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FISK: What price innocence in the anarchy of Iraq?

Video shows murder of aid worker Margaret Hassan, says
her family
by: Robert Fisk on: 17th Nov, 04

Who killed Margaret Hassan? After the grief, the
astonishment, heartbreak, anger and fury over the
apparent murder of such a good and saintly woman, that
is the question that her friends - and, quite
possibly, the Iraqi insurgents - will be asking. This
Anglo-Irish lady held an Iraqi passport. She had lived
in Iraq for 30 years, she had dedicated her life to
the welfare of Iraqis in need. She hated the UN
sanctions and opposed the Anglo-American invasion. So
who killed Margaret Hassan?

Of course, those of us who knew her will reflect on
the appalling implications of the video tape which, so
her husband believes, is evidence of her death. If
Margaret Hassan can be kidnapped and murdered, how
much further can we fall into the Iraqi pit? There are
no barriers, no frontiers of immorality left. What
price is innocence now worth in the anarchy that we
have brought to Iraq? The answer is simple: nothing.

I remember her arguing with doctors and truck drivers
when a lorryload of medicines arrived for children's
cancer wards - courtesy of Independent readers - in
1998. She smiled, cajoled, pleaded to get these
leukaemia drugs to Basra and Mosul. She would not have
wished to be called an angel - Margaret didn't like
clichés. Even now I want to write "doesn't like
clichés"; are we really permitted to say that she is
dead? For the bureaucrats and the Western leaders who
will today express their outrage and sorrow at her
reported death, she had nothing but scorn.

Yes, she knew the risks. Margaret Hassan was well
aware that many Iraqi women had been kidnapped, raped,
ransomed or murdered by the Baghdad mafia. Because she
is a Western woman - the first Western woman to be
abducted and apparently murdered - we forget how many
Iraqi women have already suffered this terrible fate.
They go largely unreported in a world which counts
dead American soldiers, but ignores fatalities among
those with darker skins and browner eyes and a
different religion, whom we claimed to have liberated.

And now let's remember the other, earlier videos.
Margaret Hassan crying, Margaret Hassan fainting,
Margaret Hassan having water thrown over her face to
revive her, Margaret Hassan crying again, pleading for
the withdrawal of the Black Watch from the Euphrates
river basin. In the background of these appalling
pictures, there were none of the usual Islamic
banners. There were none of the usual armed and hooded
men. No Koranic recitations.

And when it percolated through to Fallujah and Ramadi
that the mere act of kidnapping Margaret Hassan was
close to heresy, the combined resistance groups of
Fallujah - and the message genuinely came from them -
demanded her release. So, incredibly, did Abu Musab
al-Zarqawi, the al-Qa'ida man whom the Americans
falsely claimed to be leading the Iraqi insurrection -
but who has very definitely been involved in
kidnapping and beheading foreigners.

Other abducted women - the two Italian aid workers,
for example - were freed when their captors recognised
their innocence. But not Margaret Hassan, even though
she spoke fluent Arabic and could explain her work to
her captors in their own language.

There was one mysterious video that floated to the
surface this year, a group of armed men promising to
seize Zarqawi, claiming he was anti-Iraqi, politely
referring to the occupation armies as "the coalition
forces''. This was quickly nicknamed the "Allawi
tape": after the US-appointed, ex-CIA agent and
ex-Baathist who holds the title of "interim Prime
Minister" in Iraq, the same Allawi who fatuously
claimed there were no civilian deaths in Fallujah.

So, if anyone doubted the murderous nature of the
insurgents, what better way to prove their viciousness
than to produce evidence of Margaret Hassan's murder?
What more ruthless way could there be of demonstrating
to the world that America and Allawi's tinpot army
were fighting "evil" in Fallujah and the other Iraqi
cities that are now controlled by Washington's

Even in the topsy-turvy world of Iraq, nobody is
suggesting that people associated with the government
of Mr Allawi had a hand in Margaret Hassan's death.
Iraq, after all, is awash with up to 20 insurgent
groups but also with rival gangs of criminals seeking
to extort money from hostage-taking.

But still the question has to be answered: who killed
Margaret Hassan?

'Our hearts are broken... her suffering has ended'

Statement released by Michael, Deirdre, Geraldine and
Kathryn Fitzsimons, brothers and sisters of Margaret
Hassan, last night

"Our hearts are broken. We have kept hoping for as
long as we could, but we now have to accept that
Margaret has probably gone and at last her suffering
has ended.

"Our prayers and thoughts are with our dear
brother-in-law Tahseen. Margaret was a friend of the
Arab world, to people of all religions. Her love of
the Arab people started in the 1960s when she worked
in Palestinian camps, living with the poorest of the
poor and supporting the refugees.

"For the past 30 years, Margaret worked tirelessly for
the Iraqi people.

"Margaret had only goodwill towards everyone. She had
no prejudice against any creed. She dedicated her
whole life to working for the poor and vulnerable,
helping those who had no one else.

"Those who are guilty of this atrocious act, and those
who support them, have no excuses.

"Nobody can justify this. Margaret was against
sanctions and the war.

"To commit such a crime against anyone is

"But we cannot believe how anybody could do this to
our kind, compassionate sister.

"The gap she leaves will never be filled."