November 3, 2003
"It was a mistake to discount the Iraqi resistance, [US Army's 21st Combat Support Hospital's orthopedic surgeon, Lt. Col. Kim] Keslung said, adding, 'If someone invaded Texas, we'd do the same thing.'" (1)
On Tuesday, October 28, 2003, The New York Times, in a front page article, reported the coordinated attacks that took place in Baghdad on the first day of Ramadan that killed over 34 and wounded at least 200 people. The article related the latest Bushism of the day: "The more successful we are on the ground, the more these killers will react." (2) At the top right of the front page was an 8½" x 5" picture by Michael Kamber of an outright terrified young soldier, a MP. The next morning, a 6¼" x 8½" Associated Press picture made the front page of the paper of record. It depicted two American soldiers searching the pockets of an Iraqi child.
Pundits were quick to jump on the perverse irony of Mr. Bush's comment, remarking that perhaps everybody, Iraqis and Americans alike, would be better off if we were not so "successful on the ground." As Maureen Dowd commented in regard to "Bush illogic," "The more Americans, Iraqis and aid workers who get killed and wounded, the more it is a sign of American progress. The more dangerous Iraq is, the safer the world is. . . . . The more coordinated, intense and sophisticated the attacks on our soldiers grow, the more 'desperate' the enemy is." (3)
But no one seems to have had much to say about this young MP. He looked at most to be in his late teens or early twenties. His eyes bulging with dilated pupils, his mouth slightly opened, distended in a primal grimace, holding on to his automatic weapon with both hands, his head turned back checking behind his shoulders, one knee on the ground, frozen in fear, a few yards from a half-naked, dismembered body, he was kneeling there, in the midst of mayhem. Whatever went through his mind -- "what the hell am I doing here? Who's going to shoot me dead on the spot? Mummy, I want to go home? I hate those guys, I hate Iraq, I hate it all?" -- no one knows, but this young man is no longer a kid and will carry this moment, assuming he does come home alive and unmaimed, for the rest of his life. There was something deeply sickening about this picture, deeply disturbing. What are we, as a society, doing to this kid? And what were the two soldiers, representing our society, doing to this Iraqi child? Did the child feel liberated? How will he grow up, how will he recall the humiliation?
We support the troops, all right. They are hailed as heroes. The media keep a close tally of our soldiers killed in action and on a rare occasion we hear about the non-fatal casualties, the maimed, the wounded -- about 1,800 so far; but we do not hear much if at all about the Iraqi dead and wounded, combatants and civilians alike. The military does not keep the body count on the other side. Some estimates indicate that at least 15,000 Iraqis have been killed and over 1,000 a week are either killed or wounded. It's unimportant to us. After all, as a reader wrote in a letter to the Editor, "These people are animals, and therefore need to be killed....civilian or not." (4) It may just be an aberration from some deranged individual, but according to Adnan Kharakuli, a former Iraqi lieutenant, "They [US troops] call us donkeys." (5) Senator Trent Lott (R-Miss.), for his part, contended that "Honestly, it's a little tougher than I thought it was going to be," and added, "If we have to, we just mow the whole place down, see what happens. You're dealing with insane suicide bombers who are killing our people, and we need to be very aggressive in taking them out." (6)
"We just mow the whole place down..."
What next? Oradour on the Tigris? My Lai in Fallujah or Tikrit? The first Gulf War, twelve years of genocidal sanctions; the second Gulf War...will it be "necessary to destroy the entire country in order to save it?"
Forget about the phony weapons of mass destruction, the non-existent biological and nuclear programs, the fabricated link to 9/11, or Iraq "liberation" from the bloody tyrant. Forget about spurious humanitarianism. Forget about a democratic Potemkin in Babylon. There is no job to finish, no course to stay, no god to please. Bring the troops home and get out of Iraq (where we should not have been in the first place) NOW!
Just go home. Allow the Iraqi child to be just that, a child instead of a future combatant; and help this young MP before he is killed, is maimed for life physically or emotionally, or loses it and ends up shooting at men, women, children out of fear and hatred.
PS. Open a $50 billion bank account for Iraq reconstruction.
· · · · · ·
References & Resources
1. Staff Reporter Yaroslav Trofimov, "In a Tent Hospital, A Close-Up View Of Attacks in Iraq Doctors Face Rising Toll Of Badly Injured Troops," The Wall Street Journal, October 29, 2003. (back)
2. Dexter Filkins and Alex Berenson, "200 Are Injured in 45 Minutes of Mayhem," The New York Times, October 28, 2003. (back)
3. Maureen Dowd, "Eyes Wide Shut," Op-Ed, The New York Times, October 30, 2003. (back)
4. Paul Roberts: "These people are animals, and therefore need to be killed....civilian or not. The women and children share the same views as the militant men, and will just as quickly take your life, if given the chance. I spent 2 years in Kabul, and in parts of Iraq, and the only mistake the U.S. made in the war was not killing the rest of them, all of them;" Letters to the Editor, Swans, October 20, 2003. (back)
5. Drew Brown, "'Postwar' Deaths Pass Numbers During 'Major Combat' in Iraq," Knight-Ridder, October 29, 2003. (back)
6. Geoff Earle, "GOP unity is strained by attacks," The Hill, October 29, 2003 (http://www.hillnews.com/news/102903/gopunity.aspx). (back)
Iraq on Swans
Gilles d'Aymery is Swans' publisher and co-editor.
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