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A Week of Shock and Awe

 

The news this past week has been especially hard to believe.

First we learned, courtesy of Edmunds, the car magazine, that the Bush administration has decided to equip the occupation forces in Iraq with Chrysler minivans, in place of GM’s Humvee gas hogs. This is a low blow to General Motors, which only days earlier saw its bonds reduced to junk status by the ratings agencies largely because of the company’s moronically short-sighted decision to focus on gas-guzzling SUVs like the Hummer.

It’s more than a little ironic that Bush–a guy who has spent his oil-stained career mocking those who call for federal laws to mandate better gas mileage from Detroit automakers–would make a major purchase decision (we’re talking about a 25,000- vehicle order here) based upon fuel economy. It’s also worth noting that these Pentagon-bound Chrysler minivans will all be made in Canada, while the Humvee is made in the good old USA.

I’m not sure what the opinion of the troops is on this one. There have been complaints all along that the Humvees were inadequately armored to protect against RPGs, AK-47s and IEDs, but if the government-ordered minivans are anything like my own Chrysler minivan, which is a piece of tin that gets dented by the slightest kicked-up pebble, we can expect the American casualty rate to soar when these babies start rolling along Iraqi roads. (Judging from my own experience with Chrysler products, I hope the Pentagon also buys the extended warranty on these babies; my trans went after just 30,000 miles.)

Then we have the new crackdown in Baghdad–you know, the one that the Iraqi government announced four days ahead of the launch date. What was that all about? Clearly the Iraqi military and police wanted to make sure everyone who might be shooting at them got well out of the way beforehand. Even so, the U.S. military managed to botch the job by immediately going out and arresting, not insurgents, but a leading Sunni imam. And not just any imam, but a man who heads of one of the political parties the U.S. has supposedly been trying to coax into participating in the puppet government of Iraq. This is the kind of tactical brilliance that has turned what was supposed to be a quick war of liberation into a bitter quagmire. You almost have to think US Ambassador John Negroponte is channeling the incredibly inept L. Paul Bremer.

This was followed by news that many if not most of the prisoners at Guantanamo, far from being captured in battle, were in fact sold to US forces by Afghan warlords and other nefarious traffickers. If there were doubts about the guilt of these alleged “terror suspects” before, it should now be totally clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that the U.S. has committed a huge mistake in incarcerating these people. U.S. officials, true to form, have been quick to deny that they paid for the captives, but already, these denials have been undermined by testimony from people involved in the deals, who are reporting that millions of dollars were shipped over to Afghanistan in the weeks after 9-11 to pay to those willing to turn over suspects.

The problem with this strategy, obviously, is that in a land composed of rival tribes and warring factions, there is no way to verify whether someone who is handed over to you for $25,000 in cash is a genuine Al Qaeda or Taliban member, or just some unlucky goatherd or loser at cards. America’s heroes–the camouflage-clad goons at Bagram Airbase and other grisly detention centers–apparently found that the solution to this dilemma was to beat the crap out of the suspects until they either died or admitted they were evildoers, at which point they were shipped to Guantanamo. (Back in the days of the Salem witch trials, they had a similarly reliable approach: tie a suspected witch to a board and put her underwater. If she lived, she was a witch. If she died, she was innocent.)

Now George Bush and his major domo at the Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld, are scoffing at the claims by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that Guantanamo is nothing but an American Gulag, but this new news about the buying of captives makes the parallel all the more likely.

Meanwhile, we had the dismal spectacle of George Bush the Lesser himself, speaking at Arlington Cemetery on Memorial Day, saying that the sacrifices of American troops–over 1670 of whom he has sent to an early grave so far in Iraq–must be honored by America “staying the course.”

I guess by that he means having American troops on endlessly extended tours of duty drive around an increasingly hostile and explosive Iraq in gold-colored (!) Chrysler minivans while Sunnis and Shiites in what’s left of a bombed-out and economically raped and ravaged Iraq take pot shots and them and battle each other for years to come.

You think it can’t get more outrageous, and then the Discovery Channel weighs in Monday with a documentary on the pilgrimage to Mecca titled “The Hajj: Journey of a Lifetime.” The sponsor? A toilet bowl cleaner.

All that was missing was a companion ad for toilet paper featuring quotations from the Quran.

Does somebody script this stuff?

Memorial Day Week: One to Remember

DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” is published by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net.

He can be reached at: dlindorff@yahoo.com

 

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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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