Who’s the Terrorist? The Case of Arid Uka

By Cliff Burton

“Nobody should expect Muslim people in this country to feel no affinity towards their brother and sisters dying every single day in Iraq. To feel no kinship towards the 1.4 million people who have been made refugees in Pakistan by Obama’s bombs. You cannot expect Muslim people to feel no kinship toward their brothers and sisters in occupied Palestine, and you cannot expect Muslim people to feel no affinity toward their brothers and sisters in Afghanistan.” –British Rapper Lowkey

An Associate Press article recently reported that Arid Uka, a young German of Kosovor descent, “opened fire with a handgun on a busload of 15 U.S. airmen at Frankfurt’s airport on their way to deployment in Afghanistan, killing two and wounding two more.”

The article attempted to explore the motives of the young man, but came to no conclusions. Why Arid would do such a thing is a mystery because, the article states, he came from a “relatively prosperous, not all that religious family of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo — a group notable more for their pro-American outlook than for mosque attendance.”

The assumption of course is that the only reason someone would kill U.S. soldiers is because he/she is a religious fanatic or living in desperate poverty.

An American military official commenting on the matter in the New York Times did provide an answer, contending that Arid carried out the attack because “he identifies with Islamist terrorist ideology.”

But is another explanation possible?

German police spokesman Manfred Fullhardt said that the “dead and wounded airmen . . . . were in uniform and headed for deployment in Afghanistan.” Arid worked at the Frankfurt airport, where the shooting took place. So it is possible he regularly saw groups of uniformed soldiers arrive by bus from Ramstein airbase and board planes for Afghanistan.

And what would these particular soldiers be doing in Afghanistan?

It is hard to say for sure, but an article on the very same page of the New York Times that day provides a snapshot of some the things U.S. Soldiers do in Afghanistan. The headline reads, “NATO Helicopters Kill Nine Afghan Boys Collecting Firewood for Their Families.”

Hemad, 11 years old, was the only boy to survive the attack. He explained that, “We were almost done collecting the wood when suddenly we saw the helicopters come. . . There were two of them. The helicopters hovered over us, scanned us and we saw a green flash from the helicopters. They then flew back high up, and in a second round they hovered over us and started shooting. They fired a rocket which landed on a tree. The tree branches fell over me and shrapnel hit my right hand and my side.”

Because the tree branches covered Hemad from view, the helicopter pilots could not see him as they “shot the boys one after another,” Hemad said.

An Afghan man named Ashabuddin, whose nephew was among those killed, described the grisly scene: “Finally we found the dead bodies. Some of the dead bodies were really badly chopped up by the rockets. . . The head of a child was missing. Others were missing limbs.”

Even though U.S. soldiers regularly kill Afghan civilians in similarly brutal ways, U.S. policy makers, politicians, and reporters and editors in the mainstream media can still not imagine that some Muslims would want to kill U.S. soldiers as a result of the atrocities these soldiers commit. They cannot imagine that Muslims will feel sadness, depression, or anger about the murder and torture of their fellow Muslims at the hands of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, or elsewhere. They cannot imagine that Muslims might be anti-American because of the murders and crimes the U.S. military and CIA commit throughout the Muslim world.

No, anti-Americanism is because of terrorist “propaganda.” The problem can be solved not by stopping the atrocities (which aren’t even acknowledged), but by President Obama making the “bold overture” of speaking in Cairo to convince Muslims that “America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire,” or by trying harder to “win the information war” against Al-Jazeera.

Or perhaps America’s problems will go away if only Hillary Clinton goes on more radio shows, as she did in largely Muslim Indonesia, to chat about American foreign policy and explain to the audience that, “it’s really the old standbys, like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones” that get her going, which National Public Radio noted with glowing praise as Clinton’s “way of reaching out to people in the world’s most populous Muslim nation.”

But when the shoe is on the other foot, the same emotions that Muslims feel are suddenly easy to understand. No one wonders about the motivations of those Americans who went to Afghanistan thinking they were protecting Americans, fighting those who murdered American civilians on 9/11, and liberating Afghans. No one assumed that Pat Tillman, the former NFL football player who went to Afghanistan to fight and die, must be a religious fanatic or from a poor family in order to do such a thing. Instead, we assume these people act out of selflessness, compassion, and integrity. We consider these people the best members of our society.
So why is a Muslim – who kills uniformed U.S. soldiers on their way to Afghanistan – considered a terrorist, while these very same soldiers, many of whom kill, torture, and spread carnage against a hapless civilian population, are considered heroes?

How can President Obama say with a straight face that “We will spare no effort . . . to ensure that all of the perpetrators [of the attack on the U.S. soldiers] are brought to justice,” while at the same time not even issue a personal apology (leaving that to General Petraeus) for the murder of nine poor Afghan boys, whose bodies were ripped to pieces by American missiles and bullets on the very same day?

So, just as I can sympathize with American soldiers who go to Afghanistan with good intentions (who do not know that the rationale the government gives for the war is a sham and that they will be placed in a position where they will have to commit terrible atrocities), I can also sympathize with Arid Uka. He is not a terrorist. He just did what we would praise any American for doing if we were the ones on the wrong end of the occupier’s barrel.