Robert Fisk - another piece

Xenon Zi-Neng Yuan wenhuadageming at
Sat Jul 26 01:41:46 MDT 2003

this guy's a workhorse, i'll say.


Showing Pictures Could Turn Sons into Martyrs
Robert Fisk ponders how Iraqis - who are all too used to horror - will view
the mortuary mug-shots of Uday and Qusay

July 25, 2003: New Zealand Herald

Baghdad - Arabs have never been squeamish about death. They see too much of it.

It is we Westerners - with our dangerous, all-conquering armies and our
easy identification of evil - who fall over our moral sensitivities at the
mere sight of a mortuary mug-shot.

I cannot think of an Iraqi - or a Palestinian, for that matter - who
haven't seen, with their own eyes, the decapitated victims of air raids and
massacres, the military corpses torn to pieces by dogs in the deserts of
Iraq or the mass graves of Kurdistan. Like Hieronymus Bosch and Goya,
they've seen it all.

So on the streets of Baghdad this morning, Iraqis will pore over the
all-too-soon-to-be-iconic photographs of Uday and Qusay, and their reaction
will be quite unlike what many of us expect.

They will say, some of them, that, yes, that's them, the terrible brothers,
the "lion cubs" of the monster of Baghdad. That, of course, is what we, the
West, want them to say. And others will ask - a good question this - why
they couldn't see them sooner.

Others will ponder the old Arab belief in the plot, the conspiracy. Did the
Americans linger in order to fake the pictures? Have they digitised the
brothers' faces in order to make them appear dead while still they are live?

The bullet wound in Uday's head, for example, the one that knocked out the
teeth and part of the nose. Now there's many an Iraqi who would like to
have fired the fatal shot. But what if Uday took his own life rather than
surrender to the enemy? What if he went down fighting, saving the last
bullet for himself? Now that's an idea that can appeal to the tribal nature
of Iraqi society.

Iraqis have spent their lives fighting foreigners. Wasn't Uday doing the
same? And history, which has an unhappy way of reorganising the most staged
of events, might just conspire to turn these photographs into those of
martyrs. Which is what - to be sure - the Ba'ath militiamen will do. Cruel
the brothers may have been. But cowards? That will be the message.

In other words, the publication of these photographs will prove either a
stroke of genius or a historic mistake of catastrophic consequences.

The occupation authorities are pondering the idea of plastering the
pictures around Baghdad. But be sure, they will soon be used as martyrs'
photographs on posters with a somewhat different message. The work of the
Americans. The work of the occupiers.

And here, I suspect, will come the rub. For in Iraq, I suspect, there will
a growing number of young men who will see the need in these pictures not
to content themselves with regime change, but to revenge themselves upon
the foreigners in Iraq, to avoid the further humiliation of occupation.

They may have hated the sons of Saddam, but after death can come a
remarkable reversal of fortunes for the dead.

Because real life on the streets of Baghdad does not incline Iraqis to love
their new occupiers or meekly accept the "democracy" that we wish to thrust
upon them, just because we can prove that their old masters are dead.

Take the moment yesterday when Mohamed Eadem put his
key in the padlock of the Kindi hospital mortuary, placed a tissue over his
nose and heaved open the great freezer door to show me two sets of human
remains, something infinitely worse that the last pictures of Uday and Qusay.

There on the floor lay yesterday's forgotten victims of the Iraq war, a
pile of blackened bones and incinerated flesh on plastic sheets.

As three more American soldiers were killed in an ambush outside Mosul -
revenge comes swiftly in this dangerous country, for the men of the 101st
Airborne died scarcely 36 hours after Saddam's sons were killed nearby -
the two shrivelled corpses in the mortuary of the Kindi hospital lay
unidentified and uncared for, further reason for Iraqis to hate their

Of course, we occupied ourselves yesterday with those photographs and with
the deaths of the Americans. But no one bothered to ask about the two
Iraqis gunned down by the Americans in the slums of Hay al-Gailani.

Down the road, then, at 7:00 a.m. yesterday, drove two men. They failed to
stop. The Americans peppered their car with bullets. The vehicle burst into
flames. And the Americans just left. For half an hour, the car blazed out
of control.

What is clear is that it was the men and women of Hay al-Gailani who had to
wait for the burning car to cool before they could heave the terrible
remains from the embers of the front seats.

"There were just bones and flesh," Mohamed Eadem told me. "And of course
there were no identity papers left, so they hadn't the slightest idea who
these dead men were, and the Americans obviously didn't care."

Their car was left in the street, shredded by bullets, a crowd of angry
Iraqis banging their fists on the roof. Was there a better way to enlist
more men in the battle against the occupation?

Of course, the only bodies in which the Americans were interested were
those of Uday and Qusay. As for the remains in the Kindi mortuary - and no
photographs of them, please - Eadem was possessed of one idea. "I sometimes
have a feeling about the dead who are brought here," he said. "I have this
feeling that the two men in the car were brothers. I don't know why. It's a

But these were brothers whom no American was going to care about - and of
whose death no Iraqi had to be told. - Independent Foreign Service

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