by William Rivers Pitt
November 10, 2003
First Published in Truthout
Very nearly 40 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq since the month of November began. 33 more were killed in October, and 16 more died in September. The total losses, to date, creep towards 400. Few American citizens are aware of this, because the Bush administration has made it policy to deliberately hide these honored dead from the media. No cameras are allowed inside the Dover, DE facility that receives the ruined bodies of our troops.
No cameras are allowed inside Walter Reed Army Medical Center to film the thousands of soldiers who have been catastrophically wounded in Iraq, nor are cameras allowed inside the facility at Ft. Stewart in Georgia where the wounded await treatment in conditions they have described as inhumane.
No Bush official has been to a single funeral for any of the fallen, because that would bring unwanted publicity onto the ruinous casualties we have suffered. The Pentagon is doing its part as well. The term "body bags" was dispensed with during the 1991 Gulf War for the kinder, gentler euphemism "human remains pouches." The term has been changed again by the Pentagon. Today in Iraq, soldiers killed in the line of duty are placed inside "transfer tubes" for their anonymous, unnoticed trip home.
American soldiers killed in Afghanistan were roundly filmed as they returned home, and the images of their flag-draped caskets were broadcast all across the country with broad and honored fanfare. President Clinton was present to welcome home the coffins of soldiers killed in Kosovo. Pictures of the coffins carrying sailors killed in the bombing of the USS Cole were also widely broadcast. President Bush Sr. was on hand to welcome the caskets of soldiers killed in Lebanon and Panama.
The men and women killed in Iraq are afforded no such honor. They are a dirty little secret, hidden from view lest they cause political discomfort to the administration that got them killed.
The Bush administration has taken to hiding from even the most obvious signs that, once upon a time, this war served their propaganda purposes. When George W. Bush declared an end to combat operations in Iraq aboard the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, his televised image was framed by a massive banner that read "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED." At the time, the administration was more than happy to take credit for the banner.
Full and specific credit, at the time, was given to Scott Sforza, a former ABC producer hired by the administration to work for the White House Communication's Director. Mr. Sforza can be credited for those snappy backdrops draped around Bush when he speaks, the ones with the catch-words repeated ad nauseam. Sforza spent several days "embedded" aboard the Abraham Lincoln to organize the event for full media effect, going so far as to hand-pick the Navy personnel to be displayed, and to choose the color of the clothes they would wear.
Once it became clear that the only mission that had been accomplished in Iraq was the looting of the American Treasury, the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of American troops, the unnecessary maiming of thousands more, and the ruination of our reputation around the world, George W. Bush himself went out of his way to disavow any involvement with the braggadocio of the banner. In an October 28 press conference, Bush said, "The 'Mission Accomplished' sign, of course, was put up by the members of the USS Abraham Lincoln, saying that their mission was accomplished."
And so the military, again, is left holding the bag for Bush, who has fled even from the presence of the memory of the fallen.
Let us remember a few things. George W. Bush and his administration pushed for this war based upon the premise that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction, and that he would give those weapons to Osama bin Laden for use against us. The public record for this is clear and unequivocal, as is the fact that this administration, day after day, connected the attacks of September 11 to the war on Iraq as a means to frighten the American people into supporting the war.
There is, in fact, a page on the White House's own website (whitehouse.gov) entitled 'Disarm Saddam Hussein.' It can be found with a simple search, and contains the administration's central argument for why war was necessary, and necessary now, and necessary even without the support of the international community. Again, the claims on this page are clear and unequivocal.
According to 'Disarm Saddam Hussein,' war with Iraq was necessary because Iraq was in possession of 26,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, as well as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX gas. For those of you without your calculators, 500 tons equals 1,000,000 pounds. Along with this, Iraq was in possession of nearly 30,000 munitions capable of delivering these chemicals. Beyond this fearful armament, 'Disarm Saddam Hussein' claims that Iraq and Saddam Hussein enjoyed the company of a variety of al Qaeda terrorists.
Saddam Hussein was little more than the Mayor of Baghdad in the years, months and weeks before the war. He was trapped in his palaces, unable to launch even a single fighter in his own airspace, militarily emasculated by years of sanctions and weekly bombing raids by American forces, with vast regions to the north and south totally beyond his control. It is these northern regions that enjoyed the company of occasional al Qaeda fighters, in places where Saddam Hussein dared not show his face. To say that Hussein was working with these terrorists is the same as saying Bush was working with the September 11 terrorists in the weeks before the attack, simply because they all happened to be in the same country at the same time.
Beyond that, recall that Hussein was a secular dictator who spent 30 years killing every Islamic fundamentalist he could get his hands on. Osama bin Laden hated and despised Saddam Hussein, and called repeatedly for his death. The last of these calls came last February, when bin Laden publicly asked the Iraqi people to rise up and kill their Socialist infidel leader. The idea that Hussein would give any weapons at all to bin Laden is absurd on its face.
It is even more absurd to imagine this transfer when greeted with the reality that the reported 26,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 1,000,000 pounds of sarin, mustard and VX gas, and the 30,000 munitions to deliver the stuff has absolutely, positively failed to appear. Iraq has been invested by the U.S. military, scoured by UNMOVIC weapons inspectors, and scoured again by Bush's hand-picked inspector, Dr. David Kay. Nothing, but nothing, has been found.
Best of all is the fact that right now, as you read this, at this very moment, almost a year after the war began, claims that Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger for the development of a nuclear weapons program remains on this White House web page. The Niger uranium claim has been proven to be utterly fraudulent, based upon crudely forged documents so laughable that America stands embarrassed before the world because Bush used them to justify his war. Yet the claim remains seated on his website, even now.
Not only has history proven this war to have been cynically contrived, but history has also proven beyond question that it was not necessary. Weapons inspectors could easily have determined that Iraq was not in possession of any weapons. A favorite talking point these days is that we had to invade because the United Nations was not doing its part. Hogwash. The Bush administration wrote Resolution 1441 from top to bottom, and pointedly included the words "Weapons Inspectors" in the text. The Security Council unanimously approved it.
Many believe the U.S. wrote 1441 fully expecting Iraq to reject it because of those inspections, but Iraq turned that thinking on its head and welcomed the inspectors in. Immediately, the Bush administration began denigrating the very inspections they mandated with 1441, and began denigrating the United Nations for expecting them to live up to the bargain they authored.
It was recently revealed that Saddam Hussein essentially surrendered on the eve of the war, throwing his country open to American forces in whatever capacity the Bush administration felt was necessary to guarantee that Iraq was not a threat. The Bush administration spurned this offer and rolled out the blitzkrieg, beginning a process that has killed hundreds of American soldiers, wounded thousands more, and consigned tens of thousands of civilians to die in the dust.
Veteran's Day is upon us. A just world would see a long parade of veterans wending its way past the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial, past the Korean War Memorial, past every statue and plaque commemorating the service, and that full measure of devotion, given to this nation by men and women beyond number. In a just world, the parade would halt on the ground that, someday, will bear the names of the men and women who have died, and will die, in this Iraq war. In a just world, George W. Bush would be required to stand upon this ground and be spat upon by every person in that long, proud parade.
In a just world, Bush would be made to visit the home of every American family who has had a beloved brother, sister, mother, father, husband or wife delivered to them in secret inside a "transfer tube." In a just world, he would be made to explain his lies, and further be made to apologize for using the wretched memory of September 11 against the American people in a process of criminal deception that got an incredible number of people killed.
Then again, a just world would have left George W. Bush in the dustbin of history as a thrice-failed oilman who lacked even the courage to complete his stint in the National Guard while better men went off to war in Vietnam to die in his place.
William Rivers Pitt is the Managing Editor of Truthout.org, where this article first appeared (www.truthout.org). He is a New York Times and international best-selling author of three books: War On Iraq, available from Context Books, The Greatest Sedition is Silence, available from Pluto Press, and Our Flag, Too: The Paradox of Patriotism, available from Context Books. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org