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Tuesday, 25 March 2008
Five years... and 95 to go?
Topic: antiwar
Five years and counting... you all know the meaning of the numbers. A million Iraqi dead; countless other Iraqis maimed or terrorized. This on top of a million or more Iraqis who died or whose lives were shattered by the 1990s Sanctions of the Liberals (one of whose backroom players now lusts for the White House). And of course, 4,000 American military deaths in Iraq, plus 15 times that number seriously wounded.

The order of the numbers reporting means a lot, too. Have you noticed that US media always update the casualty totals with the lowest figure first - that is, the 4,000 - or often give nothing in addition for context? That's just their way of doing what they and Hollywood (e.g. Deer Hunter) did throughout the Vietnam war: convince us that our victim is actually the aggressor, and the victims are us. The doctrinal system requires that we see ourselves as innocent targets of the evildoer. Even liberals, sometimes especially liberals, hold this self-image as dear as does a fascist monster like Dick Cheney.

(Here I have to emphasize, though, that I mourn every American death from this and past disasters. I do not blame American military personnel, at least not the lower ranks, for what's happened. Nor - equally important - do I excuse them entirely. In my own military service, I avoided directly participating in the mass murder of Vietnamese and others, but I didn't directly resist the war, either. This has left me with a strange mixture of satisfaction and shame. Oh, to have been a conscientious objector from Day One.)

All this brings us to the rhetorical blood-brother of the numbers game: the "mistake" fallacy.

Look through media coverage of the Iraq war's fifth anniversary and you'll see the word "mistake" everywhere. Sometimes "blunder" or "error" will be the mot injuste. In any case, the meaning is consistent: we're supposed to believe the war was simply the outcome of a bad business plan, or the like. Practicality is king in this society - and so when Americans, elite or rank-and-file, call something a mistake, they may believe they're deploying their most devastating charge. Yet Americans never describe, say, a home invasion-murder as a mistake. We fall all over ourselves in such cases to find words commensurate with the facts: heinous, deplorable, disgusting, outrageous, etc. And always, always such things are described as what they clearly are in legal terms: crimes.

Remember the infamous "doughnut hole" people talked about when the Medicare prescription drug plan first came up? Basically, the plan only covers the lowest and highest costs, with beneficiaries bled dry to pay for the bulk of costs that fall in the middle. Something analogous to this goes on in the world of rhetoric: terms like crime, aggression, ethnic cleansing, and sometimes genocide, are attached to what "retail" purveyors of violence do (al Qaeda or small rogue states), or to what defeated maniacal regimes (like Nazi Germany) have done. But terms like mistake, error, and blunder are reserved for the doughnut hole: actions like those of our own country and close allies over a half century, that is, strategies as cowardly and bloodthirsty as those of any past national power, and outcomes as quantitatively horrific as what our most despicable enemies have ever produced.

And so, as I've said again and again: we've got to call the War Against Iraq by the right name. It's a crime, crime, crime. This truth won't change with the passage of time, not even if the occupation of Iraq turns out to be John McCain's new Hundred Years' War. (Let's pause to acknowledge McCain, whose mad-bomber role in the 1960s Rolling Thunder air war in Southeast Asia should temper our view of his admittedly horrendous experience as a POW.) And no crime should be characterized merely as "the biggest foreign policy mistake since Vietnam" - a galling understatement now regularly uttered by liberals like Diane Rehm, probably imagining they've delivered a verbal coup de grace.

As I and many others have pointed out before, the Iraq war, like all "preventive" wars or wars of aggression, is (in Justice Robert Jackson's words) an example of "the supreme international crime." I almost said Jackson's "immortal words," but I'm not betting that the US media, along with other propaganda and "information" systems, won't succeed in erasing from historical memory the lessons of the Nuremberg tribunals. They've done their damndest to do this for a lot more years than five. But thankfully, they're not quite able to strut on the deck of American moral consciousness - which sleeps but still is alive - and declare "mission accomplished."

Peace folks can stay focused on the only proper objectives (a short list): immediate withdrawal of all US and allied forces, based on binding agreements to insure Iraqis control their political institutions and economy for their own national benefit; introduction of a neutral multinational force acceptable to the Iraqi people and their contiguous neighboring states to secure peace and human rights; and prompt payment of reparations by the US to the Iraqi people for decades, not just five years, of US war crimes.

But let's start with something more rhetorically uncomplicated: Get the fuck out now!

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 21:44 EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 9 April 2008 22:17 EDT
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