Banality, bombast, and bloodAuthor of this text: John Chuckman
The saga of
America's Private Lynch, no matter what the details of her movie-set escape
prove to be, adds only banality to needless bloodshed in Iraq.
American woman, Marla Ruzicka, went largely ignored. Ms. Ruzicka runs a non-profit organization that works to make accurate counts of a war's civilian
dead. It is small wonder Ms. Ruzicka is not given the same coverage as Private
Lynch, since, based upon detailed field work in Iraq, she says that between five
and ten thousand civilians were killed.
wars, total casualties, which include wounded, crippled, and lost, are many
times the number killed, often as high as ten times. I do not know what the
appropriate ratio is for Iraq, but it's not hard to see that the United States
killed and hurt a great many innocent people in a few weeks of „precision"
losses, poor boys drafted to defend their homes, we as yet have no good estimate.
In the first Gulf War, between sixty and one hundred thousand Iraqi soldiers
were slaughtered. With Iraq's population being less than ten percent that of the
United States, such losses must be multiplied by ten to get some feel for their
impact on the society.
Americans, thirty years later, still weep at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington-a
monument representing about sixty thousand deaths over ten years of war-they
have inflicted on Iraq, in just three weeks, that same proportionate loss-all
of them civilians. The one-sided slaughter of soldiers in the first Gulf War
represented the equivalent of the U.S. having sustained between half a million
and a million deaths just over a decade ago. No society recovers easily from
such losses of its youth.
In a real
war, a war in which most people agree there is some powerful motivating cause,
the fate of an individual soldier like Private Lynch becomes almost unimportant.
Soldiers in real wars are reduced to just about the status of soldier-ants in a war between two ant-nests.
public can be mercurial when it comes to invasions with flimsy excuses and
gas-bag ideology. Public support can shift quickly or melt away entirely, so a little juicing-up may be prescribed. Besides, when there is almost no real news
being reported, as was true in America for Iraq, you need a little something to
satisfy the chips-and-television crowd anxious to be informed from their couches.
America's modern warriors are limited to follow-up after missiles and bombs have
reduced everything to a vision of hell, much of the touching stuff that once
inspired the home front is missing. There are no more pitiful and tragic images
of young Americans falling in what seems a worthy cause.
Pentagon's prisoner-liberation simulation, like its staged statue-toppling in
Baghdad, so suggestive of news photos at end of World War Two, served several
Is this how a great power behaves in the early part of the 21st century? Especially a power
that enjoys reminding us at every opportunity-I
suppose because it is so easy for the rest of the world, just watching its
actions, to forget-that
America stands for human rights and democratic principles? Yes, unfortunately,
that is exactly how it behaves. Only, the complete picture is bleaker still.
Mr. Bush at
the G-8 summit in Evian, France-a
summit he considered not even attending and at which, in any event, he cut short
an effort at grand-poohbah statesman with "We can have disagreements, but
that doesn't mean we have to be disagreeable," a lifelessly trite line, but
one certainly ranking at the peak of this President's eloquence.
Just a few
days before (May 30), Bush abandoned the session with reporters that customarily
precedes a G-8 summit, perhaps reflecting advisors' concerns that he would blow
it with his anger when questioned about recent events. He left the session for
his tactful National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, to blow.
subject of Canada, Ms. Rice gave us the following: „I think there was
disappointment in the United States that a friend like Canada was unable to
support the United States in what we considered to be an extremely important
issue for our security."
Does Ms. Rice
read the newspaper? Her words about security come within days of reports of an
interview with the Pentagon's Paul Wolfowitz in which he admits the business
about weapons was an excuse for invading Iraq. His admission only punctuated
weeks of reports about American forces not finding anything remotely suspicious
and America's hack chorus of national columnists swelling their breasts to a theme about weapons not being important after all.
never stinted in helping Americans. Canada is the kind of neighbor any sensible
people would want. But helping a scheme for „regime change" in someone
else's country, unsupported by international law, is not quite the same thing as
never called a poor friend for not helping in the many shadowy „regime
changes" the United States has conducted across the Caribbean and Latin
America. Canada's values and interests do not lie that way. Why was the
situation suddenly so different for an unthreatening small country on the other
side of the planet?
answer is that the United States government felt alone and naked in what it was
doing over Iraq. It desperately sought international approval, which it did not
get, leaving the harsh ideologues in the White House both embarrassed and angry
at being embarrassed.
Ms. Rice went
on to say differences with Canada had put bilateral relations through "some
difficult times," and "that disappointment will, of course, not go
[away] easily. It will take some time, because when friends are in a position
where we say our security's at stake, we would have thought, as we got from many
of our friends, that the answer would have been, 'Well, how can we help?'"
honest person reading her words find them in keeping with Bush's G-8 stuff about
„not being disagreeable"? They are clearly disagreeable, provocative,
and even petty.
But Ms. Rice
went even further concerning Germany, „I can't answer the question of
whether personal relations between the President and the Chancellor will ever be
the same. We will have to see."
France, „there were times when it appeared that American power was seen to
be more dangerous than perhaps Saddam Hussein," Ms. Rice said. "I'll
just put it very bluntly, we simply didn't understand it."
Well, to put
it also very bluntly, American power, when it is used to bully others, in fact
is more dangerous, far more dangerous, than Saddam Hussein ever was.
been allies in great struggles in world wars," Ms. Rice said of the French.
"The United States gave its blood to liberate France."
States gave its blood to defeat rivals Germany and Japan. Liberating countries
like France was incidental, although the French have always scrupulously,
respectfully maintained America's battlefield cemeteries and commemorated
America's efforts as few others do.
historical fact is President Roosevelt considered governing postwar France in a very high-handed manner. He pretty much detested De Gaulle, and France's empire
was something the Roosevelt people never stopped sneering at and preaching about
while merrily working to build one of their own. The situation was far murkier
and less heroic than Ms. Rice would have you understand, but her purpose was to
put another country on the defensive, not to teach history.
world's statesmen so dense they do not understand true danger when they see it?
Do they deliberately embrace evil? Of course not. Then, why Ms. Rice's language
if the need for invading Iraq was clear? Precisely because the need was not
clear, and it has only become even less clear now. Manipulative language here is a substitute for thought-we
are given a form of aggressive marketing rather than an honest product-a
practice to which this administration is addicted.
Just a week
before the G-8 summit, another Bush-administration bully, Secretary of Defense
Rumsfeld, gave us his version of „not being disagreeable." Rumsfeld
informed the French air force that it would not be welcome at two upcoming
version of „not being disagreeable" included declaring that the United
States would heavily cut its involvement with the Paris Air Show, traditionally
the world's most important show for aviation technology. As a Pentagon official
so agreeably put it, „With troops eating military rations in the dust in
Iraq, it's not appropriate for officers to be wined and dined in Paris."
sound reasonable? So, do you think they've stopped wining and dining in
expensive Georgetown restaurants over all the fat new Pentagon contracts being
handed out these days? Or do they just quietly put aside that disagreeable stuff
about dust and rations on such happy occasions? Do you think they served
military freeze-dried rations at the President's recent $18-million dollar
diplomat, that disappointing baritone of dissimulation, Colin Powell, has gone
around for weeks uttering threats and slights towards France. A couple of weeks
ago, he said the United States would reconsider its links with France following
disagreement over Iraq. Does that sound anything like being „not
On CBC Radio
some weeks ago, there was a fascinating little story. There is a manufacturer in
Quebec who actually makes some of the fancy cowboy boots beloved in Texas.
During the height of American irritation over Iraq, this boot-maker was asked by
his Texas customer to supply a written statement that he did not personally
support Canada's policy towards war in Iraq.
imagine an American's furious response at being asked such an inappropriate,
private, personal matter in a business transaction? In effect, he was asked to
supply a kind of pledge of allegiance to someone else's foreign policy.
corrupt, dirty, and destructive is taking hold of America, choking even ordinary
business with the sewerage of ideology. How does one talk of neighborliness,
love of freedom, or democratic-mindedness while behaving like a blackmailer?
Chuckman writes for independent news outlets, such as Democracy Now, Free Speech
Radio, CounterPunch, and the American Rationalist.
« Society (Published: 05-06-2003 Last change: 21-09-2003)
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Writes for independent news outlets, such as Democracy Now, Free Speech Radio, CounterPunch, and the American Rationalist; YellowTimes.org columnist, Canada.
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