Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The man who (over)sold the war

According to Douglas Feith, that would be his former boss. Apparently he claims not to have been terribly enamored by all the propaganda the White House was spewing at the time about bringing "democracy" to Iraq, thinking that they should have played the "national security" card instead. He seems especially sore at the focus that has been aimed at all those false statements made by the White House about Iraq's alleged legendary WMD (which were eventually downgraded to WMD programs and then WMD-related activities, and I suppose eventually dreams of WMD-related activities). He of course uses the well-worn canard "even the Democrats believed it back in the 1990s". It's true enough that you could find plenty of folks in Congress (and yes, the Clintonistas in the White House) who were using that as a propaganda ploy for further economic sanctions and of course the periodic "humanitarian" air strike (of which plenty1 can be said of the damaging consequences2). Feith completely misses, however, the skeptics who existed long before the Iraq War's current phase was even a neocon wet dream, who toiled in relative obscurity, and who weren't necessarily tied to either of the establishment US political parties. Heck, I was one of those skeptics.

There was plenty of propaganda, folks. The Crawford Caligula, his cronies, and plenty of talking heads in the press yapped about all sorts of reasons for the mass slaughter and displacement of Iraqi civilians - including the usual "humanitarian" drivel, spreading "democracy" and "freedom" to the Iraqis, the alleged national security threat posed by Iraq (why else would there have been an effort to link Saddam Hussein to 9-11 and al Qaida?) ad nauseum. Hidden in the background, of course were issues of maintaining and expanding US hegemony, opening up the oil spigots to corporate cronies, funneling money to war profiteers3, and of course the potential threat that Hussein's regime posed to the almighty US Dollar.

Contra Feith, the last thing we needed was a better sales pitch for continuing the carnage. What was needed was the very thing that Feith and his cronies feared most: truth.


1. From William Blum's Anti-Empire Report (June 21, 2006):
Loss of a functioning educational system. A 2005 UN study revealed that 84% of the higher education establishments have been "destroyed, damaged and robbed".

The intellectual stock has been further depleted as many thousands of academics and other professionals have fled abroad or have been mysteriously kidnapped or assassinated in Iraq; hundreds of thousands, perhaps a million, other Iraqis, most of them from the vital, educated middle class, have left for Jordan, Syria or Egypt, many after receiving death threats. "Now I am isolated," said a middle-class Sunni Arab, who decided to leave. "I have no government. I have no protection from the government. Anyone can come to my house, take me, kill me and throw me in the trash."[2]

Loss of a functioning health care system. And loss of the public's health. Deadly infections including typhoid and tuberculosis are rampaging through the country. Iraq's network of hospitals and health centers, once admired throughout the Middle East, has been severely damaged by the war and looting.

The UN's World Food Program reported that 400,000 Iraqi children were suffering from "dangerous deficiencies of protein". Deaths from malnutrition and preventable diseases, particularly amongst children, already a problem because of the 12 years of US-imposed sanctions, have increased as poverty and disorder have made access to a proper diet and medicines ever more difficult.

Thousands of Iraqis have lost an arm or a leg, frequently from unexploded US cluster bombs, which became land mines; cluster bombs are a class of weapons denounced by human rights groups as a cruelly random scourge on civilians, especially children.

Depleted uranium particles, from exploded US ordnance, float in the Iraqi air, to be breathed into human bodies and to radiate forever, and infect the water, the soil, the blood, the genes, producing malformed babies. During the few weeks of war in spring 2003, A10 "tankbuster" planes, which use munitions containing depleted uranium, fired 300,000 rounds.

And the use of napalm as well. And white phosphorous.

The American military has assaulted hospitals to prevent them from giving out casualty figures from US bombing attacks that contradicted official US figures, which the hospitals had been in the habit of doing.

Numerous homes have been broken into by US forces, the men taken away, the women humiliated, the children traumatized; on many occasions, the family has said that the American soldiers helped themselves to some of the family's money. Iraq has had to submit to a degrading national strip search.

Destruction and looting of the country's ancient heritage, perhaps the world's greatest archive of the human past, left unprotected by the US military, busy protecting oil facilities.

A nearly lawless society: Iraq's legal system, outside of the political sphere, was once one of the most impressive and secular in the Middle East; it is now a shambles; religious law more and more prevails.

Women's rights previously enjoyed are now in great and growing danger under harsh Islamic law, to one extent or another in various areas. There is today a Shiite religious ruling class in Iraq, which tolerates physical attacks on women for showing a bare arm or for picnicking with a male friend. Men can be harassed for wearing shorts in public, as can children playing outside in shorts.

Sex trafficking, virtually nonexistent previously, has become a serious issue.

Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims have lost much of the security they had enjoyed in Saddam's secular society; many have emigrated.

A gulag of prisons run by the US and the new Iraqi government feature a wide variety of torture and abuse -- physical, psychological, emotional; painful, degrading, humiliating; leading to mental breakdown, death, suicide; a human-rights disaster area.

Over 50,000 Iraqis have been imprisoned by US forces since the invasion, but only a very tiny portion of them have been convicted of any crime.

US authorities have recruited members of Saddam Hussein's feared security service to expand intelligence gathering and root out the resistance.

Unemployment is estimated to be around fifty percent. Massive layoffs of hundreds of thousands of Baathist government workers and soldiers by the American occupation authority set the process in motion early on. Later, many, desperate for work, took positions tainted by a connection to the occupation, placing themselves in grave danger of being kidnapped or murdered.

The cost of living has skyrocketed. Income levels have plummeted.

The Kurds of Northern Iraq evict Arabs from their homes. Arabs evict Kurds in other parts of the country.

Many people were evicted from their homes because they were Baathist. US troops took part in some of the evictions. They have also demolished homes in fits of rage over the killing of one of their buddies.

When US troops don't find who they're looking for, they take who's there; wives have been held until the husband turns himself in, a practice which Hollywood films stamped in the American mind as being a particular evil of the Nazis; it's also collective punishment of civilians and is forbidden under the Geneva Convention.

Continual American bombing assaults on neighborhoods has left an uncountable number of destroyed homes, workplaces, mosques, bridges, roads, and everything else that goes into the making of modern civilized life.

Haditha, Fallujah, Samarra, Ramadi ... names that will live in infamy for the wanton destruction, murder, and assaults upon human beings and human rights carried out in those places by US forces.

At one time or another, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been forced to become displaced refugees because their city was made uninhabitable by American air and ground attacks, as in Fallujah.

The supply of safe drinking water, effective sewage disposal, and reliable electricity have all generally been below pre-invasion levels, producing constant hardship for the public, in temperatures reaching 115 degrees. To add to the misery, people wait all day in the heat to purchase gasoline, due in part to oil production, the country's chief source of revenue, being less than half its previous level.

The water and sewage system and other elements of the infrastructure had been purposely (sic) destroyed by US bombing in the first Gulf War of 1991. By 2003, the Iraqis had made great strides in repairing the most essential parts of it. Then came Washington's renewed bombing.

Civil war, death squads, kidnapping, car bombs, rape, each and every day ... Iraq has become the most dangerous place on earth. American soldiers and private security companies regularly kill people and leave the bodies lying in the street; US-trained Iraqi military and police forces kill even more, as does the insurgency. An entire new generation is growing up on violence and sectarian ethics; this will poison the Iraqi psyche for many years to come.

US intelligence and military police officers often free dangerous criminals in return for a promise to spy on insurgents.

Iraqis protesting about various issues have been shot by US forces on several occasions.

At other times, the US has killed, wounded and jailed reporters from Al Jazeera television, closed the station's office, bombed the office, and banned it from certain areas because occupation officials didn't like the news the station was reporting. The Al Jazeera office was bombed even though the staff had made a point of giving the US their exact GPS coordinates. Other newspapers as well have been closed for what they have printed.The Pentagon has planted paid-for news articles in the Iraqi press to serve propaganda purposes.

2. From Chomsky's Hegemony or Survival (pp. 126-128):
The 1991 war, involving the purposeful destruction of water, power, and sewage systems, took a terrible toll, and the sanctions regime imposed by the US and UK drove the country to the level of bare survival. As one illustration, UNICEF's 2003 Report on the State of the World's Children states that "Iraq's regression over the past decade is by far the most severe of the 193 countries surveyed," with the child death rate, "the best single indicator of child welfare," increasing from 50 to 133 per 1,000 live births, placing Iraq below every country outside Africa apart from Cambodia and Afghanistan. Two hawkish military analysts observe that "economic sanctions may well have been a necessary [sic] cause of the deaths of more people in Iraq than have been slain by all so-called weapons of mass destruction throughout history," in the hundreds of thousands according to conservative estimates.

... Academic researcher Joy Gordon ... learned enough, as have others, to reveal a shameful record of deliberate cruelty and efforts pursued "aggressively throughout the last decade to purposefully minimize the humanitarian goods that enter the country ... in the face of enormous human suffering, including massive increases in child mortality and widespread epidemics." The US blocked water tankers from reaching Iraq on grounds so spurious that they were rejected by UN arms experts, "this during a time when the major cause of child deaths was lack of access to clean drinking water, and when the country was in the midst of a drought." Washington insisted that vaccines for infant diseases be withheld until it was compelled to back down in the face of vigorous protest by UNICEF and the World Health Organization, supported by European biological weapons experts, who charged that the dual-use claims by the US were "flatly impossible."

3. See the excellent analysis by Michael Schwartz in the February 13, 2008 edition of Asia Times, "Iraq's broken pieces don't fit together." I summarized and expanded on some of that article here. I would also strongly recommend Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine, for an analysis of why the Iraq War in its current phase was really implemented - an excerpt of which can be found at Alternet.

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