Freethought San Marcos: A column
by LAMAR W. HANKINS
The US Army Manual from 1984 defines terrorism as “The calculated use of violence or the threat of violence to attain goals that are political, religious, or ideological in nature.” More recently, the US State Department has defined terrorism as the “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.”
Based on these definitions, we can look back at the seven years of war in Iraq and gauge our actions against our own definitions of terrorism.
One of the most violent actions that the US has taken in Iraq since the war’s inception took place at Nisoor Square in Baghdad in September 2007. Mohammed Kinani, the father of the youngest victim of that day’s violence, his nine-year-old son Ali, who was shot in the head and killed by Blackwater forces, has given a clear and chilling account of what took place.
Blackwater, a mercenary force hired by various agencies of the US government to carry out clandestine missions and provide security, often worked for the US State Department. Jeremy Scahill, a reporter for The Nation magazine and a correspondent for Democracy Now! explained the beginning of what became known as the “Nisoor Square Massacre”:
“Shortly before noon (on September 16, 2007), a convoy of four armored vehicles departs the Green Zone, the heavily fortified US base in Iraq. The men inside of the vehicles were elite private soldiers working for Blackwater. … The men had defied orders from their superiors to remain in the Green Zone and proceeded on to the streets of Baghdad. As they departed, they were again told to return to base. They didn’t. … Within minutes, (Blackwater’s mercenaries) would arrive at the congested Baghdad intersection known as Nisoor Square. Fifteen minutes later, at least seventeen Iraqi civilians would be dead, more than twenty others wounded, in a shooting that would go down in infamy as Baghdad’s Bloody Sunday.”
Scahill continues his narration of the events of that day: “Mohammed had never heard of Blackwater. Now he thinks of them and that day every waking moment. He remembers that Ali was not supposed to be in his car that day. Mohammed had just pulled away from his family’s home on his way to pick up his sister Jenan and her children for a visit. Ali (often called Allawi by his father) came running out of the house (and got in the car with his father).”
“Mohammed and Ali picked up Jenan and her three children and made their way back home. The return journey would bring them through Nisoor Square. When Mohammed found himself in a traffic jam at the square that day, he thought it was a US military checkpoint. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary to him when he saw the armored vehicles block off traffic.” Mohammad and others were ordered to stop. They complied.
“As Mohammed and his family waited in the SUV, the man in the car next to them was frantic. ‘I think someone was shot in that car in front of you,’ he told Mohammed. It was then Mohammed watched in horror as Blackwater gunners, for no apparent reason, blew up a white Kia sedan in front of his eyes. Inside, Mohammed would later learn, were a young Iraqi medical student and his mother.
Mohammed Kanani explained, “There was absolutely no shooting or any sign of danger for us or Blackwater. No one was in the slightest danger. Suddenly, in the flash of a second, they started shooting in all directions. And it wasn’t warning shots. They were shooting as if they were fighting in the field. By the time they stopped shooting, the car looked like a sieve. This is the only way to describe it, because it was truly riddled with bullets. They finished with the first car and turned their guns on us. It turned into the apocalypse.”
Kanani continued, “Everyone was trying to escape. Whoever wasn’t shot dead in their car just wanted to escape somehow. When one man tried to run, they shot him. He dropped dead on the spot. He was on the ground bleeding, and they were shooting, and they were shooting nonstop. They shot like they were trying to kill everyone they could see. He sank into his own blood. And every minute, they would go back and shoot him again, and I could see his body shake with every bullet. He was dead, but his body shook with the bullets. He would shoot at someone else and then go back to shooting at this dead man.”
Mohammed, his sister Jenen, and the children got down in their car to try to protect themselves. Kanani told what happened next: “Bullets were coming from the right and the left. My younger sister was trying to cover me with her body. So I pulled out of her grip and covered her with my body to protect her. I have pictures that show the headrest of my sister’s seat is full of bullet holes. It was horrific, extremely terrifying. I still wake up from sleep, startled. Why? I ask. Why would they do this? We were civilians sitting in our cars. Most of the cars had families in them. So why did this happen?”
“I kept hearing boom, boom, boom in my car. Bullets were flying everywhere. It was horrific, horrific. I don’t know. I don’t know how to describe it. After they had killed everyone in sight, my sister and I kept still. I had her rest her head on my lap, and my body was on top of her. We would sneak to peek from under the dashboard. They continued shooting here and there, killing this and that one. Then it cleared. Nothing was moving on the street. Only the Blackwater men were moving. Then, they drove off.”
Mohammed Kinani thought that they had all escaped injury until his nephew said, “Uncle, Allawi is dead.” Kanani: “I turned and saw that his (Ali’s) window was broken. It was shot. I looked at him, and his head was resting at the side of the door. I opened the door to see if he was OK. I opened the door, and he started falling out. I stood there in shock, watching him as the door opened and his brain fell to the ground between my feet. I looked at his brain on the ground, and I pushed him back into the car. I told my sister that they had blown his brains out.”
Scahill explained the family’s actions after they had buried their son: “After Ali died, the US embassy in Baghdad contacted Mohammed, offering his family a $10,000 condolence payment, making clear it was not a remedy for what happened and not a substitute for any potential legal action against the shooters. Initially, Mohammed refused the money, but the embassy pursued his family, urging them to take it. They eventually did, but with one condition: that half the money be donated to the family of a US soldier killed in Iraq. Mohammed’s wife Fatimah delivered the gift to the US embassy.”
Later, Kinani was offered $20,000 by Blackwater, but he refused the money, telling the Blackwater representative that all he wanted was for the owner of Blackwater to apologize in writing for the killing of his son and that he would give up any right to sue Blackwater. Blackwater refused, suggesting at one time that the US Army killed Ali.
The US Justice Department brought criminal charges against five Blackwater employees for their actions at the Nisoor Square Massacre, but the charges were dismissed last New Year’s Eve by a federal judge (though the dismissal may be appealed). A lawsuit filed by Mohammed Kinani against Blackwater is still pending in federal court. Several Blackwater employees who were in Nisoor Square on the day of the massacre have given statements saying that there was no excuse for the actions of their fellow Blackwater employees in killing innocent civilians.
We know that Mohammad Kinani and his family were and are terrified. And we know that the US and its agents have, in a calculated way, used violence to attain political goals in Iraq–our own definition of terrorism.
[All quotes in this article are from a Democracy Now! report that aired January 29, 2010.]
© Freethought San Marcos, Lamar W. HankinsEmail | Print