Gruesome. There’s no other way to describe the pictures of Uday and Qusay Hussein that appeared in the media. But what’s more appalling than these badly photographed death portraits is the response to this double murder by the corporate media, the American people, and above all else George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. It would seem we have become a nation of voyeuristic sadists. It wasn’t enough to simply hear about these grisly murders — millions of us had to see the bloodstained result. The Pentagon more than obliged. It gleefully passed out CD-ROMs containing the photographs.
"This is an unusual situation," said Donald Rumsfeld when asked by he media why the photos were released. "This regime has been in power for decades. These two individuals were particularly vicious individuals… They are now dead… The Iraqi people have been waiting for confirmation of that and they in my view deserve having confirmation of that."
But more than the Iraqi people, the photos are intended for US public consumption.
Bush must realize that killing the two Hussein brothers — if, in fact, they are truly dead and these are not the legendary doubles of Uday and Qusay — will not put an end to the guerilla war brewing in Iraq, or will it stifle the calls by millions of Iraqis for the prompt departure of US troops. No, if indeed Uday and Qusay were rubbed out — it is more than appropriate to use mafia terminology for what Bush and Crew are doing — it was intended to feed the American public’s desire for "results" in the so-called war on terrorism. After all, if numerous polls mean anything, millions of Americans believe Saddam Hussein is personally responsible for the horrors of September 11, 2001. Apparently, Uday and Qusay were also guilty of crimes against the American people. Of course, there is absolutely no evidence Saddam or his sons ever did anything to one single American — sure, they tortured and killed plenty of Iraqis, but never touched a single American.
I wonder, does George Bush feel better now about the alleged assassination attempt on his father? For Bush Junior, killing people in Iraq is personal. "There’s no doubt (that Saddam) can’t stand us," Bush said at a Republican fund-raising event in Houston in September of 2002. "After all, this is the guy that tried to kill my Dad at one time."
In response to this inconclusively validated assassination attempt, newly elected Clinton fired over 20 cruise missiles into Baghdad without UN approval, killing dozens of civilians, including the internationally known Layla al-Altar, artist and Director General of Iraq’s National Center for Arts. But then Clinton was simply following the pattern established by Dubya’s daddy who, as a sort of sadistic farewell as he prepared to depart office, ordered hundreds of cruise missiles and air strikes to be launched against Iraq. These illegal attacks resulted in scores of civilian deaths. One cruise missile hit the Al Rashid Hotel and killed two hotel service employees. Bush was told Saddam was attending an international Islamic meeting in the Al Rashid at the time. As usual, in the long-standing Bush vendetta against Saddam Hussein, innocents are almost always the ones to suffer and die. Meanwhile, the perps get to go fishing at Kennebunkport.
"As the one who made the decision to [release the Uday and Qusay photographs], I can say it was not a snap decision," Rumsfeld argued. "This is not a practice the United States engages in on a normal basis." He’s right — the US usually doesn’t hand out proof of its murderous deeds willy-nilly; many such "operations" remain covert and hidden away from the press and the American people for decades.
As Tommy Franks admitted during Bush’s invasion, the Pentagon is not in the business of counting dead people. But according to the Iraq Body Count project, between 6,000 and nearly 8,000 civilians have died so far, not counting the 1.6 million people who have died as a result of the sanctions put in place by Bush Senior and the United Nations and stringently — and sadistically — maintained by Clinton and Bush Junior. Prior to the depredations of these war criminals, Iraq was widely regarded as having the finest health care system in the Middle East. After Gulf Invasion I, however, between 4,500 to 6,000 children died from preventable disease and malnutrition every month. Some say the death rate is even worse now after Bush II’s vendetta against Saddam Hussein.
The American people were by and large ignorant — or if aware, querulously refuse to accept responsiblity — of these massive war crimes conducted against the children of Iraq. Fox News, CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, the whole of the corporate media, mostly ignored the crimes perpetuated against innocent Iraqis, as they ignored those committed against the people of Afghanistan. "It seems too perverse to focus too much on the casualties or hardship in Afghanistan," wrote CNN Chairman Walter Isaacson in a memo back in October, 2001. "DO NOT USE photos on Page 1A showing civilian casualties from the U.S. war on Afghanistan," Ray Glenn, copy desk chief of the News Herald in Panama City, Florida, warned his employees on October 31, 2001. "Our sister paper in Fort Walton Beach has done so and received hundreds and hundreds of threatening emails and the like. AlsoÖ DO NOT USE wire stories that lead with civilian casualties from the U.S. war in AfghanistanÖ Failure to follow any of these or other standing rules could put your job in jeopardy." In other words, in Bush’s America, telling the truth can cost you your job and put your family at risk. It can result in threatening emails sent by enraged flag-wavers and armchair sadists.
"There is a distinct change in journalism since the September 11 terrorist attacks. The press has failed to perform its crucial role of government watchdog and instead become the American-flag waving, jingoistic press of the First World War," wrote Victoria E. Sama, former CNN International producer, to Eason Jordan of CNN on March 24, 2003. "Reporting the number of Iraqi civilian casualties may damage support for the president’s war. Or maybe it won’t. That’s for American viewers to decide. It is not CNN’s job to report only what is popular. It is not CNN’s job to become a cog in the president’s propaganda machine. It is CNN’s job to report the truth, and to find facts that help citizens make an informed decision about the war in Iraq. Please don’t fail the American public, and yourselves, again."
Only politically correct murders will be reported — and shown in hideous detail. The corporate media and Bush stand-ups wasted precious little time enumerating the brutish crimes of the Hussein brothers. "Odai kills people for fun, and Qusai kills people in a very businesslike fashion," remarked Bush neocon and former CIA chief James Woolsey. "These particular two people were the head of the regime, which was not just a security threat because of its weapons program but was responsible for the torture and killing of thousands and thousands of innocent Iraqis," chimed Bush poodle Tony Blair. "I don’t want to overstate that, but psychologically it’s a huge step forward," said another Bush fellow traveler, Australian Prime Minister John Howard.
In other words, for the people of Australia, Britain, and the United States these horrid murders are a welcome relief from the reality of what’s actually going on in Iraq — an unfolding quagmire with no end in sight and Saddam still on the loose and apparently thumbing his nose at Bush and Crew in regularly released audio recordings.
Bush, continuing his now well-established "smoke ’em out, bring in dead or alive" cowboy rhetoric, has done little more than serve up two dead Arabs, and like frontier sheriffs of yore has placed their bullet-riddled bodies on boards in the town square for all to see. Now that one or two Americans are dying each day in occupied Iraq, and Saddam has apparently gone the way of Osama, the vengeful American public — or at least a considerable chunk of its flag-waving constituency — wants blood like the Roman masses wanted the blood of slaves and Christians in the Colosseum. Our Emperor Caligula is more than willing to give them what they demand.
It hardly matters that the admittedly sadistic sons of Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with al-Qaeda or weapons of mass destruction. If Bush and Rumsfeld can’t get at Saddam Hussein directly, they will settle for massacring his family instead — or at least those who pretend to be his family. According to Robert Fisk, a 14-year-old killed by the Bush posse may be one of Saddam’s grandsons. This detail, of course, made it in few corporate owned newspapers or was it repeated by Sean Hannity over at the Bush Ministry of Propaganda.
Meanwhile, oil executives are confident the murders in Mosul will be good for business, as murders in Third World counties often are for transnational corporations. Now that Uday and Qusay are dead, they believe, the attacks on the main pipeline from Kirkuk to Turkey will cease. An Oil Ministry official told the Associated Press the murders could have a "positive impact" on the security of oil operations.
This is, of course, wishful thinking — the attacks will not abate until the US leaves Iraq.
As if to send the message loud and clear to viceroy Bremer and the Bushites that the potential murder of Uday and Qusay is all but meaningless, three American soldiers from the 101st Airborne — the same unit that carried out the assault on Uday and Qusay — were killed by gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades as they moved in a convoy toward Qayyarah, north of Baghdad, on June 25. "We want to say to the occupation forces, they said last night that killing Odai and Qusai will diminish (resistance) attacks but we want to say to them that their death will increase attacks against them," declared a masked man in a tape aired by satellite broadcaster al-Arabiya.
Bush and his arrogant coterie of neocons have seriously underestimated the will of the Iraqi people to resist occupation. Macabrely offering up the mutilated bodies of Uday and Qusay will buy them no time, even if it does satiate for the moment the blood lust of millions of Americans who believe Dubya’s tenuous lies about the non-existent relationship between al-Qaeda and Saddam and his unaccounted for weapons of mass destruction.
Like Johnson and Nixon before him, Bush will soon realize his futile war against popular resistance opposed to occupation and brazen colonialism — be it in Vietnam or Iraq — will either end in disgrace and retreat or will go on for decades without any appreciable "light at the end of the tunnel."
KURT NIMMO is a photographer and multimedia developer in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Visit his excellent online gallery Ordinary Vistas. Nimmo is a contributor to Cockburn and St. Clair’s forthcoming volume, The Politics of Anti-Semitism..
He can be reached at: email@example.com