Sunday, July 24, 2005

Ilario Pantano Should Sue This "Writer"

Ashraf Fahim is a self-described "freelance writer" and "news analyst" operating out of Brooklyn, New York and publishing primarily in Middle eastern and Asian "news" outlets unfriendly to the US.

Fahim is so long-winded and boring that I'm not going to reproduce the entire propaganda piece here; I'll just fisk a few choice paragraphs. The density of Fahim's drivel is by design - repeating lies over and over breaks down resistance and inures the reader to the obvious distortions and pretzel logic.

From The perils of colonial justice in Iraq:
Among its more vociferous opponents, the American project in Iraq is characterized as a classic colonial adventure, indistinguishable in nature or intent from the deepest, darkest chapters in Northern oppression of the South: America is to Iraq as Britain was to India or Belgium to the Congo. Proponents, on the other hand, argue the inherent benevolence of American empire - the export of democracy and egalitarianism in contrast to the transparent racist imperialism of yore.
Make no mistake. Ashraf Fahim is among those vociferous critics, not an unbiased bystander as he pretends to be here. If you enjoy anti-American propaganda, check out his other writings here. But a close reading of Fahim's first paragraph is enough to pin down his mindset. Notice that Fahim's imaginary protagonists, the "vociferous opponent" and the "proponent" agree to the "colonial" nature of the War in Iraq. This is the straw man that Fahim is trying to create. But if the US is a "colonial" power, the same as Great Britain and Belgium were, where are the US colonies? Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands? Fahim's thesis is doomed by definition, and his own faulty logic.

One possible way to arbitrate this dispute is by observing the dispensation of justice with regard to American servicemen accused of the "unlawful killing" (in military parlance) of Iraqi civilians. In this area, as with the infamous cases of torture in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, impunity is the rule of thumb for both the rank and file and their superiors. In the overwhelming majority of cases over the course of the war, prosecutions have either not taken place, or if court martials have occurred, there have been acquittals or token sentences dispensed.
Tell that to Lyndie England and Charles Graner. Fahim is flirting with outright lies here, anathema to modern propaganda, but he's on shaky ground and has to overplay his hand. I'll also helpfully point out to Fahim and his editors that it's "courts martial", not "court martials".

Next, Fahim uses several paragraphs of supposition and innuendo about Iraqi civilian deaths to lead up to the Ilario Pantano case.

The case of Ilario Pantano is typical of the way the scales of justice tip in occupied Iraq. Pantano was a Marine lieutenant accused of killing two Iraqi captives, Hamadaay Kareem and Taha Ahmed Hanjil, in April 2004, after the platoon he commanded captured them as they drove away from a house the Marines had just raided as a suspected insurgent hideout. The two officers with Pantano at the time allege that he ordered the captives' handcuffs removed, had them assume defensive positions, instructed his soldiers to look away, then shot Kareem and Hanjil in the back. Pantano emptied two magazines into them.
This account is completely at odds with the testimony of Pantano and his men, and the findings of Pantano's Court Martial. In fact, it's very possible that Pantano could successfully sue Fahim for libel here, despite the tough standards imposed by US libel law.
One of the officers present, Sergeant Daniel Coburn, stated that Pantano had become agitated when weapons were discovered in the suspected hideout and apparently wanted to "teach [the insurgents] a lesson". Pantano's defense, which has been successful in similar cases (such as the execution of a wounded insurgent in a Fallujah mosque famously captured by an NBC television reporter) was that the unarmed Iraqis moved suddenly, leading him to fear they were about to carry out an attack. Pantano faced the death penalty on charges of premeditated murder, but was cleared in a pretrial hearing in late May, and resigned from the military.
Well, first off Coburn is not an "officer" as that term is commonly used. Second, Fahim fails to mention that Coburn had a running feud with Pantano and had been effectively demoted to radio operator - a clear sign that Pantano did not think him capable of performing the duties of a sergeant, and possible motive for Coburn to want to see Pantano in trouble. Last, and most telling, Coburn's version of events was rejected by the Court Martial. Fahim can have no purpose in repeating rejected testimony other than to defame Ilario Pantano, and through him, the US military in general.