by Kim Petersen
April 5, 2003
Trying to get an accurate assessment of what is going on Iraq can be daunting for many people. A healthy dose of skepticism is best, especially when taking in mainstream media representations of the aggression. This is not to say that mainstream media should be disregarded but considered as part of a wider spectrum. This is perhaps best done by taking in many different sources of information, sifting by reasoned analysis, and coherently tying together the remaining shards of information.
Mina Hamilton writes that life in New York seemingly goes on as normal. Iraq need not concern people; it can be confined to oblivion. But some people of conscience will feel the twinges of unease at the incongruity of their relatively tranquil life when pondering the fate of Iraqis faced with the lethality of US-UK munitions. (1) Despite heavy-handed establishment tactics the anti-wars protests continue in the US. Conscientious objectors are obeying their conscience in small but growing numbers. (2) Anti-war veterans press on against derision and political ignorance. (3)
The violence in Iraq is increasingly bloodier. It gets to some soldiers. Mark Franchetti reported on a tumultuous battle near a bridge to Nasriya. He wrote of hysteria, panic, confusion, despair, and fear. One soldier broke down at the death of a baby girl: "’Did you see all that?" he asked, his eyes filled with tears. "Did you see that little baby girl? I carried her body and buried it as best I could but I had no time. It really gets to me to see children being killed like this, but we had no choice.’" (4)
For Corporal Dupre it was the signal for revenge: "’The Iraqis are sick people and we are the chemotherapy. I am starting to hate this country. Wait till I get hold of a friggin' Iraqi. No, I won't get hold of one. I'll just kill him.’" Vengeance saw more civilians die including another little girl. (5)
The violence doesn’t seem to faze some fighter pilots. Those flying high above the fray, visually protected from the carnage of their cargo, appear cocksure and nonchalant. "’We know we're killing people," said Lt. Stan Wilson, 33, who enlisted in the Navy at 18, left to attend college and then rejoined to become a pilot. "We don't talk about it, don't worry about it. I don't know how this sounds, but we're more selfish than that. I worry about my car payments; the other guys worry about their girlfriends and wives.’" (6)
Human carnage from their bombing runs was pushed to the fringes of consciousness. Responsibility was deflected with the discredited Nazi defense of just following orders. The fighter pilots have no problems justifying their being on the delivering end of death. Lt. Stephan Dean simply said: "’I have faith in the way we're doing things.’" (7) It is a terrorism of the skies. This article of faith is eerily similar to the motivations attributed to many suicide bombers. “These are people who believe in a certain cause and are willing to die for it,” spoke Ziad Abu-Amr a Palestinian expert on radical Islam. (8)
The Red Cross reports now about a 100 casualties a day are entering hospitals in Baghdad. (9) Despite admissions from those unleashing the violence, the British and American war spinners steadfastly deny culpability for civilian deaths. The favored tactic is to blame everything possible on President Saddam Hussein.
The so-called coalition admits to many self-inflicted casualties (certainly they don’t want to grant the Iraqi forces any fighting prowess) but seem intent on perpetuating the view that they could hardly hit and kill Iraqi civilians. Iraqi civilian killings are attributed either to Iraqi “friendly fire” or more sinisterly, deliberately friendly fire, designed to be blamed on US-UK forces and whip up anti-war sentiment in the sensitive western public opinion. The US doesn’t have a particularly good record with regard to civilian atrocities. In 1991 the Amriya bomb shelter turned out to be a death trap for 403 Iraqi civilians when targeted by the US. The US falsely claimed it to be a military command center.
Serial numbers recovered from the shrapnel by journalist Robert Fisk, has already provided credible evidence that the marketplace massacre of 62 civilians was most likely caused by a US Harm anti-radar missile. The US, true-to-form, suggested an Iraqi plant. (10) British Foreign Minister Geoffrey Hoon greeted the disclosure with skepticism in lieu of corroborating evidence. The Independent backed up Mr. Fisk and recalled how their reporter had been subsequently found correct in a similar incident in Yugoslavia, which NATO eventually owed up to, whereas Mr. Hoon’s record is “characterised by exaggeration, half-truth and backtracking.” (11)
Further evidence of the so-called coalition’s spurious pretence to care for Iraqi civilian life is furnished by the use of indiscriminate ordnance. Mr. Hoon in a change of tact confessed to British use of the “necessary evil,” cluster bombs. (12) Cluster bombs kill over a wide area by means of hundreds of bomblets releasing a fury of razor sharp shrapnel -- in effect cutting their victims up. Menacingly a significant percentage of unexploded cluster bombs become de facto landmines, lying on the landscape in the guise of innocuous objects or food rations. It defies commonsense that a country could plead respect for civilian life and simultaneously use such a random bomb. The mounting civilian casualties put the lie to such US-UK declamations.
The violence seems destined for urban fighting in Baghdad. Civilian casualties will be nigh impossible to avoid.
The Iraq fighters had little choice. Out in the open they were sure to be wiped out. It is almost a classic David and Goliath scenario. Almost. It even more skewed as a mismatch. The biblical David fought Goliath one-to-one; he was not up against a coalition. David fought with his weapon of choice but Iraq is in fact a nation much weakened by years of disarmament and a ravaged economy: a David disarmed of his sling.
Kim Petersen is an English teacher living in China. He can be contacted at: email@example.com
(1) Mina Hamilton, “By What Right?” Dissident Voice, 3 April 2003: http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Articles3/Hamilton_What-Is-Right.htm
(2) Laurie Goodstein, “Conscientious Objector Numbers Are Small but Growing” Common Dreams Newscenter, 1 April 2003: http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/0401-10.htm
(3) William Marvel, “Vets March and Teach in Washington,” Veterans Against the War, 2 April 2003: http://www.vaiw.org/vet/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=71
(4) Mark Franchetti, “Slaughter at the Bridge of Death: US Marines Fire on Civilians,” London Times, 31 March 2003. Available on CounterPunch website: http://counterpunch.org/franchetti03312003.html
(6) Lyndsey Layton, “IN THE FIELD: USS Abraham Lincoln: Causing Death and Destruction, but Never Seeing It,” The Washington Post, 3 April 2003: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A14993-2003Apr2.html
(8) Rebecca Trounson and Tracy Wilkinson, “Analysts Rethink Image of Suicide bombers,” Los Angeles Times, 20 September 2001: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-092001suicide.story
(9) Red Cross tells horror of war, ABC News Online, 3 April 2003: http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/s823972.htm
(10) Cahal Milmo, “Proved: Deaths in Iraqi marketplace were caused by American missile,” The Independent, 2 April 2003: http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/story.jsp?story=393066
(11) Editorial, “Geoff Hoon, Robert Fisk and reporting the truth,” The Independent, 04 April 2003: http://argument.independent.co.uk/leading_articles/story.jsp?story=393737
(12) Christopher Bellamy, “These weapons may win the war, but leave a deadly legacy” The Independent, 4 April 2003: http://argument.independent.co.uk/commentators/story.jsp?story=393728