Nine years after the crushing to death of Rachel Aliene Corrie by an Israeli bulldozer, a judge in Haifa has absolved the state of Israel of any responsibility, either for her death or for failing to hold a full and credible investigation.
On March 16, 2003, Corrie had stood in front of an armored bulldozer operated by the Israeli military in Rafal, Gaza. She was trying to prevent the demolition of a house owned by Samir Nasrallah, a Palestinian pharmacist. It was not a unique situation. More than 1,700 Palestinian homes were crushed that year as collective punishment by the Israeli state for protests against its illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
Eyewitnesses stated under oath that the operator clearly saw Corrie, who was wearing a fluorescent jacket, and deliberately ran over her. She was crushed under a pile of debris. According to an autopsy report, “Her death was caused by pressure on the chest (mechanical asphyxiation) with fractures of the ribs and vertebrae of the dorsal spinal column and scapulas, and tear wounds in the right lung with hemorrhaging of the pleural cavities.”
The Israeli government has also amended the law under which Corrie’s parents sued for justice, so as to prevent any such lawsuits in the future. Had Corrie not been a U.S. citizen, it is doubtful that the case would have received any attention at all. Both the Israeli and U.S. governments had promptly labeled the incident a “tragic accident” — and then did nothing.
Their real intentions were reflected by what followed. In rapid succession, Israeli troops shot three more foreign civilians working in the West Bank and Gaza. On April 5, 2003, Brian Avery, a 24-year-old volunteer from the U.S. working in Jenin was shot in the face by an Israeli sniper and seriously wounded. Six days later, a bullet fired by an Israeli soldier in a Rafah watchtower tore through the back of 21-year-old Tom Hurndall’s skull as the activist stooped to carry two Palestinian girls to safety. On May 2, James Miller, a 35-year-old Briton filming a documentary along the Egyptian border was shot in the neck and killed while walking under a white flag toward an Israeli armored personnel carrier.
Israel’s chief of staff, Moshe Ya’alon, announced a crackdown on the group with which Corrie was working. During the following weeks, Israeli troops rounded up a dozen foreign activists; several were deported. Soldiers raided the group’s Beit Sahour headquarters on May 9, detained three people, seized eight computers and “trashed the office,” according to a spokesperson for the international activists. (Mother Jones, Oct. 2003)
Getting away with torture
About the same time that Rachel Corrie was murdered by the Israeli Defense Force, the CIA was busy torturing people in Afghanistan and Iraq. Out of over 100 cases brought to court, all but two were summarily dismissed and the torturers given amnesty in 2009. President Barack Obama said he wanted to “look forward, not look backward.” (The Guardian, Aug. 31)
One case involved the 2002 abuse of Gul Rahman, who froze to death in a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan known as the “Salt Pit” after he was beaten, stripped and then shackled to a cement wall in freezing temperatures.
The other was the 2003 death of Manadel al-Jamadi at Abu Ghraib, who died in CIA custody after he was beaten, stripped, had cold water poured on him, and then was shackled to the wall. Al-Jamadi’s ice-packed body was infamously photographed with a smiling U.S. Army Sgt. Charles Granier standing over it, giving the thumbs-up sign.
A U.S. military autopsy declared al-Jamadi’s death a homicide due to “blunt force trauma to the torso complicated by compromised respiration.” Autopsy photos showed “lacerations and multiple bruises on Jamadi’s feet, thighs and arms,” though “his most significant injuries — five broken ribs — are not visible in the photos.” (The Guardian)
On Aug. 30, the U.S. Justice Department completed the whitewashing of the crimes of the Bush adminstration by granting amnesty to those participating in these last two cases. This was done in spite of the findings of Gen. Antonio Taguba, who had investigated the torture regime and said that “there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current [Bush] administration has committed war crimes” and “the only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.” Even Gen. Barry McCaffrey observed: “We tortured people unmercifully. We probably murdered dozens of them during the course of that, both the armed forces and the CIA.” (The Guardian)
Incredibly, although government torturers have now been fully protected by President Obama from any accountability, those who blow the whistle on such crimes continue to be pursued by the administration with unprecedented aggression.
“While no one has been prosecuted for theharsh interrogations, a former CIA officer who helped hunt members of al-Qaida in Pakistan and later spoke publicly about waterboarding, John C. Kiriakou, is awaiting trial on criminal charges that he disclosed to journalists the identity of other CIA officers who participated in the interrogations.” (New York Times, Aug. 31)