Forgiving war criminals is just one more way to dehumanise citizens of those countries that the US fights wars against.

The United States’ commitment to “democratic values” such as human rights and the rule of law has almost become an internationally and universally understood joke. Not only did the US illegally invade and destroy Iraq, but its soldiers committed scores of war crimes that have mostly gone unpunished.

An example of this materialised just yesterday when President Donald Trump granted a full pardon to a former US Army lieutenant who was jailed after he stripped naked an Iraqi man he was supposed to be escorting home, interrogated him at gunpoint, and then shot him dead.

Killing the faceless and the nameless

In 2008, Ali Mansur Mohamed was arrested and interrogated by Lieutenant Michael Behenna and his men after a roadside bomb killed two members of Behenna’s platoon. Mohamed was questioned by military intelligence officers who ordered him to be released due to insufficient evidence tying him to either the bombing or to membership of Al Qaeda. Behenna was tasked with escorting Mohamed back to his village where they had first picked him up.

Any law-abiding person who held justice in high regard would have simply returned the suspect home, as ordered. Behenna, however, had other ideas. 

The American officer appointed himself judge, jury, torturer and executioner when he decided to stop on the way back to Mohamed’s village, strip him naked, threaten and interrogate him at gunpoint before gunning him down in cold blood

His defence was that a naked suspect who was looking down the barrel of a gun and who was already cleared for release suddenly decided to lose his mind and go for the soldier’s weapon, causing him to fire in self-defence. An American court dismissed Behenna’s wild claim and rightly convicted him of murder carrying a sentence of 25 years.

It is not as though Trump’s pardon was particularly needed, as Behenna was freed during the Barack Obama administration in 2014. His sentence was reduced from 25 to 15 years, and he was paroled after serving only five years as he was a “model prisoner”. 

Clearly, the pardon was designed to expunge his record as if the grisly and dirty crime never happened, but the fact that a convicted murderer was paroled long before that happened shows how the lives US servicemen snuff out in questionable wars abroad carry little to no value whatsoever.

After all, who in the United States knows what Mohamed looked like? Where he lived? How many family members he left behind after he was so brutally killed? Most Americans and people in the West, in general, do not even know or recall the name of Abeer Qassim al Janabi, a 14-year-old Iraqi girl from Yusufiyah who was gang-raped by American soldiers in 2006. 

Abeer was raped in one room of her house as her family were murdered in another room by another soldier, Steven Green. Green then proceeded to rape Abeer again with her family’s blood still on his hands before he repeatedly shot her in the head and, along with his brothers-in-arms, torched the house to destroy any evidence.

More recently, and at the beginning of Trump’s tenure as president in January of 2017, US special forces raided a village in Yemen and killed 30 people, at least ten of whom were women and children. The youngest to die was eight-year-old Nawar al-Awlaki who took an American bullet to the neck and took two hours to bleed to death. 

As she was bleeding out, the brave little girl told her distraught mother, “Don’t cry mama, I’m fine.” 

Western media outlets decided to ignore this sweet little girl and instead focus on the one US serviceman who was killed while raiding a country he did not belong to in the first place.

Western sob stories will replace outrage

It has been more than two years since her life was so brutally snatched from her by American forces, yet barely anyone remembers her, Abeer, or countless others, including victims of Obama-era drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and other places in nameless and faceless “brownistans” across the world. 

This anonymised murder allows psychological distancing to occur in Western audiences which allows the murderers and rapists of girls like Abeer to be paroled after serving only ten years with little to no public outrage.

Instead, American military expeditions and gruesome wars customarily get lionised not only in the media but in popular culture via television shows and Hollywood productions. While few would baulk at the heroic depictions of American servicemen in films such as Saving Private Ryan, the sheer stereotyping and covert racism in films like Blackhawk Down and American Sniper seeks to portray civilised American soldiers waging war against ululating savages in Africa or the Middle East who are hellbent on committing egregious acts of terror and violence with seemingly no context.

We are instead called upon to feel sympathy for the invader rather than the invaded; whether it is in fictional portrayals of Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia or anywhere else the United States has devastated. 

The brave and devoted American soldier will invariably face fire on the battlefield before facing the demons of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the pressures of familial break up due to extended deployments and any other number of cinematic tropes designed to elicit sympathy. Even in films like The Green Zone that depicts the US invasion of Iraq as short-sighted and wrong, the hero is a white American serviceman who ultimately becomes disillusioned.

I doubt we will be seeing any Hollywood-backed films and television series dedicated to the countless faceless victims of American war crimes around the world. Instead, we will continue to see stone cold killers like Behenna rewarded for their heinous crimes.

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