One would think that the report of a few days ago about the gruesome discovery of mass graves in Iraq and many thousands of apparent civilians buried in them would cause at least a genuine stir, if not a semblance of moral outrage in the Western world, known to be hugely sensitive to the unjustified loss of innocent human life. As even the BBC could not marginalize or ignore in its 6 November 2018 news report, about 200 mass graves containing the remains of an estimated 12,000 victims have been unearthed in western Iraq, where until recently ISIS forces held sway.
It might be noted in passing that ISIS killing fields in Iraq (never mind the controversy under whose auspices ISIS had been set up and for what purposes, here and here) dwarf both quantitatively and qualitatively the globally famous Srebrenica massacre of July 1995. The alleged toll of Srebrenica consisted not of civilians but of 8,000 military personnel, prisoners of war captured by Serbian forces after three years of intense and bitter conflict. One would assume, therefore, at least two things.
First, that an alarmed and indignant Security Council of the United Nations would have met by now and voted unanimously (no US, UK, or French vetoes) to set up an international tribunal, similar to those at the Hague and in Rwanda, to sort out what happened and to unsparingly employ the “international community’s” resources, including NATO personnel conveniently located next-door in Syria, to hunt down the suspected perpetrators and bring them swiftly to justice. Secondly, one would logically expect the principal Srebrenica investigative mechanism of the Hague Tribunal, the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), instead of being quietly dismantled to be swiftly reactivated to help the envisioned Iraqi war crimes tribunal gather the evidence of ISIS’ misdeeds and place it at the disposal of rigorous international justice.
But nothing of the sort is likely to happen. One must not forget the crucial distinction, presciently formulated by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky decades before Srebrenica and Iraq, between “worthy and unworthy victims.”
As David William Pear recently explained it in relation to a related topic, the “worthy victims” are the victims (real and alleged) of leaders on the US enemies list, such as Bashar al-Assad. The “unworthy victims” are those of the US and its client states. It follows that “the US-led alliance calling itself the ‘international community’ is outraged when there are worthy victims. For example, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley holds up pictures in the Security Council of dead Syrian babies for the world to see. Worthy victims are granted human rights, and Assad deserves our outrage. Unworthy victims, for example, are the 50,000 Yemeni children who have died of starvation because of Saudi Arabia’s blockade of Yemen, including food, water and medicine.”
A further insidious consequence follows: Unworthy victims are blamed for being victims and ignored by the international community and the mainstream media. Unworthy victims have no human rights.
It is therefore with a high degree of certainty that the prediction can be made that no international political or judicial body will be convened to consider the fate of these apparently unworthy Iraqi victims or to contemplate punishing their executioners. To put it in the cynical terms of Richard Holbrooke, referring to another judicial travesty posing as a tribunal of justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia at The Hague: “When it was established by the United Nations Security Council in 1993, the tribunal was widely viewed as little more than a public relations device. It got off to a slow start (...) During our negotiations, the tribunal emerged as a valuable instrument of policy that allowed us, for example, to bar Karadzic and all other indicted war criminals from public office.” (R. Holbrooke, To End a War , pp. 189-190)
By definition, an international tribunal set up to investigate and punish ISIS crimes in Iraq, inflicted upon manifestly unworthy victims and committed in the context of advancing the Western imperial agenda in the Middle East, could never emerge “as a valuable instrument of policy.” Therefore, it will never be allowed to emerge at all, no matter the grisly outrages perpetrated by Western proxies on the ground that even the BBC was compelled to cursorily acknowledge.
Nor will a fortiori those crimes be investigated in the dramatic and theatrical style (or any manner whatsoever) that for decades attended the supposed search for evidence in the Srebrenica affair. The “international community” was careful then to make sure that it would control not only the agency it was setting up to judge the facts, but also the agency charged with manufacturing them, ICMP. ICMP was thus conceived and formed at the Western leaders’ G-7 summit in Lyon, France, in 1996. To eliminate any possibility of things going wrong, it was provided that its chairman, whose headquarters was in Sarajevo, would by appointed by the US State Department. That inflexible rule, making ICMP as well a “valuable instrument of policy” in falsifying the results of forensic investigations of the Srebrenica massacre, has been followed ever since. Every single ICMP chairman to this day was an American citizen, including the present one, retired US ambassador Thomas Miller.
So, the prospects of unworthy Iraqi victims in the provinces of Nineveh, Kirkuk, Salahuddin and Anbar for securing the benevolent attention of Western justice are bleak. Like the poor Yemeni girl who, in the blithe New York Times headline “turned world’s eyes to famine,” the focus on Iraq’s killing fields (since they cannot easily be linked to Assad or General Mladic) will also be mostly misleading and ephemeral. In the New York Times (the paper of record, after all) the whitewash began literally with the headline itself, which easily suggests to the casual reader that the wretched creature succumbed to famine, yes, but that it could have been due to natural causes, act of God, as they impiously put it in the West, and nothing more sinister than that.
Ditto for BBC’s account of the Srebrenica-dwarfing Iraqi, call it massacre or genocide, as you prefer: “IS [Islamic State, ISIS] seized parts of Iraq in 2014 and imposed brutal rule, commonly killing anyone of whom it disapproved. It was eventually vanquished by a US-led air campaign backed by Iraqi government forces and allied militias on the ground, although pockets of IS activity remain in some areas.”
If not the victims, at least the surviving Iraqis are lucky that the US-led air campaign came to the rescue and managed eventually to vanquish their tormentors. Just like in neighboring Syria, where the Russians, of course, had nothing to do with bringing those savages to heel.