Rubber Numbers and the Sanctity of Human Life
The Expendability of Them to Attain Our
-- Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC)
"Is it not also true that we are willing to bomb Iraq now because we know it cannot retaliate, which just confirms that there is no real threat?"
-- Texas Republican Congressman Ron Paul (2002)
The ease with which the so-called Coalition of the Willing rolled over Iraq and the absence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) would seem to answer Paul’s question in the affirmative; obviously Iraq was no threat.
In pursuit of their conquest of Iraq both US President George W. Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair denounced then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein for deceiving the world and clandestinely building up stockpiles of WMD. Hussein’s prior use of poison gas (with Washington’s knowledge) and other horrible deeds had led Bush to declare in his 2003 State of the Union address: “If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning!”
Bush claims to answer to a higher calling. He also claims to identify most with the political philosopher Jesus Christ who changed his heart. It is curious to contemplate in what way Christ changed Bush’s heart.
Leviticus 19:18 states, “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the Lord.” It seems clear from Leviticus that Bush should have expressed love to the Iraqis. But Leviticus predates Jesus.
In Matthew 22:35 Jesus identifies the two greatest commandments as loving the Lord with all one’s heart and then loving one’s neighbor as oneself. Jesus proclaimed, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” However, Iraqis are far away and they are not neighbors in the literal sense.
In Matthew 5:21 Jesus said, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment.” But Saddam Hussein is the enemy; after all, he allegedly plotted the assassination of Bush’s Daddy.
In Matthew 5:43 Jesus preaches love of one’s enemies. “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
Bush is discernibly walking to the beat of a different drum than the Prince of Peace.
The hysterical absurdity of having an alleged deserter (who has been unable during the course of his presidency to produce compelling documentation to quash the charges against him or to have a single former colleague step forward and vouch for his service) function as the Commander in Chief is seemingly lost on many. Bush is the man who proffers the antimony of simultaneously advocating capital punishment and the sanctity of fetal life. Bush launched Shock and Awe and the bathos directly after was punctuated with his fist-pumping rapturous shriek of “Feels good.” (1)
The moral certitude of the state in wartime is a kind of fundamentalism. -- Chris Hedges
Blair, in particular, had argued the moral high ground for “liberating” Iraq. In so doing he ostensibly claimed higher moral insight than the Pope, British church leaders, 41 Nobel laureates, many world leaders, and the 10 million antiwar demonstrators worldwide. Even many of the families of the 9-11 victims were opposed to revenge.
With colossal hubris Bush belittled antiwar protestors as a “focus group.” Neither a “focus group” nor the “irrelevant” UN was to get in the way of US policy. US Vice-President Dick Cheney was adamant that multilateralism would not be permitted to hinder US efforts against terrorists. Cheney by rejecting the permanent UN Security Council members’ implicit policy “of doing exactly nothing” effectively undermined their veto-wielding powers. The US would act in accordance with how it saw its interests unconstrained by lesser powers.
Pentagon insider Richard Perle concurred with Cheney. He justified the admittedly illegal invasion stating that “international law stood in the way of doing the right thing.”
It is difficult to fathom where the US and its junior sidekick, the UK, derived the moral authority to carry out their crusade. In a previous article I illustrated the woeful historical hypocrisy of the imperialists in their relations with Iraq and other nations in the region. (2)
Killers in Error
That the “supreme crime,” as defined by Nuremberg Law, brought about a lightning Götterdammerung for the Ba’ath regime was expected. What corporate media circles did not predict was the enmity that the liberation-occupation forces would be greeted with. This enmity continues to fester as the occupiers kill and humiliate the Iraqis. The unrelenting resistance avouches Machiavelli’s admonition: “For however strong a new prince may be in troops, yet will he always have need of the good will of the inhabitants, if he wishes to enter into firm possession of the country.” (3) Next to flounder was the illusory plan to rid Iraq of its WMD.
David Kay, the weapons expert preferred by Washington hardliners, exposed the specious casus belli. This was not surprising in that UNSCOM inspector Scott Ritter has been on record that Iraq was “fundamentally disarmed” since 1998. Indeed Deputy Defense [sic] Minister Paul Wolfowitz had downplayed WMD as a pretext for invading Iraq in a Vanity Fair interview. Kay has advice for the war president: “It’s about confronting and coming clean with the American people. He should say we were mistaken and I am determined to find out why.” (4)
The man reported to be behind the disinformation on Iraqi possession of WMD, the Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi, stoically dismissed the missing invasion pretext. “We are heroes in error,” he said. “That tyrant Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important.” (5) In other words, the ends justify the means. What does one expect when intelligence is entrusted to a convicted embezzler? Yet, Chalabi, according to Knight-Ridder Newspapers, is still a recipient of Pentagon largesse. Ritter suggested that Chalabi’s continued employment is to ensure the nonstop churning of the WMD-in-Iraq rumor mill.
That the duplicitous politicians plead surprise at the suspect intelligence is blatant disingenuousness. Bush and his team had stated on several occasions that they know Iraq has WMD and that they even knew where they were. As journalist John Pilger revealed, these declamations contradicted earlier statements by the same officials that the possible threat of Iraq was contained. (6)
Blair’s case for a moral war featured plagiarized papers, “garbage,” and “sexed-up” intelligence to persuade Britons of the imminent threat posed by Saddam Hussein. Blair steadfastly adhered to the lie that Hussein kicked the UNSCOM inspectors out of Iraq. Hussein was to be the scapegoat for all evil under the sun. Political scientist David Marquand perversely ascribes the dissembling over war pretexts to Blair’s “steely realpolitik.” “Blair being Blair, he felt bound to dress them up in increasingly dodgy moralistic rhetoric; and like the brilliant actor he is, he gradually came to live the part of global saviour which he had allotted himself. That is why his credibility is so badly damaged now.” (7) Ultimately, Blair’s credibility is trivial compared to the blood on his hands.
Bush and Blair, however, blame Hussein for the litany of deaths incurred under the UN sanctions even though the US and UK opposed any moves to end the sanctions. The fact is that the US and UK could have agreed to a humanitarian-inspired lifting of the sanctions. Thus the US and UK share an overwhelming responsibility for the blockage or delayed entry of many needed items such as medicine and equipment to provide clean water.
Like Shooting Fish in a Barrel
The assault in 1991 should have served as a harbinger of morality for the 2003 re-intensification of violence in Iraq. Seymour Hersh detailed some of the horrors in the initial phase of the Persian Gulf Slaughter. (8) One particular moment of infamy occurred when US fighters, under the command of distinguished Major General Barry McCaffrey, intercepted a retreating convoy of Iraqi soldiers and obliterated them on the “highway of death.” McCaffrey confessed the massacre was “one of the most astounding scenes of destruction I have ever participated in.”
Colonel Michael MacLaren (Ret.) likened the carnage on the “highway of death” to a “turkey shoot,” a poignant indication of how little regard US soldiers had for the lives of Iraqi combatants, few of which posed a threat.
Several accounts portray the piteous condition of the Iraqi fighters. Major David Pierson confessed to being guilty of “running up the score” against Iraqi soldiers who “were like children fleeing before us, unorganized, scared, wishing it all would end. We continued to pour it on.”
1st Lieutenant Greg Downey described one group of “Iraqi soldiers to be young boys and old men. They were a sad sight, with absolutely no fight left in them. Their leaders had cut their Achilles’ tendons so they couldn’t run away and then left them. What weapons they had were in bad repair and little ammunition was on hand. They were hungry, cold, and scared. The hate I had for any Iraqi dissipated. These people had no business being on a battlefield.”
Second Lieutenant Rob Holmes remarked, “Our new [Iraqi] prisoners barely qualified as soldiers. They were poorly clothed and hardly equipped. They looked gaunt and undisciplined. They were very old and very young. They looked pathetic. Quite a contrast with us.”
It seems some of the Iraqi soldiers were more deserving of compassion than scorn usually expressed toward the enemy. Pity is best reserved for the consciences of the killers of the ragtag Iraqi warriors.
If the WMD-capable Iraqi military was pathetic in 1991, it defies imagination just what a threat it could pose in 2003 after years of crippling economic sanctions and weapons inspectors sifting through industrial laboratories and palaces.
That Saddam Hussein was a ruthless dictator is uncontested. That was not the pretext being proffered for an invasion. Disarming Iraq of its alleged WMD was the one and only pretext for invasion. The western powers were alone in maintaining Saddam Hussein still possessed WMD. This raised the question: what human cost would be acceptable in removing Hussein from power? Is there such an intangible entity as an acceptable cost in human life? Former US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, was so forthcoming as to quip that the deaths of half a million Iraqi children were worth the price. The genocidal UN sanctions, which led to the resignation of three disgusted UN officials (Denis Halliday, Hans Von Sponeck, and Jutta Burghardt ), persisted against all humanitarian logic. By logical extension the imminent deaths of more Iraqi civilians was to be still worth the price.
Pre-Shock and Awe
This triggered the response to David:
It is asserted that Saddam Hussein is currently seeking WMD, but where is the evidence? If he acquired such weapons, would he use them? Your self-posed query is deftly avoided by confessing that we are operating in the realm of an informed guess. You warn that those who would hazard to guess that Saddam Hussein has no WMD had better be very confident that they are right. But what are the consequences for an incorrect informed guess that leads to war? Thousands will die in the event of a reconflagration of the Gulf War. How many are prepared to call for war that will result in the deaths of many on the basis of an informed guess? (12)
The Bush administration was. A glimpse into the carnage has emerged although the invasion-occupation forces try to thwart the true casualty figures from becoming known. David’s earlier characterization of Landau’s piece as a “seldom … more irresponsible” polemic is obviously incorrect.
Fatalities in Iraq
The two main belligerents have shown ignominious disregard for the Iraqi casualties. Then US General Tommy Franks stated bluntly, “We don’t do body counts.”
Authentic journalist Robert Fisk notes that humanitarian organizations are speaking out against the disrespect of the occupiers. He quotes Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch: “It is a tragedy that US soldiers have killed so many civilians in Baghdad. But it is really incredible that the US military does not even count these deaths.” Fisk acknowledges though that some US military are becoming schooled in how to accord proper ‘respect’ to Iraqi civilians. (13)
The website Iraq Body Count updates the civilian fatalities in Iraq. The counter indicates the killing of more than 10,000 civilians. Iraq Body Count concedes the conservativeness of the count and the inevitability that many more civilian deaths will be added to the unfinished tally.
Dr. Mohammed Al-Obaidi, a person with a special perspective on Iraqi casualties (14), gives credence to a higher civilian fatality count. He is an official with the Iraqi Freedom Party, hundreds of whose party members carried out “more than five weeks of intensive and thorough investigations” on civilian fatalities in many areas touched by combat, except for the Kurdish north. They came up with the number of 37,137 civilians killed. (15)
A press release criticized the indifference to Iraqi casualties as “counterproductive” to the stated aims of the occupiers.
Even if none of the moral and legal arguments are accepted, the tactics currently being adopted are not in the pragmatic self-interest of the USA and the UK. They are counterproductive in that they inflame long-term anti-US and anti-UK feeling among the Iraqi population and Arab nations, reducing the likelihood of a quick end to the conflict, and putting UK and US citizens at greater risk from paramilitary, political, and economic reprisals. (16)
The press release trenchantly exposed the shameful racism behind the aggression of Iraq by comparing the insouciance of dropping highly explosive ordinance on areas populated by Iraqi civilians to the extreme concern taken in evacuating downtown Milan when an unexploded bomb from WWII was discovered late last year. It evinces the morally bereft distinction of worthy and unworthy victims. A distinction in victimhood is laid bare: we are worthy victims and they are unworthy victims. The application of a different moral standard with regard to the sanctity of Arab life versus Italian life is a moral obscenity. Any differentiation in the value of human life along tribal lines is obscene.
That what once were living human beings are now numbers adduces the ordure of the invasion.
Thanks though to the efforts of websites such as Iraq Body Count, Mykeru, and Antiwar.com there are outlets that at least acknowledge the Iraqi civilian casualties. Mykeru and Antiwar.com are two sites that tally Iraqi military casualties.
Iraqi Military Fatalities during and consequent to Shock and Awe
An Internet search will bring up scads of links on US and coalition soldier fatalities but Iraqi military fatalities are, for the greatest part, absent. Awareness of the number of US and UK fatalities does of course have importance. Paul de Rooij has been compiling and reporting fatalities suffered by the US and UK military since “the end of major combat operations.” (17) States De Rooij, “The point of my articles [re: Iraq] is that Americans will only change their tune when the cost of that war becomes very high. It is for this reason that the propagandists are trying to hide the casualties in many ways, e.g., fiddling the numbers, organizing the arrival of wounded soldiers to Walter Reed at night, banning journalists from military funerals... etc.” (18)
As for the casualties following Shock and Awe, Yale University demographer Beth Daponte responds, “I haven’t yet done anything statistical regarding the current war in Iraq because 1) the intervention isn’t yet over; 2) credible demographic data is not yet available.” (19)
John Broder wrote, “The effort to number the dead on the Iraqi side in the war begins with a conundrum: who is a civilian and who is a soldier?”
But the question was not only who but where. “For example, relentless bombing and a week of ground combat left the Baghdad Division of Iraq’s army reduced to ‘zero percent strength,’ according to Marine officers who engaged the division, once thought to number about 10,000 soldiers. Where are they?” It was speculated that “the number of Iraqi dead was certainly high but ultimately unknowable.” (20)
Bradford University Department of Peace professor Paul Rogers attempted a reasoned calculation of Iraqi military fatalities for the first weeks of violence.
[A]ssuming that only one in five of the soldiers in a ‘destroyed’ division actually dies, the military losses incurred by Iraqi forces will already run to at least 10,000. In modern war, it is assumed that three people are seriously injured for every person that is killed. This is likely to be the case for the Iraqis, with many of those injured subsequently dying as medical support away from the towns and cities will be extremely limited. Thus, twenty days of war has almost certainly resulted in around 40,000 Iraqi soldiers killed or seriously injured -- hardly a clean war. (21)
Rogers comments on the difficulty in updating casualty statistics of Iraqi military: “Since the end of the first phase of the Iraq War last April, coalition sources have adamantly refused to give estimates of Iraqi military casualties.” (22)
Babak Rahimi eloquently ponders the phantom Iraqi military fatalities. “Here there is little or no talk about the Iraqi soldiers killed in action. There is no report about how and where they were killed, and certainly no show of their bodies. Iraqi soldiers, for the most part, remain faceless, nameless, placeless and, therefore, unknown to the audiences. This can be partly explained due to a strict pattern of self-censorship in the US media against showing dead bodies.” (23)
An AP story that appeared in remote Alaska reported, “The death toll of Iraqi soldiers is in the thousands, but precisely how many have died is anyone’s guess.” Dana Dillon, a senior analyst and retired Army major at the Heritage Foundation described Iraqi military casualties as “extremely rubber numbers.” Military analyst Dan Goure declared any totals to “pure guesstimate.” (24)
Comic artist Eric Millikin carried out some of his own calculations. Particularly germane to the present article is the comparison of Iraqi deaths linked to the Ba’athist government and the Iraqi military deaths attributable to the US-led invasion. By Millikin’s conservative estimate they’re approximately equal. The calculations by Millikin point to a callous disregard for Iraqi lives. The accuracy of the figures is insignificant to the moral repugnancy of state-sanctioned murder. While affixing a cost to human life is anathema, one can compare the cost in human life of a do-nothing approach with a violent approach. Simple arithmetic logically leads one to argue against a military overthrow that incurs greater fatalities than would otherwise occur under another scenario. Life is precious. It is contemptible to depict Iraqis as willing to die for liberation-occupation.
Daponte notes, “A justly fought war abides by the Rule of Proportionality, incurring no more deaths than necessary in gaining a concrete result from the attack.” But she extends her reasoning beyond conventional theory. “In the traditional reading of the Rule of Proportionality, only the civilian casualties from direct war effects are balanced against the direct military advantage of an attack. However, I contend that civilian casualties from indirect effects should also be included in this balancing equation.” (27) This has huge significance; when veterans suffering from Persian Gulf Syndrome are factored in then the number of American military casualties, according to one report, approximates the number of Iraqi military casualties. (28) Furthermore, casualties stemming from political chaos in the aftermath of violence should be included. For example, Iraq is being pushed toward civil war by certain forces; any casualties from such an internecine conflict arguably originated in earlier hostilities.
By this same rationale, the casualties suffered under the UN sanctions are rightfully ascribed as belonging to the Persian Gulf Slaughter.
Motivating Destruction of Iraq
The mendacious casus belli and fallback pretexts proffered for aggressing Iraq must be dispensed with. Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz pontificated, “Greater part of the information obtained in war is contradictory, a still greater part is false, and by far the greatest part is of a doubtful character.” (29) In the modern world it is beyond dispute that the corporate media in collusion with corporate government are the agents of disinformation.
Among other motives, the invasion of Iraq was about furthering US economic and military interests and pandering to Zionists. The abundant Iraqi oil reserves were undoubtedly a critical motivating factor in the decision to unleash violence on Iraq. Credence for this contention comes from a recently-released top-secret British intelligence document that alleges that the US gave “serious consideration” to a military takeover of oil fields in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Abu Dhabi during the 1973 Arab oil embargo. Then US Defense Secretary James Schlesinger is purported to have made known to Lord Cromer, the British ambassador in Washington, that the US “would not tolerate threats from ‘under-developed, under-populated’ countries and that ‘it was no longer obvious to him that the United States could not use force.’” (30)
War correspondent Chris Hedges opined, “It is hard, maybe impossible, to fight a war if the cause is viewed as bankrupt. The sanctity of the cause is crucial to the war effort.” (31) The backlash over the eviscerated war pretext staggered the Washington neoconservatives, but only momentarily, as the brazen US-instigated coup d’êtat in Haiti demonstrates.
The Chinese military philosopher Sun Tzu noted in the 6th century that war was vital to the interests of the state. (32) Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz agreed. “War,” he wrote, “is an extension of politics by other means.” Von Clausewitz likened “the means” to “a kind of business competition on a grand scale.” (33)
Major General Smedley Butler in his thirty-three years of active military service became well acquainted with the worldwide scale of the “business competition,” which he labeled a “racket.” He realized that he had served as a “gangster for capitalism.” (34) Bush spoke to the gentility of capitalism and affirmed his political allegiance at a fundraiser in 2000: “This is an impressive crowd. The haves and the have-mores. Some call you the elite. I call you my base.” (35)
Slaughter versus War
Daponte writes, “The Rule of Proportionality can be thought of as the intersection of demography with the strategy and morality of war.” (36) By classical definition “war is nothing else than a mutual process of destruction.” (37) To refer to the one-sided carnage in Iraq as a war is a misnomer. Notwithstanding semantics there is something irreconcilable between war and morality. Linking morality with war seemingly legitimizes war and minimizes the malevolence.
While Sun Tzu saw “supreme excellence” stemming not from battlefield victories but victory through deception, von Clausewitz describes blood-filled war where “the horror of its elements excites repugnance.”
Let us not hear of Generals who conquer without bloodshed. If a bloody slaughter is a horrible sight, then that is a ground for paying more respect to war, but not for making the sword we wear blunter and blunter by degrees from feelings of humanity, until some one steps in with one that is sharp and lops off the arm from our body. (38)
The blood lust is embodied in the Washington establishment.
“I was astounded by the warmth and fuzziness of our generals,” says Danielle Pletka, AEI vice president for foreign- and defense-policy studies, who just returned from a visit to Iraq. “Well, they got orders: ‘You need to fight, and fight hard.’ And it suddenly dawned on them that these were bad people, and maybe we need to go out and whomp the crap out of them.” (39)
Insofar as the bloodshed is predominantly confined to the enemy side, Washington can pursue its political ends through violence. Violence is waged within a social context. Realizing the unpopularity that US cadavers engenders back home, Washington is striving to curtail US military casualties, and knowledge thereof (40), with little regard for the increasing danger ordinary Iraqis and foreigners hired by the US are being exposed to. Hastily-trained Iraqi troops and police are being pressed into service where they become relatively easy and legitimate targets for the resistance because of their collaboration with the occupiers. Rogers writes that the occupation authorities are sub-contracting out jobs and reducing US military exposure to danger but imperiling expatriate workers. (41) While mercenaries and proxy forces bear the brunt of the “bad people” US occupation forces have taken to staying behind remote highly fortified facilities.
Some would label Bush a Machiavellian politician but Bush often follows dictates contrary to those espoused by the turn-of-the-15th-century Italian civil servant. Machiavelli considered, “Mercenary and auxiliary troops are both useless and dangerous; and if any one attempts to found his state upon mercenaries, it will never be stable or secure; for they are disunited, ambitious and without discipline -- faithless and braggarts amongst friends, but amongst enemies cowards…” (42)
The resistance shows no signs of waning. Neither the killing of Saddam Hussein’s sons nor the capture of the despot had any dint of an effect on the subsidence of the insurgency, for the insurgency is not predicated upon any leaders or movement but upon the right of Iraqis to be a people free of domination from outside. Lack of freedoms is not, as appallingly asserted by Bush, a wellspring of hatred against those who enjoy freedoms. Iraqis, like people everywhere, yearn for their own freedom.
The enjoyment of freedoms by others is rather a fillip to those so dispossessed to attain the same freedoms. The inalienable constitutional rights -- Patriot Act aside -- Americans enjoy cannot be considered to apply to US citizens only. The US government appears unable to grasp this desire for freedom and continues to abet the corrupt dictatorships in the Arab world. However, the US government is only dissembling. The US national interest (synonymous with US corporate interest) trumps freedoms and democracy elsewhere. Deposed Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is the latest to experience the harsh reality of the candid admission by former CIA officer and later staff director of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Robert Simmons: “He may be an SOB of a dictator, but he is our SOB, whereas Arbenz, who was democratically elected, was an SOB, but he wasn’t ours.” (43) The democratically-elected Guatemalan president, Jacobo Arbenz, was toppled in a bloody CIA-instigated coup in 1954.
The denial of people’s rights is a policy that can sow the seeds of rebellion. Machiavelli argued that the deprivation of freedom could stir the masses against empire.
Nothing required so much effort on the part of the Romans to subdue the nations around them, as well as those of more distant countries, as the love of liberty which these people cherished in those days; and which they defended with so much obstinacy, that nothing but the exceeding valour of the Romans could ever have subjugated them. For we know from many instances to what danger they exposed themselves to preserve or recover their liberty, and what vengeance they practised upon those who had deprived them of it. (44)
Bush and Blair cannot help but be keenly aware now of the adversity faced by US-UK fighters in the Iraqi imbroglio. Yet Machiavelli unequivocally warned “that there is nothing more difficult and dangerous, or more doubtful of success, than an attempt to introduce a new order of things in any state.” (45)
Seth Pollack is a veteran who entered the military out of high school and served in Iraq and later in Bosnia-Herzegovina. He is now the Chairman of Veterans for Common Sense, a group that seeks a reasoned approach to national security. Pollack notes that it took several years after 1991 to find out the number of Iraqi military fatalities and he expects the same delay again.
While US military are feted in Time magazine, the enemy fighters are relegated to Orwell’s memory hole. Pollack views all lives as equivalent but acknowledges that it is not so for many in the armed forces. Says Pollack, “Like most young people who join the military, your viewpoint is pretty limited as an individual… The low number of casualties [in 1991] on our side was all that mattered. As I matured, I realized that numbers mattered. This isn’t a football game. We killed a lot of people in the war.” (46)
The indifference to the lives of “raqheads” and other enemies of the US is inculcated upon the fresh-faced recruits. “There is a concerted effort on the part of the military to dehumanize the enemy as a way of making killing easier,” comments Pollack. “While we venerate and mourn our own dead we are curiously indifferent about those we kill,” observed Hedges. (47) Remembrance Day is only about our own who have perished on the battle field. Monuments to unknown soldiers is only about our own unidentified fallen. Those that have fallen on the other side are less than unknown; they are ignored despite their ultimate sacrifice. The unrighteousness of the enemy’s cause is relevant; but also relevant is that both sides fight convinced in the sacrosanctity of their delusional patriotic fervor.
Rahimi seizes upon the complicity of the media in the dehumanization of the Iraqi military.
It risks obviousness, therefore, to suggest that television segments covering the war with Iraq are hardly about ‘educating’ audiences with ‘unbiased information.’ There is something more complicated in the making here. Representations of life and death of oneself and the other, of ‘hero’ and ‘enemy,’ of US and Iraqi soldiers, are a matter of inventing truths rather than reporting facts. In the realm of television reality shows -- here mainly referring to the war -- facts become fiction as images represent a reality that is intertwined with the collective experiences of an imagined nation in contrast to an enemy world. It is through the decaying body of an Iraqi soldier that the dead body of an American soldier achieves life, allowing the dead American soldier to participate in the transcendental reality of the nation; it is in the violent conquest of the enemy through death that the conquering forces attain immortality. (48)
The fact is we owe a blood debt to the Iraqis. Iraqis are human beings and not numbers. Death cannot strip away the humanity that once existed. Fisk’s writing captures the essence of this. His poignant articles arouse us through his simple recognition of the undeniable humanity in all people. Digitizing humanity masks the bloodshed. By rehumanizing the other we reclaim our own humanity.
Sweet is war to those who know it not. -- Pindar
Propaganda must not prevail. Pollack identifies real education as the solution to ending wanton bloodshed. “It’s all about education… It’s about thinking through things not just from your perspective but from the perspective of the other side.” Many veterans, knowing the horrors of war firsthand, militate against it. The bureaucrats, however, most of who have never been in combat, in pursuit of political ends continue to wield military power as a means to achieve their objectives. Pollack seeks to broaden input by injecting the veteran’s unique perspective into the public arena.
The reification of terror through Bush’s war on it, in the so-claimed attempt to make the world a safer place, has snapped back wildly. Empire is bogged down (in what some say is a stalemate) in Afghanistan and Iraq. Empire had the temerity to move against an upstart Haitian government while the western world was silent or supportive. Cuba remains tense. South America is leaning ever leftward with neoliberalism out of favor in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, and Venezuela. The Columbian insurgency is unrelenting and dissension in Peru is rumbling. North Korea remains defiant and Iran poised. Meanwhile Russia seeks to recapture past glory, China’s economic growth continues to surge forward, and India struggles to find its own place in the world. The many challenges to empire are apparent. But the biggest threat to the US is its own government.
The enemy lies within; it is we. As long as we consider others as they, to the extent that outsiders pose a threat -- real or imagined -- it becomes easier to pull the trigger. We is definitionally unitarian. Until we is regarded by all to embody humanity as one, people are susceptible to divide-and-conquer manipulation by demagogic elites for their own selfish ambition. We and they represent a dichotomization of we, ergo, a diminution of we. Greater furcation implies increasing diminution. We assume superpower status through solidarity. Through solidarity is the path to peace.
That a person could rise to be president of the US, and garner a pair of university degrees along the way despite an aversion to reading is amazing. Yet Bush’s failure to heed Machiavelli might prove empire’s and his own undoing. Machiavelli delineated a “general rule, which never or rarely fails, that the Prince who causes another to become powerful thereby works his own ruin.” (49) Bush’s “focus group” is preparing to flex again the power of the people. On 20 March the forces of the antiwar movement will coalesce again to asseverate a shared humanity opposed to the spillage of blood. Conditional upon the turnout on this day and maintaining the momentum generated thereafter, the superpower of peace might prove the ruination of the neoconservatives’ dreams of hyper empire.
Kim Petersen is a writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(1) Martin Merzer, Ron Hutcheson, and Drew Brown, “War begins in Iraq with strikes aimed at ‘leadership targets,’” Knight Ridder Newspapers, 20 March 2003
(2) Kim Petersen, “Why Israel is So Relevant Vis-à-Vis Iraq: The Politics of Hypocrisy,” Dissident Voice, 15 February 2003
(3) Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince (Wordsworth Classics, 1997), p 8
(4) Julian Borger, “Admit WMD mistake, survey chief tells Bush,” The Guardian, 3 March 2004
(5) quoted in Jim Lobe, “Chalabi, Garner Provide New Clues to War,” Dissident Voice, 21 February 2004
(6) John Pilger, “2001: Powell & Rice Declare Iraq Has No WMD and Is Not a Threat,” The Memory Hole, 1 October 2003
(7) John Marquand, “The
British-US axis no longer makes any sense: Why Blair dressed up war
realpolitik in dodgy moralistic rhetoric,” The Guardian, 21
(8) Seymour Hersh, “Overwhelming Force: What happened in the final days of the Gulf War?” The New Yorker, 22 May 2000
(9) Michael Christ, “The Human Cost of War With Iraq,” International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, 24 August 2002
(10) Peter David, “Saddam is a real threat,” openDemocracy, 3 December 2002
(11) Saul Landau, “No threat from Iraq,” openDemocracy, 29 November 2002
(12) Kim Petersen, “The Real Threat,” openDemocracy, 16 December 2002
(13) Robert Fisk, “Gunned down with abandon,” International Clearing House, 22 February 2004
(14) Monica Mehta, “Counting Casualties,” Mother Jones, 27 January 1999
(15) Letter, “Civilian War Deaths in Iraq,” Wanniski.com, 21 August 2003
(16) John Sloboda and Hamit Dardagan, “Civilian deaths in ‘noble’ Iraq mission pass 10,000,” Iraq Body Count, 7 February 2004
(17) Paul de
Military Death Toll While Enforcing the Occupation of Iraq:
(18) personal communication
(19) personal communication
(20) John Broder, “Number of Iraqi Dead May Be Unknowable,” New York Times, 10 April 2003
(21) Paul Rogers, “Broken lives, bitter hearts,” openDemocracy, 8 April 2003
(22) personal communication
(23) Babak Rahimi, “Social Death and War: US Media Representations of Sacrifice in the Iraq War,” Bad Subjects, April 2003
(24) Deb Riechmann, “Iraqi military death toll a mystery,” Anchorage Daily News, 8 April 2004
(25) Eric Millikin, “Some facts about death in Iraq.” Talk About Comics, 16 April 2003
(26) personal communication
(27) Beth Daponte, “Why Estimate Direct and Indirect Casualties from War? The Rule of Proportionality and Casualty Estimates,” under review
(28) “2 of 5 Gulf War vets on disability: 209,000 make VA claims, 161,000 getting payments,” World Net Daily, 25 January 2004
(29) Carl von Clausewitz, On War (Wordsworth Classics, 1997) p 64
(30) Glenn Frankel, U.S. Mulled Seizing Oil Fields In ‘73: British Memo Cites Notion of Sending Airborne to Mideast,” Washington Post, 1 January 2004
(31) Chris Hedges, War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning (Anchor Books, 2003) p146
(32) Sun Tzu, The Art of War (Oxford University Press, 1971)
(33) von Clausewitz, op. cit., p 103
(34) Smedley Butler, War is a Racket (Noontide Press, 1984)
(35) quoted in Matthew Rothschild, “Jim Hightower,” The Progressive, November 2003
(36) Daponte, op. cit.
(37) von Clausewitz, op. cit., p 189
(39) quoted in Robert Dreyfuss, “Phoenix Rising,” The American Prospect, 1 January 2004
(40) David Walsh, “Washington
conceals US casualties in Iraq,” World Socialist Web Site,
(41) Rogers, “Triangulation,” openDemocracy, 19 February 2004
(42) Machiavelli, op. cit., p 47
(43) Ronald Kessler, Inside the CIA (Pocket Books, 1992) p 51
(44) Machiavelli, op. cit., p 118
(45) Ibid, p 21
(46) personal communication
(47) Hedges, op. cit., p 13-14
(48) Rahimi, op. cit.
(49) Machiavelli, op. cit., p 14
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