Owning Disaster

In the summer of 2003, Colin Powell warned George Bush of the consequences of invading Iraq: “You break it, you own it.”

We have lost 4,251 US military men and women in Iraq. In Afghanistan, 660 US troops have died. President Barack Obama will send 17,000 additional servicemen and women to Afghanistan, the country he identifies as the location of the “right war,” which means the deaths in the wrong war, the occupation of Iraq, were/are a mistake. Most of the dead, including my nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Chase J. Comley, were George Bush’s errors. Now, they are Obama’s. And they are just as senseless under an Obama presidency as they were during the George Bush fiasco. Senseless and costly, the wars in both countries will require funding of $205 billion through the end of fiscal year 2010.

President Obama is stamping his approval on attacks in Pakistan, using drones to take out “terrorists.” Often, these bombings kill civilians. Collateral damage wins no friends. It just extends ownership of more destruction.

Meanwhile, a Binyamin Netanyahu rightist government is being formed in Israel. The presence of racist Avigdor Lieberman, added to the coalition government, is chilling and furthers a war process that will affect not just the Middle East but the safety of citizens in every country whose leaders sympathize with and support Zionists while denying the atrocities committed against Palestinians.

The words spoken by Shimon Peres to the president of the European Parliament on Tuesday were jaw dropping. The unctuous Peres warned that the “Palestinian people will be doomed to continued exploitation at the hands of the Islamic rulers of Gaza.” With brazen hypocrisy, he stated that Israel would fight terrorism “while allowing the continued flow of food and humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.”

The governments of Israel and the United States are the greatest exploiters of the people of Palestine. The weapons, supplied to Israel for use on the Palestinians, are made by Raytheon, a US company. Not only are we the largest weapons supplier to Israel, the arms recently used on Gazan Palestinians contained white phosphorous, a chemical banned by international law.

And, now, the agreement negotiated by the Bush Administration to provide 30 billion dollars in military aid to Israel belongs to Obama whose language seems to indicate his unconditional acceptance.

Obama’s decisions and actions also belong to us, since it is our taxpayer money that funds the wars and the weapons that melt the flesh of men, women, and children in countries our leadership determines to be havens for enemies whose numbers grow the longer we occupy their lands.

Obama will remove a portion of our military from Iraq in 19 months, yet a staggering number–as many as 50,000 troops–will remain, probably to protect “American interests.” Each week we are there will bring increased Iraqi civilian deaths and more devastating news for military families.

Bush broke it and owned it for awhile but now Obama holds the deed. And so do we.

I think of the four babies born to our family since the death of Chase. These little girls, who would have been Chase’s nieces had he lived to love and cherish them, will know their uncle only from stories told about him, photographs, and visits to his grave site. I wonder what lies ahead for them. Because I know and feel such deep shame for what we have done to the many children whose homes and playgrounds are now rubble, whose parents are dead, whose bodies and psyches are fractured, and whose DNA is contaminated by depleted uranium from our weapons of mass destruction.

We have broken so much and no one in the Obama Administration is admitting this fact. Instead, we hear the proclamation, met with thunderous applause, that Obama “will not allow terrorists to plot against the American people.” There is no acknowledgment of the blood dripping from our hands, the blood of Iraqi, Afghan, Pakistani, and Palestinian civilians.

How much carnage are we going to own?

Missy Beattie lives in New York City. She’s written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. An outspoken critic of the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq, she’s a member of Gold Star Families for Peace. She completed a novel last year, but since the death of her nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Chase J. Comley, in Iraq on August 6,’05, she has been writing political articles. She can be reached at: Missybeat@aol.com


Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com