was just a brief item published in the New York Times,
reporting yet another attack on our soldiers in Iraq: one
American paratrooper killed, six wounded. At first glance,
G.I. Killed in New Attack in Falluja" gave no hint of
the horror behind the headline, but in the second of four
paragraphs we read this:
civilians were killed in the clash, including one whose family
said he was shot by the Americans after they detained him.
In the hospital where the bodies were taken, the man, Nazem
Baji, had a gunshot wound in the back of his head and his
hands were tied in front of him with plastic bands similar
to those used by the United States military when they arrest
hail the American "liberators" of Iraq the bearers of "democracy"
We're shooting handcuffed prisoners in the back of the head,
instantly "liberating" their souls from their bodies. Coming
on the heels of a similar incident, this
one involving the suffocation death of an Iraqi prisoner
held in a U.S. detention camp, the Iraqis (and others) may
be forgiven for wondering: Are the Americans monsters?
They're just plain, ordinary people, neither demons nor saints,
plopped down in the middle of an impossible conundrum, ordered
to win a war that is essentially unwinnable using methods
acceptable to the American public and international law. Many are reservists
imagined they'd wind up policing a conquered province,
weekend warriors who have neither the skills nor the desire
to fight on the farthest frontiers of the Empire. And they're
deserting, not yet in droves, but in significant numbers
given how early it is in what promises
to be a protracted
the Washington Post so delicately puts it, "Soldiers
Miss Flights Back to Iraq." Reading further, however, it is
clear these furloughed GIs didn't just oversleep, or get stalled
in traffic: they are gone. And those are just the ones
we know about.
part of the "good news" offensive recently launched by the
administration, we are treated to the news of the latest Gallup
door-to-door poll of Baghdad residents, where a resounding
71 percent supposedly want the U.S. to stay. Which means there's
a lot more enthusiasm for the occupation among the occupied
than there is among the occupiers.
recent survey taken by Stars & Stripes, the
quasi-official newspaper of the American military, shows that
US troops are only slightly less disgusted by this rotten
war than the civilian population. While the latter are just
about evenly split on the war question, 31 percent of U.S.
soldiers surveyed said the war wasn't worthwhile. (Interestingly,
while 28 percent say it was "very worthwhile," only 8 percent
report their own personal morale as being "very high," while
a mere 3 percent rate their unit's morale as "very high.")
What portends imminent disaster, however, is the startling
statistic that 18 percent say their mission is "mostly not
clear," while 17 percent say it is "not clear at all."
soldiers in the front lines are not moral monsters, but the
who put them there sure as hell are. They were given
ample warning by military professionals, who
this disaster before it ever unfolded. They are putting
youngsters in the field, and implicitly asking them to commit
war crimes -and many are deserting rather than be forced
to choose between conscience and country. It's an outrage,
and one can only wonder how long this can be permitted to
reservists are in open
revolt against the new imperial style of the American
military, being imposed from on high by Rumsfeld and his neocon
deployments, open-ended commitments, "peacekeeping" duty
in wartime circumstances all these have taken their toll
on the U.S. military. From the answers to the question about
reenlistment in the Stars & Stripes poll, it
looks like half won't reenlist. An empire must be policed
but where will we get the troops? Rumsfeld isn't saying
he's opposed to sending more troops to Iraq because he's suddenly
become a peacenik. There aren't any more troops to send.
we could "win" this war by engaging in tactics similar to
those employed by our Israeli allies, who have been urging
us to adopt their methods. I doubt we'd get too far with
the idea of implanting American settlements in Iraq, but perhaps
model of repression might be utilized in other ways. We're
already imitating it, at least symbolically, in Dhuluaya,
a small town 50 miles north of Baghdad , where thousand-year-old
fruit trees were bulldozed in retaliation for local farmers
refusing to inform on guerrilla fighters just as the Israelis
similarly ancient olive trees in their occupied territories.
How long before we must turn Iraqis into prisoners in their
own country, or else concede defeat?
have no taste for empire-building, complains Niall
Ferguson, author of Empire:
How Britain Made the Modern World. He doesn't mean
it as a compliment, but it is. Unlike the British at the
height of their power, Americans want to be liked, rather
than feared. They also, perhaps naively, believe themselves
incapable of the atrocities we're beginning to hear reports
of in Iraq: if they occurred, then it was an aberration. Yet
that doesn't get the Americans off the hook.
are right to point out that, in our system, war
crimes are prosecuted. Yes, but that's a problem when
the policy makes such crimes inevitable. By asking our military
to perform an impossible task pacifying a country that
refuses to submit
our leaders are setting up the men and women of the U.S.
military for vilification and possible prosecution.
In that sense, this war is just like Vietnam: another
conflict on the Asian landmass that cannot be sustained.
the antiwar movement wants to do something useful, then perhaps
they'll take action on the slogan "Support Our Troops Bring
them home now!" by organizing resistance to U.S. policy where
it counts in the American military.
message to the soldiers must be simple and direct: this
is a set-up.
up, soldier: the War Party is using you, as war supporter
admitted, to lure every terrorist group in the Middle
East into the Iraqi "fly trap." That's how the War Party thinks
of American soldiers: as human bait. No wonder General
Zinni and a host of other top military figures spoke out
against this war before it began. Now is the time for them
to raise their voices once again.
to this war among the American military stationed in Iraq,
and elsewhere, would send a powerful message to our rulers.
That's why we need to support the families of reservists yanked
out of their jobs, support those who may have "missed"
their plane back, demand to know why our
soldiers aren't getting the best possible medical care
and keep campaigning to get us out.
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