George's face was eerily matter-of-fact as he said it. “30,000 Iraqis more or less” have been killed so far in the War on Terror. No remorse or sadness, he seemed wholly unaffected in any way by the enormity of such a loss of life, let alone that he might bear some responsibility for it happening. But it was major news that during his remarks to the World Affairs Conference in Philadelphia, the President had finally put a figure on the number of “enemy” war dead and my local newspaper duly ran the story on Page One.
Asked about his linkage of Saddam Hussein to 911, Bush maintained that Saddam had been a threat and that the reports of weapons of mass destruction had been widely believed. He claimed that knowing what he does now, he would make the same decision, that Saddam had been a threat and that we are now safer. The President also talked about the challenges nations face making a transition to what he often terms a “free and democratic” society. One wonders if there were chuckles at his understated, “I think we were welcomed. But it was not a peaceful welcome.”
In response to other questions, he also mentioned the number of American war dead, and that he thought Iraqis responsible for prison torture should be held accountable. But it wasn't until the 3rd from last paragraph in the wire story that appeared in my local paper that this chilling statement was reported, “The long run in this war is going to require a change of governments in parts of the world.” Hello? Wait a minute, stop the presses, HE SAID WHAT?? But I digress, we'll get back to this in a minute. The article finished by noting that part of Bush's new strategy to win American support is to be more frank in his discussion of Iraq.
Well that might be what his spinners are saying he is doing but looking frank and being frank are two entirely different things. Just because it sounds truthful does not hide the stench of propaganda and deceit and it is the media's responsibility to not only report what the President says, but also how what he says contrasts with reality.
There was no mention that the only reason anyone believed the “intelligence” about weapons of mass destruction was because the Bush Administration had vouchsafed for it, even though at the time there was ample evidence that it was horse pucky. Nowhere was there any mention that the number of terrorist attacks throughout the world has increased dramatically since 911. When Bush mentioned the official number of American war dead, there was no mention that Rep. John Conyers and other members of Congress are questioning the accuracy of this number, and the bottom line is we don't have a clue how many dead Iraqis there are. Might be 30,000 might be 100,000, we simply don't know.
Predictably, the President babbled on about victory and the success of “the mission,” but the press, as it usually does, declined to question just what mission he was talking about. Was it the one to get Bin Laden? Or the one to get Saddam? To find WMDs? Stop terrorism? And what would constitute a victory over terrorism? A little clarification is long overdue, don't you think?
Nowhere in the coverage was there any comparison of the torture the President accuses the Iraqis of to the secret prisons run by the U.S. or the prisoner abuse at places like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Unbelievably, in commenting about the speech, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, said that, “We must tell the Iraqis that we have done our part -- we've done more than our part. Now it's up to you (the Iraqis) to get your political house in order.”
Levin's thinking seems to be the attitude of many Republicans and Democrats alike. We've apparently become amnesiac about the fact that we destroyed their government, bombed their cities, used chemical weapons, demolished water and electrical systems? Does Mr. Levin consider that part to be part of “our part”?
But clearly the most important thing we need to know is just how many governments does Bush plan to “change” in the name of democracy? Over and over in his speech he compared the Iraqi situation to our own fight for freedom against the British. There is just one little difference. We fought for our own freedom, the British did not demand that we become a democracy. That can hardly be compared to bombing a country into “freedom”. Apparently we've forgotten our grade school history lessons.
In the end, it all comes down to this: At what point will we finally quit nodding like bobbleheads and start demanding the truth, both from our media and from our government? When do we quit handing out political free lunch passes for such wholly inapplicable euphemisms as “victory” and “success” when the real topics on the table are lying, war crimes and treason?
Lucinda Marshall is a feminist artist, writer and activist. She is the Founder of the Feminist Peace Network. Her work has been published in numerous publications in the U.S. and abroad including, Awakened Woman, Alternet, Dissident Voice, Off Our Backs, The Progressive, Rain and Thunder, Z Magazine, Common Dreams and Information Clearinghouse.
* Pentagon Puppets and Other Orwellian Horrors at USA Today by Paul Street
Other Articles by Lucinda Marshall