07 August 2014

Ali Hafidh doesn’t know that today is a Thursday

This is not Ali Hafidh.  It is a child who by any other name would have not been less innocent.
When September 16 dawned in the year 1997, Ali Hafidh did not know any thing about dates.  Or months. He did not know that it was a Tuesday or indeed what the word ‘Tuesday’ meant. He was just 1 year old then.  Ali Hafidh does not know that today (when you would be reading this), another September 16th, i.e. of the year 2010, is a Thursday.  The meaning of the word ‘Thursday’ does not matter to him. Not any more.

Ali Hafidh died on September 16, 2007. He was 10 years old.  He was killed.  Ali Hafidh was killed by private security guards attached to an outfit called Blackwater USA, a contracted security service, who were escorting a US diplomat at the time.  He was killed in Baghdad.  Blackwater security personnel opened fire on a group of civilians that day, killing 17 including a little boy called Ali. 

Blackwater has been involved in at least 195 ‘escalation-of-force’ incidents since 2005.  It is reported that between 125,000 to 180,000 foreign contractors operate at any given time in Iraq.  The civilians of that country are routinely bullied by bands of heavily armed contractors bulldozing through traffic in SUVs or armoured pickup trucks, we are told. 

Iraq, by the way, is a country that was invaded by the USA in order to search-and-destroy weapons of mass destruction.  Hundreds of thousands of bombing raids, almost a decade of military omnipresence and over a million direct or indirect deaths resulting from US aggression and not a single weapon of mass destruction found, have only confirmed yet once again that which the world has known for almost a century: THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA IS THE MOTHER OF ALL BULLIES.

Ali Hafidh would not know what ‘bully’ means.  He may have seen what bullies do even if he didn’t think that bullying can include murder and that he was ‘target’ long before gun was pointed in his direction and bullet discharged, simply because he was an Iraqi. Brown. ‘Deadable’. 

Thirty nine days after Ali Hafidh’s life was snuffed out by a bunch of trigger-happy thugs who were in Baghdad because some mad American of the USA wanted to prove his manhood (and secure control of oil of course), his father, Mohammed Hafidh had been offered an envelope full of cash. A total od USS $ 12,500.  The offer had come from the Deputy Chief of Mission of the US Embassy in Baghdad.  Compensation.  Mohammed did not accept it.

‘I told her that I want the courts to have their say,’ he responded.  He was not alone. Haythem al-Rubaie, who lost his son and wife in the same shooting, is reported to have said that he wouldn’t even meet with the said official. 

The USA thinks it’s all about money.  Investments. Profits. Collateral. Compensation.  Everything has a price.  Everything is marketable, if there is a market.  I don’t know. I don’t think it works that way.  Mohammed Hafidh doesn’t think so either. Neither does Haythem al-Rubaie.  And millions of others. 

Money does matter.  Not in instances such as this though.  Ali would not have understood ‘money’.  He wouldn’t have been able to describe the length and breadth of guilt and sin in US $ 12,500.  The Deputy Chief of Mission represented a country that goes around issuing grave notices about democracy, fair play, human rights and what not when in fact it is the worst offender around, whose foreign policy when un-frocked of rhetoric is nothing more nothing less than ‘guns-in booty-out’. 

Ali Hafidh would have known what night was and what day was, the difference between sun and shade, milk and water, food and hunger. Days of the week? I am not sure. It doesn’t matter. 

The Deputy Chief of Mission of the US Embassy in Baghdad at the time would have known a lot more but was clearly clueless when it came to assessing the value of a human life. 

That lady knows that today is the 16th day of September. That we are in the year 2010.  She knows that the 16th of September falls on a Thursday this year.  She might not remember a boy called Ali Hafidh, whose life and death she insulted by tagging them with a dollar-price.  I write this so she is reminded. 

Her office, these days, is in Kollupitiya. Be wary of her. Be very wary of her. She has a name.  You might have heard of her and if so there’s a reason why (and why you might not have heard of Ali Hafidh).  Her name, ladies and gentlemen, is Patricia Butenis.  May she live long.  

Postscript:  This was first published in September 2010 in the 'Daily News'.  Today, the 7th day of August 2014 is another Thursday.  Few would remember Ali Hafidh.  Patricia Butenis is no longer US Ambassador in Sri Lanka.  That's not important.  Names come and go but if policies remain then there's still enough reason to worry.  Perhaps we can ask ourselves how many more Ali Hafidhs were there, who lived and died and therefore for whom the word 'Thursday' has no meaning.  We can ask also how many Ali Hafidhs there were in Gaza, killed by Israeli soldiers who were cheered all the way by Washington.