Friday, June 20, 2008

"Women and children first" (21st century edition)

Found over at The Fanonite (another blog worthy of regular readership). I'd say the picture speaks for itself. But for those needing a translation, let me offer you a sampler of items that will be of assistance. Given the news that the major oil conglomerates are now finally poised to profit off the carnage that has been wrought, maybe a few lines from my essay, The Iraq War Debacle Was Truly a Debacle For Some, would be a good place to begin:
The narrative we usually receive from center-left (as narrowly defined in the US) is of a war that was poorly executed. Get some competent folks in the White House, and Iraq will be put back together again.

The far less feel-good narrative is that those who pushed for and executed the war knew exactly what they were doing, and are quite comfortable with the massive human displacement that has resulted. In other contexts, it gets referred to as "shock therapy," and indeed Naomi Klein refers to Iraq as just one more test case for Friedmanesque neoliberalism in her recent book, The Shock Doctrine (here's a video that gives you some idea of what to expect from the book - not a substitute for reading the book of course!!). Heck, RickB of Ten Percent makes something of a reference to Klein's book in his post The Surge Doctrine - which is what turned me on to the article I just excerpted (a tip o' the hat to you RickB!). The complete drain of qualified scholars and technicians has guaranteed that Iraq - or whatever it eventually becomes - will be stuck with US and UK firms running the country (for a hefty fee, of course), while the rest of the government is little more than a hollowed-out shell. For some corporate executives, it's quite a racket they're running. The masses of now-disposable humanity, kept largely out of sight and out of mind is by design. Those few Iraqis who manage to make any semblance of a living there will accept ridiculously low wages without complaint for fear of losing even that pittance. As long as the chaos remains contained outside of The Green Zone, everything is just hunky-dory.

In another context, Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatistas referred to the mass-displacement caused by NAFTA as genocidal. That would seem quite an apt summary of what's going on in Iraq.
In the follow-up to that essay I strongly recommended Naomi Klein's writing on the topic. Although estimates of the death toll in Iraq vary, the ballpark figure of one million seems to be fairly reasonable. The vast majority of these folks were civilians (often women and children) who've been killed from 40,000 pound bombs, cluster bombs, depleted uranium bombs, and white phosphorous dropped from US war planes. The term "urbicide" has been used to characterize that war, and although the genocidal nature of urbicide should be obvious enough (Fallujah, like Guernica nearly seven decades before it), our elites seem to find its effects "reassuring". In addition to those killed directly from the US occupation, there are some 4.2 million displaced as a result of the US invasion and occupation. As I discussed in Structural Violence and the Iraqi Death Toll:
The displaced are systematically deprived of the basics for survival, resulting in poverty, malnutrition, premature death. That's what structural violence is. The physical harm suffered in this case usually falls underneath the mass-media radar because it is less salient, less spectacular than deaths due to IEDs or aerial bombing raids. The structural violence in this case (as is true of various colonial genocides of the past) will also fall underneath the radar because it is built into the very fabric of the oppressors' worldview. Starvation and malnutrition for example are simply written off as "those savages cannot take care of themselves." The more liberal of the oppressors might even acknowledge such phenomena as partially their responsibility, but cheerfully contend that in the end "it was worth it" as Madeleine Albright said of the half million Iraqi children under five who had died as a result of economic sanctions during the 1990s.

The deaths caused from the stress of being displaced, and without access to fundamental human needs for survival are no less real, even if they don't make their way to the front page of New Pravda or cause CNN to break away from its coverage of the latest Britney Spears meltdown. Sooner or later, there will be a price to be paid. Bet on it.
Americans may not wish to occupy their beautiful minds with such thoughts, but unless or until then, the bloodshed will be continued unabated. As I mentioned at the time,
We're largely desensitized to violence. We see it all the time. We play video games where we too can be murderers and tortures - at least in a virtual reality. We've been fed plenty of propaganda about the so-called savages who populate the Middle East and Central Asia, and about the supposed danger that practitioners of Islam pose. They've been dehumanized with such terms as "camel jockeys," "sand niggers," and "hadjis," much in the same way that a previous generation used terms like "gooks" as part of an effort to dehumanize another set of human beings on another part of the globe. Same act, different scene.
The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public; an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading – as a last resort – all other justifications having failed to justify themselves – as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people.
It's part of my value system to believe that nothing good comes out of lying. Contrary to the neoconmen who have been hell-bent to run the show in DC, there is no such thing as "the noble lie." Some lies are more egregious than others, and I would offer that the pack of lies that has led to over 2100 US deaths, somewhere between 30,000 and 100,000 Iraqi deaths, and countless thousands of others permanently maimed and all psychologically damaged is particularly egregious. We all will be paying a hefty price for what has gone down these last two and a half years and counting.
We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it 'bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East'.

How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand? More than enough, I would have thought. Therefore it is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the International Criminal Court of Justice. But Bush has been clever. He has not ratified the International Criminal Court of Justice. Therefore if any American soldier or for that matter politician finds himself in the dock Bush has warned that he will send in the marines. But Tony Blair has ratified the Court and is therefore available for prosecution. We can let the Court have his address if they're interested. It is Number 10, Downing Street, London.

Death in this context is irrelevant. Both Bush and Blair place death well away on the back burner. At least 100,000 Iraqis were killed by American bombs and missiles before the Iraq insurgency began. These people are of no moment. Their deaths don't exist. They are blank. They are not even recorded as being dead. 'We don't do body counts,' said the American general Tommy Franks.
That tells you all you need to know about the elites who perpetrated this war.
Early in the invasion there was a photograph published on the front page of British newspapers of Tony Blair kissing the cheek of a little Iraqi boy. 'A grateful child,' said the caption. A few days later there was a story and photograph, on an inside page, of another four-year-old boy with no arms. His family had been blown up by a missile. He was the only survivor. 'When do I get my arms back?' he asked. The story was dropped. Well, Tony Blair wasn't holding him in his arms, nor the body of any other mutilated child, nor the body of any bloody corpse. Blood is dirty. It dirties your shirt and tie when you're making a sincere speech on television.
We mustn't get "dirty" or worry our "beautiful minds" with such matters, eh?
Arthur Silber does a wonderful job of conveying the bloody realities of war that should be must reading. It is a necessary tonic for the usual propagandized version of the so-called "good wars". I also made mention of just how sanitized the language of war and empire is,
Phrases like "the American people" give the air of consensus, although in truth such consensus may not exist. Don't even get me started on terms like "freedom" and "democracy" which in the context of defending US policies have a different meaning than most of us would give those terms. As Wittgenstein might have said, it's a good idea to know the rules of the language games that our government employs in order to truly understand what they are saying.
The truth is, the War on Terror is a War OF Terror - one that has outright slaughtered over a million (certainly once one adds Afghanistan and Somalia to the mix) as well as starvation and disease resulting for millions more as a result of mass displacement, with the potential for much more in the years to come. The Democrats, who ran in 2006 on a misleading campaign to end the Iraq War have managed to not only fail to end it, but continue to generously fund the continued slaughter. They will likely do so over the next several years even if they have the absolute power that comes with the White House and Congressional majorities, contrary to their apologists on the usual partisan blogs. Like their neocon colleagues, they see the US war machine as "The Splendid Blond Beast."

So, why do you support?

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