by Bruce Patterson, June 21, 2006
When in 1827 the Jedediah Smith party, 20 men herding 315 horses and mules, trapped and explored their way up California's central valley and Sierra foothills, one of the things they found most remarkable was the placidity of the wildlife. If they came upon a herd of deer grazing in a meadow, they could shoot one dead and the others wouldn't even lift their noses out of the grass. If they spaced out their shots and worked from the edges toward the center of the herd, they could wipe out nearly every deer in the meadow. They found this phenomenon to be endlessly fascinating, which they duly recorded in their journals.
One reason why the deer were oblivious was because they'd never heard gunfire before. Also, like all large animals, deer are usually more skittish about small things like snakes coiled in the grass, the snap of a limb underfoot, a shadowy hole in the ground, or a bee buzzing their ass, then they are about big things, whether sights or sounds. Just as importantly, for centuries the deer had been hunted by people who used stealth. Since the deer were prey animals and not predators, they were used to a constant thinning of their ranks. When a pack of coyotes, a bear or a mountain lion attacked and took down a member of the herd, the rest scattered in panic. But the native hunters made it a point not to disturb the herd and, when an arrow plunged into a deer's heart, the other deer, sensing neither coyote, bear nor mountain lion, thought he'd dropped dead because of old age or disease.
The other day, while assembling the figures to update The War's Toll, I was reminded of that story. The official American death toll now stands at over 2,500, but I wonder if that is the half of it. The fact that nobody in the corporate media has even glanced that way, in spite of the long historical record of national governments, including this one, hiding their dead, is enough to make me suspicious. Like with the body count on September 11th. I don't believe it was so small. The same with the official body counts taken during last year's hurricane season. Put yourself in a politician's shoes. If you take enough bribes and kickbacks to twist the law so that naive people are allowed to build dream houses on the water's edge on land that periodically goes underwater, they go underwater and thousands of them drown, then it's only natural that you'd want to cover your tracks. Add in a monolithic and collaborationist media, and disappearing accountability is a cinch. You minimize the damage and you blame it on an unforeseeable and unavoidable Act of God. Then you re-flood the disaster area with hush money, empty promises and pork barrel privateering. Using some of the very same corrupt agencies and contractors whose shoddy work had contributed to the calamities, you set about re-building everything just as if nothing had happened. With hundreds of thousands of Americans displaced, ruined and traumatized, instead of taking their stories and their plight as lessons for your future, you exile them from public consciousness while going back to business as usual.
When it comes to the American war in Iraq, reality is all but entirely disappeared. Take this notion of America's military occupation of Iraq being the "frontline" in a "Global War on Terrorism." Beyond being ridiculously vague, the concept contains a logical absurdity. For whenever one country violently invades and occupies another country, the invader starts a war. Because to inflict war upon a people is the ultimate form of terrorism, to do it in the name of fighting terrorism is the equivalent of raping a girl to uphold her chastity. Yet if you take a Hitlerian Big Lie and repeat it thousands of times — the Germans also went to war in the name of Anti-Terrorism — then people in the mother country start believing it. You can fool some of the people all the time, and all of the people some of the time, and that gives the demagogues in charge of nations a huge leg up.
Since — were they using The Black Arts? — the time when most Americans were utterly convinced that, with the bloody American overthrow of the Iraqi government and the American seizure of the city of Baghdad, the war had been "won," instead of just begun, tens of thousands of Iraqi women and children, babies and old men have been slaughtered. More tens of thousands of Iraqis have been maimed, hundreds of thousands have been made refugees and millions more have been plunged into lives of unrelenting terror, trauma and misery. Our leaders call this "nation building" and the most robotic among us can say it with utmost seriousness and lethal intent.
The very notion of an Iraqi nation is a fiction made up by the Imperial English. Iraq can exist only as a dictatorship because, if the people enjoyed real democratic rights and real self-determination, there would be dissolution. For instance, what people on earth deserve national independence more than the Kurds? Right now the Iraqi Kurds have independence, too, de facto, and — guess what — they ain't giving it back without a fight — a vicious, bloody and merciless fight to the death. Basra "belongs" to Iran and Kuwait "belongs" to Baghdad and we Americans, as soldiers, contractors and mercenaries, have no place in that region.
Yet, living inside the bubble of warmonger propaganda, you'd think our government had invaded Iraq in order to defend it against "foreign fighters." Just as two generations ago we Americans had invaded Vietnam in order to violently defend it from an invasion of Vietnamese, now we have invaded Iraq in order to defend it against an invasion of Iraqis.
Or, to touch upon another example of disappeared reality, take this notion of justifying slaughter in the name of "spreading Democracy." Right now at this moment the vast majority of the Iraqi people want the Americans out of their country yesterday (it wasn't like we'd been invited, remember?), and the vast majority of Americans want out of Iraq tomorrow. Yet America's ruling junta has absolutely no intention of ever exiting Iraq, no matter what they say "publicly" to us; we who have managed to convince them that we enjoy getting lied to. To the contrary, our rulers have consciously and systematically set about winning a counter-insurgency war, and using space-age weaponry against teenagers armed with antique rifles and grenades, through endless "enemy attrition," they think they can win.
"We had to destroy it in order to save it," is the ultimate expression of terrorist ideology. "Stay the course" in Iraq means exterminating the insurgency; an insurgency that just happens to have the support of the vast majority of the Iraqi people.
Speaking of Democracy, if we Americans care about it so much, why don't we clean up the garbage in our own backyard? How is it possible that, while the vast majority of Americans want out of Iraq — in direct costs the war is costing us 2.5 billion dollars per week that we don't have — that no political party will take up the popular cause? What is it? Are we now living under a one party state — a National Security State on the Orwellian model? Is it possible that, if we peal off George Bush's mask, we will reveal Hillary Clinton's face? If we then peal off Hillary's mask, will we find a war profiteer's corporate logo?
"Ya gotta dance wif dem dat brung ya," as the old blues song goes.
Just recently retired Supreme Court Justice Sandy Day O'Conner stated publicly that, if we Americans don't watch out, we might find ourselves living under a military dictatorship. In a free country with a free press, that tidbit would have been on every patriot's lips. Instead the story was instantly buried under the avalanche of daily propaganda and trivia and that's a fact that should chill you to the bone. Or be at least enough to get you to raise your nose up out of the grass.
Over 18,000 Americans have been wounded in Iraq, thousands hideously so, but you don't hear squat about any of them unless they happen to be gung-ho amputees training for the Special Olympics. The American wounded and their miseries are disappeared like smoke. Outside of friends and family, it's like they never existed. The same with the dead who are snuck back into this country under cover of night.
Regarding the psychological devastation being inflicted on American soldiers in Iraq, while there has been some note taken of it in the corporate press, it has been very little. But the plain fact is that never has an American army been so psychologically ill-prepared to fight a war. All of the reasons given our soldiers for their mission were false, all they had been told about what to expect within their Field of Operations was false, the stated duration of their deployment was false, and false again, and again, and most every promise made to them by the military brass, the politicians and the good people back home has been broken. Those in heavy combat are sometimes doing their second or third hitch, and roughly a third of them started off as National Guardsmen — weekend warriors with wives, kids and careers. Add in the fact that counter-insurgency is the most putrid form of warfare and the fact that it is anti-American in the sense of being diametrically opposed to the Ideals upon which this Republic was founded, and to the core values of one's Faith, and it isn't a stretch to say that our soldiers have been disappeared into a living hell; a living hell few of them will ever entirely escape for as long as they live.
Finally, hidden beneath what amounts to our junta's collective vainglory, is the sorry fact that none of it serves American national interests. It is not in our national interest to colonize Iraq. And it is not in our national interest to support a junta that so viciously attempts to do so.