What Are They Dying For?
"We don’t know the course of our own struggle will take [sic], or the sacrifices that might lie ahead."
GW Bush, November 11, 2005.
"Akers said his son is burned on more than 75 percent of his body. . . . ‘We’ve been talking to the doctors in Germany. It’s just a case of if he can get through the infection,’ Don Akers said. ‘The biggest part of the burn is his face. The odds are not in his favor’. "
Cadillac News, November 24, 2005.
On November 24 the number of US dead in Iraq for the month reached 75. In October, 96 Americans were killed. The corpse total is over 2100. More than 7,000 of the 15,804 wounded (as at November 24) have lost limbs or minds or will bear hideous disfigurement to their graves.
What for? Why have they died or been maimed? What righteous cause has made it imperative for thousands of young Americans to have their lives cut short or be horribly mutilated?
Among the worst of those wounded were Sergeant Spencer Akers, who was burned on over 75 per cent of his body, and 26 year-old Latseen Benson of the 101st Airborne. Specialist Benson was blown up on November 13 and "lost his legs and possibly part of an arm and was in a coma Tuesday night [November 15] in a hospital in Germany."
Latseen Benson is aged 26, unconscious and legless. His mother said he was forced to extend his service under Rumsfeld’s Stop-Loss Program. In all decency he shouldn’t have been sent back to Iraq, but now "My son is now fighting for his life with half a body left".
What for? Why has Latseen Benson been reduced to less than half a man? Democracy has not benefited one tiny bit from the physical destruction of a soldier who had his service extended by orders of the unfeeling reptile Rumsfeld and the Pentagon he has filled with forelock-tugging dummies.
Rumsfeld, Bush, Cheney and the other armchair warriors are experts at public posturing about the horrors of their war, but they weep only crocodile tears for such as Latseen Benson.
Cheney is now smearing and insulting those who mistakenly accepted the word of the President of the United States when he lied about his reasons for making war on Iraq. Cheney calls opponents of his war "opportunists" who are telling "cynical and pernicious falsehoods" and sneered at the gallant warrior, Congressman John P Murtha.
Cheney’s theme is that Democrats are trying to obtain political mileage by saying what is so widely known : that he and Bush and Rice and Rumsfeld and other warped psychopaths told deliberate lies about the reasons for their brutal crusade.
Certainly some Democrats are trying to gain political advantage by pointing out they were lied to. (And the gutless ones are sitting on the fence.) But politicians are made that way, and most of them around the world are unprincipled, pompous, money-grubbing assholes, so if the boot was on the other foot then the posturing self-righteous Republicans who cry ‘Foul Play!’ about the Bush lies being recognized would be using that boot to kick the hell out of their opponents.
So don’t let’s have any more of that sort of nonsense, from either side, especially when young men are having their boots and feet blown off in a foreign country that posed not the slightest threat to any American and had nothing whatever to do with 9/11, as eventually admitted by Bush.
Does anyone remember the British reporter who on January 31, 2003 asked Bush and his puppy dog Blair "One question for you both. Do you believe that there is a link between Saddam Hussein, a direct link, and the men who attacked on September the 11th?" Bush replied "I can’t make that claim."
He couldn’t just say ‘No’, of course. The man is incapable of admitting the whole truth, even to himself, when it doesn’t fit his fixed ideas. This, after all, is the knave who told the monstrous lie that "we’ve learned that Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and gases."
Unfortunately Bush and the zealots in Washington made so many statements about supposed Al Qaeda links with the Twin Towers atrocity — and are still making them — that genuine patriots like Latseen Benson really believed they were committed to war by their president "for 9/11". That is what Latseen Benson said, as reported in his local newspaper. He was maimed for a lie, and his body was destroyed while his mind still believed his commander-in-chief had told him the truth.
Latseen Benson comes from Anchorage, Alaska. And it so happens that the draft-dodger Bush visited Anchorage November 15 and while he was there announced that "As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them into war continue to stand behind them". But as Specialist Benson’s mother said : "I would have appreciated a little house call while he was here to tell me why a very fine boy has to be fighting for his life."
But house calls are not the Bush style. He would not dare to visit with Mrs Benson. He would not know what to say to the mother who knows her son lost both his legs because Bush and his cohorts told lies. A meeting with the mother of a maimed soldier could not be scripted. It could not be stage-managed, like his obscene performance on an aircraft carrier when he delivered his arrogant smirking inanities in front of a banner proclaiming "Mission Accomplished". A meeting with Mrs Benson would have to be unrehearsed and devoid of the public relations bells and whistles that are vital for performances by this soggy apology for a leader. Without meticulous preparation for every Bush appearance in public he would be reduced to demonstrating his true capabilities, which at their height would be those of a third rate clerk for an itinerant pox-doctor. Which brings us to the vice-president.
It is of course entirely coincidental that Cheney indulged in his tirade about "cynical and pernicious falsehoods" at the very time when news was breaking about him that just might be embarrassing. At a Senate hearing on November 14 about excessive oil profits, five executives were asked "Did your company or any representatives in your companies participate in Vice President Cheney’s energy [task] force in 2001?". Every one of them said "No".
In addition to the Washington Post publicizing emails contradicting their replies, the Government Accountability Office discovered that Chevron and others "gave detailed energy policy recommendations" to Cheney’s people.
It was not in any way illegal to take part in Cheney’s secret deliberations that he refuses to reveal to the American public. So why did these people lie about it? What were their recommendations and why are they being concealed?
None of the oil company representatives who lied to the Senate Committee was on oath, because the joint chair, Republican Senator Stevens of Alaska, insisted they should not be. Why? Did he know they were going to tell lies, and therefore wanted to protect them? Because, however bizarre it seems to people of normal mind and morality, no charge of perjury can be brought against them because they did not take a specific oath to tell the truth. The lying officials from Exxon Mobil, Conoco, Shell Oil and BP America are going to walk away from this. They have been asked "to clarify" matters. Yawn.
But it still looks pretty nasty for Cheney, who drove the whole sordid oil exercise, and is summed up well by Democrat Senator Frank Lautenberg : "Whatever was discussed at that White House energy task force meeting, it seems to turn out very well for the big oil companies, but it’s been disastrous, daily disastrous for the American public." That, unlike the statements of the oil companies, is the truth ; and the truth is something that Cheney does not want revealed. Because Iraq was discussed by his task force, all these weeks before 9/11. It is impossible, unthinkable, that a globally-focused oil cabal analyzed the entire gamut of energy production without talking at length about such a large producer of oil as Iraq. And Cheney insists that what was said must remain secret.
Small wonder Cheney is terrified his discussions might be made public. And there is no better way to deflect attention from the institutional dishonesty that permeates the Bush administration than to indulge in shrill malignity about those who unveil the truth.
Cheney was deeply involved in plotting the war on Iraq. His finger-puppet, Bush, whose character defects are such that he is incapable of admitting a lie, is just an incoherent simpleton. But Cheney is a master of calculating duplicity. He has no moral sense, and lying comes naturally to him : not through ignorant conviction, like the pathetic and foolish Bush, but through vicious determination to smash his opponents. This torture-supporting, lily-livered poltroon, who weaseled his way out of the Vietnam War because "I had other priorities", is anxious to show that he is macho man. Like the fetid milksop in the White House, he stands behind the troops — but it is a very long way behind.
It is for the vanity of Cheney and Bush that soldiers continue to be killed. Soldiers have died or been maimed, not for "freedom" or "democracy" or any of the slick slogans dredged up by cynics to justify their slaughter, but for the benefit of oil companies and to help Cheney and Bush get out of the quagmire of deceit that they created. American troops will be forced to stay in Iraq to be shot at and bombed because these men will not admit they were wrong. On Veteran’s Day Bush tried to justify his war, and anounced that "We don’t know . . . the sacrifices that might lie ahead."
Of course we don’t. But there is one thing that is absolutely certain : George Bush and Dick Cheney are not making any sacrifices, and will never do so.
President Eisenhower declared that "I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can ; only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity" ; but this type of wise warning from a real leader passes well over the heads of the arrogant, conceited oafs who have driven America to calamity. Eisenhower knew the real costs of conflict.
If photographs of Specialist Benson were to appear in public they would make even Cheney’s staunchest supporters reconsider their dedication to war. And of course this is why pictures of maimed soldiers are discouraged. It is they and their relatives who are making the sacrifices, just as has been made by those who were killed and by their grieving families. The difference is that those who lost limbs and minds will live for years as a reminder of an administration that was determined to show it was tough, just for the sake of looking tough.
Nothing has appeared in the mainstream media about Specialist Benson of the 101st Airborne who has lost his legs, or about Sergeant Akers of the Michigan National Guard who is horribly burned. They are not on the front pages. But Bush and Cheney are all over the front pages, and the mother of Latseen Benson has asked them why they sent her son to war to be maimed. She deserves a truthful answer. So do we all.
BRIAN CLOUGHLEY writes on military and political affairs. He can be reached through his website www.briancloughley.com