Sunday, January 9, 2011

Playing God in the Middle East: an Iraqi Reassessment

Michael Brenner: Playing God in the Middle East:
A rarely seen assessment of the cost to the Iraqi people of the American invasion of that country.
"We are now in the 10th year of the first decade of the 'war on terror.' So the inevitable anniversary assessments are beginning to appear. Iraq reappraisals specifically are back in vogue. They favor the drawing of balance sheets."

Brenner then offers an alternative to "Cost Benefit Analysis" remote from the realities of War:
here are some too readily slighted facts. 100,000 - 150,000 Iraqis are dead as the consequence of our invasion and occupation. That is the conservative estimate. Untold thousands are maimed and orphaned. 2 million are uprooted refugees in neighboring lands. Another 2 million are displaced persons internally. The availability of potable water and electricity is somewhat less than it was in February 2003. The comparable numbers for the United States would be 1.1 - 1.6 million dead; an equal number infirmed; 22 million refugees eking out a precarious existence in Mexico and Canada; 22 million displaced persons within the country. We did not do all the killing and maiming; we did most of the destruction of infrastructure. To all these tragedies we are accessories before and during the fact.

let me suggest a couple of ways to approximate that experience.

Step one. Go to your nearest cemetery; read and count the tombstones up to ten. Do that ten times, then multiply by a thousand. Try visualizing only half that number since it is in the nature of all of us to diminish drastically the affect and identity with those who are not part of our community.

Step two: go to RFK stadium, imagine it full. Do that 3 times and then imagine them all -- men, women and children -- in their graves. Repeat the exercise -- this time imagine them hobbling on one leg, lying crippled or blind on a cot in a cinderblock house. Imagine them as Americans -- men, women and children -- who placed USA stickers on their cars, chanted USA! USA! watching the Olympics, eating hot dogs and drinking Coke. Imagine them now six feet under. Imagine them all as the victims of an invasion and occupation by Iraqi Muslims who were deceived by their lying leaders who hid their own dark purposes.

Does this imply that pacifism is the only ethically acceptable conduct? No -- but it does give us a better fix on the true meaning of our shameful adventure in Iraq. Moreover, keep in mind that the Iraqis never gave us permission to do those things to them. We willfully imposed ourselves on them, did so based on the accusation of a fabricated threat that never existed.

Will we learn anything this time around (other than controlling the media is effective)?

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