The news had come overnight. US planes were raining a shock and awe of murderous destruction on the people of Baghdad, rendering parts of the city into ruins. The residents hid in shelters if they could and prayed their children would survive. Meanwhile, soldiers and marines clad in the desert camouflaged fatigues of their respective branches, began their trek up various Iraqi highways shooting, hiding and killing. The war they were bringing was not a new one, although this facet of it was. Previous engagements had been extremely one-sided, with deaths of the Iraqi “enemy” being more than 20,000 times greater than those of the invading US in the salvo called Desert Storm; and 500,000 to perhaps fifty in the years between when the US and Britain enforced their “no-fly” zone and sanctions against Iraq. This new invasion would not be such a cakewalk, however.
One of the lasting images of Desert Storm is the carnage of the so-called Highway of Death. The photographs of this savage and criminal event show human corpses literally burnt to a charcoal crisp, rendered to ash by incendiary weapons and napalm by US weaponry as the iraqis that became these corpses retreated in defeat. There were no apologies forthcoming from the command that ordered this massacre. As for the Pentagon and its civilian paymasters, the crows over their victory were appalling in their brashness and delight. As the Tao te Ching tells us: “He who rejoices in victory, delights in killing (31). It can be argued that this epigram defined the US mindset at the time. As we reach the tenth anniversary of the second US attack on Iraq, perhaps the only solace we can take is that the sentiment described by it is not so popular as it was in 1991.
Back to those soldiers and marines on the road to Baghdad in 2003. By the third day of fighting, the casualties of the invaders were rising. Yet, there was little to indicate anything but another devastating massacre perpetrated on the Iraqis in the name of liberation. Indeed, by May 1, 2003, George Bush felt confident enough to stride onto the deck of the US Navy carrier Abraham Lincoln in a flight suit straight out of central casting and announce to the world that the US military had accomplished its mission. In a public relations episode that would be mocked for years, Bush boldly told those listening that the US and its allies (read Britain) had “prevailed.”
Less than two years later, US casualty numbers were climbing and the media commentators who had championed every move George Bush had made since September 12, 2001 were beginning to mildly question his war. The Iraqi resistance was becoming better organized and was more than just a few thousand angry Baathists and Sunni citizens who had lost power in the wake of the Hussein government’s overthrow. It would not be long before various terror organizations began their own war against the occupation troops and, eventually, their Shia cousins.
In the months that followed, the acronym IED became a familiar one to Iraqis and Americans. Humvees and body armor became part of the common parlance too, especially in relation to the lack of the latter for US troops, despite the billions of dollars being spent to protect the generals and their civilian counterparts inside the relatively luxurious air conditioned buildings of Baghdad’s Green Zone. There was nothing good about this war unless you owned stock in the arms industry. Thousands of US men and women were sent to Iraq over and over again to fight against an enemy that was essentially created by the US invasion. Defense spending in the United States went from around $450 billion to almost a trillion dollars between the years 2003 and 2010, when the withdrawal of most US troops from Iraq was completed. Most of that money went straight into the war industry’s profit columns. These increases are replicated in many other countries, as well. Those who argue that the only reason for this war was to improve war industry profits have a lot of fuel for their argument in those figures alone.
The invasion and occupation of that nation remains a vile and reprehensible stain on the US national conscience, or at least what remains of it. Those officials, politicians and military officers that planned and fought it; the CEOs, board members and major stockholders of the corporations and banks that profited from it; and the sycophantic media who trumpeted it as shamelessly as Goebbels championed Hitler’s heinous deeds; all of them deserve their own special trial before a jury of those whose families they killed, maimed and otherwise destroyed. Unfortunately for those survivors, the only justice these sociopaths might ever find will be in their afterlife, if such a thing exists.
We can’t change that past. We can prevent such a thing from happening in the future. Don’t forsake the opportunity.
Ron Jacobs is the author of the forthcoming novel All the Sinners, Saints. He is also the author of The Way the Wind Blew: a History of the Weather Underground and Short Order Frame Up and The Co-Conspirator’s Tale. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His third novel All the Sinners Saints is a companion to the previous two and is due out in April 2013. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. He can be reached at: email@example.com.