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Issue # 1404      25 March 2009

Seven Years in Iraq

The war is not over

The day we human shields rolled into Baghdad in February 2003, 12,000,000 protestors were pounding the pavement all over the world in a global tidal wave of protest aimed at stopping the criminal US invasion of Iraq before it began and for once I entertained a sliver of hope that we would be heard. Fat chance. Bush dismissed the rest of the planet as a “focus group” and proceeded to eviscerate the cradle of civilisation.

Seven years later nearly to the day, his successor showed up at Camp Lejeune North Carolina for a presidential photo op before 10,000 marines ready to storm the next Halls of Montezuma (Afghanistan) to frame his mendacious declaration of an end to the US invasion of that ravaged country. Before he delivered the goods, Barack Obama felt obligated to dial up Bush at his Texas ranch and apprise him of the speech.

Bitter bile rose to the tip of my tongue when I reviewed the details of this flimflam as reported in the New York Times. Bush had marched into Iraq, overthrown a leader he did not like – hanged him actually, sewed the seeds of hatred amongst the populous, caused the death of a million Iraqis not to mention 5,000 of his own troops (20,000 wounded), destroyed the nation’s infrastructure, forced 4,000,000 citizens into internal and external exile, embezzled US$2,000,000,000,000 from the taxpaying public to finance these war crimes, and doled out billions to his corrupt cronies and the cronies of his cronies in lucrative contracts to perpetuate this egregious slaughter – and now here was Obama calling this butcher to advise him of his plans. Now the US was washing its hands of Iraq, walking away from the genocide without even an apology to those who had been so grievously wounded. Indeed, Obama congratulated the killer marines for having completed their mission “with honour.” Arrrggghhh!

The first step in this charade of false closure is Obama’s drawdown. The next is to make the citizens of the occupying power forget Iraq ever happened – a brainwashing that has been in process since the “success” of Bush’s “surge.” One problem though: how do you brainwash the brain dead?

Iraq has been erased from public discourse in the wake of an economic meltdown at least partially invoked by the vast outlays Bush pumped into the war to keep his killing machine choogling. The television networks long ago rolled up their crews and there will be no film of today’s massacre on the Six O’clock news. US news media have airlifted out their aces or reduced in-country staffs to a skeleton crew.

When, after seven years of corpses coming home to the Dover Delaware death distribution centre, Obama-Bush Secretary of Defence Robert Gates authorised the press to run photos of flag-draped coffins (if they first obtain family permission), it came much too late for both those Americans who had perished in this heinous aggression and a newspaper industry that is now being interred in its own flag-draped coffin. The New York Times daily Iraq body count has now been combined with the US dead in Afghanistan and the box wedged into a rat hole on the Middle East page.

Even the Left has abandoned Iraq, justifiably shifting its attentions to the horrors of Gaza. This year’s sixth anniversary marches to denounce the invasion and occupation of Iraq are doomed to be the most miserable yet. Many who once marched will pause and scratch their heads. Didn’t Obama just say the war is over?

Of course the war is not over. Obama’s speech to the leathernecks at Lejeune was stuffed with caveats and canards. Combat troops will be gone from Iraq by August 2010 the Prez pledged, leaving 35,000 to 50,000 residuals in country – but the small print gives Baracko fiat to reclassify combatants as residuals.

The remaining troops’ departure by 2011 hinges on Iraqi acceptance of a status of forces agreement to be voted up this June and not what the White House decrees. Nonetheless, US withdrawal is subject to Pentagon review with options extended for many years to come. No mention is made of 150,000 private contract killers or permanent bases on Iraqi soil.

In Obama’s mad rush to channel FDR’s first hundred days, he has advanced many such initiatives designed to bamboozle the citizens of a nation that elected him largely out of revulsion for the odious Bush. As always, the devil is in the details. Guantanamo will be closed but Bagham will be expanded – remember the Oscar-winning film Taxi To The Dark Side? Even as the blueprint for closing down the torture camp is being cogitated, the torture of so-called “enemy combatants” continues daily at both facilities, according to the prisoners’ lawyers. Meanwhile CIA “renditions” remain in vogue and the level of torture practiced by US interrogators will conform to the Army code of physical abuse – except in those cases the Commander-in-Chief deems it necessary to waterboard.

Over at Justice, neophyte Attorney General Eric Holder releases hard copy evidence of the Bush dictatorship’s treasonous intentions to tear up the Bill of Rights but goes into court to defend the phone giants who permitted such unconstitutional prying. The much-ballyhooed ten-year budget schema Obama touts tells the whole story: US$654,000,000,000 for Defence in 2010, a 4 percent increase; US$10 billion for the environment.

For the Iraqis, there is no closure to this black chapter in the history of American mayhem. Their homes and their livelihoods have been decimated and their culture sacked.

Iraqis are reminded everyday that the war is not over by the black-clad war widows threading their way through Baghdad traffic begging alms. There are an estimated 740,000 war widows in Iraq, a number that lends credence to the million plus body count estimates. Most receive no aid – one US reporter found widows living in a gas station restroom. With oil prices – Iraq’s only export – in steep decline, the Maliki government claims there is no money left for the social budget. Indeed, the 4,000,000 Iraqis driven from their homes into exile are now viewed as a security risk should they be forced by their host countries to return.

Iraqis did not greet Obama’s disingenuous assertion that “the war is over” with joy or fireworks – save for suicide bombings in Mosul, Diyala, and dark corners of Baghdad. How Iraqis feel about the end of the occupation was made manifest when Muntader al-Zaidi, the world-acclaimed shoe-thrower appeared in court at the end of February. His long-delayed arrival at the justice court inside the US-controlled Green Zone was welcomed with “applause, shouting, weeping, and ululation”.

The police in attendance saluted “this brave man.” Al-Zaidi explained his celebrated December 14 shoe-toss thusly: “At the moment, I saw nothing but Bush and I felt the blood of the innocents flowing beneath his feet while he was smiling that smile. I felt that this person was responsible for the killing of my people and I tried to pay him back even a small or simple part for the crimes he had committed.” This is Iraq speaking.

The bitterest irony polluting my taste buds is that those of us who tried so massively to stop this war before it began, who marched and sat down in the street and got hauled off to jail time and time again protesting the invasion and occupation of Iraq, are now charged with keeping the war alive.

Now more than ever in the face of Obama’s bamboozlement, we are obligated to keep the Iraq war in front of US noses. It is the very least that we owe Iraq.

In keeping the war alive on the streets and screens of America, we must be careful not to overlook those among the forgotten who are the most forgotten – the 4,000,000 refugees forced to flee their homeland because of the horrors the US inflicted upon it.

They are scattered now, millions in Jordan and Syria and other neighbour nations where they are scorned and persecuted like Mexicans in the United States. Even those handfuls of Iraqis regarded as collaborators who have been accepted as refugees here and stranded in Salt Lake City and Tennessee have been abandoned to the most savage economic downturn in a century. Some, suffering culture shock and post-traumatic stress and unable to find jobs, are already electing to return to Iraq where their beheaders await them.

Every day, all day, my pal Sasha Crow and her Iraqi counterparts in the Collateral Repair Project walk the steep streets of Amman delivering food boxes to refugee families (it is an Iraqi tradition) and heaters to freezing apartments, advocating for families at social relief agencies or begging treatment for severely ill children at local hospitals. Sasha was a human shield in Baghdad when this war began and she does not forget her obligation to repair the damage we have done to the Iraqi peoples. “For the Iraqis, the war is very much alive. It dominates their existence,” she writes, “(Americans) have the luxury of changing the channel.”

Counterpunch



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