It’s hard to believe that supposedly intelligent people like Senators Joseph Biden (DE), Hillary Clinton (NY) and John Kerry (MA) call for “staying the course” in Iraq and acting responsibly by sending more US troops with more fire power over there.
Don’t they understand that American soldiers break, not fix? The more US soldiers in Iraq, the more damage they will do and the more enemies they will make. To limit damage, to act morally and responsibly, remove the cause of violence and chaos in Iraq: the US military presence.
Since the early 1950s, US Presidents have used troops and the CIA to break other countries, not fix them. In 1953, the CIA shattered Iran’s integrity by overthrowing the elected Mossadegh government. 26 years later, Iranians overthrew the US-backed Shah. In 1979, Iranians showed the depth of their rage by also seizing scores of US officials as hostages. The Ayatollah’s regime labeled the United States “The Great Satan” for screwing their country.
In 1954, the CIA smashed Guatemala by overthrowing a democratically elected government and replacing it with a military gang that killed and looted for forty years. Embraced by the Pentagon, these gangsters in uniform slaughtered as many as 100,000 Guatemalans (mostly indigenous peasants) and stole their land. The country has not yet recovered.
On September 11, 1973, Richard Nixon helped rupture Chile by “destabilizing” its elected government. For seventeen subsequent years, Washington supported a bloody military dictatorship led by General August Pinochet, a specialist in assassinating, disappearing and torturing his opponents at home and abroad. In 1991, the civilian government’s National Truth and Reconciliation Commission listed Pinochet’s crimes: 3,197 people assassinated or disappeared, tens of thousands tortured, hundreds of thousands forced into exile.
In March 2003, George W. Bush ordered the US military to break Iraq. The US arsenal destroyed the electricity and water supply, damaged sewage treatment and other vital sanitary facilities and pulverized bridges, other public places and thousands of homes. On May 1, 2003, dressed in a jump suit, Bush landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln and announced: “Mission Accomplished.”
His critics, myself included, laughed at such braggadocio. We misunderstood him. He had accomplished the standard post-WWII US military mission: He broke another country.
The US-led Coalition has not restored what it demolished in Iraq, nor reestablished services to the level of Saddam Hussein’s regime. They imprisoned tens of thousands of Iraqis, subjecting many of those to systematic torture.
Former prisoner Ali Abbas told journalist Dahr Jamail that to break the will of Iraqi prisoners, US guards at Abu Ghraib “used electricity on us” while millions of homes lacked electricity for hours each day. “They also shit on us, used dogs against usand starved us.” As Abbas told Jamail, “the Americans delivered electricity to my ass before they brought it to my house” (Jamail testimony at the World Tribunal on Iraq, June 25, 2005, Istanbul). Estimates of Iraqis in prison range as high as eighty thousand, most of whom have not been charged.
In 1991, during the first Gulf War, the breaking began. US planes and artillery delivered more than 300 tons of uranium tipped bombs and shells to targets in southern Iraq alone. Residue from these weapons turned into particles that people — including US troops inhaled. In 2003, more US toxic material rained down on the Iraqi environment.
In September 2002, I saw dying kids in the Baghdad Children’s Hospital. Iraqi doctors had already surmised that only the presence of depleted uranium could have caused such a profound spike in the cancer rates among children.
In June 2005, Dr. Thomas Fasy of the Mr. Sinai School of Medicine concluded that data from Iraqi hospitals indicated that depleted uranium’s effect had shown up dramatically in a more than 400% rise in children’s cancer in just over a decade. Uranium ions bond with DNA and this, he said, has also caused a notable leap in children’s leukemia rates along with sharply elevated incidences of congenital birth defects. The United States literally released cancer-causing material into Iraqi air, soil and water.
This toxic metal had performed the coup de grace to the Iraqi health system, already devastated by US bombing and embargo, Fasy said. The cost of such breakage: human life (World Tribunal on Iraq, June 26, 2005).
In November 2004, US soldiers carried out punitive action in Falluja, a city of some 300,000 residents, an operation that surpassed the 1936 Nazi bombing of Guernica in Spain. Falluja was reduced to rubble. Thousands died.
On the economic front, Washington broke Iraq as well of its socialist habit. US colonial administrator J. Paul Bremer forced a constitution down Iraqi throats to break their statist economic system. He planned to privatize some 200 state-owned enterprises. Management of port facilities at Umm Qasr went to Stevedoring Services of America, a US company. “Bremer studiously ignored the rapidly rising unemployment and social disorder that arose from the destruction of a social order.” “If privatization isn’t halted,” wrote Naomi Klein, ‘free Iraq’ will be the most sold country on earth” (The Nation, April 28, 2003).
But Iraqis resist. They continually sabotage the oil pipeline. Indeed, such tactics have caused major oil companies to lose enthusiasm for owning Iraqi oil. Besides, they do well under the current OPEC arrangement — $60 a barrel — and have no wish to change it.
Iraqi workers also have not welcomed the selling of state-owned factories to foreigners. Some work forces have even threatened to assassinate prospective buyers. This does not make investors feel as if modern Iraq provides a welcome climate (Naomi Klein, speech at Cal Poly Pomona, November 2004).
The chaos that engulfs Iraq does not improve from the presence of US troops. Iraqis who testified in the Istanbul World Tribunal on Iraq told about intense hatred of their people for the occupiers. The Iraqis feel abused by far more than the publicized incidents at Abu Ghraib. On routine US patrols and raids, trigger-happy young soldiers gun down innocent Iraqis. Pilots drop bombs on coordinates where people live. The 2004 documentary Gunner Palace resembles scenes from the TV show Cops. GIs bash down doors, charge into homes with fingers on rifle triggers shouting “on the floor motherfucker,” while women scream and children cry. The humiliated and handcuffed men go to prison. The soldiers then return to their posh living quarters and count the days remaining before they can go home. Like the GIs in Vietnam three plus decades ago, those in Iraq sacrifice lives, limbs and psyches. But as the film makes clear, most don’t know the purpose of their military mission.
Indeed, Iraqis recall well how US troops watched passively while massive looting took place of their national, historic treasure [How does one fix a broken Babylon? A crime wave swept the country and Armed Americans shrugged. Women can no longer walk the streets in safety as they once did. US occupations has also pitted Sunnis against Shiites, Kurds against Turkmen. Some Iraqi Christians have fled in fear to Syria. Bush omitted these facts and ignored the violence and chaos that define daily life. US personnel avidly train young Iraqis into constabulary form those that survive the regular suicide bombings and other attacks aimed at the police.
This scenario reality — does not penetrate the heads of key Democrats who continue to talk about “our obligation” to fix Iraq. Words don’t fix broken lives or property. Commitment to democracy calls for more than the United States appointing an Iraqi government and calling it democratic or forcing an Iraqi election in which millions bravely voted, but for what never got reported. The media and the White House ignored the startling fact that the majority of Iraqis voted against the US-chosen Iyad Allawi and for the United Iraqi Alliance, which demanded “a timetable for the withdrawal of the multinational forces from Iraq” (The Nation, February 11, 2005).
Instead of picking up on the withdrawal demand, before more breakage occurs, foolish Democratic Senators demand that Bush send in more troops. Bush ironically appears as more moderate as he appeals for patriotic unity in the form of flying the flag on July 4.
What must Iraqis feel at the sight of that flag on July 4? In its name, the US military has destroyed their cities, tortured their people, shot many of them for no reason at checkpoints or wherever the troops happened to be patrolling. Iraqis have scarce electricity, food and water and no secure jobs. Yet, Bush keeps repeating that he “liberated Iraq.”
On June 28, addressing the Special Forces at Fort Bragg, Bush asked implying that “our” people had given up a lot to wage his war : “Is the sacrifice worth it?” He quickly answered his own question. “It is worth it”
The Iraq war has cost him nothing perhaps a few hours of missed video golf.
“We have more work to do,” he stated. Yes, Bush stands as a national model of sacrifice and hard work! And Iraqis must think that those Democrats who ask for more troops are either crazy or stark opportunists. It will take them that much longer to restore some integrity to their broken society.
SAUL LANDAU teaches at Cal Poly Pomona University and is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. Landau testified before the World Tribunal on Iraq June 24-27, Istanbul.