Baby killers

It is up to the Iraqis to kick Bush’s armies out, just like the Vietnamese kicked out Nixon’s armies

Illustration By Marianne Mancina

Peter Byrne is a columnist for the North Bay Bohemian, which previously printed a version of this piece

Safa Younis, a 13-year-old Iraqi girl, escaped being shot to death by marauding U.S. Marines in Haditha last November. She escaped because, covered in her mother’s blood, she fainted, making her look dead. Ten screaming children—ranging in age from 2 months to 8 years—were among the two dozen civilians executed that day by our troops, who were armed with the most lethal weapons that money can buy.

Last week, on Memorial Day, George W. Bush, the architect of these children’s deaths and the deaths of thousands of other children in Afghanistan and Iraq, burbled, “I am in awe of the men and women who sacrifice for the freedom of the United States of America.”

I am not in awe of them; I am ashamed for them, and ashamed of us. I believe that America has collectively turned a blind eye to the holocaust in the Middle East. Our soldiers have become baby killers, not figuratively but literally, and government spokespeople downplay the despicable murders as “overzealous” reaction to the death of a Marine.

The only reason that this covered-up massacre in Haditha is getting media play is because there are photographs. But children are killed regularly by American troops and bombs. (And let us not forget the illegal 12-year blockade that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children through the insidious power of famine and poverty.) I can think of no other word for what we are systematically doing to the Iraqis and the Afghans but genocide.

What the Marines did in Haditha is termed “collective punishment,” which means that innocent people are held responsible for the actions of others (usually rebels and freedom fighters). The U.S. government has a long history of exacting forms of collective punishment from its enemies, from the American Indian nations to the Philippines to Dresden to Hiroshima to Hanoi to Panama to Somalia to Kosovo to Afghanistan and Iraq. But ancillary to the practice of collective punishment is the concept of collective responsibility that holds people responsible for the actions of their government when they tolerate or ignore its open commission of crimes against humanity.

It should no longer be possible for those of us who abhor the crimes being done in our names to keep turning a blind eye, to keep eating our nice food, to keep driving our gas guzzlers, to keep pretending that, somehow, the Democrats are going to save us from ourselves.

Admit it—deep down, you desperately want to ignore Haditha and all it stands for. You do not want to do what it will take to end the Bush regime: self-organizing, mass protest and general strikes. But if we, as a people, do not rise up against this monster that we have nurtured—with our collective willingness to go along to get along—then we will, surely, find ourselves one day on the receiving end of the sort of treatment we perpetrated upon those at Haditha.

Some of us may be lulled into remaining complacent or politically paralyzed by certain politicians’ calls to get out of Iraq by the end of this year, or next year, or sometime. Don’t be fooled: The global war on terrorism is the most profitable boondoggle in history. It will continue its momentum as long as the American people remain silent.

The neoconservative Heritage Foundation, which mirrors the ideology of the Bush administration, calls it the “Long War.” In a Heritage Foundation position paper released in March, research fellow in national security policy Baker Spring writes, “As a nation at war, the U.S. is spending remarkably little on defense.” Spring calls for dedicating 4 percent of the gross domestic product to “open-ended” war-making for the indefinite future. By 2009, which is as far as the defense budget currently targets specific Iraq War expenses, the gross domestic product (GDP) will be about $14 trillion. Four percent of that is $560 billion. To help achieve this goal, Spring calls for reducing Americans’ “insatiable appetite” for entitlements such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

The regular defense budget for 2005 is $423 billion. That is 35 percent more than the 2001 budget and $60 billion less than 4 percent of today’s GDP. But when you add in the “emergency supplemental” appropriations that Bush and Congress use to fund the ongoing wars on Afghanistan and Iraq (as well as covert military operations in Pakistan and Northern Africa), the total equals 4 percent.

“Generating support for robust defense budgets means that Congress, along with President George W. Bush, must undertake the difficult task of changing public opinion, not following it,” Spring writes. “This starts with reminding the American people that the ongoing war is not over, regardless of what happens in Iraq, and that the stakes in this war extend to their lives, liberty and future prosperity.”

So, there you have it, the Long War talking point: Uncle Sam wants prosperity for you! If you buy that, I’d like to sell you some Enron stock. There is, however, some debate in high circles of our militarized government about how long to go on feeding the hot war in Iraq and how to transform it into a productive colony, when most Iraqis clearly long for the baby-killing, economy-destroying Americans to beam up.

The bad news is that Bush and Congress are spending about a billion dollars a year building permanent bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, even as Halliburton, Parsons, Washington Group International, Perini, Fluor and other large engineering firms feast on deconstructing the Iraqi and Afghan infrastructures.

In April, the Congressional Research Service calculated the cost of invading and occupying Iraq and Afghanistan at $439 billion through fiscal year 2006, mostly from “emergency” appropriations that are not subject to the same level of scrutiny as the regular Defense Department budget. That does not include $7.1 billion that government auditors cannot find. It seems that much of the missing billions was liberated by American occupation officials (such as Paul Bremer) who had their hands on a mountain of cash stolen from the Iraqi treasury. Shady “reconstruction” deals proliferated while Iraqis starved and became accustomed to living without clean water, electricity, gasoline and medicine.

According to last year’s emergency supplemental request for hot war funding, and in contradiction to his testimony before cheerleading congressional committees, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is furiously constructing permanent bases, barracks, ammunition depots, airfields, supply roads, military hospitals, equipment-maintenance facilities, fuel-tank farms, military power-generation plants and detention facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan. Throughout the world, Rumsfeld is decommissioning old bases and building new ones to fit his vision of a revolutionized armed force capable of striking fast and hard anywhere.

In conjunction with the Rumsfeld-Cheney-Rice-Bush garrisoning of the planet, tens of billions of base-building dollars are being sole-source contracted out to the same war-happy corporations battening on Iraq. Bases are sprouting up in the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Puerto Rico and Italy. Billions of budget dollars are sluiced into classified programs—morally repugnant by definition—without even a pretense of congressional oversight.

Last fall, the camp-following Congress gave Rumsfeld an extra $75 billion for war fighting, including $2.3 billion for new Hummers and trucks; $475 million for ammunition “expended” in Iraq; $337 million to replace expended missiles, including 480 Hellfire missiles (normally used to target individuals); $371 million to replace helicopters; $172 million for 13 Shadow unmanned vehicles; $24 million for software to “achieve maximum lethality” with civilian-blasting artillery; and $30 million for software to support counterintelligence teams, i.e., spies, disinformation specialists and assassins.

Obviously, Rumsfeld is not planning on leaving. It is up to the Iraqis to kick Bush’s armies out, just like the Vietnamese kicked out Nixon’s armies. They could probably use a little help from us—the people who buy bullets for the baby killers.