Monday, March 20, 2006

The Truth About Iraq

Our myopic president, G. W. Bush, has been traveling the country recently, hoping to head off the bad news emerging as America observes the 3rd anniversary of his disastrous venture in Iraq. Like a broken record, he keeps repeating his mantra: We’re doing better than the media lets on, we can’t retreat, we must fight the terrorists over there so we don't have to fight them here. And Americans in increasing numbers are responding that the war was a mistake, and not worth what it is costing in lives and treasure (upwards of $400 billion at last count).

If there still remain Americans unconvinced of the folly of this war, they should take a look at the stunning article by Orville Schell, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley, to be printed in the April issue of The New York Review of Books (available now on Tomsdispatch.com and truthout.com). The piece is almost wholly descriptive of Schell’s trip to Baghdad to assess the state of the journalism there, and it is a sobering reminder of the horrors that we, the United States of America, have perpetrated upon the people and culture of that long-suffering country.

Pretending that we are "liberating" them, and educating them into our democratic ways, we have turned a once-prosperous and modern nation into a medieval nightmare resembling nothing so much as the landscape in the distopic film, Blade Runner. Trash and debris from abandoned military vehicles line the roads. The roads themselves are a no-man¹s land upon which it is only safe to drive in armored vehicles manned with private security forces. No American reporter can venture out alone.

Most are trapped in their hotels and must depend on Iraqi stringers to bring them news from outside. Any place that can afford it is hidden behind twelve-foot highway "T-walls" which, Schell says, "looks something like giant tombstones, totems perhaps from some long-lost Easter Island culture gone minimalist.:" The entire city is barricaded behind these "Bremer walls" placed edge-to-edge to serve as blast walls. There are no services to speak of, no infrastructure, with electricity and water available only part time, with fuel, in which Iraq should be drowning, available only after waiting in line for hours and days, and with no police worth the name (those police there are remain so fearful of being identified as American collaborators that they "wear black stocking caps with eye, nose, and mouth holes pulled down over their faces so they look like so many bank robbers.") Baghdad, outside the American-fortified Green Zone, is a city virtually abandoned to monarchy, a city in the hands of militias, criminals, and private security forces the latter numbering above 25,000, according to Schell, all earning many times what American troops earn, the result being that the aspiration of many American troops is to finish their tour of duty and begin their civilian careers in the booming private security sector.

Schell's account does not even begin to assess the terrible damage that has been inflicted upon individual Iraqis trying to survive in this living hell, but the impact of the article, and many other accounts, leaves no doubt that it has been brutal and all consuming.

One can only hope that some day, and soon, those who have inflicted this disaster upon an innocent people will be held to account, and that Americans will rise up and demand an end to and reparations for this outrage—the wanton, random destruction of the very civilization that gave birth to us all.

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