Bob Herbert / New York Times – 2006-06-16 07:59:23
Other People’s Blood
Bob Herbert / New York Times
(June 8, 2006) — For the smug, comfortable, well-off Americans, it doesn’t seem to matter how long the war in Iraq goes on, so long as the agony is endured by others. If the network coverage gets too grim, viewers can always switch to an infotainment channel — one hand on the remote, the other burrowing into a bag of chips — to follow the hilarious-yet-pathetic antics of Paris, Britney, Brangelina, et al.
Americans think: “This foreign war is depressing and denial is the antidote. After all, why should ordinary citizens — good people, religious people, patriots — stop to consider their role in, and responsibility for, these thunderous explosions of unending carnage? Enough with this introspection! Let’s go to the ballpark, get drunk, and boo Barry Bonds.”
This nation is in deep denial about Iraq. For years the president and his supporting cast of arrogant, bullying characters have tried to put their best PR facade on this ill-advised military adventure. They had no idea what they were doing when they ordered the invasion of Iraq, and they still don’t see that they’ve opened up a Pandora’s Box.
Many of the troops who were assured that the Iraqis would welcome them with open arms are now dead. And yet there’s still no plan, no mission, and no exit strategy.
Paul Wolfowitz, who fashioned the phony intellectual underpinnings of this catastrophe, told us that Iraqi oil revenues would cover the cost of reconstruction. He was as wrong about that as the president was about those phantom weapons of mass destruction. And as wrong as Dick Cheney was last June, when he said the insurgency was in its last throes.
Here are the facts: the war, so recklessly launched by the neocon amateurs in the Bush White House, has already taken well over one hundred thousand lives; and it will ultimately cost US taxpayers somewhere between $1 trillion and $2 trillion. Yes, that’s “trillion” with a “t.”
No one has been held accountable for this fiasco. While Mr. Bush’s approval ratings are low, the public has been largely indifferent to the profound suffering that we have created in Iraq. This is primarily for two reasons:
(1) because most Americans have no immediate personal stake in this war (indeed, the wealthiest keep getting more tax cuts during the war); and
(2) because the administration and the news media intentionally hide the worst atrocities, carnage and suffering from the eyes of US population.
Even the killing of American troops is usually kissed off with a paragraph or two in the major papers, and a sentence or two, at best, on the national newscasts. If you don’t think our culture’s marginalization of its own war is odd, imagine this: someone in your office, sitting at a desk across from you, is suddenly blown to bits, and you are splattered with his or her bloody goo. You wouldn’t get over it for the rest of your life. Folks, this is what happens every day in Iraq.
The many thousands of Iraqis who are killed — including babies, children, and women who are being shot to death, blown up, and incinerated — remain completely unreported, and totally unknown to the American public. Hence, among ordinary Americans there is not only very little empathy for the suffering of Iraqis, but also virtually no sense that we share responsibility for their suffering.
Despite the fantasies that are frequently expressed by President Bush and the leading politicians in both parties, the idea of a US victory in Iraq is a vainglorious illusion. The nightmarish violence is rising, not receding. Iraq definitely is not being pacified.
For instance, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a bustling market in Basra last weekend, killing 27 and wounding scores. On Sunday, 20 people were stopped and pulled from their vehicles on a highway near Baquba and shot to death.
John Burns, writing in yesterday’s New York Times, told us from in his report from Iraq: “The death toll in one of the most grisly recent attacks, in the village of Hadid, near Diyala’s provincial capital of Baquba, rose to 17 on Tuesday when the police delivered nine severed heads to the Baquba morgue, after they were found inside fruit boxes in the village.” Just a few days earlier, eight more heads had been found.
Instead of beginning to withdraw our troops from Iraq, we are belatedly sending more in. The permanent Iraqi government, which was supposed to be the answer to everybody’s prayers, is a study in ineffectual haplessness.
Although Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is dead, someone has already take his place as Al Qaeda’s number one man in Iraq. And the real Al Qaeda masterminds, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, are still at large somewhere in Pakistan.
As was the case with Vietnam, the war in Iraq is a fool’s errand. After more than three years, there is no clear mission for the American troops in Iraq. “Democratization” is, in fact, a raging civil war in which the Americans are but one among many competing militias. And the long-ago promised “Iraqification” of this war is still an illusory farce.
No one can really say what the dead have died for. And yet the dying continues. When all of this gruesome carnage finally comes grinding to a halt — according to President Bush, on somebody else’s watch — we’ll look around at the hideous costs in bloodshed, human lives, and cold hard cash, and ask ourselves: “What in the world were we thinking?”
FOR MORE INSIGHTS, PLEASE READ THESE FOUR DIRECTLY-RELATED ESSAYS
 Mike Whitney’s 6-9-06 Information Clearing House essay, “Impunity” —
In an important speech, given by US Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) before the House last May, credible evidence was presented that US-sponsored Iraqi death squads are kidnapping, torturing, murdering, and assassinating thousands of Sunnis, thus fomenting an all-out civil war in Iraq.
The Bush Administration calls its paramilitary program the “Salvador Option,” after the Reagan Administration-backed rightwing death squads that operated in El Salvador during the 1980s.
Pentagon neoconservatives resurrected this fascistic program in Iraq because they believed that, despite its horrendous costs in human lives and human rights, it was successful in eradicating guerillas.
Regrettably, today the US is the main sponsor and supporter of terror in the form of these American-trained death squads. Death squad activity in Iraq now accounts for more than 1,000 casualties per month. The Baghdad morgue has become a conveyor-belt for American-generated carnage.]:
 Joshua Frank’s 6-8-06 Online Journal essay, “From Bush To Hillary…Holding The War Parties Accountable” —
“There are plenty of reasons the Democrats continue to support the ongoing occupation of Iraq. Not only did they authorize the invasion, they continue to sit on their hands while our armed forces commit murder in the name of democracy in Haditha.”: http://onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/article_882.shtml
 Helena Cobban’s 6-8-06 Christian Science Monitor essay, “It’s Time To Get Serious About US Troop Withdrawal: Before Things Get Worse In Iraq, The US Need to Find A Rapid Way To Withdraw” —
“Mr. Bush’s good governance project in Iraq has failed so miserably that it cannot now be revived. … Iraq has become a Hobbesian nightmare of the ‘war of all against all.’ … Today, the Americans are just one more militia lost in the anarchy.” Goes on to explain how an honorable American pullout can be accomplished.]:
 Mickey Z.’s 6-7-06 Counterpunch essay, “Cruise Missiles, Cluster Bombs, And Core Values: Haditha And Rumsfeld’s Ratio” —
“By now, we should all know the drill: The US military is sent off amidst lies and propaganda to rain death and destruction upon a foreign land. Atrocities abound but go unmentioned until a set of ‘allegations’ are simply too obvious to disregard.
“Shortly thereafter, high-ranking officials issue assurances that our troops are the good guys and that any criminal behavior is the exception, not the rule. …
“The repugnant recent events throughout Iraq, of course, must be investigated and the guilty parties brought to justice. But the greater work lies in examining a culture so blind to its violent nature as to spend time unashamedly splitting hairs between what transpired at Haditha and what passes for ‘exemplary’.”]:
THE MORAL OF THIS STORY
In a very real sense, every illegal war of aggression is state-sponsored terrorism on a massive scale. Most of the victims of the Iraq War’s reign of terror are: women; children; the elderly; and other innocent civilian noncombatants.
We’ve already learned that the US military has been committing slow massacres, poisoning our own troops, and contaminating future generations, through its global dispersal of radioactive dust from Depleted Uranium Munitions (“DUM”). When will we finally learn that:
(1) even the best of intentions does not guarantee a good outcome, and frequently leads to a bad outcome, when we unleash the evil means and uncontrollable chaos of war; and
(2) violence only begets more violence, and warfare more wars?
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