Iraq is a nation of buried souls. The voices of the millenniums murmur to us from Babylon and Ur and Mosu,l the buried songs of warriors and poets, invading armies buried beneath the sands, the headstones of British generals crumbling in a Kut boneyard, dissidents and communists dumped into far-flung common graves, the Shia dead spread in neat squares for miles around the tomb of Ali in Najef, the venomous dust of Halabja, Saddam himself buried alive in his spider hole, the exact size of a pauper’s grave.
And now here at the end, when the jig is just about up for them, the grand plan of Bush and his handlers has been reduced to burying an already buried nation, burying Iraq, burying the dead, burying the lies, the mistakes and miscalculations, burying the memory of the catastrophic mess they have made of this place in 16 horrifying months of occupation. With the November elections breathing down Bush’s neck, there is not a second to spare to wash the blood from the President’s hands, to blot out all the torture photos, the ghost detainees, the 40 Iraqi prisoners battered to death by psychopathic contract killers, the dissing of the Geneva Conventions, that hooded man balanced precariously atop a cardboard box with electric cables snaking from his genitals to whom Bush is now irrevocably mated in the eyes of the whole wide world.
We have got to put all this behind us pronto the handlers insist, hand over sovereignty to the usual CIA stooge, declare victory like we did in Vietnam, and get the fuck out of Dodge before the sky comes down.
Bush is trying, trying to bury Iraq under the rubble of “reconstruction”, under buckets of fresh paint and blood, of suitcases stuffed with greenback dollar bills, the recovery of “sovereignty”, but the embarrassing details keep popping up like unquiet ghosts–the aluminum tubes, the Niger uranium, the Prague meeting, the phony ties to Al Qaeda, the missing WMDs, the lies, oh the lies.
“This is an avaricious, premeditated, unprovoked war against a foe who posed no immediate threat but whose defeat did offer economic advantage.” So concludes “Anonymous”, the still-active CIA honcho who was charged with watching Saddam during the second Clinton administration, in “Imperial Hubris”, a volume that out Michael Moores Michael Moore in its condemnation of Bush’s Iraqi adventure and bridles with the rancor of the indomitable General Smedley Butler at the U.S. imperial aggressions in which both public servants were complicit.
How many has Bush buried on both sides so far? On June 4th, the day I returned to North American soil after months on the road in Mexico, Guatemala, Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador to tour California with my latest instant cult classic “Murdered By Capitalism”, the scoreboard listed 839 American military dead in Iraq. The day I escaped the U.S. one month later, the count was at 880 and rising, and total coalition deaths were a day away from topping one thousand.
Iraqi deaths during this same period, calculated from hospital and Red Cross sources. were 681, a ten to one kill rate, better than the 13 to 1 last summer when the occupation was new. Nonetheless, grave digging and corpse washing remain growth industries in Bush’s Iraq.
In the first 15 days of June as I watched Baghdad from inside the belly of the beast, there was at least one car bombing every 24 hours. On June 17th, 41 job seekers were mowed down while waiting on a recruitment line outside a Baghdad police barracks. On June 23rd, a hundred were blown apart in impeccably coordinated bombings in three Sunni triangle cities. The body parts of feckless young marines continued to litter the freeways of central Iraq.
Above all of this homicidal chaos, the shadow of Abu Ghraib has draped itself like a suffocating black burka, this global symbol of Yanqui bestiality whose prurient images of sexual torture, drooling dogs, military S & M and CIA B & D, naked men on leashes, naked men forced to masturbate at gunpoint, naked men simulating sodomy, have left Iraqis aghast.
One pulse-taking ordered by the occupation authorities and whose findings were suppressed, revealed that an overwhelming percentage of Iraqis surveyed did not distinguish between the torturers of Abu Ghraib and the American troops who had come to ostensibly “liberate” them. The lurid revelations beamed round the world shredded the last threads of Washington’s credibility. Abu Ghraib is the answer to the question Bush so plaintively asked after 9/11: why does the whole world hate us?
By the third week in June, temperatures were soaring towards 120 degrees and the electricity grid which feeds Baghdad was mostly not functioning (before the war, when I was there as a Human Shield it worked fine.) Sewage gushed into the bombed-out streets up in Sadr City where the snipers fired from the rooftops at desultory Marine patrols. Foreigners were being cautioned not to drive out of the city because the insurgency owned stretches of highway. Terrorist bombings had taken out key pipelines in Kirkruk and near Basra, paralyzing energy production.
Downtown there were running gun battles around the hotels and the threat of kidnapping kept the contractor mercenaries confined to sweltering rooms, swilling beer, and cursing the TV (if the house generator was working) where the lead news item was usually about the beheadings that have become a ritual in this ignoble war.
The first, of course, had been Nick Berg’s (if it was actually his head and not just a paste-up) severed under a sword allegedly wielded by the new U.S. boogieman Musab al-Zarqawi in a metaphorical decapitation of the West for Al-Jazeera’s ever-present cameras. Then it was the South Korean interpreter-turned-evangelist’s turn, a U.S. Marine was next. In Saudi Arabia too the heads were rolling–a New Jersey Apache helicopter repairman lost his. Over in Afghanistan, U.S. proxy troops reportedly decapitated four Taliban suspects. I tell you, it was better than a front seat at the French Revolution.
This was indeed the Iraq that proconsul L. Paul Bremer III handed over to the usual CIA stooge, Iyad Allawi (who is said to actually believe he is the prime minister), before dawn in a hush-hush June 28th backroom ceremony buried from public view 48 hours before the June 30th due date.
Before fleeing this distraught country, Bremer III signed dozens of decrees institutionalizing the free market “reforms” he had previously imposed upon the Iraqi economy, among them tax-free profit-taking for all transnational corporations doing business in Iraq. “The day before I took this job I was a businessman. What did I know?” the Kissinger protégé confessed to the NY Times John Burns, he just wanted to get Bush the biggest bang for his buck. Sure I made mistakes and maybe post-war planning wasn’t up to snuff “but we did the right thing”–and then Bremer was whisked off by the ever-present Blackhawk because surface transportation to the airport is subject to rebel bombings, on his way back home to Vermont to write the book which was probably part of the deal from the get-go.
In a certain symmetry of literary fate, Saddam Hussein’s soft porn novel “Zalyba and the King” was a best-seller in Baghdad by the end of June. And my own book “Murdered By Capitalism” was outselling Bill Clinton’s “Life” ten to one in an informal polling of progressive northern California bookstores.
Turning over the keys to the kingdom June 30th obeyed no Iraqi ultimatum. It was always a date White House strategists had set as the outer limits of Bush’s hands-on involvement in the on-going massacre, the last day he could put some distance between himself and the corpse heap at his feet before convention frenzy set in. Setting this date was yet one more big mistake because it gave the resistance a target towards which to escalate its attack and wholesale bloodshed was not averted by the closeted handover.
In the end, the transfer of authority was a brief ceremonial event, an early morning photo op, as has been every milestone in this homicidal odyssey from invasion and occupation to “Mission Accomplished” and the plastic Thanksgiving turkey, all carefully plotted out to get Bush to November with victory in his pocket and the war behind him. But it has never worked very well–at each step, the resistance has responded with apocalyptic violence that measures and mirrors the great hate for the American Satan Bush has incited in the Islamic world.
Bremer’s successor is no stranger to those who watch the spooks. John Dmitiri Negroponte presided over the secret 1971 Cambodian incursion from the embassy in Saigon, moved on to Honduras where he ran the Contra operation out of Tegoo openly consorting with the assassins of Monsignor Romero. The next stop was Mexico where he sold NAFTA to an only-too-willing Carlos Salinas. As Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations, he bugged and blackmailed Security Council members to give his boss a free hand to squash Saddam and when that failed, the U.S. tried to squash the UN.
Now installed in a monumental Green Zone palace with a staff of thousands, Negroponte will have the same carte blanche powers as the previous proconsul but, as an ambassador, he will have to be more diplomatic about it. One difference between Bremer and Negroponte: the former head of the former CPA took his first phone call each morning from Condoleezza Rice–his replacement will hear from Colin Powell. Never before in North American history have two persons of color been more empowered to reign down maximum mayhem upon the colored peoples of the planet Earth.
Now the trappings of sovereignty have been turned over to a thuggish oligarchy that may or may not do their bosses’ bidding. As is de rigor, Allawi and his mob were promptly eulogized by their puppet masters as champions of freedom and democracy. Permit a Vietnam vet his flashback (even if I chose to go to prison instead of the war) but Allawi’s investiture did not seem much distinct from the horse manure McNamara and Rusk used to pile on to each new cowboy colonel who seized power in Saigon.
These freedom-loving democrats have assigned themselves the power to inflict martial law upon the public, curtail civil liberties, declare curfews, invade private homes, and ban political parties and demonstrations. Hail Fredonia! The new Minister of Justice & Human Rights (sic) has advertised his intention to impose the death penalty upon evildoers. Allawi himself has been accused of personally executing six suspected insurgents during a Baghdad police interrogation and has otherwise been positively Saddam-like in his bloodthirsty jeremiads, threatening to behead the beheaders. Yet on the other hand, he has offered amnesty to those who fought against the Yanqui occupation, a position that must preoccupy the occupiers about just what they are occupying Iraq for.
Evidence of the re-Saddamification-of-Iraq-without-Saddam is plentiful. Fallujah, where the dismemberment and burning of four U.S. mercenaries became emblematic of the Muslim world’s fury at the American invaders, power was turned back to a former ranking Saddamite general, and Ramadi and Bacuba are also said to be administered by officials of the deposed dictatorship. Stuck without a dependable security force, Marine trainers are reassembling Hussein’s old army and interim p.m. Allawi has raised Saddam’s old General Direction of Security from the dead to spy upon the Iraqi people.
Meanwhile, in the holy cities of the south Sheik Sadr’s Mehdi army has forced the Marines to withdraw after the leathernecks stupidly shelled the mosque of Ali, the Shia Vatican in Najef, risking further dismemberments by irate locals.
But with Iraqi security forces deserting in Guinness record book numbers, the puppet regime will invariably be forced to call on the U.S. Marine Corps to restore law and order, an arrangement that is going to considerably up the traffic at the Army’s Dover Delaware mortuary reception center – from which the U.S. Senate just voted to bar the paparazzi from snapping photos of the incoming flag-draped coffins.
What was our sacrifice for, the grieving families of 800 or 900 or 1000 dead G.I.’s must be asking? What for, the 5400 listed wounded want to know, the legions of the legless and those with half their faces blown off and a hook for a hand? What was this all for?
At least 30 occupation troops took the opportunity of their stay in Iraq to commit suicide and thousands more were “medically evacuated.” One out of every six returning vets suffers from discernable post traumatic stress syndrome the New England Journal of Medicine just reported. It is only a matter of months before urban streets will be crowded with bugged-out, homeless Iraqi vets, time bombs exploding before our very eyes, bringing Bush’s war back home.
Already, the hawks are warning against an “Iraqi syndrome”, a state of mind that would make future “preventative” wars unpopular much as the “Vietnam syndrome” has stayed the hand of every president up to Bush to wage protracted ground war in the third world.
Hours after the Yanqui occupation officially ended, Saddam Hussein was escorted by U.S. Puerto Rican troops (assigned so the wily former dictator would not know what they said among themselves) into a makeshift courtroom at the euphemistically named Camp Victory adjacent to the former Saddam Hussein International Airport, and turned over to the puppet rulers of Iraq. In a badly fitting, cheap American suit, he looked disheveled and diminished, thought a blow-dried John Burns, one of the few reporters admitted to the court session. In the photos, Saddam’s eyes ooze mistrust.
“I am the president of Iraq–who are you?” he growled at the young judge, “are you an Iraqi?” Then, in a throwaway line that has had deep scratch in the Arab street, Saddam explained the what for. “Everyone knows this is just a theater to get Bush re-elected.”
Such repartee was only audible in the courtroom. Reporters like the London Independent’s intrepid Robert Fisk had to watch it on the big screen with no audibles–the only subtitles at the bottom of the screen read “authorized by the U.S. military,” Fisk noted. At the same hour Saddam stood in the dock, three more Marines were blown to smithereens just down the road out by the airport. What for?
These days when Bush is bunkered down in the Oval Office, he is often seen fondling the unloaded pistol the Delta Force snatched from Saddam’s lap that glorious December day they fetched him from the spider hole. Visitors report that he sometimes brandishes the gun as if it were a sort of tribal trophy. “It is the phallic equivalent of a scalp” surmises City College of New York psychotherapy professor Stanley Rashan who told the Times he suspected Bush was so keen on the pistol because it represented a sort of emasculation of Saddam, revenge for purportedly masterminding the unsuccessful 1993 Kuwait City car bombing of his father–remember “he tried to kill my daddy”?
So that’s it, that’s the what for, and it is positively Grecian. Bush seeks to bury Iraq to win his father’s approbation–didn’t we suspect this all along?
The real tragedy in this Oedipal farce has been that tens of thousands of us and them had to die to work out the Bush family’s personal trauma.
PART TWO of “Burying Iraq, Burying Bush” by JOHN ROSS will run tomorrow.
JOHN ROSS will be on the spot in Mexico City for much of July and August before sallying forth to do maximum mischief at the Republican National Convention in Manhattan from where he will launch the intergalactic tour of his latest instant cult classic “Murdered By Capitalism–A Memoir of 150 Years of Life & Death on the U.S. Left“.