For the first time, after six years of war and escalating atrocities, a member of the Syrian regime's military has been convicted of a war crime. The perpetrator, identified as Mohammad Abdullah, was a low-level soldier who is now in Sweden as a refugee. He was convicted by a Swedish court Oct. 2 of violating human dignity by posing with his boot on a corpse and sentenced to eight months in prison. Abdullah, 32, arrived three years ago in Sweden, where other Syrian refugees recognized him through his Facebook posts and connected him to a photograph he had posted earlier, in which he stands with his boot on the corpse of a man in civilian clothing surrounded by other corpses. As the New York Times notes in its coverage, this is the first conviction of an Assad regime solider in any country, six years after the Syrian revolution was sparked by an incident in which school-children were tortured after painting anti-regime slogans on a wall.
A Sept. 30 checkpoint shooting in eastern Afghanistan's Wardak province brought the US military's death toll in the war past 2,000, by official count. A report by the Brookings Institution (PDF) estimates that 40.2% of US deaths were caused by improvised explosive devices and 30.3% by gun attacks. The independent organization iCasualties estimates a higher US death toll, recording 2,125 to date. This same source reports 1,066 deaths of non-US coalition troops in Afghanistan. (BBC News, Sept. 30) Note that the US military death toll reached 1,000 in 2010—a grim indication of how the rate of US casualties is growing. The death toll for Afghan civilians last year alone topped 3,000—lives claimed by both insurgent and coalition forces. Afghan civilian death (at that point mostly at the hands of US bombardment) topped 3,000 by the end of 2001. The figure, poetically, is the same as the death toll from 9-11.
In vivid contrast even to last year and especially the year before that, the 9-11 anniversary in New York City was extremely subdued. Neither the Islamophobes nor the "Truthies" nor the sectarian left seem to have exploited the commemoration. By the time this blogger arrived at Ground Zero by bicycle in the late afternoon, the only organized presence on the street was various small clusters of evangelical Christians. (The Jehovah's Witnesses were the most shameless, with a big banner showing the twisted wreckage of a destroyed city under the word "DOOMSDAY.") Mercifully, for the first time this year, there was no speechifying by politicians at the official ceremony in the morning. "Last year it was horrible," one survivor told Newsday. "We don't need them [politicians] here." Significant progress has now actually been made on the new tower, which rises in arrogant ugliness over the site. But maybe, at long last, New York and the United States are catching up with the rest of the planet in moving on from 9-11. Except, of course, that 11 years later, we remain at war in Afghanistan...