Many Iraqi-Americans received their first glimpse of a camel at the San Diego Zoo
December 3, 2006
Desert Storm was not fought exclusively in Iraq and Kuwait. The home front provided much distrust and animosity
against Arab-Americans and the ensuing ill mood that was created helped the U.S. government baffle the American people about
the real nature of the slaughter.
This campaign held similarities to almost every U.S. military incursion since 1945. All but one of the U.S.-designated
enemies since the end of World War II have been countries governed and populated by non-Caucasians. Each enemy carried its
own form of racist nomenclature. The North Koreans and North Vietnamese were "gooks." The Dominican Republic and Grenada were
populated by "niggers." In 1986, former b-movie-actor-turned-president, Ronald Reagan, switched hemispheres when he ordered
the bombing of Libya, a country filled with "camel jockeys." Bush I carried on the U.S. tradition in 1989 by ordering the
invasion of Panama, ruthlessly killing thousands of "spics and niggers" in five days, as well as burning thousands of homes
to the ground in Operation Just Cause.
The U.S. armed forces used many new weapons in Panama. Pictures exhibited by Panamanian coroners showed remains
of bodies which would make even hardened warmongers ill. For instance, mercury bullets were used to kill civilians. A mercury
bullet penetrates the skull and leaves only a small insertion, not killing the recipient immediately. Once inside the skull,
mercury seeps into the brain, causing an agonizing death. Another type of experimental bullet used in Panama was the fragmentation
bullet, which leaves only a tiny hole. Again, death is not immediate. After being in the skull for a few seconds, the bullet
explodes, blowing the brain to pieces.
The U.S. government’s official statement about Panamanian casualties was confusing, listing the number
of Panamanian deaths at 202, despite pictures of mass graves that showed thousands of bodies. To add to the deception, in
August 1992, an investigating committee, working on behalf of the Bush administration, revised the number of deaths. The new
figure was set at 60 Panamanian deaths. The media were absent in questioning the revised estimate, so it went down in U.S.
folklore as fact.
When the administration was asked about the burning of Panamanian homes, denial again ensued. When Pentagon
spokesman Pete Williams was asked at a press conference about the allegations, he stood straight-faced and said he know nothing
of such actions. That was the end of discussing the issue. The media took notes of Williams’ statement and then put
their pens away. For those interested in the truth, a substantial amount of videotape was brought back to the U.S. showing
the systematic burning of homes by American soldiers. A few years after the debacle, a documentary movie appeared called "The
Panama Deception." It also showed footage of the burning homes. The documentary received awards from the film industry, yet
U.S. government officials discounted it as propaganda.
Panama, like Grenada, had much to do with the destruction of Iraq. In Grenada, the U.S. experimented with
the ostracizing of the press and it worked. Despite mild objections by the media, all was forgiven by December 1989. Then,
as with Grenada, the press was excluded from coverage. Again, more complaints, but no action by the media.
The Panama invasion, like that of Grenada, included disproportionate force. However, in Panama, the U.S. had
a testing ground with live targets for its new generation of weapons, such as the Stealth airplane and "smart" bombs and missiles.
This was a rehearsal for a wider conflict in the future.
With two successive and successful invasions behind it, shutting out the media and using overwhelming force,
the U.S. was now ready to take its act to the Middle East, an area in which it had played many dirty tricks, yet still did
not have a physical presence. Iraq, with the second-largest petroleum reserves in the world was the perfect target.
Since the mid-1980s, the U.S., with the collaboration of the Kuwaiti government, had begun to take actions
that would isolate Iraq and degrade its economy. The U.S. had other great weapons in its arsenal that were never listed in
Jane’s Fighting publications — xenophobia and ethnocentrism.
Iraq was easy pickings for the United States to portray as an enemy because of its culture and people. It
seemed almost effortless for the American people to hate its Arab population. Iraqis are dark-skinned and they dress different
from Americans. The Islamic religion was virtually unknown in America, and, to many, it was an affront on the "Judeo-Christian
heritage" that many Americans considered the main building block of the U.S. Even Iraqi foods were contrary to those that
make up typical American cuisine.
After August 2, 1990, the propaganda machine began to work overtime. Americans stood up in protest about the
actions of those sub-human individuals with dark skin. Coincidentally, few Americans could show where Kuwait is located on
a map, and fewer still had any knowledge of the country.
Despite the opinion of many Americans that Iranians and Iraqis are "all the same," the truth is far different.
Most Iranians are certainly not Arabs, but are of Persian stock, while most Iraqis are Arabs. Racially and culturally, Persians
and Arabs do not share the same origins.
The racist term "camel jockey," when used to describe an Iraqi, would be laughable if the results did not
produce the number of Iraqi deaths attributed to racist thought patterns. There are virtually no camels in the Baghdad area
of Iraq and many Iraqis have never seen a camel except in books or on television. During Desert Storm, I visited a shop owned
by an Iraqi-American. When I entered, he looked dismayed. "What’s wrong, Tony?" I asked. He replied, "Someone stuck
his head in the door and called me a 'camel jockey,’ then he ran away. I’d never seen a camel in my life
until I went to the San Diego Zoo."
In the U.S., there is a substantial Iraqi-American presence in Michigan and southern California. Over the
years, these expatriates have joined the melting pot of cultures that make up the country. Some supported the Ba’ath
Socialist government, while others opposed it. One thing all Iraqi-Americans did support, however, was their homeland and
its right to exist. When the specter of Desert Storm was looming, Iraqi-Americans were shocked to discover the attitudes of
many Americans toward them. They were suddenly relegated to "sand niggers" and they were subjected to acts that are supposedly
illegal in the US. Many business people had windows smashed and their vehicles vandalized. A California store owner had the
tires from his car stolen three times in a two-week period. Arab-Americans (it did not matter if they were Iraqi, Saudi, Syrian,
Egyptian or Lebanese), and even Iranian-Americans were questioned by the FBI. Most were aghast because they had been living
in the U.S. for decades and they considered themselves to be Americans. They wanted to know why they were being questioned
while Americans with other ethnic backgrounds were not.
George Bush did not listen to the Iraqi-Americans about their allegiance to the U.S. He did nothing during
Desert Storm to stop the tirade against them. A common site was an Iraqi-American-owned business with its windows boarded.
Many Iraqi-Americans in southern California had to shut down their businesses for good because of the actions taken against
them by bigoted individuals during Desert Storm.
Most Iraqi-Americans still had family in Iraq, but during Desert Storm, it was impossible for them to find
out the conditions of their relatives because the U.S. demolished all forms of communication in Iraq. The U.S. administration
did nothing to help the Iraqi-Americans and, by its silence, endorsed atrocities against them.
History does repeat itself. We see that the same ethnocentrism and bigotry released in 1991 was repeated in
2003 with the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq by the U.S. However, there are more precedents from antiquity that mirror
William Apess was a Native-American author and activist for Native causes. In 1836, he gave a speech in Boston
to the descendents of the Puritans who had decimated the once-proud Wampanoag tribe of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. His
speech was not an attempt at diplomacy; Apess gave the citizens an historical look back at the 17th century and
his message was that the current American population should take note of the atrocities and not let them ever happen again.
The presentation was called "Eulogy on King Philip." King Philip (Native name Metacomet) was the leader of the Wampanoag tribe
when it went to war against the Pilgrims. The tribe did not want war, but it was forced on them, similar to the two U.S. wars
against Iraq. The similarities are intriguing.
In Desert Storm, we saw thousands of dead Iraqis on the "Highway to Hell," and similar scenes were shown in
2003 while American troops were marching toward Baghdad; bodies piled up on top of each other with insects attacking the corpses.
In describing the plight of Native Americans centuries ago, Apess wrote:
It is, however, true that there are many who are said to be honorable warriors, who, in the wisdom of their
civilized legislation, think it no crime to wreak their vengeance upon whole nations and communities, until the fields are
covered with blood and the rivers turned into purple fountains, while groans like distant thunder, are heard from the wounded
and tens of thousands of the dying, leaving helpless families depending on their cares and sympathies for life; while a loud
response is heard floating through the air from the ten thousand Indian children and orphans …
And do you believe that Indians cannot feel and see, as well as white people? If you think so, you are mistaken.
Their power of feeling and knowing is as quick as yours.
Substitute the word "Iraqi" for Indian in the above and the similarities are evident. The Wampanoag, just
like the Iraqis, were forced to disarm. King Philip complained to the Pilgrims that they were ruining the fields of his people.
He took his case to the court of the foreigners. According to Apess:
Philip’s complaint was that the Pilgrims had injured the planting grounds of his people. The Pilgrims,
acting as umpires, say the charges against them was not sustained; and because it was not, to their satisfaction, the whites
wanted that Philip should order his men to bring in his arms and ammunition and the court was to dispose of them as they pleased.
The above is almost identical to Iraq’s complaining of Kuwait stealing its oil and the U.N. ordering
Iraq to disarm.
After a two-year war, the Wampanoag tribe was slaughtered. Philip was killed and his body parts were taken
all over the area and put on display. A Native American sold out and told the Pilgrims where Philip was located. Apess explained:
"Treachery, however, hastened his ruin; one of his men, by hope of reward from the deceptive Pilgrims, betrayed his country
into their hands."
The methods of finding and killing Philip were almost identical to those used in the murder of Uday and Qusay
Hussein. A Hussein distant-family member told the Americans where they were staying. After killing the two, the U.S. then
displayed their shot-up bodies to the world. Almost four centuries lay between the two incidents, yet the same method of capture
(treason) and the gory exhibit of bodies are used today to depict "victory." And, the same reason, bigotry, was the fuel that
fired the ire of the Americans to destroy the dark-skinned enemy in Massachusetts and in Iraq.