by William Rivers Pitt
June 23, 2003
His name was Paul Nakamura, and he was from Santa Fe Springs, California. Nakamura was an American soldier, part of an ambulance crew in Iraq transporting an injured soldier for medical attention on June 19 when the ambulance was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Nakamura was killed in this attack. He was 21 years old.
His name was Michael Deuel, and he was from Nemo, South Dakota. Deuel was an American soldier ordered to guard a propane distribution center in Iraq. He was shot on June 18 while performing this guard duty and died of his wounds. He was 21 years old.
His name was William Latham, and he was from Kingman, Arizona. Latham was an American soldier who participated in a raid at a suspected arms market in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, on May 19. He was hit with shrapnel. Latham was evacuated back to the United States where he died of his wounds in Walter Reed Army Medical Center on June 18. He was 29 years old.
His name was Robert Frantz, and he was from San Antonia, Texas. Frantz was an American soldier on guard duty in Iraq when someone threw a hand grenade over a wall at him. Frantz died of his injuries on June 17. He was 19 years old.
His name was Shawn Pahnke, and he was from Shelbyville, Indiana. Pahnke was an American soldier on patrol in Iraq when he was fatally shot on June 16. He was 25 years old.
His name was Gavin Neighbor, and he was from Somerset, Ohio. Neighbor was an American soldier who was resting in a bus after guard duty in Iraq when an attacker fired a rocket-propelled grenade at him from a nearby house. Neighbor died of his wounds on June 10. He was 20 years old.
His name was Michael Dooley, and he was from Pulaski, Virginia. Dooley was an American soldier who was manning a traffic control point in Iraq when he was ambushed by two individuals who drove up requesting medical assistance. They shot him to death on June 8. He was 23 years old.
His name was Jesse Halling, and he was from Indianapolis, Indiana. Halling was an American soldier at a military police station in Iraq which came under fire from rifle-propelled grenades and small arms fire. Halling was fatally shot in this exchange on June 7. He was 19 years old.
His name was Doyle Bollinger, Jr., and he was from Poteau, Oklahoma. Bollinger was an American soldier on a work detail in Iraq when a piece of unexploded ordnance detonated and killed him on June 6. Bollinger was 21 years old.
His name was Branden Oberleitner, and he was from Worthington, Ohio. Oberleitner was an American soldier returning from a patrol in Iraq when he was fired upon by a rifle-propelled grenade. Oberleitner died of his wounds on June 5. He was 20 years old.
His name was Antanacio Haromarin, and he was from Baldwin Park, California. Haromarin was an American soldier manning a checkpoint in Iraq. His unit came under fire from rocket-propelled grenades and small arms. Haromarin was killed in this exchange on June 3. He was 27 years old.
These are the American combat casualties in Iraq from June 1 to June 20. Added to this list for the month of June are Michael Tosto (age 24), Andrew Pokorny (age 30), Joseph Suell (age 24), John Klinesmith, Jr. (age 25), Ryan Cox (age 19), Travis Burkhardt (age 26) and Jonathan Lambert (age 28), who were killed in Iraq by non-combat related mishaps like car wrecks and accidental weapons discharges.
There is still a week left to the month of June, and these are the names already inscribed onto our collective wall of memory. They represent a small portion of the dead and the lost in this second Iraq war. According to Reuters, some 91 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq since the 'Fall of Baghdad' on April 9. That averages out to 1.21 soldiers killed per day. 102 American soldiers were killed during the fighting that took place between March 20 and April 9. The total, as of June 20, is 193 dead.
If the casualty rate of 1.21 per day continues, we can expect 228 more dead American soldiers by Christmas.
Donald Rumsfeld was asked this question on a March 24 edition of the CBS news program 'Face the Nation.' He said, "We have seen intelligence over many months that they have chemical and biological weapons, and that they have dispersed them and that they're weaponized and that, in one case at least, the command and control arrangements have been established."
That is a profoundly specified statement. Not only did Rumsfeld claim that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons, not only were those weapons in place to be used on the battlefield, not only were those poisons weaponized for maximum lethal effect. Rumsfeld stated bluntly that he knew of one case where permission to use these weapons against American troops had already been given.
This was nothing new. For seven months to that point, Rumsfeld had been in good company making claims of this nature. Every day since September of 2002, we heard from Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, Fleischer, Rice, Powell, and several times from George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, that Iraq's weapons program represented an immediate and severe danger to the American people. The shadow of September 11 loomed long and dark over these statements, and the approval ratings for combat indicated that Americans were willing to believe these Bush administration claims rather than accept even the most remote possibility that Iraqi weapons could be used on the home front.
It has become agonizingly clear that the Bush administration deliberately trumped up dire stories of Iraq's weapons capabilities in order to galvanize the American people behind war. They lied every day for months. Worse, the Bush administration deliberately used the horror of September 11 to justify war against a nation that posed no threat to American security.
On June 15, former NATO Supreme Commander General Wesley Clark appeared on 'Meet the Press' with Tim Russert. A wretchedly revealing exchange came from the interview:
GEN. CLARK: I think there was a certain amount of hype in the intelligence, and I think the information that's come out thus far does indicate that there was a sort of selective reading of the intelligence in the sense of sort of building a case.
MR. RUSSERT: Hyped by whom?
GEN. CLARK: Well, I...
MR. RUSSERT: The CIA, or the president or vice president? Secretary of Defense, who?
GEN. CLARK: I think it was an effort to convince the American people to do something, and I think there was an immediate determination right after 9/11 that Saddam Hussein was one of the keys to winning the war on terror. Whether it was the need just to strike out or whether he was a linchpin in this, there was a concerted effort during the fall of 2001 starting immediately after 9/11 to pin 9/11 and the terrorism problem on Saddam Hussein.
MR. RUSSERT: By who? Who did that?
GEN. CLARK: Well, it came from the White House, it came from people around the White House. It came from all over. I got a call on 9/11. I was on CNN, and I got a call at my home saying, "You got to say this is connected. This is state-sponsored terrorism. This has to be connected to Saddam Hussein." I said, "But-I'm willing to say it but what's your evidence?" And I never got any evidence. And these were people who had-Middle East think tanks and people like this and it was a lot of pressure to connect this and there were a lot of assumptions made. But I never personally saw the evidence and didn't talk to anybody who had the evidence to make that connection.
Mr. Russert, predictably, did not follow up on this astounding claim during the interview. The import of these statements, however, is clear. General Clark was asked by the White House, and by those working for and with the White House, to connect Saddam Hussein and Iraq to the attacks of September 11. He was asked to do so on that terrible day, while people were still dying and while the buildings were still burning.
The tactic was effective. A poll by CBS and the New York Times taken just before the war began showed that 45% of the American people believed Saddam Hussein was "personally involved" in the attacks of September 11. A previous poll taken by Princeton Survey Research Associates showed that 50% of the American people believed that most of the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqis.
In a country with a news media that can provide data in an unrelenting stream 24 hours a day, millions of Americans believed in a connection that was completely and totally wrong. How can such a gap in comprehension be explained? Simply put, the Bush administration put forth a staggering array of lies and exaggerations, and the American media chose to repeat them ad nauseam instead of verifying the veracity of the claims. These poll numbers must be factored into those taken during and after the war which appeared to show American support for the attack.
It has been 80 days since Baghdad fell to American forces. The United States military has invested virtually every corner of Iraq in that time. No evidence of chemical or biological weapons has been found. No evidence that these weapons had been dispersed for combat usage has been found. Nothing weaponized has been found. No evidence that command and control orders were given has been found. No connection between Iraq, Hussein and the 9/11 terrorists has been even minutely established.
Along with the Americans who died at the altar of these terrible lies were thousands and thousands of Iraqi civilians. The Associated Press attempted to do an accounting of the civilian dead after the war, and came up with 3,240 killed. This number, however, only represents casualties that took place between March 20 and April 20, and depends upon records from hospitals that were badly overwhelmed by the carnage. A variety of groups from around the world that are also evaluating the data put the casualty numbers closer to 7,000 killed, and some estimate that the number of dead is actually in the neighborhood of 10,000.
His name was Brandon Sloan, and he was from Cleveland, Ohio. Sloan was an American soldier who was killed March 23 after his convoy came under attack in Iraq. He was 19 years old. He was not the first to die, and he was not the last. When a man or woman puts on the uniform of the United States military and swears the oath of service, they are taking a leap of faith that their lives will not be used and disposed of by those who would lie and deceive them into combat.
George W. Bush and his administration owe an explanation to the family of Brandon Sloan, and to the families of all the other troops who have fallen and will fall in this war. They owe an explanation to the American people and to the world for the carnage they caused with their lies and exaggerations. There must be a reckoning.
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times best-selling author of two books, War On Iraq (Context Books, 2002), and The Greatest Sedition is Silence now available from Pluto Press at www.SilenceIsSedition.com. The term 'Slaughtergate' was originally coined by the excellent columnist and political cartoonist Ted Rall. This article first appeared in Truthout (www.truthout.org).