: Remembering a ‘very good’ Iraqi girl
The following is republished from HERE
Abeer Qassim al-Janabi at about age 7. She was raped and murdered by U.S. solders when she was 14ASSOCIATED PRESS
Now she’s dead and he’s in jail, complaining.
I was obsessed with the news of her murder when Green was first arrested in 2006, not just because the crime was so haunting but because I could not find a photograph of Abeer. She was a quiet, ordinary girl from the village of Yusufiyah, near Baghdad. Without a photo, had she ever existed? There are plenty of photos of the five strapping soldiers who killed her. If I want a fresh version of the hillbillies from Deliverance, they’re online and smirking.
But this week, as Green appealed his five life sentences on the grounds of unfairness, I finally saw Abeer. She isn’t 14 in this AP photo. She’s all of seven. And if there’s a prettier, more delicate little love of a child, I have yet to discover her. Look at her shy smile. You should see that wall behind her now. Her blood didn’t burn properly when her killers set her house on fire. It sort of cooked onto the plaster.
The mother feared the soldiers at the nearby checkpoint because they leered at Abeer as she worked in the garden. “Very good, very good,” they said to the mother, pointing at the girl and giving a thumbs-up sign. During one search of her house, Green ran his index finger down the girl’s cheek. At this point, she was marked for death.
On March 12, 2006, the soldiers got drunk and headed out to rape her. While Green shot her parents and little sister in another room, two other soldiers raped her. Green then took his turn, shot her, set her lower body on fire, and fled. They would never have been caught had one soldier, Justin Watt, not been tormented by guilt and confessed. Watt still receives death threats for his treachery.
Green is your standard murderous pedophile except for one thing. He is absolutely clear that it is not his fault. It’s the army’s. “If I hadn’t ever been in Iraq, I wouldn’t be in the kind of trouble I’m in now,” he told a reporter as he campaigns for release.
No, he’d be in the same kind of trouble, but back in Texas. Pedophiles are like that. “He always seemed a little bit different,” Green’s former step-grandfather says. Which is interesting, because I see him as typical. Armies are filled with William Calleys and Steven Greens. They have their uses.
A straight line leads from the Oval Office to Abeer’s corpse with her legs spread and her dress pulled all the way up to her neck. When you wage war, this is what happens to young girls. Their thin frames are turned into meat and jelly, their brothers are orphaned, the army pays no compensation, the killers whine and the lawyers argue over whether Green should have been tried as a soldier or a civilian.
In 2002, Chris Hedges wrote War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, a fine compact book that helped end his career at the New York Times while making an eloquent case that we — and Americans in particular — love war. We must, we wage it so often. It’s seductive. We subscribe to its fictions.
One of those fictions is that uniformed soldiers from the civilized West don’t pulverize young girls and blacken them with fire for the sheer fun of it. I stare at Abeer’s photograph with all the love I can muster, thinking of that fiction, and others.