The Meaning of Victory
"Day by day we are moving closer to Baghdad. Day by day we are moving closer to victory."
George W. Bush, March 31, 2003
With these words, Mr. Bush sought to reassure the American people that his war plan is working, moving us closer to "victory." As the United States continues its heavy and unrelenting bombing of Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, inflicting death and suffering on the Iraqi people who we are supposedly liberating, we would do well to explore the meaning of victory. Thus far, few journalists, at least in the corporate mainstream US media, appear ready to do so. Those concerned with the path the war is taking might have added the following observations to Bush’s statement.
Day by day we are killing more Iraqi civilians. One day US forces bomb a marketplace, killing 62 civilians. Another day a car carrying women and children is fired on by US troops, killing seven. An Iraqi mother describes watching her young children’s heads severed from their bodies. According to news reports, some 500 to 700 Iraqi civilians have died thus far, and many more Iraqi soldiers have been slaughtered.
Day by day the "untold sorrow" mounts. One Iraqi man, whose family was killed by US bombing, cries out in pain, "God take our revenge on America!"
Day by day more of our young soldiers are dying and being maimed in battle and military accidents. Between US and British troops, more than 60 coalition soldiers are dead. Is this our victory, killing more of "them" than they kill of "us"?
Day by day we are spending more of our wealth on instruments of war as we relentlessly bombard Iraqi cities. Bush has asked for supplementary budget approval of $75 billion as a down payment on this war. This is in addition to the $400 billion already allocated for our military forces.
Day by day we are destroying more of the infrastructure of Iraqi cities that we are already allowing US companies to bid on to rebuild. Perhaps we should return to less deadly ways of transferring taxpayer wealth to favored corporations.
Day by day we are becoming more hated in the Middle East. Middle Eastern newspapers are printing these headlines, "Monstrous martyrdom in Baghdad" (Jordan), "Dreadful massacre in Baghdad" (Egypt), and "Yet another massacre by the coalition of invaders" (Saudi Arabia). Egyptian novelist Ezzat El Kamhawy writes, "This war is affecting civilians primarily. I did not expect to see civilians bombed and I feel exceedingly angry." Throughout the Middle East, the people don’t seem to be celebrating our presence or our war, let alone our "victory."
Day by day we are creating more terrorists intent upon attacking the US and American citizens. "When it is over, if it is over, this war will have horrible consequences," says Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek. "Instead of having one [Osama] bin Laden, we will have 100 bin Ladens." Does this fit with Mr. Bush’s concept of "victory"?
Day by day we are seeing the arrogance of the rush to war by the Bush administration. We have yet to see the Iraqis surrendering in large numbers and greeting the Americans as "liberators," as the administration boldly claimed would happen. Perhaps Mr. Bush, so focused on victory and so lacking in historical perspective, has forgotten the US experience in Vietnam and the potency of nationalism in the defense of one’s country from outside invaders.
Day by day the Bush administration is continuing to alienate most of our key allies. The members of the "coalition of the willing" that have actually provided troops in Iraq consist of only the UK, Australia, Poland and Albania in addition to the US. Not even the three members of the Security Council that supported the war Spain, Italy and Bulgaria are providing military support.
Day by day polls throughout the world are showing overwhelming opposition to the US invasion of Iraq, even in most of those countries where the governments are nominally supporting the US.
Day by day we are watching the erosion of our constitutional system of government. Congress has shirked its constitutional responsibility to declare war, and it seems poised to give the president all the funds he is requesting for his war.
Day by day, laws pressed by the Bush administration, such as the misnamed USA Patriot Act and planned supplements to this legislation, are undermining our Bill of Rights.
Day by day Americans are being misled by our mainstream corporate media, which seems comfortable acting as cheerleaders for the war. When veteran war correspondent Peter Arnett said on Iraqi television what he took to be the obvious truth, that the US timetable was falling by the wayside in Iraq, he was summarily fired by NBC.
Day by day Americans are expressing their support, but also their ignorance about the war. The polls inform us that 72 percent of Americans support the war, but at the same time 51 percent of Americans believe that Iraq attacked the World Trade Center, which is not true. Sixty-five percent of Americans cannot find Iraq on a map.
Day by day we are ignoring other serious problems in the world, including the dangerous potential for war on the Korean peninsula and the possibility of North Korea’s further nuclear proliferation. The Bush administration ignores North Korea’s pleas for negotiations with the US and its constructive proposals for a mutual security treaty.
Day by day we are using nuclear-tipped shells in this war to attack tanks and other armored vehicles. The "depleted uranium" in these munitions is transformed into fine dust particles upon impact, and the inhalation of these particles is thought to be responsible for the "Gulf War Syndrome" that has afflicted so many of our troops from the first Gulf War in 1991.
Professor Doug Rokke, ex-director of the Pentagon’s depleted uranium project, has argued, "There is a moral point to be made here. This war was about Iraq possessing illegal weapons of mass destruction yet we are using weapons of mass destruction ourselves. Such double standards are repellent."
Day by day we are moving closer to using nuclear weapons, the real ones. The Bush administration has promulgated a doctrine of reserving "the right to respond with overwhelming force including through resort to all of our options to the use of WMD [weapons of mass destruction] against the United States, our forces abroad, and friends and allies." The reference to "all of our options" is meant to obliquely send the message that nuclear weapons use is an option.
We don’t know whether Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, but we have no reason to believe that they would not use chemical or biological weapons as a last resort if they did. And we have no reason to believe that the Bush junta would not follow through on their threats to use "all of our options," including nuclear weapons.
Day by day the US economy is faltering. Since Bush came to office, the US has moved from large budget surpluses to large budget deficits. The stock markets have followed one major trend, downward, and the war seems to be exacerbating this trend.
Day by day funding is being cut for education, health care, head start programs and other important social programs so that we can pay for war. In 2001, 41.2 million Americans had no health insurance. There has been a 43 percent rise in unemployment since Bush took office. Pell grants, which have funded college educations particularly for worthy minority students, are being cut back from covering 84 percent of the costs to 42 percent of the costs. While important social programs are being cut back or eliminated, Bush is pressing for a $700 billion tax break for the wealthiest Americans.
Day by day the Bush administration is failing America’s veterans. The House of Representatives recently voted approval of a 2004 budget that will cut $25 billion over ten years from veteran’s health care and benefit programs. This came just one day after Congress voted overwhelmingly to "support our troops."
Day by day the most respected moral leaders in the world are speaking out against a war they find to be immoral and lacking in legitimacy. These leaders include The Pope, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former South African President Nelson Mandela.
The Pope has repeatedly insisted that a preventive war has no legal or moral justification, and has called the war "a defeat for humanity." Nelson Mandela has called Bush’s actions in Iraq "a tragedy." "What I am condemning," Mandela said, "is that one power, with a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly, is now wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust."
As if to underline Mandela’s insights about him, Bush, according to Time magazine, told three US Senators as far back as March 2002, "F–k Saddam. We’re taking him out."
As we race toward the "victory" that Mr. Bush seems so confident will be achieved, what are the consequences likely to be?
* There will be greater instability in the Middle East as the US attempts to occupy Iraq.
* The US will be roundly hated in the Middle East and throughout the Muslim world.
* Terrorism against the US will increase, including terrorism in the US.
* Our guaranteed freedoms in the US Bill of Rights will continue to be reduced.
* The US economy will be in shambles, with few social programs left intact.
* US alliances of long duration will be difficult, if not impossible, to rebuild.
* The likelihood of nuclear weapons proliferation and use will increase.
Former US marine and UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter has doubts about Bush’s "victory": "We find ourselvesfacing a nation of 23 million, with armed elements numbering around seven million who are concentrated at urban areas. We will not win this fight. America will lose this war."
But Mr. Bush tells us, "Day by day we are moving closer to victory." General Tommy Franks, the commander of the US war effort, tells us, "The outcome is not in doubt." In all likelihood, however, it will not be the outcome that Mr. Bush and his administration are anticipating, but one far worse for all of us. It is past time for the American people to wake up to the meaning of "victory."
DAVID KRIEGER is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. He is the author of Choose Hope, Your Role in Waging Peace in the Nuclear Age (Middleway Press, 2002) and editor of Hope in a Dark Time, Reflections on Humanity’s Future (Capra Press, 2003). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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