Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Chris Floyd on the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War

Chris Floyd has been on fire:
So here we are. Ten years on from the frenzied paroxysm (or was it an orgasm?) of mass violence -- which was itself the culmination of years of the bipartisan war-by-sanctions that American officials have openly acknowledged killed more than half a million Iraqi children -- what is the central "moral" issue of our national politics today? This once-unimaginable, horribly depraved and obscene question: Should the president be allowed to murder any American citizen he chooses, or should there perhaps be be some kind of secret Congressional oversight of the secret killing program? (The idea of restricting the president's power to kill any filthy foreigner he chooses is not in question anywhere in our national politics, of course; Rand Paul wasn't filibustering against that idea. No, any debate on the "ethics" of state murder is restricted to its application to Americans, who, as we know, are the only fully human beings on the face of the earth.)

Given the current trajectory of our plunge into barbarism, I predict that in just a few years we'll be "debating" whether the president has the right to stick the severed heads of "terrorists" on spikes outside the White House, or if the heads should be passed around discreetly to members of the relevant Senate committees before being dumped in the ocean.

Tenth anniversary: Fragments of writing from March 2003 (with commentary)

Image caption: 'Photo-Op' by Martha Rosler, from the article "House Beautiful Iraq"

Image caption: Falluja/Guernica, 2004 by Rob Landeros (found at Gernika)

What can I say? Time flies. Ten years seems like a lifetime in many respects. And yet here we are, at the cusp of the tenth anniversary of the most recent phase of the Iraq War - largely an escalation of what had already begun under George Bush I and Bill Clinton. Since many of the forces of darkness who advocated that particular debacle in the desert seem to see fit to advocate "regime change" and "humanitarian intervention" elsewhere in the Middle East, Northern Africa, and Central Asia, and as other Very Serious People who claim to be liberal or progressive tend to remain rather silent, it is worth a reminder that there were voices of resistance - in rather substantial numbers back then (as the sheer number of protesters should have indicated).

Although I might have more to say about all that later, for I'm taking a trip down memory lane. In March 2003 I did not as of yet have a blog, but did post to message boards and usenet groups of one sort or another. I didn't really go out of my way to archive much of what I might have written at the time, as it was largely in the form of off-the-cuff remarks. That said, here are a few fragments that capture where I was at in late March of that year. I'll try to provide some context for these fragmentary comments wherever possible.

March 18, 2003

Note - In response to a conversation regarding the alleged accuracy of the so-called smart bombs to be used in the opening bombing raids:
Well, one way to interpret the "shock and awe" strategy is that the massive bombings will end up creating massive collateral damage. The "smart bombs" aren't that smart.
Note - I expected that the Iraq War would escalate conflict, especially in the Middle East and Central Asia:
If I were the leader of one of the so-called "axis of evil" nations, I'd be pushing to get armed to the teeth with whatever weaponry possible, including biological, chemical, and even nuclear weapons, if for no other reason than because of the realization that the U.S. won't stop with Iraq & that if one's country is on the list of nations to be invaded, at least those invasions would be more costly to the U.S.
March 20, 2003

Note - Regarding a conversation on the continuing world-wide protests as the war started:
Many of us did not ask for this waste of a war. We have a voice too. Bring on the noise. Word.
March 21, 2003

Note - The last part of the following sentence captures my thoughts about the actual motivation for the US invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq:
Makes me wonder if Bush et al ever bothered to listen to Iraqi citizens, or if (as I suspect is way more likely) they simply made the decision to impose their vision of manifest destiny in which Iraqis are viewed strictly as sharecroppers on those Oil plantations.
Note - A bit of sarcasm aimed at some of the happy talk that permeated the opening days of the war:
The U$ has made the world safe for SUV owners everywhere. The companies will be pleased.
March 23, 2003

Note - In response to the well-worn canard that the US was "fighting terrorists in Iraq to make Americans safer at home" I wanted to point out our own home-grown right-wing Christian fundamentalist terrorists:
I'd be willing to wager all 5 cents of my life savings that the vast majority of the people being "shocked and awed" are underpaid working stiffs like me, who simply could not afford to leave.

Sometimes I find it a good idea to look close to home. How many terrorists are our major cities harboring? (i.e., people who bomb family planning clinics & target staff of these clinics for assassination; people who burn crosses in front of the homes of African-Americans, who set fire to mosques & churches, and so forth).
March 26, 2003

Note - Another response illustrating my skepticism about the US government's motives for embarking on the war:
I suppose the best way to put this is that I don't buy the premise that the war has anything to do with the human rights situation in Iraq. The Reagan/Bush crowd in the 1980s didn't give a damn back then, and the current Bush crowd doesn't give a damn now. If it suited the purposes of our government, they'd gladly place another brutal dictator in power there and politely ignore the plight of Iraqi civilians (provided of course that the dictator in question cooperates with our government).
I thought that the war was an awful idea from the get-go, having at various points prior expressed skepticism about the initial rationale for the war (i.e., the alleged WMDs that turned out to be non-existent) as well as all the b.s. about democratizing Iraq, ad nauseum. I was convinced that the people who would be hurt the most were going to be low-income Iraqi civilian families, and that 21st century equivalents of Guernica and Dresden were likely to transpire before all was said and done. Indeed, if anything, the events that have transpired in the six years since the war started have been in a number of respects worse than I could have imagined. An Iraqi death toll estimated at around one million only captures part of the story. There's also the distress caused to the friends and relatives of those murdered by the "Coalition" (don't forget the mercenaries) the massive number of injured, human displacement, disease, torture, and social death experienced by those who had the misfortune of merely being in the way of the US war machine to be considered. We'll still need to come to terms with the likelihood that Iraq was yet another "laboratory" for predatory neoliberal capitalist ventures, and that the chaos caused by the war is even desirable in the eyes of our ruling class.

There is no comfort to be found in being correct; only a really bad feeling at the pit of one's stomach that the various efforts to raise awareness of the lies leading up to the war as well as the likely consequences of going to war simply failed to prevent the massive loss of lives since it all began on March 19, 2003. That day will indeed live in infamy.

Unless or until a critical mass of folks get it through their skulls that the mentality that the US owns the planet is not only incorrect but dangerous, the blood of innocents will continue to be spilled. As one might gather from the fragments, I might have been somewhat more optimistic back then. I certainly would have given the ruling class too much credit in even suggesting that any of them would bother to listen to Iraqis and their concerns - inside The Beltway (along with usual cronies on Wall Street), the Iraqis were never more than fauna. Turning to members of the ruling class to get it together and stop the warmongering is not where it's at - almost without exception, they've been drinking that fire water for far too long. The summary of the last ten years can be boiled down to a title to an essay by fellow blogger Arthur Silber: over one million murdered, and nothing has been learned. As far as the US elites are concerned, there is nothing to learn - other than how to commit genocide more efficiently. No, the critical mass I'm thinking about is to come from us - just ordinary folks. We're the ones who will have to say "enough is enough" in words and deeds.

Note: This is my traditional anniversary post. I've slightly updated it from previous years.