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CounterPunch Diary

Now the New York Times Sells "Bloodbath" as a Rationale for Staying in Iraq

by ALEXANDER COCKBURN

There’s been no stage in the grim progress of the US onslaught on Iraq at which the New York Times hasn’t been shoving the whole ghastly enterprise along. First there were Judy Miller and Michael Gordon promoting the WMD rationale for attack. More recently there was Michael Gordon selling the surge.

Now it’s John Burns, pushing the notion that if the US withdraws there’ll a bloodbath of unimaginable proportions as the Iraqis slaughter each other. The administration is seizing eagerly on this, which is a bit like Dracula saying his castle is the best security guarantee against local peasant girls being attacked by vampires.

There’ll certainly be no prospect of peace so long as US troops are occupying Iraq. Ask Iraqis, whom we can safely assume have a clearer grasp than Burns of what might improve the awful conditions of their lives. Outside Kurdistan, continued American occupation is not a popular view. Over 80 per cent of Iraqis tell pollsters they want the Americans out.

Will things get worse if Americans leave? Probably so, at least for a while. In 2005 the US said there would be a bloodbath if they left. So they stayed and there’s been a worsening bloodbath.

Ken Pollack and Dan Byman of the Brookings Institution wrote an influential shock/horror scenario about the policy pitfalls of withdrawal, predicting a terrible refugee problem.(Pollack was previously a prominent salesman of Saddam’s nuclear arsenal.) Right now, amid US occupation, the UN’s High Commission on Refugees says 2000 Iraqis a day are fleeing their homes. Since the Americans invaded, two million Iraqis have fled their homes and two million more are refugees inside Iraq. It’s the worst refugee crisis in the Middle East since the Second World War, outstripping the Israel-induced flight of Palestinian refugees in 1948.

Amid its doomed “surge” the Bush administration is already maneuvering towards a set-up of the Democrats as forcing a premature withdrawal just as the surge was disclosing light at the end of the tunnel. A pell mell withdrawal would of course magnify the prospects of mass killings, as opposed to an orderly withdrawal with a respected neutral force left behind. But of course the US has virtually destroyed the prospects for assembling such a genuinely neutral force.

The Road to Abu Ghraib

When arraigned for dog abuse last Thursday, the black football superstar Michael Vick sounded muted, as well he might since it seems his closest associates are now going to testify against him.

Three violent elements in American popular culture –- football, rap and dog-fighting — have intersected in this sensational case. On July 17 a federal grand jury in the state of Virginia indicted the 27-year old Vick and three associates on charges of operating an enterprise called “Bad Newz Kennels” to breed pit bulls for high-stakes fights to the death, also of killing off dogs who performed poorly by dousing them with water and then electrocuting them, slamming them into the ground or shooting them with a .22.

One can imagine the satisfied chortles in the office of the US Attorney in the eastern district of Virginia as they crafted the indictment. One count in the 18-page indictment described a “rape stand, a device in which a female who is too aggressive to submit to males for breeding is strapped down with her head held in place by a restraint.”

(One assistant US attorney in that East Virginia District office is Gordon Kromberg, accused of anti-Muslim prejudice amid his persecution of Sami al-Arian. It was Kromberg who allegedly said of a request to delay Al-Arian’s transfer to Virginia before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, "If [Muslims] can kill each other during Ramadan, they can appear before the grand jury." The US Attorney, Chuck Rosenberg strongly defended Kromberg.)

The stark language of the indictment has gone a long way towards destroying Vick long before he gets his day in court. If convicted he faces six years in prison. The National Football League, aghast at the damage to its image wrought by the descriptions of “Ookie” Vick and alleged co-conspirators such as “P-Funk” Peace, torturing dogs at Bad Newz Kennels, have told him not to attend the Falcons’ training sessions which commenced on July 26, the same day Vick and three others were formally arraigned.

Dog-fighting has led a long, semi-covert existence in white redneck culture. Lately it’s also become associated with hip-hop. Owners, dogs and fans travel hundreds of miles to face-offs between pit bull champions, male and female, which continue till one dog is killed or surrenders. The indictment describes defeated dogs on the Bad Newz strength being shot out of hand after defeat. It also details the wagers, ranging from $3,000 to $20,000 on a single contest.

Jason Whitlock, the Clarence Thomas of black sports writers, based at the Kansas City Star and with a specialty in onslaughts on his own people, swiftly wrote an acrid column about the links between dog fighting, rap and

Vick’s indictment:

“I believe Vick got involved with breeding vicious pit bulls because rap-music culture made it the cool thing to do… Vick didn’t do it for the money. The Atlanta Falcons gave him all the money he could ever hope to spend. Vick was involved in pit bull breeding (and quite possibly dog fighting) because he enjoyed it. He’s a product of a culture that makes the ‘profession’ acceptable and honorable. It’s the same culture that has turned the dope dealer into mayor of the neighborhood. It speaks to the grip the negative aspects of hip-hop culture have on young people.”

Dog fighting is on the rise, or so the American Humane Society avers. The animal shelters say that these days sometimes 50 per cent of the abandoned animals they pick up in the streets are wounded pit bulls dumped by their owners. There’s no rapper monopoly here. White crackers certainly outnumber black rappers in the fancy. White complacency doesn’t take long to puncture either. Rudy Giuliani’s wife Judith, worked for US Surgical in years gone buy, as part of a sales force that demonstrated sutures on dogs they slashed, then later killed. It was white Ivy League psychologists, not rappers, who devised the interrogation techniques at Abu Ghraib, where dogs were trained on the torture games inflicted on naked prisoners. You can’t blame it all on rap-music culture, just one little rivulet in the imperial watershed.