Layla al-Attar was murdered by U.S. missile
June 25, 2007
Most countries have one or two days a year that indicate a tragedy for the nation. In the U.S., December 7,
1941, the day the Japanese attacked Peal Harbor, has been labeled a "day of infamy." September 11, 2001 has surpassed December
7 as a rallying cry for U.S. solidarity.
Iraq, a county much smaller than the U.S., and never as large a player on the international scene, can claim
several days of infamy: January 17, 1991; February 14, 1991; March 20, 2003; and April 9, 2003, among others. But, one date
that gains little international attention is imbedded in the hearts and minds of all Iraqis: June 26, 1993.
On that date, the U.S. military, under the command of Bill Clinton, ordered 23 Tomahawk guided missiles to
demolish the headquarters of the Mukhabarat, the Iraqi intelligence services, in central Baghdad. Twenty of the missiles hit
the agency complex, while "only" three missed their targets.
A jubilant Clinton took to the airwaves and proclaimed victory. He was happy that only three missed their
targets. One could think he was addressing the public about the score of a sporting event.
One of the three that missed destroyed the home of Layla al-Attar, killing her and her husband, and blinding
Layla al-Attar was the director of the Iraqi National Art Museum and a leading Arab artist who was revered
in Iraqi much the same as Norman Rockwell was in the U.S. In addition, she was a spokesperson for the inner world of women,
peace and resistance against U.S. hegemony. One could argue that she was the part of the impetus of the current resistance
in Iraq. That is the reason she was killed.
When news broke of al-Attar’s death, Iraq mourned. A special person who transcended political ideology
and represented all of humankind had been assassinated.
During the Gulf War, her home was virtually destroyed by U.S. missiles. Two years later, the home had just
been rebuilt and this time the "errant" missile finished the job that its cousin had only partially performed in earlier years.
Although never proven, it is quite easy to give credence to the theory that Layla al-Attar was the target
of a missile, and not merely "collateral damage" from a misguided projectile. Every Iraqi believes this scenario, but shortly
after her execution, the rest of the world forgot.
Outside the Arab world, Layla al-Attar was just beginning to be noticed. European art galleries were starting
to highlight her work. However, in the U.S., she was little known. Therefore, little outrage was heard when she was killed.
What about the reason behind the attack? Clinton stated that information was in-hand that showed Iraqi operatives
were behind an assassination attempt on former President George Bush in April of 1993 wile he was to attend a ceremony praising
him in Kuwait. He added that Saddam Hussein ordered the attempt on Bush’s life. At the last minute, those who were to
carry out the attack were apprehended and Clinton now had to teach the Iraqis a lesson. How dare they try to kill the former
president of the U.S.
To this day, this big lie still persists. The truth points in other directions, however. Those apprehended
were merely drug and alcohol smugglers. In the aftermath of the June 26 missile attack, one-by-one they were released from
Kuwaiti jails. But, the U.S. media did not think this information was newsworthy. It was not as exciting as assassination
plots and missile attacks.
On Nov. 1, 1993, the New Yorker published an article by Seymour Hersh titled "A Case Not Closed." In
it, Hersh went into detail about the entire event and basically showed there was no validity whatsoever to Clinton’s
Why then did Clinton order this attack? At the time, he was being criticized for being "weak" on Iraq and
other invisible threats against the U.S. by Republicans and many pro-war Democrats. Clinton had to earn respect. What better
target than Iraq, a defenseless country that was isolated because of U.S. lies?
According to Hersh:
Three of the million-dollar missiles missed their targets and landed on nearby homes, killing eight civilians,
including Layla al-Attar, one of Iraqi’s most gifted artists. The death toll was considered acceptable by the White
House. Clinton administration officials acknowledged that they had been "lucky," as one national security aide put it, in
that only three of the computer-guided missiles went off course.
Thus, on a Saturday in June, the President and his advisers could not resist proving their toughness in the
international arena. If they had truly had full confidence in what they were telling the press and the public about Saddam
Hussein’s involvement in a plot to kill George Bush, they would have almost certainly ordered a far fiercer response
than they did. As it was, confronted with evidence too weak to be conclusive but, in their view, perhaps not weak enough to
be dismissed, they chose to fire missiles at night at an intelligence center in the middle of a large and populous city.
Hersh was quite right in his assessment of picking on the weak. U.S. citizens take pride in the fact that
their society scorns bullies who pick on defenseless adversaries. However, they contradict their own philosophy by cheering
on the murdering of foreign civilians who are the weakest prey of all.
I know that a couple of days from now, most Iraqis will be mourning the assassination of Layla al-Attar that
occurred 12 years ago. And, on that day, those resistance fighters who are at work will remember her as well. Her legacy is
why they are fighting today. I wonder if Bill Clinton, as he leaves his church of choice this Sunday, Bible in hand and being
photographed by the press, will remember Layla al-Attar.