Shout Their Names Into The Wind
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | 0aPerspective
Tuesday 27 May 2003
When you stare into the obsidian darkness of the Vietnam Veterans 0aMemorial in Washington DC, it stares back at you. The stone of the monument is 0ajet black, but polished so that you must face your own reflected eyes should you 0adare to read the names inscribed there. You are not alone in that place. You 0astand shoulder to shoulder with the dead, and when those names shine out around 0aand above and below the person you see in that stone, you become their 0agraveyard. Your responsibility to those names, simply, is to remember.
Such an awful lesson was learned in the forging of that place, 0anot in abstractions of military theory, but in blood and tissue and life. It was 0aa lesson many feared had been lost as American armies were poised at the gates 0aof Baghdad, and would have to be learned again at a terrible cost. A 0ahouse-to-house battle for the city never materialized, and a fight that could 0ahave taken hundreds or thousands of American lives was averted.
It turns out that Soufiane al Tikriti, head of Baghdad's 0a10,000-strong Special Republican Guard, was paid several hundred thousand 0adollars on the eve of the battle. In exchange, he ordered Baghdad's defenders to 0astand down and not resist. On April 8, al Tikriti was ferried out of Iraq by a 0aUS aircraft along with 20 family members. To cover for his absence, US forces 0alet it be known that al Tikriti had been killed while fleeing in his Subaru. On 0aApril 9, Baghdad fell to American and British forces with little resistance.
Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld scoffed at repeated criticism from 0amilitary specialists and generals that he had set a course for war without 0aenough men and materiel. As American forces pushed towards the capitol city, US 0atroops went days without being resupplied with water and food because the supply 0alines were being harassed and there were too few soldiers to safeguard them. As 0athe battle came to the city itself, the world waited for a bloodbath to take 0aplace. Little did anyone know that a wily Defense Secretary had already bought 0athe keys to the city on the cheap. The Fall of Baghdad came not with a bang, but 0aa whisper.
Before this Memorial Day weekend began, the Pentagon assessed 0aAmerican losses at 162 killed in Iraq both during and after the war. There is no 0aaccurate accounting for the thousands of Iraqi civilians who perished in the 'Shock and Awe' firebombing and cluster bombing of Baghdad. Like the American 0acasualties, the number of killed and wounded among the Iraqi populace grows 0adaily.
The relatively small force Rumsfeld knew would be sufficient to 0atake Baghdad appears more and more by the day insufficient to bring the promised 0apeace. Terrorist attacks have skyrocketed across the globe, blowback from a war 0athat promised to make the world a safer place. The essential premises for the 0awar itself - weapons of mass destruction by the long ton, terrorist connections, 0athe liberation of the people - have been revealed to be insubstantial actors in 0aa set piece of political theater. It is cold comfort indeed to know that, but 0afor a bag of cash handed over to a mercenary military commander, it could have 0abeen much worse.
Consider the man himself, George W. Bush. He successfully 0aparlayed 9/11, the worst intelligence failure in the history of the world, into 0aa war that cost America relatively little blood. He did not have to absorb the 0aterrible Vietnam lesson. The terrorism fears surrounding al Qaeda connections to 0aIraq and Hussein's vast stockpiles of deadly weapons played directly upon the 0amemory of collapsing Towers and massive death that is now the collective 0aheritage of every American. Bush used that terrible image against his own people 0aby lying repeatedly about the threat posed by Iraq, to bring about a war that 0aserved little purpose to anyone but those who stand to profit from it.
The war itself obscured, yet again, the disastrous missteps and 0apolicy decisions which opened America to the 9/11 attacks in the first place, 0aand furthermore has pushed to the back burner the fact that the administration 0ahas adamantly refused to release a detailed report on what happened on that 0aterrible day. To date he has gotten away with these lies and rank omissions. The 0aability to pull off a stunt like that without being called to account for it 0amight make a man believe himself capable of any lie, any fabrication, any act 0athe mind can conceive of.
In a February 27 report for truthout entitled Blood Money, I described 0asome of the ideological and financial motivations behind the Bush 0aadministration's push for this war. The men and women surrounding Bush who make 0athe policy of this government have been waiting years for the opportunity to 0aoverthrow by military force any number of regimes in the Middle East. They were 0aforced to lie with their bare faces hanging out for months to initiate what was 0aalways the first step in this plan, the taking of Iraq. They have managed to 0aaccomplish this first step without stunning the American populace with horrific 0aUS casualty rates.
This appears to have been inspirational.
The Bush administration is on the cusp of beginning a program to 0aactively destabilize and overthrow the ruling government in Iran. "There's no 0aquestion but that there have been and are today senior al Qaeda leaders in Iran, 0aand they are busy," Rumsfeld said last week. This is the same rhetoric he used 0asuccessfully to rally support for war in Iraq. The American government has 0asuspended all contact with the Iranian government in the aftermath of several 0aterrorist bombings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, after intelligence services 0aintercepted transmissions which reportedly indicate a connection between those 0abombings and terrorists operating in Iran.
Accusations have been raised that fewer than a dozen al Qaeda 0aterrorists are operating in northeastern Iran, an ironic fact which underscores 0athe degree to which the Bush administration has failed to successfully pursue 0atheir 'War on Terror.' The region of Iran reportedly used by these terrorists 0ashares a border with Afghanistan. Today, that area is a lawless no-man's land 0adominated by drug runners and resurgent Afghanistan-based Taliban members.
Said resurgence has come in large part because the Bush 0aadministration has decided to spend no money on rebuilding Afghanistan after the 0awar. Iran handed over all the terrorists it knew of after 9/11. If there are 0aterrorists in northeastern Iran, they are there because the Bush administration 0afailed to finish what it started in Afghanistan, just as it has thus far failed 0ato finish what it started in Iraq. Iran's government has no more control over 0athat region than we do, but the alleged terrorists there will be one premise for 0athe next conflict. Given Bush, Rumsfeld and the rest's penchant for 0amanufacturing facts to suit a desire for war, it would surprise few to discover 0aat some point that the alleged connections between Iran and the Riyadh bombings 0awere made of smoke.
What is not made of smoke, however, is Iran's nuclear weapons 0aprogram. This program is supported by both conservative Iranian clerics and by 0ademocratically elected reformers like Iranian President Mohammad Khatami for one 0areason alone now. Both groups saw what happened to Iraq, a nation that had no 0asuch powerful weapons to defend itself against American invasion. Like North 0aKorea, 'axis of evil' member Iran has seen what being defenseless means in this 0abrave new world. Thus, we see how much more safe Bush's war in Iraq has made the 0aplanet.
The center of the administration's plan to overthrow Iran is, in 0amany ways, an irony in itself. Iran is a democracy on many levels. It has 0aelections and elected officials, many of whom are allied with President Mohammad 0aKhatami's desire to wrest Iran away from the fundamentalist mullahs and 0atransform it into a more secular state. A vast majority of Iranians favor this 0areform, but have come to detest the United' States' hyperactive military 0apolicy.
Flynt Leverett, who recently left the Bush administration, said, "It is imprudent to assume that the Islamic Republic will collapse like a house 0aof cards in a time frame that is going to be meaningful to us. What it means is 0awe will end up with an Iran that has nuclear weapons and no dialogue with the 0aUnited States with regard to our terrorist concerns." In other words, we will 0ahave a nuclear nation whose road to reform was torn apart by an American 0aadministration more interested in starting a third war than in cleaning up the 0amesses caused by the first two.
More ironic is the manner in which the Bush administration may 0acome to force the issue of destabilization. In a meeting between Washington and 0aTehran in early January, the administration told Iran that it would attack camps 0aof the Mujaheddin-e Khalq, or MEK, a major group opposing the Iranian government 0athat was operating in Iraq. During the war, MEK camps were bombed. To the fury 0aof the Iranians, a cease-fire between the MEK and the US was negotiated. It 0aseems the Bush administration was impressed by the military discipline and 0aarmament of the MEK, and has come to see them as a potential military force to 0abe used against the Iranian government.
The MEK is cited as a terrorist group by the State 0aDepartment.
The Bush administration has opened two wars that are now far from 0aconcluded, and appears ready to begin a third with the help of known terrorists. 0aThey have done so while actively suppressing the truth behind the 9/11 attacks, 0aand while manufacturing evidence to justify their actions. The aftereffects of 0athese actions - a dynamic increase in terrorist attacks and recruitment, chaos 0ain Iraq, chaos in Afghanistan, an America that is more wide open than ever to 0aassault - will be felt for many years to come.
When you stare into the obsidian darkness of the Vietnam Veterans 0aMemorial in Washington, it stares back at you. It demands that you shout the 0anames of the lost into the wind, where they will be carried on a slipstream of 0amemory into the farthest reaches of time. The darkness demands that you do not 0aforget, that you do not let leaders lie their way into butchery and failure. To 0athis point, we as a nation have failed to fulfill that responsibility. This must 0achange.