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The Flames of War

The Arsonists in the West Wing

by MISSY COMLEY BEATTIE

I am imagining Southern California. I am imagining Southern California because I have been watching and reading about the devastation via television news and newspaper articles. I have seen the flames, the smoke, and the tears. Eighteen hundred homes have been destroyed by fire, over a half-million acres have burned, soot and ash cover the landscape, more than a million people had to be evacuated, and the death count, now at 14, is expected to rise. Long after the homes are rebuilt, those affected may struggle with health problems from asbestos and other toxins.  

In my imaginings, I have deliberated on the transience of possessions, security, good health, and life.

I am also imagining the mind of an arsonist. Five arsonists have been arrested for having started some of the wildfires.

It is unfathomable to grasp that anyone intentionally would cause so much damage-unfathomable and inexplicable, except by reason of insanity. Only someone demented, bereft of humanity, could commit acts that cause this suffering and heartbreak. 

Now, shift to Iraq and consider the irony.

We don’t know the number of homes destroyed by the occupation of Iraq and our "smart bombs." We do, however, know that at least 4 million people have left their homes in a desperate search for safety both within Iraq and in neighboring countries. We also know that as many as a million Iraqi civilians have been killed and injured. We occasionally see images of Iraqi children, some of whom have been maimed during this hellacious war. Yesterday, I saw a photograph of a child whose arm was a bloody stump. Of course, this was by way of the Internet. Our mainstream media occasionally report the deaths of Iraqi civilians but they don’t show the mourning or the returning to the scene. Iraqi grief is hidden.

Not only is Iraq a humanitarian calamity, the country also is an environmental catastrophe as a result of depleted uranium and toxins from burning oil wells. See "Iraq’s Environmental Crisis" by Jeffrey St. Clair and Joshua Frank, CounterPunch, October 25th.

Back, again, to Southern California where George Bush toured the fire ravaged neighborhoods on Thursday. He spoke encouragement to residents, "We’re not going to forget you in Washington, D.C." He signed a major disaster declaration on Wednesday to help homeowners who aren’t protected by insurance.

Iraq is the personal major disaster of George Bush and Dick Cheney. Both have forgotten the people there. Neither mentions the casualties or the cataclysmic destruction of a civilization. Instead, they chastise the Iraqi police and military for not "stepping up" so that our troops can "step down." 

George Bush and Dick Cheney are arsonists. And they are aided and abetted by the arsonists in Congress. They struck the match to start the conflagration in Iraq and continue fanning the flames of war, endless war that may end us all.

Missy Beattie lives in New York City. She’s written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. An outspoken critic of the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq, she’s a member of Gold Star Families for Peace. She completed a novel last year, but since the death of her nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Chase J. Comley, in Iraq on August 6,’05, she has been writing political articles. She can be reached at: Missybeat@aol.com