Terrorism, Justice and the Legacy of the Iraq War

This post is written on the premise that it is wrong to kill innocent people. The principle underlying the war on Iraq is simple: It is righteous when we kill innocent people, but it is terrorism if they do so. This is applied to several aspects of the war: patriotism, freedom, democracy and troops.

Terrorism is defined in U.S. Army Field Manual 100-20 as "the calculated use of violence or the threat of violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious or ideological." To apply this verdict to America is inconceivable.

If we do apply this definition to America, then America is a far greater threat to Iraq than Iraq has ever been to the U.S. Thus, if we accept the logic of the supporters of the Iraq War, we should not only aid the insurgents' attacks against an occupying army (America), but, as the logic goes, also call on them to bomb and invade Washington. Furthermore, if we accept the doctrine of "preemptive war," then we should arm Iran, North Korea, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Hezbollah and Hamas and encourage them to attack us.

If you praise Sept. 11, you are insane; if you praise the invasion of Iraq, you are patriotic.

Our love for freedom and democracy is apparent if we look at facts and not rhetoric. Estimates range from 100,000 to 1,100,000 civilians that we liberated to heaven. A study by the Iraq Body Count found that of the people killed by U.S. air strikes, 46 percent are women and 39 percent are children ("terrorists").

While acknowledging the civilian death toll, people claim that intent does matter, as defined in leaders' rhetoric. If this is true, then the intent of the hijackers who drove a plane into the Pentagon was to establish a religious utopia in the Arab world. Similarly, Hitler was defending the people of Germany from the partisans.

After invading the country, we installed an American viceroy, who appointed a temporary government to hold elections. The Ba'ath party, which would be the chief political opposition to the occupation, is still banned from running in elections ("democracy"). According to the 2009 United Nations Arab Human Development Report, "it is a crime to insult any public institution or official. It is also a crime, under Article 227, to publicly insult a foreign country or an international organization with an office in Iraq."

The report concludes: "Bad as Iraq's economic legacy was, it does not compare to the economic breakdown that followed the U.S.-led invasion. ... Standards of living are still lower than they were before the invasion." Any commentator will acknowledge Saddam's brutality - and after six years, the lives of most Iraqis are worse ("free").

A reporter framed this as, "The presence of the American military has also been a significant factor in the nation's stability" in "Bomb Kills at Least 76 in Baghdad Market" (New York Times, June 25). Meanwhile, an article in the NYT on Oct. 2, 2009 ("China Is Wordless on Traumas of Communist Rise,") lamented that China fails to acknowledge its culpability for a 1948 siege that killed 160,000 civilians.

To admit the war is for profit is still taboo. In a much-repeated campaign line by President Barack Obama, Iraq has a surplus of tens of billions of dollars. Despite this, last year the Iraqi government accepted a $744 million loan from the International Monetary Fund, which included the condition that Iraq would partially privatize its state oil sector.

Our country, the richest in world history, sometimes recognizes that it murders civilians and compensates families up to $2,500. As another measure of our generosity, of the 4 million refugees we created, we have allowed 17,000 to come here.

One Iraqi reporter said he "was roaming throughout the past years of the war in our scorched land, and I was seeing with my own eyes the pains of the victims and hearing the weeping of the grieving women and orphans. Shame was chasing me, like an ugly name for my helplessness." At a press conference, he threw his shoes at President George W. Bush, shouting, "This is your farewell kiss, you dog!" He was tackled, beaten with pipes, electrocuted, imprisoned for nine months and released as reported in "Freed, Shoe-Hurling Iraqi Alleges Torture in Prison" (NYT, Sept. 15, 2009).

The hell visited on the Iraqi people is also visited on Americans. According to "Suicide's Rising Toll" (NYT, Aug. 1, 2009), suicide levels for troops are at the highest level ever recorded. Another article, "For Veterans, A Weekend Pass from Homelessness" (NYT, July 25, 2009), notes that of the approximately 200,000 homeless veterans, 3,700 are veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan.

In "Generation Kill," Evan Wright describes an incident where U.S. soldiers fire on a civilian car and check the passengers: "(Pvt.) Graves sees a small girl of about three curled up in the backseat. ... Graves reaches in to pick her up - thinking about what medical supplies he might need to treat her, he later says - then the top of her head slides off and her brains fall out. When Graves steps back, he nearly falls over when his boot slips in the girl's brains."

One out of three returning soldiers reporting to Veterans Affairs hospitals is being diagnosed with mental illness, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. And, as reported in Bob Herbert's "The Great Shame," female troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan faced 25 percent more sexual assaults in 2008 compared to 2007.

If defending one's country is brave and honorable, we must write odes to the brave and honorable Iraqi resistance, whose country actually was invaded.

The same leaders who say we should "Support the Troops" do exactly the opposite. They argue that pointing out the horrific consequences is somehow disrespectful. Or, criticism is invalid because of some irredeemable flaw in the newspaper, writer and so forth. The doctrine is the same: condemn violence from our government's official enemies and support violence that we carry out.

The Iraq War is an obscenity as measured by virtually any statistic that matters to human beings. For knowledgeable people who cringe at the horror of Sept. 11, while continuing to justify the invasion of Iraq, which is a far worse atrocity, there is one simple assumption: Iraqis are not human beings.

If there were such a thing as justice in the world, the group of arrogant and deluded men who prosecuted the Iraq War would be tried and imprisoned for their crimes.

At least we should stop lying about the Iraq War. We should say that our leaders are mass murderers, we are all guilty of subsidizing war crimes, and we do not care. But it is sheer ignorance to believe that the rest of the world does not see our hypocrisy or that our victims are unaware they are being abused.

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