The “Nasiriyah Massacre,” Italians in Iraq, and the Denial of Context
You’ve probably never heard of the “Nasiriyah Massacre,” which occurred almost exactly 10 years ago on 12 Nov 2003, a suicide attack on the Italian military base in Nasiriyah, Iraq, that killed 19 members of the Italian military, two Italian civilians, and nine Iraqis and left an unspecified number of Iraqis injured (estimates are between 58 and 140).
A memoir of the events of that day and their aftermath was written by a survivor of the attack and published in Italy in 2005 as Venti sigarette in Nassiriya. My translation, Twenty Cigarettes in Nasiriyah, is in press. (An excerpt is available here.)
As part of the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the attacks, the Hon. Emanuela Corda, Member of the Chamber of Deputies for the “Five Star Movement” party, spoke on the floor of the Italian Parliament on November 12, 2013.
Her nearly 1000-word speech was quickly reduced in the Italian press to a scandalous headline: “Corda: Suicide Bomber Was A Victim, Too.”
In the days since, and on the basis of that media byte, Corda has been pilloried for all the reasons you can imagine: she hates the military, she hates her country, she’s a commie, she doesn’t support the troops, she’s pro-terrorist.
Here below, however, is what Corda actually said. The gist of it is a reminder that actions have consequences, that the fruit of a complex series of lies (known to be lies even at the time) was unimaginable violence in Iraq – the violence of that November 12th in Nasiriyah, to be sure, but throughout the region more generally.
In other words, the chickens sometimes come home to roost. No one liked it when Malcolm X said it. In Italy, they don’t like it now that Emanuela Corda has said it.
“Mr. President, distinguished colleagues: The most dramatic aspect of the Nasiriyah massacre is that, in our view, the events of that day were no confrontation between good and evil; this was no attack by a military force intent on the murder of defenseless civilians.
All of us recall with great emotion the nineteen Italians who died in that suicide attack, and today their families and loved ones are in our hearts. Occasionally, but not very often, we recall the nine Iraqi civilians who worked at the Italian base and who also died.
No one, however, remembers the young Moroccan man who committed suicide to carry out the massacre. Whenever we do speak of him, we speak of him as a murderer and not as a victim, but he, too, was a victim as well as an executioner. A criminal mindset convinced him that the attack in Nasiriyah was a heroic gesture and sent him to his death. I cannot help but wonder to what extent that young man, like so many other Islamic suicide bombers, was motivated by hunger and by the hope that his sacrifice would provide a better life for his family through the compensation often provided to the families of those who volunteer for suicide missions.
And if our soldiers were victims, they were victims not solely of terrorist ideology, but also of the politics of the West and of the political policies of our own government, which sent and continues to send our young men and women to the front lines of war. They are told that the occupation of other peoples’ lands is heroic. They are offered the pretext that their presence will bring peace when, in fact, their presence at times only incites terrorist ideologies and all of the human tragedy that follows in their wake.
Today, we want to remind you of Colin Powell before the United Nations Security Council, shaking an aluminum tube that supposedly demonstrated the presence of weapons of mass destruction which, in fact, were never found. Only recently, unfortunately, Colin Powell himself said that he had also been deceived by the colossal fraud that led to the occupation of Iraq.
That fraud, that lie, responsible for the massacre of tens of thousands of individuals, appears to have served as no lesson to the governments of Europe, which instead continue to believe in the nonsense conceived around conference tables for the purpose of unleashing new and ever more appalling conflicts. Libya, for example – according to a statement issued yesterday by our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Emma Bonino – is entirely out of control. Afghanistan is a daily nightmare for the Afghan people and for the troops occupying that country.
For all of these reasons – and I’ll close here – we assert with all our strength: No more Nasiriyahs, no more wars of occupation, no more violations of the fundamental freedoms of expression guaranteed in Article 11 of our Constitution. And let us be clear: The families of those lost in Nasiriyah are present in our hearts, just as are all those who suffer each and every day in these shameful wars and as a result of the lies our governments tell.”