by William Rivers Pitt
The political fortunes of the Bush administration are never so strong as when people are dying. A review of newspaper headlines from September 10, 2001 clearly shows an administration under serious attack from all quadrants. That changed after some 3,000 people were killed the next day, and George has never looked back. The attack of September 11 was the best thing to ever happen to George W. Bush. He knows this, and uses those attacks to great effect in promoting everything from aggressive wars to tax policy.
Recall that it was Bush who said, on October 4, 2001, “We need to counter the shock wave of the evildoer by having individual rate cuts accelerated and by thinking about tax rebates.”
Recall that it was Bush, one year and four days later, who said, “We have experienced the horror of September 11…Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”
The first quote helped Bush get his tax cuts. The second helped him get his Iraq war, despite the fact that the “clear evidence of peril” was nothing of the sort. No matter. For George, death is the gift that keeps on giving.
This axiom was proven once again a few days ago with reports that Uday and Qusay Hussein were killed in a gun battle against American troops in Iraq. Suddenly, the pundit classes are spouting the White House line that this event will turn things around in that worsening quagmire, that American troops will stop dying by twos and threes every day, and – yes – according to Bush’s Treasury Secretary Snow, that the deaths of these two men will help revive the American economy.
While no one is weeping over the deaths of these two brutes – the passing of Idi Amin this week along with Uday and Qusay has definitely lightened the planet’s load of unrepentant bastards – it is curious to note that, once again, things look brighter for Bush when bodies hit the floor.
It is a false dawn we see here, a hollow hope, a veneer of success stretched thinly over dark and deadly circumstances.
Many Americans believe the US military is capable of virtually anything. The orders are given, the troops are deployed, the battles are won, period. The facts, however, speak differently. The active-duty American military is composed of ten divisions, and each division is comprised of approximately 15,000-20,000 soldiers depending on the duty and the branch of service; an Infantry division will have more troopers than an Armored division, for example.
Four of those divisions are currently deployed in the Gulf region, along with tens of thousands of military personnel tasked to handle basic logistics. One full division stands ready in the no-man’s land between North and South Korea. Another 10,000 troops are deployed in Afghanistan. Another 5,000 are deployed in Bosnia and Kosovo. Add to this American troop deployments in Africa, Europe and the Pacific Rim, coupled with the troop presence on our home soil, and a clear picture begins to develop.
Simple mathematics reveal that our military is stretched to the breaking point. Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki warned against burdening twelve divisions worth of duties on a ten-division Army in his retirement speech a month ago. The Bush administration should have listened to him, for the country is now more exposed to peril than it has been in generations. If a serious conflict should break out, say in North Korea, we are quite completely incapable of addressing it.
The hawks will say this is definite proof that a much larger army is required, that the civilian soldiers of the National Guard should be pressed into duty. Another perspective holds that the war in Iraq was an incredible waste of blood and treasure premised upon a raft of intelligence that was exaggerated and lied about by the Bush administration. The war was unnecessary, and fighting it has profoundly debilitated the safety and security of the United States.
The claims that Iraq was seeking to develop a nuclear program by seeking uranium from Niger have been utterly and completely discredited. The Joint Congressional Inquiry into the September 11 attacks released its report on Thursday. The report states bluntly that Iraq had no connections whatsoever to al Qaeda, and no connections whatsoever to the attacks of September 11. Ergo, two of the three planks used to justify the war have been splintered.
The third, Iraqi stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, have steadfastly refused to appear. Richard Perle, one of the chief architects of the war, was asked this past Tuesday about those missing weapons. "We don't know where to look for them and we never did know where to look for them," he said. This statement flies in the face of comments made by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld during the war, who claimed to know exactly where these weapons were deployed, and that they were ready for use against American troops at a moment’s notice "I hope this will take less than 200 years," Perle then joked.
It would probably not be wise to make such jokes in front of troopers currently deployed in Iraq. They have been jerked hither and yon by these politicians in Washington, told they were going home and then told they were staying over and over again. One soldier in Iraq recently posted his thoughts, of all places, on an internet football forum:
IM STILL ALIVE ! WE GOT A HALF A PEICE OF INTERNET NOW....BOUT DANG TIME...DIGITAL DIVISION MY A**
IVE BEEN IN IRAQ SINCE LATE APRIL.... BEEN SHOT AT TO MANY TIMES TO COUNT...I HAVE SEEN THE DARKSIDE AND THE EVIL MEN DO, GUYS THIS AINT NO JOKE... FOLK GETTIN SHOT UP OVER HERE EVERY DAY...IRAQII'S TRYIN TO INFILTRATE OUR PERIMETERS...VEHICLES GETTIN HIT BY RPG'S ...AND RUMOR HAS IT BUSH IS TELLIN THEM TO BRING IT ON....WHAT THE HELL?!
3ID IS GETTIN SCREWED BIG TYME....GOD KNOWS WHAT THEY GOT IN STORE FOR US....ITS A THIN LINE BETWEEN LOVE AND HATE AND ALL I WILL SAY IS OUR LEADERSHIP AINT NOWHERE NEAR THAT LINE ...KNOW WHAT IM SAYIN...THERE ARE SOME HOSTILE INDIVIDUALS OVER HERE....VERY VERY HOSTILE...
We forget, with all the noise, that inspectors could have done the job of confirming that Iraq was not a threat to American security. We forget, with all the noise, that over 220 American soldiers would still be alive if that sane and stable course of action had been allowed to continue to its now-foregone conclusion. We forget, with all the noise, that the US military is not in the miracle business, and cannot sustain its function when stretched far beyond its capabilities. We forget, amid new administration rationalizations that we are now seeking a “weapons program” in Iraq, that such a program could have been found by the inspectors, if indeed it exists, without all this death.
We forget, of course, that death is a growth stock for George W. Bush. Death gives him political cover to ramrod through his extremist policies. Death makes Americans fear to question him. Death makes for good television. In Iraq, death fills the coffers of corporations like Vice President Cheney’s Halliburton.
One would think that the death of American soldiers in Iraq would bode ill for Bush and his administration. Not so, counters apologist Rush Limbaugh:
"Folks, we're getting a daily death update out of Iraq, and we're hearing slogans like, ‘One a day,’ and ‘Our troops are being slaughtered,’ from the Democrats, as their willing accomplices in the press try to concoct this notion that the casualty rate over there is outrageous and intolerable. The following statistics come from the Centers for Disease Control website: On a daily basis, on average, 10 Americans die by drowning, and nine Americans die by fire in their homes. 14 Americans die by pedestrian accidents. 27 Americans die in falls. On average, 50 Americans a day are murdered. 118 die in auto accidents, and 25 people die from A.I.D.S. every day, on average. Yesterday, two Americans died in battle in Iraq."
In short, Rush would have us believe these dead American boys are no big deal.
The last census has about 280 million people in America. There are about 140,000 soldiers in Iraq. If American civilians on the home front were being murdered at the same rate that they are in Iraq, one American would be killed every 45 seconds. That comes to around 2,000 people murdered every day.
Those are just mean statistics. One single soldier dying because he was deployed to fight a war based on lies and exaggerations is exactly one dead soldier too many. It is indeed outrageous and intolerable.
An old Roman maxim states, “Let justice be done though the heavens fall.” There is no justice in all this, and the heavens are falling. We are told that Bush speaks to God, that his armchair-to-armchair relationship with the Almighty gives him the direction both he and the nation needs. God better get on the ball here and give George some better directions.
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times best-selling author of two books, War On Iraq (Context Books, 2002), and The Greatest Sedition is Silence now available from Pluto Press at www.SilenceIsSedition.com. He is the Managing Editor of Truthout.org, where this article first appeared (www.truthout.org). Email: email@example.com