March 15, 2008

Over One Million Murdered -- and Nothing Has Been Learned

To mark the fifth anniversary of the war crime against Iraq, The New York Times "asked nine experts on military and foreign affairs to reflect on their attitudes in the spring of 2003 and to comment on the one aspect of the war that most surprised them or that they wished they had considered in the prewar debate." All nine entries are listed here.

Of course, neither the NYT nor any of the "nine experts" refer to the invasion and ongoing occupation as a war crime. Not a single one of these eminent personages acknowledges that Iraq had never attacked us, that Iraq constituted no threat to the U.S. of any consequence whatsoever, and that these facts -- which are the only facts relevant to a determination of whether the U.S. had any justification at all to launch this criminal war -- could have been known in the winter and spring of 2002-2003, and that these facts were known to many "ordinary" persons in the United States and around the world. But none of the "ordinary" persons who understood the truth were "experts." None of them belonged to the ruling class.

Therefore, there is no mention in the august pages of the august NYT of the only judgment that matters:
There is one final point to be made about all this -- and that has to do with the supreme value of a single human life. In our desensitized, dehumanized age, most people have almost no appreciation for what I'm talking about, and our political establishment and media only make this grievous failing worse. Each of us is unique; not one of us can be replaced. Each of us has a family, loved ones, friends and a life that is a web of caring, interdependence, and joy. When even one of us is killed or horribly injured for no justifiable reason, the damage affects countless people in addition to the primary victim. Sometimes, the survivors are irreparably damaged as well. Even the survivors' wounds can last a lifetime.

This is of the greatest significance. There is nothing more important or meaningful in the world. No moral principle legitimizes our invasion and occupation of Iraq, just as it will not justify an attack on Iran. Therefore, when the first person was killed in Iraq as the result of our actions, the immorality was complete. The crime had been committed, and no amends could ever suffice or would even be possible. That many additional tens or hundreds of thousands of people have subsequently been killed or injured does not add to the original immorality with regard to first principles. It increases its scope, which is an additional and terrible horror -- but the principle is not altered in the smallest degree.

So think of the five-year-old Iraqi girl who is no more, or think of any one of the countless other victims of this criminal war and occupation. Think of their families and friends. Think of the lives that have been altered forever, and of the wounds that will never heal. Think about all of that.

Contemplate the devastation and the horror. Make it real to yourself. And ask yourself if forgiveness is possible.
You can read the views of all nine "experts," and you will also find not a single mention of the genocide that the actions of the U.S. government have unleashed. You will not read the following in the pages of the "paper of record":
Since Americans' narcissism is so all-encompassing, and because the superior value of American lives and goals as compared to those of all other peoples is regarded as an axiom never to be questioned, let's put these horrors in terms that Americans might understand. Let's make it about you.

For ease of computation, we'll use approximate figures. Assume the U.S.'s war crimes have resulted in one million deaths. That is roughly 1/26 of the total Iraqi population. An equivalent number of American deaths would be 11.5 million people. 3,000 Americans were murdered on 9/11. In terms of casualties, 11.5 million deaths represent 3,800 9/11s -- or a 9/11 every day for ten and a half years.

Let me repeat that: a 9/11 every day for ten and a half years.

Perhaps you think these casualty figures are highly inflated. Fine. Cut them in half. That's a 9/11 every day for a little over five years.

Every day.

Do you begin to understand now?
There is, however, one common theme that arises from the nauseating mewlings of these "experts." Paul Bremer:
[A]fter arriving in the country, I saw that the American government was not adequately prepared to deal with the growing security threats. Looting raged unchecked in major cities. By late 2003, as the insurgency and terrorism grew, it became clear that the coalition also lacked an effective counterinsurgency strategy.

Our troops on the ground were valiant and selfless, but prewar planning provided for fewer than half the number of troops that independent studies suggested would be needed in Iraq. And we did not have a plan to provide the most basic function of any government — security for the population. Terrorists, insurgents, criminals and the Iraqi people got the impression that the coalition would not, or could not, protect civilians.
Richard Perle:
Rather than turn Iraq over to Iraqis to begin the daunting process of nation building, a group including Secretary of State Colin Powell; the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice; and the director of central intelligence, George Tenet — with President Bush’s approval — reversed a plan to do that.

Instead, we blundered into an ill-conceived occupation that would facilitate a deadly insurgency from which we, and the Iraqis, are only now emerging. With misplaced confidence that we knew better than the Iraqis, we sent an American to govern Iraq. L. Paul Bremer underestimated the task, but did his best to make a foolish policy work. I had badly underestimated the administration’s capacity to mess things up.
Kenneth Pollack:
[W]hat I most wish I had understood before the invasion was the reckless arrogance of the Bush administration. I had inklings of it to be sure, and warned of the inadequacy of some of what I saw. But I did not realize that as skillfully, cautiously and patiently as George H. W. Bush’s administration had handled its Iraq war, that was how clumsy, careless and rash George W. Bush’s administration would treat its own.
Anthony D. Cordesman:
It was even more of a surprise to watch the Bush administration fail, from 2003 to 2006, to come to grips with creating effective counterinsurgency programs, focused aid and development efforts, political accommodation and effective Iraqi forces. As a Republican, I would never have believed that President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld would waste so many opportunities and so much of America’s reputation that they would rival Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara and McGeorge Bundy for the worst wartime national security team in United States history.
Behold the wisdom of the ruling class, now increased by benefit of the deaths of more than a million innocent people: the next time the United States wages a war of aggression, the next time the United States violates the Nuremberg Principles, the next time the United States installs a brutally cruel colonial occupation force -- do it efficiently.

Manage future wars of conquest and future occupations competently. Commit your crimes -- and your murders -- with skill and expertise.

In this way, the ruling class is now prepared to do it all again -- against Iran, or Syria, possibly China in five or ten years. It will not matter that another nation will not have attacked us, or even had the capability of doing so. All that will be of consequence is that the United States manages its future crimes expertly and efficiently.

Commit your crimes against humanity -- but do it neatly, and without unnecessary fuss and bother. Don't leave guts and pieces of brain splattered across the pavement, or over the sand. Be sure to clean up all the blood stains.

Our government is a government of monsters, advised by "experts" who are monsters.

If the United States should suffer another horrifying attack on a scale equal to or even worse than 9/11, do not wonder why. You know why, but most of you don't want to acknowledge the explanation or face what it means, even now.

A million deaths will not deter them. Will five million? Ten million?

No. They will not. This is your government, and it will be your government under a new Democratic or Republican administration.

So I ask again: Why do you support?

UPDATE: Patrick Cockburn, writing from Baghdad:
Five years of occupation have destroyed Iraq as a country. Baghdad is today a collection of hostile Sunni and Shia ghettoes divided by high concrete walls. Different districts even have different national flags. Sunni areas use the old Iraqi flag with the three stars of the Baath party and the Shia wave a newer version, adopted by the Shia-Kurdish government. The Kurds have their own flag.

The Iraqi government tries to give the impression that normality is returning. Iraqi journalists are told not to mention the continuing violence. When a bomb exploded in Karada district near my hotel killing 70 people the police beat and drove away television cameraman trying to take pictures of the devastation. Civilian casualties have fallen from 65 Iraqis killed daily from November 2006 to August 2007 to 26 daily in February. But the fall in the death rate is partly because ethnic cleansing has already done its grim work and in much of Baghdad there are no mixed areas left. More than most wars the war in Iraq remains little understood outside the country.


The war was too easy. Consciously or subconsciously Americans came to believe it did not matter what Iraqis said or did. They were expected to behave like Germans or Japanese in 1945, though most of Iraqis did not think of themselves as having been defeated. There was later to be much bitter dispute about who was responsible for the critical error of dissolving the Iraqi army. But at the time the Americans were in a mood of exaggerated imperial arrogance and did not care what Iraqis, in the army or out of it, were doing.


The Sunni defeat in the battle for Baghdad in 2006 and early 2007 was the motive for many guerrillas, previously anti-American, suddenly allying themselves with American forces. They concluded they could not fight the US, al Qa'ida, the Iraqi army and police and the Mehdi Army at the same time. There is now an 80,000 strong Sunni militia paid for and allied to the US but hostile to the Iraqi government. Five years after the American and British armies crossed into Iraq the country has become a geographical expression.
Cockburn has more. For further discussion of Cockburn's very valuable work, and of certain issues touched on only briefly above, see an earlier essay of mine, "Sacred Ignorance."