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When Americans die in foreign wars, we’re told never to forget those singular losses by cable networks like Fox News and MSNBC.
Let’s take those grave admonitions at face value, and never forget exactly why Pfc. Lori Ann Piestewa died. Piestewa, one of the very few Hopi women in the military, was the 23 year old mother of a 4-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl. The mother of two was with Pfc. Jessica Lynch [who joined the military, according to her father, because McDonald’s wasn’t hiring] when their unit was ambushed on March 23rd near Nasiriyah. The Pride of Palestine, WV survived to see her trials sanitized by cable television; Piestewa won’t be so lucky.
What kind of nation have we become, to send mothers in the primes of their lives to die like dogs on foreign battlefields? Piestewa hailed from an indigenous people, yet her life was so blighted that she had to sign up with the US military — in spite of having two children — to avoid the vise of poverty that has crushed what’s left of the Hopis and other tribal nations. She did what she could for her kids every bit as much as that flag our conquering heroes covered the face of Saddam Hussein’s statue with, but her kids will be left orphaned, with only fleeting memories of the woman who brought them into the world.
The War on Terror [the omnibus name for the Bush policy of perpetual war against foreign and domestic enemies] has given us a number of journalistic casualties. There are some whose deaths receive great play, like Daniel Pearl, Michael Kelly, and David Bloom. All of these men were lionized in death, the honors they’d attained during their lives only augmented by dying while performing journalistic tasks for the elite media.
Their deaths are tragic to many who knew them, as well as fans of their work. That much said, their deaths were ultimately voluntary. Pearl chose to trust his source and descend into the bowels of Karachi. Kelly and Bloom likewise chose to follow the war as and where it went; they would’ve lost nothing if they hadn’t, but they did anyway, to build a legacy.
Lori Ann Piestewa likely didn’t carry an American gun to boost her legacy. She served because food and electricity and gasoline are expensive things, and because there aren’t enough jobs in reservations or anywhere else but the armed forces anymore. She reckoned that she could provide for her family by fighting enemies of the state. It wasn’t for her to understand the merits of partitioning Iraq versus maintaining its geographical integrity. Likewise, she probably had no useful opinion on whether Chalabi will fill Hussein’s old shoes as Our Man In Baghdad. Lori Ann was willing to kill for her country as the surest means of providing for herself and her family. She died half a world away from her babies, choking on desert sand.
Many elements in the American media advance the idea that any criticism of US military operations is prima facie unpatriotic. But whose money is expended for a war on Iraq, or for the bombs that strafe Colombia to protect us from drugs? Whose sons, brothers, cousins, sisters, and even mothers are fighting and dying for cunning schemes sold with the most simplistic language?
Iraq never threatened Americans, but its corpse will provide ample feasting opportunities for well-connected companies in the US and the UK, already using the coalition military victory to muscle the companies of France, Russia, and China out of their contracts with Hussein’s regime. Will these nations see their national interest as threatened? Unless their leaders are eunuchs, that is very likely.
How will our erstwhile allies indicate their disapproval? Harsh words in the media, of the sort that our pundits laugh at? Or by funding resistance movements in Iraq and elsewhere, funding fresh bodies to fight and kill Lori Ann Piestewa and others who only signed up because there was no other option. God bless America — we certainly need it.
ANTHONY GANCARSKI is a regular CounterPunch columnist. He can be reached at: ANTHONY.GANCARSKI@ATTBI.COM