Iraq: Land of Lies and Deceipt

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 3 months ago

While the secularists want to bury it, ignore it, deny it and otherwise erase the memory of it, America has Christianity as its roots.  It is at its foundation a Christian nation.  This is true not only in the cultural morays, but in the system of laws we follow down to the customary expectations for smaller social units such as family and church.  One case in point would be the expectation for honesty.

The idea of honesty is embedded in our professional organizations, state licenses, medical system, judicial system, voting system, tax collection system, and most if not all other social “systems” in our country.  While it is recognized that sin has affected man and thus we all need to be wary rather than gullible, it is common to see dishonesty as a scandal.  It isn’t a good thing to get caught with your “hand in the cookie jar,” or cheating on an examination, or lying on a resume, or cutting corners in your profession.  People do it, but it is still generally understood to be morally wrong, and so this understanding suppresses the practice of it.  This understanding comes from our heritage.

We have treated Iraqi testimony and statements essentially like we would the testimony of Americans (i.e., assume that there is a general expectation of honesty).  This may be a fatal flaw in how we see the country of Iraq (or in fact, the entire middle east).  I have posted before on the fact that I believe that we can find someone to testify to just about anything in at least certain sections of Iraq (when speaking of so-called U.S. “atrocities”).  See Truth or Consequences in Iraq, for example.  But until reading what I did today, I did not know how ingrained deceipt was in Iraqi culture.  In my search of Haditha coverage during my “Haditha Roundups,” I don’t know how I missed this perspective entitled “Haditha: Reasonable Doubt.”  I will quote from it at length:

There is a possibility that Iraqi eyewitness sources’ credibility may fall apart in the event of a trial. It has happened before in similar cases. The reasons are deep rooted in tribal culture.

A British case which speaks directly to the credibility of tribal witnesses and to the Islamic tribal tradition of “blood money? collapsed November 3, 2005. On trial were seven British soldiers charged with murder stemming from a May, 2003 incident in Ferkah, Iraq. All charges were dismissed after it became clear that the key witnesses were lying in order to gain “blood money?. The BBC describes the collapse of the trial as follows:

“…it has become clear to everyone involved as the trial has progressed that the main Iraqi witnesses had colluded to exaggerate and lie about the incident.?

Three women had admitted lying about being assaulted by British soldiers and one witness had told the court that Mr. Abdullah’s family encouraged others to tell lies, Judge Blackett said.

Witnesses some distance from the scene “could not possibly have seen what they said they saw?, he added.

And Iraqi court witnesses had used the case to seek “compensation to what were patently exaggerated claims?, he said.

One witness at the court martial, Samira Rishek, a Marsh-Arab who had claimed to have been brutally beaten by the soldiers while she was pregnant, admitted to the court it was a “wicked lie”.

The court heard that Mrs. Rishek, along with other witnesses, was paid $100 a day to give evidence at the trial and that she only agreed to give evidence after being told she would be paid.

BBC correspondent Paul Adams said there was an “underlying sense” that some of the witnesses were “out to try and get something for themselves”.

A number of questions were going to be asked about why the trial had been mounted, he added.

Roger Brice, solicitor for defendant Pte Samuel May told BBC News there had never been a case to answer.

“What the judge has done today is stop the case when the prosecution have concluded… there was never a case for any of the defendants to answer.

“He summed up the fact that the evidence as it came out in these last two months has been one of acknowledged lies.”

Why all the lies for a paltry $100 per day? It makes sense for a tribal person who believes that the blood money system is the way of the world. A February 2, 2004 BBC article explains the workings of the blood money system in a case involving only Iraqis:

On the side of a road in a ramshackle tent tribal elders have gathered for a court case, but it is not an ordinary law court, it’s a tribal court. The case defies logic – one brother has killed another, but the tribe they belonged to is blaming a rival tribe for the killing.

Their argument is that if there had not been a feud with the other tribe, the killing would not have taken place; they are now demanding $20,000 in blood money….

At the tribal court, the discussion is heated, but not about guilt or innocence. Through a complex network of tribal support, both sides know where they stand, now it is just a matter of agreeing the money.

Eventually the price is knocked down to $4,000 and a woman, her value to be determined in later negotiations.

For many Iraqis it’s a system that works, and in a violent region recompense appears much more practical than locking someone away.

The logic in the British case and possibly in Haditha is simple: If the coalition did not have a fight with the insurgents, the deaths would not have occurred. The deaths cause a loss in the resources of the tribe. The tribe cannot file a claim with Zarqawi–he might chop their heads off–therefore it is the coalition that owes blood money. In the eyes of tribal people such as Haditha residents, this debt is owed regardless of who actually killed the 24 people in Haditha or the circumstances of those deaths. The payment of blood money is not an admission of guilt; it is a balancing of tribal obligations.

What tribal Iraqis would understand as blood money has in fact already been paid by US military representatives in Haditha. According to the May 31 New York Times payments totaling $38,000 were made “within weeks of the shootings? to the families of 15 of the 24 dead. The Times continues:

In an interview Tuesday, Maj. Dana Hyatt, the officer who made the payments, said he was told by superiors to compensate the relatives of 15 victims, but was told that rest of those killed had been deemed to have committed hostile acts, leaving their families ineligible for compensation.

After the initial payments were made, however, those families demanded similar payments, insisting their relatives had not attacked the marines, Major Hyatt said….

The list of 15 victims deemed to be noncombatants was put together by intelligence personnel attached to the battalion, Major Hyatt said. Those victims were related to a Haditha city council member, he said. The American military sometimes pays compensation to relatives of civilian victims.

The relatives of each victim were paid a total of $2,500, the maximum allowed under Marine rules, along with $250 payments for two children who were wounded. Major Hyatt said he also compensated the families for damage to two houses.

“I didn’t say we had made a mistake,” Major Hyatt said, describing what he had told the city council member who was representing the victims. “I said I’m being told I can make payments for these 15 because they were deemed not to be involved in combat.”

The description of compensation “within weeks? of November 19 places the payments in December. Time magazine says it was early January when they gave US military spokesman Col. Barry Johnson, a copy of a video of the Haditha aftermath. That would place the release of the video to Time just after the payment of compensation to the families of the 15 Haditha residents killed. Could the release of the video have been motivated by demands for blood money for the families of the other nine? The online encyclopedia Wikipedia describes blood money traditions throughout the Islamic world:

In Islamic and Arab traditions, blood money is the money paid by the killer or his family or clan to the family or the clan of the victim. It is unlawful for a believer to kill a believer except if it happens by accident. And he who kills a believer accidentally must free one Muslim slave and pay ‘Diyat’ to the heirs of the victim except if they forgive him. The tradition finds repeated endorsement in Islamic tradition; several instances are recorded in the Hadith, which are the acts of the Prophet Mohammad.

The Blood – Money tradition has found its way into legislation in several Islamic countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan. Some of these countries also define, by lawful legislation, a hierarchy of (cash) rates for the lives of people….

Are lies being told to obtain blood money payments? Some insight comes in this response to the collapse of the British trial by Stephan Holland, a Baghdad-based US contractor.

I’ve been in Iraq for about 18 months now performing construction management. It is simply not possible for me to exaggerate the massive amounts of lies we wade through every single day. There is no way – absolutely none – to determine facts from bulls*** ….

It is not even considered lying to them; it is more akin to being clever – like keeping your cards close to your chest. And they don’t just lie to westerners. They believe that appearances–saving face–are of paramount importance. They lie to each other all the time about anything in order to leverage others on a deal or manipulate an outcome of some sort or cover up some major or minor embarrassment. It’s just how they do things, period.

I’m not trying to disparage them here. I get along great with a lot of them. But even among those that I like, if something happens (on the job) I’ll get 50 wildly different stories, every time. There’s no comparison to it in any other part of the world where I’ve worked. The lying is ubiquitous and constant.

The British Ministry of Defense spent the equivalent of about $18 million on the investigation and the trial which collapsed in November, 2005—29 months after the initial incident. The Haditha charges could also collapse, but not until the media and politicians have enjoyed months of free reign to slander US combat troops’ conduct in Iraq. This could be very demoralizing to US troops who may feel their combat operations will be dissected under a microscope by investigators who do not share their risk. If the British case is a model then the investigation will be followed by a trial which could drag out until early 2008. Investigators must to dig out the truth so the sacrifices made by our troops in Iraq are not swept away in a sea of lies.

This is a radically different culture than the one in which most of us were raised.  We should ponder the consequences of formal charges every time someone in Iraq levels an accusation at the U.S. troops.




You are currently reading "Iraq: Land of Lies and Deceipt", entry #117 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Religion,War & Warfare and was published July 18th, 2006 by Herschel Smith.

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