March 29, 2007

When the Deaths of the Innocent Do Not Matter

Matt Taibbi describes with highly accurate precision the true nature of the pathetic, stinking charade that has just taken place in Congress:
As for everyone else -- specifically, the Democrats who sponsored and passed the timetable measure -- they benefited from the bill most directly, riding a crest of antiwar sentiment and setting the Democrats up as the party that will look the best in the eyes of frustrated, war-fatigued voters in 2008. But lost amid all of this antiwar posturing were a series of inconvenient truths. One was that the bill was always going to be meaningless because Bush was always going to veto it, there were never going to be enough votes to override the veto, and everybody knew there were never going to be enough votes to override the veto. The second is that the timetable measure was buried in an emergency spending bill to pay for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, a bill that ended up authorizing $122 billion in spending when the supposedly evil, warmongering, politically isolated Bush White House only asked for $103 billion. In other words, the outwardly combative Democratic leadership not only refused to do anything substantive to bring the troops home, it actually tossed Bush an extra $20 billion for the war effort without prodding.

In my visits to Washington in the past few months I've heard different stories from Democratic congressional aides about what the party's intentions are. Some say they think the leadership is just going to stall and pass a bunch of non-binding, symbolic, Kumbayah horseshit to help propel whoever the Democratic candidate is into the White House two years from now. Others claim with a straight face that all of these non-binding resolutions are only a start, that the strategy is to really end the war via a death-by-a-thousand-cuts type of legislative grind, with the leadership sending to the floor bill after bill after bill designed to eat away at either war policy or war funding. They claim that all of these votes are exercises in coalition-building, necessary steps to gathering the support needed to pass real biting measures later on.

But I'll believe that when I see it. Right now, it all looks too convenient.


My sense of this whole ballet from the start has been that with each passing season, as the antiwar rhetoric increases both among the public and in Washington, we'll see a corresponding increase in both financial and personnel commitment in the Iraq theater. The logic here is irresistible; Bush will not preside over what he perceives to be a surrender, and the Democrats will not cast a vote "against the troops" in an election season. So what we'll get is a lot of what we just saw -- non-binding antiwar votes hitched to troop increases and/or "short-term" funding boosts. It's worth noting that the same political logic that led the Bush White House to fund the war as an emergency long after it ceased to be an unexpected expenditure will now appeal to the Democrats, and for the same reason; so long as the money is in an "emergency" bill, they will be able to pretend, before voters, that the commitment is temporary.

What worries me about this state of affairs is that presidents don't like to see military losses land on their watch. If a Democrat wins in '08, bet on it, an excuse will be found to keep the troops there. The first day after her inauguration, when Hillary Clinton wakes up with a champagne hangover to hear Mark Daley (or whoever her chief of staff ends up being) tell her that 67 Marines have been slaughtered in a raid outside Ramadi, she is going to be powerfully tempted to prove that she has the stones to deal out the necessary payback. She'll ask for 10,000 extra troops and six months to "stabilize" the situation before initiating a withdrawal.

And once that happens, we'll be right back where we are now -- pretending we're against it, but without a way to actually make it happen while covering the requisite number of Washington asses. That's always what it comes down to, after all.
One of the primary ways in which evil advances is by means of people's refusal to see the connection between their actions and their ultimate results. As I have often pointed out, those results are felt by specific, individual human beings. These are not finally abstract questions of "policy" or of intentionally unenforceable "timetables": these are people's lives -- and people's deaths. So let's make the connection that almost everyone struggles to avoid. Here is the approximate tally for only a single day, yesterday:
Heavy violence continued overnight in Tal Afar where retaliatory attacks for yesterday’s massive twin bombing left scores dead. Overall, at least 166 Iraqis were reported killed or found dead and another 146 were wounded throughout the country. Also, a Marine was killed in Anbar province yesterday, another GI died of non-combat related illness, and three British soldiers were wounded in separate incidents in Basra.
And Dave Lindorff wrote, about the non-binding "timetable" in the House bill:
Despite polls showing that 6 in 10 Americans want the U.S. out of Iraq asap, the best that this crew can come up with is a call-not binding, of course-for the president to pull out the troops by next spring or even summer. That would be over a year from now, and more than five years (!) into this criminal and incredibly stupid war.

At the rate things have been going, it would also be perhaps 1000 more dead Americans, 14,000 more gravely wounded Americans, and 100-150,000 more dead Iraqis later.
As I suggested once before, try to make those figures real to yourself: remember the five-year-old Iraqi girl. Remember her family, and her friends. Make fully real to yourself all the lives that have been irrevocably shattered, all the bodies that have been ripped apart, all the souls that have been turned to cinder.

That is what this Congress has chosen to fund for at least another year. Endless death, endless maiming, endless slaughter, dismemberment, and putrid, rotting flesh, countless lives destroyed and deformed forever. Could you vote to pay for this? If you could, I pray we never meet.

And all in a war that we never had any right to begin, and that we have no right to continue for even a single second more. Congress could simply choose not to fund the war any further at all (there is sufficient money already allocated to bring U.S. troops safely home) -- but that would require that they have courage, that they have moral confidence in the rightness of their cause, and that they are able to offer an argument in response to the entirely predictable smears that will be thrown at them. But they have none of those traits, so these stinking, repugnant sloths try merely to position themselves for maximum electoral advantage in 2008. And every day, more people are murdered, and more lives are destroyed.

I offer you two examples of profound courage from our own past: Robert La Follette, and Thomas B. Reed. There is no one today who begins to approach the stature of those men. One such person could begin to change our nation's course, even now.

There was more I had planned to include in this entry, but I don't have the heart for it at the moment. Perhaps later today, or tomorrow.

How many more people will be killed and maimed today, and tomorrow, and the next day? And there is not even one prominent national voice that regularly, forcefully, and passionately identifies the immense evil that we continue to commit every hour of every day.

It is inconceivable that anyone can still honestly wonder "why they hate us." In view of what we have done around the world for the last several decades, the answer is starkly obvious. And we continue to do it today, we will do it tomorrow, and we will do it for the years that stretch out ahead of us.

God Almighty, I hate us, with regard to our foreign policy and the unforgivable suffering we have inflicted and continue to inflict on entirely innocent people, all for the detestable goal of ensuring our global hegemonic role. We have become a loathsome nation, one that murders and tortures all day, every day, somewhere in the world. And almost no one even tries to stop it.

Enough for the moment. I can't bear to think about it any longer right now, and you probably can't either.