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The Hatred Behind 'Hadji Girl'

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    The Hatred Behind Hadji Girl By Sheldon Rampton Center for Media and Democracy July 1, 2006 http://www.alternet.org/story/38084/ If you want to understand
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 5, 2006
      The Hatred Behind 'Hadji Girl'
      By Sheldon Rampton
      Center for Media and Democracy
      July 1, 2006

      If you want to understand why the war is going so badly in Iraq, it
      may help to examine the recent reaction to "Hadji Girl," the
      videotaped song about killing Iraqis by U.S. Marine Corporal Joshua
      Belile. The song became controversial when the Council on
      American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) discovered it on the internet and
      objected to its lyrics. "Hadji Girl" tells the story of a soldier "out
      in the sands of Iraq / And we were under attack":

      Then suddenly to my surprise
      I looked up and I saw her eyes
      And I knew it was love at first sight.

      And she said...
      Dirka Dirka Mohammed Jihad
      Sherpa Sherpa Bak Allah

      Hadji girl I can't understand what you're saying.
      The girl says that she "wanted me to meet her family / But I, well, I
      couldn't figure out how to say no. / Cause I don't speak Arabic." They
      visit her home, a "side shanty" down "an old dirt trail," and as soon
      as they arrive,

      Her brother and her father shouted...
      Dirka Dirka Mohammed Jihad
      Sherpa Sherpa Bak Allah

      They pulled out their AKs so I could see

      ... So I grabbed her little sister and pulled her in front of me.

      As the bullets began to fly
      The blood sprayed from between her eyes
      And then I laughed maniacally

      Then I hid behind the TV
      And I locked and loaded my M-16
      And I blew those little fuckers to eternity.

      And I said...
      Dirka Dirka Mohammed Jihad

      Sherpa Sherpa Bak Allah
      They should have known they were fucking with a Marine.

      The song is gruesome, to be sure, and CAIR complained that it
      celebrated the killing of Iraqi civilians. The video shows Belile
      performing the song before a laughing, applauding audience of fellow
      soldiers at their base in Iraq. Recognizing that the song could only
      bring bad publicity, U.S. military officials promptly issued a
      statement saying that it was "clearly inappropriate and contrary to
      the high standards expected of all Marines." Belile also apologized,
      saying the song was intended as "a joke" and that he didn't intend to
      offend anyone. Pro-war pundits, however, actually rallied to the
      song's defense. The conservative Little Green Footballs weblog thought
      news reports about the video controversy were the "mainstream media
      disgrace of the month." There's nothing wrong with the song, the
      Footballs said, because it doesn't actually describe a soldier killing
      civilians: "the people who kill the 'little sister' in this darkly
      humorous song are -- not the Marines -- but her father and brother, as
      they attempt to perpetrate an ambush." Some of the comments on LGF
      even called it "a wonderful song," and attacked the "nutless Pentagon
      star-chasing bastards" for their "capitulation." Here are some of the
      other comments about the song, from Little Green Footballs and elsewhere:

      "Damn it, we are in a fucking war! Nobody whined about 'insensitivity'
      to the fucking Japs and Jerries."
      "I expect more from the Pentagon. The State Dept & the CIA are just a
      bunch of cucumber sandwich eating fools. The Pentagon USED to be about
      waging war on our enemies. Now they just want to kiss up to them."

      "I'm Proud of my fellow Marines in that video. That is EXACTLY the
      espirit de corps needed, the HIGH MORALE needed in the middle of a
      combat zone where those self-same jihadists are trying to kill those
      Marines every single day.
      "Insensitive? Marines insensitive? God I hope so. We need them to kick
      ass and follow orders but we don't need them to be particularly
      sensitive. A sensitive Marine Corps will be the death of this country."
      "One of the things CAIR didn't like was the phrase 'Durka Durka
      Mohammed Jihad, Sherpa Sherpa Bak Allah' which makes fun of the Arab
      language. To hell with CAIR and to hell with the Arab language. ...
      And the Islamist pigs can keep going to hell."
      As these comments illustrate, defense for the song quickly turns into
      traditional conservative anger at what they see as censorious
      "political correctness." They have a right, they insist, to be
      insensitive and hostile to Arabs and Muslims. I would argue, in fact,
      that this cultural xenophobia is the main theme of the song and that
      the violence in it is a secondary byproduct.

      Let's start with the title, "Hadji Girl." The term "hadji" (also
      sometimes spelled "haji" or "hajji") is the Arabic word for someone
      who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca. In Iraq and Afghanistan, it has
      become a common slang term used to describe the locals. According to a
      dictionary of war slang compiled by GlobalSecurity.org, the term is
      "used by the American military for an Iraqi, anyone of Arab decent, or
      even of a brownish skin tone, be they Afghanis, or even Bangladeshis"
      and is also "the word many soldiers use derogatorily for the enemy."
      Related terms include "haji mart" (a small store operated by Iraqis)
      or "haji patrol" (Iraqi soldiers).

      The term seems to have come into usage even before the war began in
      Iraq. Its use was noted following a U.S. military investigation into
      the 2002 murder of two prisoners at the Bagram Collection Point in
      Afghanistan, by some of the the same soldiers who later oversaw abuses
      at Abu Ghraib. ''We were pretty much told that they were nobodies,
      that they were just enemy combatants,'' said one of the soldiers at
      Bagram. ''I think that giving them the distinction of soldier would
      have changed our attitudes toward them. A lot of it was based on
      racism, really. We called them hajis, and that psychology was really

      One of the prisoners beaten to death at Bagram was an innocent taxi
      driver named Dilawar whose only offense was that he happened to drive
      his taxi past the American base at the wrong time. According to Corey
      E. Jones, one of the MPs who guarded him, the beatings intensified
      when "He screamed out, 'Allah! Allah! Allah!' and my first reaction
      was that he was crying out to his god. Everybody heard him cry out and
      thought it was funny. ... It became a kind of running joke, and people
      kept showing up to give this detainee a common peroneal strike just to
      hear him scream out 'Allah.' It went on over a 24-hour period, and I
      would think that it was over 100 strikes."

      The term "haji" is not simply an ethnic slur, like "gook," "jap,"
      "jerry" or "nigger." All ethnic slurs entail hostile stereotypes, but
      "haji" is a specifically religious stereotype based on hostility
      toward Muslims. In our 2003 book, Weapons of Mass Deception, John
      Stauber and I described the efforts that the Bush administration has
      undertaken to rebrand America in the eyes of Arabs and Muslims,
      spending hundreds of millions of dollars on projects including Radio
      Sawa, Al Hurra, a "Shared Values" campaign, and the Council of
      American Muslims for Understanding. Through glossy brochures, TV
      advertisements and websites, the United States has sought to depict
      America as a nation of religious tolerance that respects and
      appreciates Islam. These words, however, are constantly being
      undermined by the actual deeds and attitudes of the Bush
      administration's most ardent supporters, including soldiers in the
      field in Afghanistan and Iraq. While the White House has tried to
      frame the war in Iraq as a "war on terror," its own supporters keep
      reframing it as a war against Islam. This is a serious, if not fatal
      error. Rather than fighting a few thousand actual terrorists, the
      United States is positioning itself in opposition to one of the
      world's major religions, with more than a billion adherents worldwide.

      Culture shock and awe

      "Hadji Girl" also refers to another aspect of soldiers' experiences in
      Iraq: the language barrier that prevents them from communicating
      effectively. The refrain, "Dirka dirka Mohammed Jihad / Sherpa Sherpa
      Bak Allah," is borrowed from the movie "Team America: World Police."
      According to filmmaker Matt Stone, the the phrase is not real Arabic
      but a parody of "Arabic gibberish which they just go, you know,
      'Dirka-dirka, Muhammad, Muhammad Ali.' ... And that, to me, is what
      terrorists sound like when I look at their little tapes that they
      release." This inability to comprehend the local language contributes
      to the soldiers' inability to distinguish between friend or foe,
      forcing them to suspect that anyone -- including the beautiful girl
      you just met, or her family -- might be a terrorist.

      These facts began to shape the relationship between U.S. soldiers and
      Iraqis early in the war, as Associated Press reporter Andrew England
      noted in September 2003:

      Young American soldiers -- many carrying out operations they have
      little training for -- find themselves in a hostile environment,
      unable to speak the local language or distinguish "the good guys from
      the bad guys."
      Most just want to survive and return home. Some have grown to despise
      Iraqis, whom they call "Hajis," scowling rather than waving as they
      pass locals along highways and dirt roads. ... "I hate the Hajis. All
      of them are liars. They injured one of my soldiers," said one.
      "You don't want to know what I think about them, they shot at me one
      too many times," said another.
      It is worth noting that one of the few conscientious objectors who
      have actually served with the military in Iraq, Aidan Delgado, had a
      very different perspective of Iraqis because he did know how to speak
      the language:

      It was tough for me to see brutality coming out of my own unit. I had
      lived in the Middle East. I had Egyptian friends. I spent nearly a
      decade in Cairo. I spoke Arabic, and I was versed in Arab culture and
      Islamic dress. Most of the guys in my unit were in complete culture
      shock most of the time. They saw the Iraqis as enemies. They lived in
      a state of fear. I found the Iraqis enormously friendly as a whole.
      One time I was walking through Nasiriyah with an armful of money,
      nadirs that were exchanged for dollars. I was able to walk 300 meters
      to my convoy -- a U.S. soldier walking alone with money. And I
      thought: I am safer here in Iraq than in the states. I never felt
      threatened from people in the South.
      It would be a mistake to imagine that the casual brutality of "Hadji
      Girl" is coming from people who are simply evil or racist or cruel.
      The soldiers occupying Iraq are normal men and women who, in other
      circumstances, would never commit the abuses that have been documented
      in Bagram and Abu Ghraib and that are now alleged in Haditha. The
      situations in which this war has placed them -- far from home,
      surrounded by a foreign language and foreign culture, carrying guns
      and fearful for their lives -- have brought out behaviors that we
      would not see otherwise. If American soldiers and Iraqis could meet
      under different circumstances, things would be different. Here, for
      example, is how Iraqi blogger Salam Pax described his experience upon
      visiting the United States and having dinner with an American soldier:

      You have no idea how strange it feels that we share so much in common.
      When I told him I would never actually approach an American soldier on
      the street in Baghdad, he told me that if we were in Baghdad he would
      probably be talking to me with his gun pointing at me because he would
      be scared shitless. Yet there we sat, drinking beers together.
      America's cultural isolationism and prejudices are exposed by "Hadji
      Girl," but that's only part of the story. The war itself is
      encouraging these dark aspects of human nature, by bringing Americans
      and Iraqis together in an environment full of tension, fear, hatred
      and violence. And if the war itself is creating these evils, how can
      it hope to end them?



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