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The Tentacle


October 20, 2006

How Many More?

Roy Meachum

Nine soldiers and one Marine died Tuesday. Another, Wednesday. At this writing the death toll stands 14 shy of 2800.

As you recall, the war in Iraq was declared over and won on May 1, 2003, by a president lifting his arms on an aircraft carrier. About 21,000 American youths have been wounded; more than a few losing limbs to bombs made from abandoned ammunition that our troops were too few to guard in the invasion's early days.

So far this month over 700 Iraqis have lost their lives, many trussed and shot in the head by "insurgents." Iraq is nothing if not a model of how to turn out labels. (For example, possibly because it has no gender, the word troop is used to signify anybody in uniform. Whatever their service.)

Webster's defines an insurgent: "a person who revolts against civil authority or an established government; especially: a rebel not recognized as a belligerent."

That seems pretty much to describe our forefathers during the American Revolution. They were considered rebels and traitors by British redcoats. They were generally not slaughtered on the spot because Mother England still hoped to bring them back into her brood. There were exceptions; one was named Nathan Hale. At least at that time, there was an established government to rebel against. Iraq has none.

In an unscientific AOL poll this week 82 percent of the more than 50,000 respondents said we are in the middle of a civil war between Sunnis and Shiites; Kurds stay out. Both sides are using Americans to their own advantage. The government (Shiite) wants us to stay, but it's being held up on bayonets bought by Washington.

The Sunnis have said they want us to leave; they blame the U.S. invasion for their country's mess, including the lack of electricity and water. Their radical element has committed the incidents that have driven up the coalition casualty count. But their average man and woman know U.S. troops may be the only forces they can trust. Or can they? We would very much like to think so.

Daily, however, we read of courts martial or their possibility. Wednesday's papers carried an account of young men indicted for allegedly raping and killing a 14-year-old girl and murdering her relatives. The accused are soldiers who are supposedly subject to the Geneva Convention. What's that? A formal agreement signed by U.S. representatives and approved by Congress, that all civilized peoples will accord conquered nations and prisoners of war humanity and with respect. That's how we want our own treated, after all.

But all bets are off when racism comes into play. During World War II Japanese and Germans held themselves superior; that left them free to treat other people as subhumans. The Death March on Bataan and the Holocaust are examples. As I wrote, shortly after the March 19, 2003, invasion, the U.S. war against Iraq is racist. Abu Ghraib demonstrated forcefully that Arabs are considered by some American forces as inferior. There are numerous other examples, the subjects of those potential courts martial.

The U.S. public has been assured that our troops will come home as soon as trained Iraqi troops can take their place. Please remember, the occupation authority broke up Saddam Hussein's army, dispersing men and officers into the general population. Many turned insurgents, taking their formal military training along.

Destroying the structured armed forces was the work of exiled Iraqis; they convinced occupation officials that the army was impossibly Ba'athist, the same Islamic political faction that Saddam belonged to. Off with their heads, as Alice's red queen would say. The army was shut down. We have been forced to entreat former officers to put on uniforms again.

The official word has it that all the U.S. troops will come home when Iraqi forces can keep order. But that's not happening. Let me quote a Tuesday story from the Associated Press: "Iraq's best-trained soldiers proved unable to stem a series of revenge killings sparked by the murder on Friday of 17 Shiite construction workers."

We are into a sucker's game, and "responsible people" keep us there, as in Vietnam. The question: Whom are these people responsible to? Certainly not to the American people who generally pay more attention to the World Series and Sunday NFL games. If there were higher interest the media would give more space and time to the war. In a recent story, veterans returning to Iraq were quoted at how little role Iraq plays in our society. We are hardly a nation at war, as the White House has said repeatedly.

Does anybody still believe that we must fight in the streets of Baghdad so that we don't have to fight on Market Street? Terrorists hit and run away. Not even the reputedly powerful al-Qaeda could summon up enough transports, air and sea, to stage an invasion at Ocean City.

As a recent intelligence report said, we are furthering the spread of terrorism by the war, which has also demonstrated these United States are less than all-powerful. North Korea's desire to develop nuclear weapons could have been strengthened by the lessons of Iraq. We simply don't have the armed forces to undertake two wars simultaneously. Some Americans have been sent back to the Middle East for their fourth tours of duty!

Fortunately, before going into Afghanistan the White House received U.N. approval, which enabled NATO troops to take over the fighting there and reduce U.S. involvement to a lesser role. Only idiots can possibly take seriously the calls to invade North Korea.

In the same category are the folks who think we can instill democracy in Iraq, but that's what official rhetoric holds. Egypt has a fairly homogenous population and its government is a dictatorship; has been for 50 years. Iraq was a concoction assembled by the British Empire to assure its oil fields that sit in the north (Kurds) and in the south (Shiites). The vital connecting ground was home to Sunnis; their minority status made them less of a threat to their colonial masters who chose them to administer the country. The English used Egyptian Christians in an identical manner to control the Nile's Muslim majority.

Having argued unsuccessfully against the invasion of Iraq, I called early for the White House to declare victory after the first elections - and pull out! That's what we came to in Vietnam. It's the only real course offered us now. The question when? Sooner or later. It will happen.

How many more human beings, Americans and others, must be uselessly sacrificed first?



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