Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The Shot Heard Round The World

The killing of a wounded and apparently unarmed Iraqi by a US marine, videotaped by an embedded reporter from NBC on Saturday and broadcast around the world, is stirring anger in the Middle East and elsewhere.

That anger, reminiscent of the outcry that followed the release of torture photos from Abu Ghraib prison, is the latest upsurge in a propaganda war that the US has been embroiled in from the get-go in Iraq. US officials say an investigation has begun.

The act itself, perhaps a result of the fog of war, perhaps an act of revenge, represents a key challenge for the Marines. Keenly aware that US excesses in the past have turned global opinion against the war in Iraq, and thereby threatened US strategic objectives, commanders repeatedly have warned their subordinates not to shoot unarmed or seriously injured men.
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The footage has already become more fodder on jihadi websites peddling the conspiracy theory that the US is on a crusade against global Islam. It also caused cringing in the capitals of US friends and allies. Tuesday, UN Human Rights chief Louise Arbour called for an investigation of alleged US abuses in Fallujah.

Charles Smith, a professor of modern Middle East history at the University of Arizona, says the military triumph in Fallujah could be undermined by global anger at how the victory was achieved. In the coming weeks, he says, observers are likely to see "the Bush administration trumpeting 'victory' and much of the rest of the world, including Europe, considering some of our practices as war crimes."


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