Who won the war, the forces of light or the forces of darkness? Warmongers side-stepped morality & the law, but peaceniks need to ask tough questions. Are the Iraqis better off? Is AmeriKa out of control? A piece about the soul of our global future.
Are the dark forces winning? The answer isn’t easy. Neither side in the battle for the soul of our global future has a monopoly on virtue -- or vice. It’s not an issue of black versus white, so much as a stormy vista of shifting greys, competing lies, mad obsessions, lust, greed and sadism. Peeling back the layers of spin & self delusion, we come to the key question. Can a foul deed produce good results? Yes. For a time. Yes. For a certain number of people. That citizens can now give voice to opinions and desires after a lifetime of fear is sweet liberation. In a tyranny, how does one summon up the strength to get out of bed, day after day? It is beyond my understanding. However mean, shifty and ignoble are the men who currently rule Australia--shrinking, always shrinking the spirit of this land to the Scrooge-like borders of their own imaginings--it is still possible to dance free under the stars & sound off in cyberspace. How we relish this escape from their drab finger-wagging. How we dream of extending this freedom to every creature under the sun. How thrilling that Saddam’s jails are emptied, and that Dr Evil, Little Uday Me & a thousand thugs have joined the ranks of the hunted. I wish them hell.
Am I sorry I opposed the war? Like many others, I regret that the tyrants of Baghdad were not scattered after the first Gulf weapons expo. I regret that he UN failed to assemble a coalition of hi-tech samurais with the sole and specific aim of dislodging the torture-mad leadership once courted by the arms profiteer, Donald Rumsfeld. Yes, I was appalled by the lies of the Coalition, the nose-thumbing at the UN, the cheer leading of the media. But it must be said that an Iraq freed from the apparatus of terror is likely to improve its people’s sum total of joy. The opportunism of Uncle Sam is likely to expand opportunities for the Iraqi’s.
Unless the country collapses into chaos and civil war.
The Massacre Murdoch Won’t Mention
Around the time President Bush landed on the deck of his big boat to laud the world’s mightiest military machine, his 82nd Airborne Division was in Fallujah, west of Baghdad, shooting civilians. Chris Hughes of the UK Mirror watched in horror, as troops sprayed a crowd of unarmed people, including children. Why? It was triggered by a boy hurling a sandal at a US jeep. No, I’m not making this up. The Mirror’s report is supported by pics and other witnesses. A few days earlier, the same soldiers had murdered 14 Iraqis and injured another 70. A crowd had been marching in protest against the airborne division’s commandeering of the local Al-Kaahd school. Shots rang out for thirty minutes. A massacre, according to the Guardian. Ambulances were fired upon. Claims by Lieutenant Christopher Hart that his troops had been responding to shots from a motorocycle, were dismissed by on-scene reporters as “implausible.” An enquiry was promised, but a week later it was revealed that no US official had spoken to the Iraqi doctors who counted the bodies or even visited the homes of children who were among the dead.
The Americans appear to have acted with staggering recklessness--noted an editorial in the Guardian, turning a residential area full of kids into a murderous free-fire zone. And so on. Little of this was aired in the Australian media, and we can be sure CNN failed to consider it newsworthy. Instead of being prosecuted for war crimes, the killers of the 82nd airborne division will be showered with tickertape & adorned with trinkets.
The Puzzling Moans of the Liberated
Oblivious to such details, President Bush spent the weekend praising our PM as “a man of steel” and whisking him off to watch baseball. Estimates of civilians killed in Iraq swing between 2000 and 3,500, with injuries put at triple that number, if not more. Few care to calculate the deaths of Iraqi soldiers, because the act of undergoing conscription and being forced to crouch in a foxhole excludes you from the human race. As General Franks puts it: We don’t do body counts--10,000, or 20,000, who cares? When a talkback caller in Australia expressed shame at the cruelties inflicted on Iraqis, our PM replied that without our intervention, Saddam would have murdered many more.
I suppose this is how we measure morality, these days. By numbers. Even so, on these figures, Saddam’s executioners would be working around the clock for years. And there would still be food, water, power, jobs, free education, hospitals and the odd Sumerian artifact. On the other hand, Uday Hussein would still be on his foaming rampage of pillage & torture. Recently returned from a second trip to the warzone, the artist George Gittoes reports that Little Me kept 23 naked pre-teens locked in a cell under Baghdad’s Olympic Centre. Two died in captivity, the rest are now rescued.
The debate keeps moving in circles. On Monday, a freshly liberated Baghdadi, a Professor of Political Science, told ABC’s Four Corners, “We get nothing, not even our freedom”. But surely there’s joy for you now that the monster is gone? A cold stare: “Not in this way”. Ah, the eloquence of the liberated.
Not in this way. What could he mean? That his city was burning, its children traumatised, the backyards littered with cluster bombs. How ungrateful. US General Richard Myers claimed a mere 1500 illegal anti personnel weapons were flung at Iraq, but he didn’t include the ones launched from canons. Myers boasted “only one” confirmed civilian death. Pull the other one. On April 22, Newsday’s James Rupert reported that cluster bombs “fell into large suburban neighbourhoods like explosive rain, blasting craters and spewing steel shrapnel into homes, schools and civilians. His “partial survey” produced 27 civilian deaths and 54 injuries from that raid alone. Meanwhile, most Western journos keep extolling the war’s “extraordinary precision”.
Kind & Cuddly Peaceniks with Cluster Gifts
So much is theatre, like the toppling of Saddam’s statue outside the media centre (hardly two hundred people in the square, and most of these were foreign journalists, which is why you never saw a long-shot). But we are good people. The end justifies the means. Bring in the contractors. Get a job. American Pie. Depleted Uranium. KFC.
What next for the world? Re-moulded by the strategy of pre-emptive strikes into a vast pyramid, with the White House on top.
It seems most media commentators can’t wait for American values to girt the globe, from Amazon to the Antarctic. Its like they’re volunteers for Combat Camera, a little known US military unit that’s lately sprung to view. Combat Camera was once confined to handling reconnaissance and forensic photography. For its latest mission, according to the Baltimore Sun, its role was expanded to “representing the war in a kindlier light”. Loaded with pistols and cameras, its 150 soldiers charged around Iraq taking pictures of smiling civilians, mass surrenders, the GI’s handing out Hershey bars. Each day, up to 50 video clips were distributed to the “civilian media”, many of which brightened up the nightly news. On with the show.
The moral logic of the coalition “success” means we must now roll up our sleeves and liberate every other non democracy, regardless of whether or not it’s a threat. WMD’s were never the real issue, even if Special Ops will eventually “discover” a nuclear device. Nor was the oil. Or was it? Okay, so the marines guarded the Ministry of Oil while the museums, art galleries and science labs were being ransacked, but that’s a coincidence, a happenstance of war, nothing sinister, merely one of those messy outcomes of putting the world aright, like the bombing of pesky Al Jazeera.
Today, BBC Online reveals that US soldiers egged on the looters, but let’s not dwell on the past. Let’s invade Saudi Arabia. Sooner the better. Or maybe Syria, Libya, Cuba, Burma, most of Africa, North Korea --you name it, let’s blow it up. After all, these are police states, even if rents are low and healthcare free. Audiences can rate the targets by casting votes on Big Brother: The Real Thing. Choose the next shit to get tossed out of the palace. WhamBam.
War is entertainment; a delicious escape for everyone involved, apart from the victims and their families, plus oodles of contracts for perpetrators. It’s time for everyone to settle down and enjoy the video game.
Smile, You’re on Combat Camera
By Richard Neville
Posted on the Independent Newswire on 7 May 2003.