FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Can You Imagine the Long War for Iraqis?

by BERT SACKS

“Can you imagine …”

With these words, Israeli author Amos Oz offers the beginning of an answer to his query, “How to Cure a Fanatic” (the title of his newest book).

“I can’t help thinking,” he writes, “that with a slight twist of my genes, or of my parents’ circumstances, I could be him or her, I could be a Jewish West Bank settler, I could be an ultra-orthodox extremist, I could be an oriental Jew from a Third World country; I could be anyone. I could be one of my enemies.”

“Imagining the other is a moral imperative.”

Maybe it’s the hardest work we can do.

With the recent power outages around Seattle, we’ve been given a chance to do just that. In a very small way we might begin to imagine being an Iraqi over the past 16 years.

During my nine trips to Iraq, there were always electrical outages. On my first trip in 1996 we slept in a hotel with no electricity and
kerosene lamps.

L. Paul Bremer said Iraq’s electricity problems were caused by 30 years of neglect. This might make us feel good, but it is not the truth. In 1990 Iraq had a modern electrical grid.

The Washington Post told us about Iraq after the Gulf War:

“The worst civilian suffering, senior [American] officers say, has resulted not from bombs that went astray but from precision-guided weapons that hit exactly where they were aimed — at electrical plants …. Now nearly four months after the war’s end, Iraq’s electrical generation has reached only 20 to 25 percent of its prewar capacity of 9,000 to 9,500 megawatts. Pentagon analysts calculate that the country has roughly the generating capacity it had in 1920 — before reliance on refrigeration and sewage treatment became widespread.”

Can you imagine you are an Iraqi? One family told me they had no electricity for six months in 1991. Years later they still suffered
power brownouts for hours every day.

I experienced this one summer in Basra in 2000, where the temperature was around 120 degrees. We sat around the living room floor in a poor family’s home. At six o’clock it was their turn to get electricity, and the ceiling fan began to turn. One of the Iraqis looked up and said, sarcastically, “Thank you, George Bush!”

Of course their refrigerator was of no use under those conditions.

Why did we attack Iraq’s electricity? The architect of the air war, USAF Colonel John Warden, said it gave us “long-term leverage”! He also said, “we hold direct attacks on civilians to be morally reprehensible.” So, he said, we should attack civilians indirectly.

USAF Colonel Kenneth Rizer explained the indirect attacks: “destruction of these [electrical] facilities shut down water purification and sewage treatment plants. As a result, epidemics of gastroenteritis, cholera, and typhoid broke out, leading to perhaps as many as 100,000 civilian deaths.” He concluded this was a smart and legal strategy because it “targeted civilian morale” ­ but did so “indirectly.”

According to reports in New England Journal of Medicine and UNICEF, Colonel Rizer’s estimate of civilian deaths is ten times too low. But his reasons for the deaths are correct: no electricity means no way to process water or sewage; no way to refrigerate medicine and food; no way to power hospitals or incubators; no way even to communicate needs.

Colonel Warden wrote, “We are struck by the fact that the physical side of the enemy is, in theory, perfectly knowable and predictable. Conversely, the morale side — the human side — is beyond the realm of the predictable in a particular situation because humans are so different from each other.”

But are we really?! How would anyone in any country feel to be denied electricity for years as a tool of coercion? If we can’t imagine
ourselves as Iraqis, what will happen?

Almost 40 years ago in his Riverside Church address, Dr. King said, “Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat.”

Although we still do not realize it, we laid the groundwork for our defeat in Iraq by bombing Iraq’s electrical plants and re-imposing sanctions in 1991. It was a failure to practice Amos Oz’ advice: to imagine ourselves in the shoes of the other, of the Iraqis.

BERT SACKS, who lives in Seattle, has been fined $10,000 by the U.S. government after going to Iraq to distribute medicine; Sacks has refused to pay any fines. More of his writings are at: http://bertoniraq.blogspot.com.

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Destruction of Mosul
Norman Pollack
Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse
Steve Horn
What Do a Louisiana Pipeline Explosion and Dakota Access Pipeline Have in Common? Phillips 66
Brian Saady
Why Corporations are Too Big to Jail in the Drug War
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Peaceful Protest to Armed Uprising
Luke Meyer
The Case of Tony: Inside a Lifer Hearing
Binoy Kampmark
Adolf, The Donald and History
Robert Koehler
The Great American Awakening
Murray Dobbin
Canadians at Odds With Their Government on Israel
Fariborz Saremi
A Whole New World?
Joyce Nelson
Japan’s Abe, Trump & Illegal Leaks
Christopher Brauchli
Trump 1, Tillerson 0
Yves Engler
Is This Hate Speech?
Dan Bacher
Trump Administration Exempts Three CA Oil Fields From Water Protection Rule at Jerry Brown’s Request
Richard Klin
Solid Gold
Melissa Garriga
Anti-Abortion and Anti-Fascist Movements: More in Common Than Meets the Eye
Thomas Knapp
The Absurd Consequences of a “Right to Privacy”
W. T. Whitney
The Fate of Prisoner Simón Trinidad, as Seen by His U. S. Lawyer
Brian Platt
Don’t Just Oppose ICE Raids, Tear Down the Whole Racist Immigration Enforcement Regime
Paul Cantor
Refugee: the Compassionate Mind of Egon Schwartz
Norman Richmond
The Black Radical Tradition in Canada
Barton Kunstler
Rallying Against the Totalitarian Specter
Judith Deutsch
Militarism:  Revolutionary Mothering and Rosie the Riveter
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir Evoked a Lot More International Attention in the 1950s Than It Does Now
Adam Phillips
There Isn’t Any There There
Louis Proyect
Steinbeck’s Red Devils
Randy Shields
Left Coast Date: the Dating Site for the ORWACA Tribe
Charles R. Larson
Review: Bill Hayes’ “Insomniac City”
David Yearsley
White Supremacy and Music Theory
February 16, 2017
Peter Gaffney
The Rage of Caliban: Identity Politics, the Travel Ban, and the Shifting Ideological Framework of the Resistance
Ramzy Baroud
Farewell to Doublespeak: Israel’s Terrifying Vision for the Future
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail