Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

There Are No More Arguments

There are no more arguments.

Only pictures.

Each image of an Iraqi, man or woman, either staring angrily at the camera, pierces the distance between us with fear, resentment or something that I have never experienced and cannot name. Even the images of those who celebrate, or else who come out to ask the marines for food or water, evoke in me a sense of their ambivalence. On PBS, we are told that five thousand Iraqis have decided to abandon their quiet lives in the other Arab lands and return to Baghdad to defend their homeland. One man told the reporter that he has no love for President Saddam Hussein, that he fears for his family, but nonetheless he feels compelled to leave Amman, Jordan to stand beside the other ill-equipped men and women who live in the small towns that ring the marshlands around Baghdad. Without irony, the media has named this heavily populated zone that rings the capital, South Central Baghdad. There is a South Central in every country on the planet.

A few of my students have siblings who are in one or other of the detachments en route to the Baghdad region. One of them almost wept when we quietly talked about her brother, when she told us that he did not particularly support the war, but that, being one of the many working-class youth for whom the military was a way forward, he had no choice but to go along. Images of men and women, no, boys and girls, many in the late teens or early twenties, young Americans with heavy arms, being jeered at, fired upon, hated. It is obscene that the hawks rebuke us for being against our troops. I fear for them, for they stand as the proxy for all that is wrong with our foreign policy, for the integration of our war machine with dollar corporations (please take a look at the Institute for Policy Studies’ excellent report, “Crude Visions: How Oil Interests Obscured US Government Focus on Chemical Weapons Use by Saddam Hussein,” March 2003).

It was one or more of these young people who opened fire at the Najaf checkpoint and killed ten people.

I’ve been following the toll of the dead at iraqbodycount.org, whose website tracks the number of dead with citations and other details fairly regularly. “Shock and Awe” did not conduct the type of indiscriminate bombardment we saw in 1991. Indeed, the campaign did not immediately produce the death toll in the Afghan bombings where our forces, we heard at the end of the first week, “ran out of targets.” My initial reaction to this war was that our massive, planetary protests, backed by the diplomatic debacle at the Security Council and in the Turkish Parliament, checked the ability of the Rumsfeldians to run riot over the Iraqis: one indication of this is the relatively low death toll (only 77 civilians dead according to Iraqi officials in Basra, after a torrent of firepower engulfed the city). In a small way, the limited force, I felt, was a victory for the anti-war movement. [I find it hard to get worked up about Seymour Hersh’s revelations that Rumsfeld wanted a small force, with heavy bombing, and that the generals wanted the overwhelming force associated with 1991: are we supposed to want more troops there simply to spite the administration?]

But the frustration seems to have set in, with the resistance and the suicide attack impelling a harsh reaction from the imperial forces. The armed forces underestimated the depth of Iraqi nationalism. Even though the Iraqis showed off their suicide squads in the parades preceding the war, it seems that the generals did not train the troops to keep their calm at civilian check points. Then again, the experience of the Israeli Defense Force shows that if there are suicide attacks, the army tends toward indiscriminate violence against all those whom it sees as the potential enemy. The British, with a violent history in Iraq that stretches to its conduct against the Iraqi uprisings of the early 1920s, have declared Basra, Iraq’s second largest city, a legitimate “military target.” Iraq will be our Occupied Territories.

The logic of the Coalition seems to be this:

* We are Civilized.

* We only fight a clean, rule-based war.

* They are not fighting by the rules.

* They are forcing us to break our rules.

* They have made us act like barbarians.

* We will act like barbarians.

Every imperial force has used the same, benighted logic.

There are no more arguments. Positions have hardened as the Iraqi defense lines weaken. We have the realists who say that people die in war, yes, but the whole episode is for a greater good. Then there are those who say that nothing good will come from death and conquest, that the blowback will be immense. There is no room to have a discussion, or even to agree on a language for a conversation. War does that. It diminishes civility and it makes us hunker down in our premises, unwilling to engage with each other.

The death count will continue to rise. The rage and suffering of the Iraqis, and other Arabs, will also rise. Those who are not Arab may also get upset, but Arab nationalism is yet a potent force, despite the fulminations of State Department thinkers like Faoud Ajami, and it is this patriotism that is kindled by the images of the American soldier raising the Stars and Stripes at Umm Qasr or of the dead civilians in the bazaars of Baghdad.

When I put my two year old daughter to bed, I shut the windows, close the doors, draw the curtains, make sure that our guests stay quiet for at least fifteen minutes. We read books, talk a bit, drink some milk, sing a song, and then, in absolute silence, she goes to sleep.

Every child should have such a gradual, calm, night.

Iraqi children are no strangers to suffering. In late 1999, UNICEF reported that the death rate among children under five had doubled during the sanctions regime: half a million children died in this period who may have otherwise lived, according to UNICEF chief Carol Bellamy. Iraq is a young country, with half its population under twenty. These are children who have been raised in a siege, some have taken up arms, others are looking, as the poet Suheir Hammad put it, “toward the night sky with fear, as though there are no stars, only bombs in the cosmos.” Without being sentimental, can we consider what hope means for these Iraqis, especially as our bombs erode their steadfastness (samoud, the same word that was the name of the Iraqi missiles)? Can those American children who are protected from harshness ever know what it must be to survive as an Iraqi child? Aadmi tha, bari mushkil se insaan hua: we are people, with great difficulty we became human.

We’ll count the dead, but what about those hearts and minds that will suffer the torment of noise, fear, blood. Our ethical horizon has already been diminished by the trauma of the Iraqis. We have sent our youth, those from among the working class, to do our dirty work. We are yet complicit in this violence. Let us not forget this as quickly as the British, for instance, forgot their brutality in India, or the Belgians forgot their barbaric rule of the Congo. They don’t make us act like barbarians. In our blood lust, we are barbarians.

VIJAY PRASHAD is an Associate Professor and Director of the International Studies at Trinity College, Hartford, CT. This article is an excerpt from his new book: Fat Cats and Running Dogs: The Enron Stage of Capitalism. Prashad can be reached at: Vijay.Prashad@trincoll.edu

Today’s Features

Uri Avnery
A Crooked Mirror: Presstitution and the Theater of Operations

David Vest
Can You Hear the Silence?

Anthony Gancarski
Colin Powell Telemarketer

David Lindorff
Takoma: the Dolphin Who Refused to Fight

Michael Roberts
War, Debts and Deficits

Ramzy Baroud
Now That Iraqis Are Being Killed Is Israel Any More Secure?

Jo Wilding
From Baghdad with Tears

Anton Antonowicz
Cluster Bombs on Babylon

Alison Weir
Israel, We Won’t Forget Rachel Corrie

Bruce Jackson
Hating Wolf Blitzer’s Voice

Eliot Katz
War’s First Week

Steve Perry
War Web Log 04/03

Keep CounterPunch Alive:
Make a Tax-Deductible Donation Today Online!

home / subscribe / about us / books / archives / search / links /

More articles by:

Vijay Prashad’s most recent book is No Free Left: The Futures of Indian Communism (New Delhi: LeftWord Books, 2015).

Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Louis Proyect
The Education Business
October 18, 2018
Erik Molvar
The Ten Big Lies of Traditional Western Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lockheed and Loaded: How the Maker of Junk Fighters Like the F-22 and F-35 Came to Have Full-Spectrum Dominance Over the Defense Industry
Lawrence Davidson
Israel’s “Psychological Obstacles to Peace”
Brian Platt – Brynn Roth
Black-Eyed Kids and Other Nightmares From the Suburbs
John W. Whitehead
You Want to Make America Great Again? Start by Making America Free Again
Zhivko Illeieff
Why Can’t the Democrats Reach the Millennials?
Steve Kelly
Quiet, Please! The Latest Threat to the Big Wild
Manuel García, Jr.
The Inner Dimensions of Socialist Revolution
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ Over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Adam Parsons
A Global People’s Bailout for the Coming Crash
Binoy Kampmark
The Tyranny of Fashion: Shredding Banksy
Dean Baker
How Big is Big? Trump, the NYT and Foreign Aid
Vern Loomis
The Boofing of America
October 17, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
When Saudi Arabia’s Credibility is Damaged, So is America’s
John Steppling
Before the Law
Frank Stricker
Wages Rising? 
James McEnteer
Larry Summers Trips Out
Muhammad Othman
What You Can Do About the Saudi Atrocities in Yemen
Binoy Kampmark
Agents of Chaos: Trump, the Federal Reserve and Andrew Jackson
David N. Smith
George Orwell’s Message in a Bottle
Karen J. Greenberg
Justice Derailed: From Gitmo to Kavanaugh
John Feffer
Why is the Radical Right Still Winning?
Dan Corjescu
Green Tsunami in Bavaria?
Rohullah Naderi
Why Afghan Girls Are Out of School?
George Ochenski
You Have to Give Respect to Get Any, Mr. Trump
Cesar Chelala
Is China Winning the War for Africa?
Mel Gurtov
Getting Away with Murder
W. T. Whitney
Colombian Lawyer Diego Martinez Needs Solidarity Now
Dean Baker
Nothing to Brag About: Scott Walker’s Economic Record in Wisconsin:
October 16, 2018
Gregory Elich
Diplomatic Deadlock: Can U.S.-North Korea Diplomacy Survive Maximum Pressure?
Rob Seimetz
Talking About Death While In Decadence
Kent Paterson
Fifty Years of Mexican October
Robert Fantina
Trump, Iran and Sanctions
Greg Macdougall
Indigenous Suicide in Canada
Kenneth Surin
On Reading the Diaries of Tony Benn, Britain’s Greatest Labour Politician
Andrew Bacevich
Unsolicited Advice for an Undeclared Presidential Candidate: a Letter to Elizabeth Warren
Thomas Knapp
Facebook Meddles in the 2018 Midterm Elections
Muhammad Othman
Khashoggi and Demetracopoulos
Gerry Brown
Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics: How the US Weaponizes Them to Accuse  China of Debt Trap Diplomacy
Christian Ingo Lenz Dunker – Peter Lehman
The Brazilian Presidential Elections and “The Rules of The Game”
Robert Fisk
What a Forgotten Shipwreck in the Irish Sea Can Tell Us About Brexit
Martin Billheimer
Here Cochise Everywhere
David Swanson
Humanitarian Bombs
Dean Baker
The Federal Reserve is Not a Church
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail