FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Can You Imagine the Long War for Iraqis?

“Can you imagine …”

With these words, Israeli author Amos Oz offers the beginning of an answer to his query, “How to Cure a Fanatic” (the title of his newest book).

“I can’t help thinking,” he writes, “that with a slight twist of my genes, or of my parents’ circumstances, I could be him or her, I could be a Jewish West Bank settler, I could be an ultra-orthodox extremist, I could be an oriental Jew from a Third World country; I could be anyone. I could be one of my enemies.”

“Imagining the other is a moral imperative.”

Maybe it’s the hardest work we can do.

With the recent power outages around Seattle, we’ve been given a chance to do just that. In a very small way we might begin to imagine being an Iraqi over the past 16 years.

During my nine trips to Iraq, there were always electrical outages. On my first trip in 1996 we slept in a hotel with no electricity and
kerosene lamps.

L. Paul Bremer said Iraq’s electricity problems were caused by 30 years of neglect. This might make us feel good, but it is not the truth. In 1990 Iraq had a modern electrical grid.

The Washington Post told us about Iraq after the Gulf War:

“The worst civilian suffering, senior [American] officers say, has resulted not from bombs that went astray but from precision-guided weapons that hit exactly where they were aimed — at electrical plants …. Now nearly four months after the war’s end, Iraq’s electrical generation has reached only 20 to 25 percent of its prewar capacity of 9,000 to 9,500 megawatts. Pentagon analysts calculate that the country has roughly the generating capacity it had in 1920 — before reliance on refrigeration and sewage treatment became widespread.”

Can you imagine you are an Iraqi? One family told me they had no electricity for six months in 1991. Years later they still suffered
power brownouts for hours every day.

I experienced this one summer in Basra in 2000, where the temperature was around 120 degrees. We sat around the living room floor in a poor family’s home. At six o’clock it was their turn to get electricity, and the ceiling fan began to turn. One of the Iraqis looked up and said, sarcastically, “Thank you, George Bush!”

Of course their refrigerator was of no use under those conditions.

Why did we attack Iraq’s electricity? The architect of the air war, USAF Colonel John Warden, said it gave us “long-term leverage”! He also said, “we hold direct attacks on civilians to be morally reprehensible.” So, he said, we should attack civilians indirectly.

USAF Colonel Kenneth Rizer explained the indirect attacks: “destruction of these [electrical] facilities shut down water purification and sewage treatment plants. As a result, epidemics of gastroenteritis, cholera, and typhoid broke out, leading to perhaps as many as 100,000 civilian deaths.” He concluded this was a smart and legal strategy because it “targeted civilian morale” ­ but did so “indirectly.”

According to reports in New England Journal of Medicine and UNICEF, Colonel Rizer’s estimate of civilian deaths is ten times too low. But his reasons for the deaths are correct: no electricity means no way to process water or sewage; no way to refrigerate medicine and food; no way to power hospitals or incubators; no way even to communicate needs.

Colonel Warden wrote, “We are struck by the fact that the physical side of the enemy is, in theory, perfectly knowable and predictable. Conversely, the morale side — the human side — is beyond the realm of the predictable in a particular situation because humans are so different from each other.”

But are we really?! How would anyone in any country feel to be denied electricity for years as a tool of coercion? If we can’t imagine
ourselves as Iraqis, what will happen?

Almost 40 years ago in his Riverside Church address, Dr. King said, “Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat.”

Although we still do not realize it, we laid the groundwork for our defeat in Iraq by bombing Iraq’s electrical plants and re-imposing sanctions in 1991. It was a failure to practice Amos Oz’ advice: to imagine ourselves in the shoes of the other, of the Iraqis.

BERT SACKS, who lives in Seattle, has been fined $10,000 by the U.S. government after going to Iraq to distribute medicine; Sacks has refused to pay any fines. More of his writings are at: http://bertoniraq.blogspot.com.

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
June 22, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Karl Grossman
Star Wars Redux: Trump’s Space Force
Andrew Levine
Strange Bedfellows
Jeffrey St. Clair
Intolerable Opinions in an Intolerant Time
Paul Street
None of Us are Free, One of Us is Chained
Edward Curtin
Slow Suicide and the Abandonment of the World
Celina Stien-della Croce
The ‘Soft Coup’ and the Attack on the Brazilian People 
James Bovard
Pro-War Media Deserve Slamming, Not Sainthood
Louisa Willcox
My Friend Margot Kidder: Sharing a Love of Dogs, the Wild, and Speaking Truth to Power
David Rosen
Trump’s War on Sex
Mir Alikhan
Trump, North Korea, and the Death of IR Theory
Christopher Jones
Neoliberalism, Pipelines, and Canadian Political Economy
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Why is Tariq Ramadan Imprisoned?
Robert Fantina
MAGA, Trump Style
Linn Washington Jr.
Justice System Abuses Mothers with No Apologies
Martha Rosenberg
Questions About a Popular Antibiotic Class
Ida Audeh
A Watershed Moment in Palestinian History: Interview with Jamal Juma’
Edward Hunt
The Afghan War is Killing More People Than Ever
Geoff Dutton
Electrocuting Oral Tradition
Don Fitz
When Cuban Polyclinics Were Born
Ramzy Baroud
End the Wars to Halt the Refugee Crisis
Ralph Nader
The Unsurpassed Power trip by an Insuperable Control Freak
Lara Merling
The Pain of Puerto Ricans is a Profit Source for Creditors
James Jordan
Struggle and Defiance at Colombia’s Feast of Pestilence
Tamara Pearson
Indifference to a Hellish World
Kathy Kelly
Hungering for Nuclear Disarmament
Jessicah Pierre
Celebrating the End of Slavery, With One Big Asterisk
Rohullah Naderi
The Ever-Shrinking Space for Hazara Ethnic Group
Binoy Kampmark
Leaving the UN Human Rights Council
Nomi Prins 
How Trump’s Trade Wars Could Lead to a Great Depression
Robert Fisk
Can Former Lebanese MP Mustafa Alloush Turn Even the Coldest of Middle Eastern Sceptics into an Optimist?
Franklin Lamb
Could “Tough Love” Salvage Lebanon?
George Ochenski
Why Wild Horse Island is Still Wild
Ann Garrison
Nikki Haley: Damn the UNHRC and the Rest of You Too
Jonah Raskin
What’s Hippie Food? A Culinary Quest for the Real Deal
Raouf Halaby
Give It Up, Ya Mahmoud
Brian Wakamo
We Subsidize the Wrong Kind of Agriculture
Patrick Higgins
Children in Cages Create Glimmers of the Moral Reserve
Patrick Bobilin
What Does Optimism Look Like Now?
Don Qaswa
A Reduction of Economic Warfare and Bombing Might Help 
Robin Carver
Why We Still Need Pride Parades
Jill Richardson
Immigrant Kids are Suffering From Trauma That Will Last for Years
Thomas Mountain
USA’s “Soft” Coup in Ethiopia?
Jim Hightower
Big Oil’s Man in Foreign Policy
Louis Proyect
Civilization and Its Absence
David Yearsley
Midsummer Music Even the Nazis Couldn’t Stamp Out
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail