Monday, June 19, 2006

"As If He Had Killed All Mankind"

In a short editorial, the Detroit News asked an interesting question:

"Some war critics are suggesting Iraq terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi should have been arrested and prosecuted rather than bombed into oblivion. Why expose American troops to the danger of an arrest, when bombs work so well?"

Here’s one possible answer: In order not to send a five-year-old Iraqi girl into oblivion with the same 500-pound bombs that sent al-Zarqawi into oblivion.

Of course, I don't know whether the Detroit News editorial board, if pressed, would say that the death of that little Iraqi girl was "worth it." Maybe the board wasn't even aware that that little girl had been killed by the bombs that killed Zarqawi when it published its editorial. But I do know one thing: killing Iraqi children and other such "collateral damage" has long been acceptable and even "worth it" to U.S. officials as part of their long-time foreign policy toward Iraq.

This U.S. government mindset was expressed perfectly by former U.S. official Madeleine Albright when she stated that the deaths of half a million Iraqi children from the U.S. and UN sanctions against Iraq had, in fact, been "worth it." ...

Some would argue that such "collateral damage" is just an unfortunate byproduct of war. ... Such claims, however, miss an important point: U.S. military forces have no right, legal or moral, even to be in Iraq killing anyone. Why? Because neither the Iraqi people nor their government ever attacked the United States. The Iraqi people had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington. Thus, this was an optional war against Iraq, one that President Bush and his military forces did not have to wage.
--Jacob G. Hornberger, "Killing Iraqi Children"
This horror behind the news was found by Arthur Silber, who added "For obvious reasons, neither our political leaders nor our media will confront this fact in a straightforward manner."

Just in case those reasons are not obvious to you, remember that Albright was Bill Clinton's U.N. Ambassador and Secretary of State. As of 2005, she was still supporting those deadly sanctions he had maintained. If you've forgotten what they meant to the already-suffering victims of Saddam on the ground in Iraq, read this:
With all trade denied, the Iraqi dinar (ID), worth US$3 in 1989, became virtually worthless: ID 250, formerly US$750 did not even buy a postage stamp in neighboring Jordan. Staple foods multiplied up to 11,000-fold in price. With no trade, unemployment spiraled and many - in a country where obesity had been a problem - faced hunger and deprivation. The US and UK-driven UN sanctions, in fact, mirrored a pitiless Middle Ages siege. ...

Doctors were remarking in bewilderment at the rise in childhood cancers and in birth deformities, which they were ironically comparing with those they had seen in textbooks after the nuclear testing in the Pacific Islands in the 1950s. In 1991, only the United States' and the United Kingdom's top military planners knew that they had used radioactive and chemically toxic depleted uranium (DU) weapons against the Iraqis. ...

Ironically, as cancers spiraled, the UN Sanctions Committee added to its limitless list of items denied to Iraq, treatment for cancers (and heart disease) since they contain minute amounts of radioactive materials. Iraqi scientists, they argued, might extract the radioactive materials from these medications and make weapons from them. ...

In the West, 70 percent of cancers are now largely curable or with long remissions. In Iraq they are almost always a death sentence. ...

Count Hans von Sponeck, who resigned as UN Co-ordinator in Iraq, like his predecessor Denis Halliday (who had cited the sanctions he was there to oversee as generating "the destruction of an entire nation, it is as simple and terrifying as that"), spoke of not only of medical and nutritional problems, but "intellectual genocide."

School books were vetoed. All professionals - doctors, engineers, architects - qualified from 1989 course material. An Iraqi doctor qualifying in 2003 was fourteen years behind in clinical developments....

And for much of the country there were the often daily, ongoing bombings of the patrolling by the United States and United Kingdom of the "no fly zones" or misnamed "safe havens" in the north and south, an illegal exercise not sanctioned by the United Nations. For reasons unknown, aircraft returning to their bases in Turkey and Saudi Arabia routinely bombed flocks of sheep - and with them the child shepherds who minded them. ...

Asked why flocks of sheep were being bombed, the British Ministry of Defence - surreally - responded, "We reserve the right to take robust action, when threatened." ...

Forgotten, too, are the major bombing blitzes over the years. In 1993 there were two massive attacks on Baghdad: one a good-bye from outgoing George Bush Senior and the other a hello from incoming William Jefferson Clinton. The second one killed, among others, the talented artist Laila Al-Attar.
Famous in Iraq, but not here,
...she was the Iraqi artist who was blown to bits by the bombers sent to punish Saddam Hussein in 1993. So was her husband.

Their only daughter, Rema, survived, blinded in one eye. Rema -- "little deer" in Arabic -- left Baghdad soon after the bombing. She has had five operations on her face in Los Angeles and Canada, and is still in pain. ...

Surely, the president was thoroughly briefed on the air raid. It was June 27, 1993, in the first months of his presidency. As commander in chief, he announced, he was acting to foil a plot to assassinate former president George Bush during a victorious visit to Kuwait. The plot turned out to be a ruse.
More on that one "collateral" victim from a University poetics discussion group:
June 1993: President Clinton fires 23 Tomahawk missiles at military targets in Baghdad in retaliation for the supposed plot against Old George -- 7 missiles land in residential areas -- one utterly demolishing the house of Laila Al-Attar, the director of Iraq's national gallery of art; Laila was killed, but also the bulk of her work -- she had been preparing for a retrospective of her life work -- was incinerated.

Art, politics, and history converge into obscenity. The night (Arabic: "Lail") perfumed ("Attar") with fire.
Our last three Presidents, from both parties, are all collaborators in these kinds of callous murders. To expect concern over their willing destruction of innocent life from the Bush administration or its supporters would be naive. To expect denunciation of this kind of slaughter from the likewise-guilty Clintons or their apologists, or their would-be replacements like Bidens and Warners, would be delusional.

Horace wrote "Ars longa, vita brevis". Life can be very short indeed, when there are morally irresponsible men (and someday soon, women as well) who can command the dropping of bombs. The same applies to terrorist killers on the ground, of course, but they are not acting in our names. Create as much as you can, and hope that it will outlast all the monsters in human form. People are still reading Horace's poetry today, and not all of Laila Al-Attar's work was destroyed. The painting at the head of this post is by her. Something beautiful did survive. Perhaps in the long run, it is all that can.

2 Comments:

Blogger quakerdave said...

Of course we know why: Being able to broadcast the front of the dead man's head (considering that the back of it had reportedly ceased to exist) gave the Empire some much needed good PR. "See? We are still killing bad guys." Why take him alive when we can show off a dead body? That way, we can say anything we want about who he really was and what really happened to him.

And as for "collateral damage":
- That's the price of war.
- The cost of freedom is never cheap.
- The military exists to kill people and break things.
- People die in wars. That little girl could've been just as easily run over by a bus (or more likely a tank) that morning.
- Everybody has to die sometime.
- You have to break some eggs to make an omelet.

That list is made up of actual statements people have made to me, to my face, in response to my anti-war bumper stickers. The "omelet" one is my favorite.

9:12 AM  
Blogger Bride Of Acheron said...

Dave: I've heard all those excuses, and worse. Down here in Texas the general population is still quite merciless about sacrificing their fellows, because those enemies are all *EVIL*!! Bush is quite representative of a widespread strain among his former neighbors. "Beam me up, Scotty...."

10:28 AM  

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