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Saturday, May 05, 2007 

The new untermensch.

The findings of the Mental Health Advisory Team's survey of deployed American services serving in Iraq shouldn't come as anything like a surprise. It's also easy to blame the apparent contempt with which US servicemen hold Iraqis in general to their state of mind as result of long serving tours and deaths within their ranks, when this only tells half the story.

From the very beginning of the Iraq war, the American approach in particular to the citizens of the country has been telling. They promised shock and awe, knowing full well that there were few military targets that hadn't been hit over the previous decade of imposed no-fly zones, meaning that innocent civilians were going to be slaughtered so that it made for good television pictures. Within weeks of the overthrow of Saddam, trigger-happy soldiers were shooting dead unarmed protesters, one of the major factors in kicking off the insurgency. Then there was Abu Ghraib.

Reading the posts of those who have returned from Iraq is just as instructive. Iraqis are referred to as "hajis", for which read the way that the Vietnamese were called "gooks". We can bleat all we like about the dehumanising aspects of war, and true as it is, there's nothing like good old-fashioned colonial attitudes and the belief that some lives are worth less than others.

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