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William Rivers Pitt: Your Children are Burning

Your Children are Burning


By William Rivers Pitt
From: http://www.truthout.org/docs_04/082404A.shtml
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Tuesday 24 August 2004

***********

Ladybug! Ladybug!
Fly away home.
Your house is on fire,
And your children all gone.

- Children's nursery rhyme, author unknown

The presidential campaigns of George W. Bush and John Kerry are at each other's throats like dogs in a fighting pit over a war that ended 29 years ago. The mainstream news media, along with the alternative news media, have enjoyed watching the show, dutifully reporting every detail and nuance of the fiery exchanges between the camps.

Somewhere in these last 24 days of August, however, while arguing over a three-decades-old war, we managed to forget that another war is happening. Here are some details that have been missed:

Army Spc. Armando Hernandez, age 22; Army Spc. Anthony J. Dixon, age 20;Marine Cpl. Dean P. Pratt, age 22; Army Spc. Justin B. Onwordi, age 28; Marine Sgt. Juan Calderon Jr., age 26; Army Pfc. Harry N. Shondee, Jr., age 19; Marine Capt. Gregory A Ratzlaff, age 36; Army Sgt. Tommy L. Gray, age 34; Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph L. Nice, age 19; Marine Gunnery Sgt. Elia P. Fontecchio, age 30; Army Spc. Donald R. McCune, age 20; Marine Sgt. Moses D. Rocha, age 33; Army Pfc. Raymond J. Faulstich Jr., age 24; Marine Sgt. Yadir G. Reynoso, age 27; Marine Lance Cpl. Larry L. Wells, age 22; Army Spc. Joshua I. Bunch, age 23; Marine Cpl. Roberto Abad, age 22; Army Pfc. David L. Potter, age 22; Marine Lance Cpl. Jonathan W. Collins, age 19; Army Capt. Andrew R. Houghton, age 25; Marine Lance Cpl. Tavon L. Hubbard, age 24; Marine Staff Sgt. John R. Howard, age 26; Army Capt. Michael Yury Tarlavsky, age 30; Marine Lance Cpl. Kane M. Funke, age 20; Marine Lance Cpl. Nicholas B. Morrison, age 23; Army 1st Lt. Neil Anthony Santoriello, age 24; Marine Corps Pfc. Geoffrey Perez, age 24; Marine Corps Pfc. Fernando B. Hannon, age 19; Army Spc. Mark Anthony Zapata, age 27; Army 2nd Lt. James Michael Goins, age 23; Army Sgt. Daniel Michael Shepherd, age 23; Army Pfc. Brandon R. Sapp, age 21; Army Sgt. David M. Heath, age 30; Army Spc. Brandon T. Titus, age 20; Marine Lance Cpl. Caleb J. Powers, age 21; Army Spc. Jacob D. Martir, age 21; Marine Sgt. Harvey E. Parkerson III, age 27; Marine Lance Cpl. Dustin R. Fitzgerald, age 22; Army Pfc. Henry C. Risner, age 26; Pfc. Kevin A. Cuming, age 22; 1st Lt. Charles L. Wilkins III, age 38; Pfc. Ryan A. Martin, age 22.

That is the list of dead American soldiers in Iraq from the last 24 days. That is August, so far. Two other American soldiers - Army Sgt. Bobby E. Beasley, age 36, and Army Staff Sgt. Craig W. Cherry, age 39 - were killed in Afghanistan by an improvised explosive device on August 7th. We don't talk about that war anymore, either. 964 dead American soldiers, 52 since August 1st.

522 days ago, the administration of George W. Bush began the 'Shock and Awe' bombing campaign in Iraq, an opening salvo that has broadened into a conflict which has left well over ten thousand innocent Iraqi civilians dead. According to the rhetoric that loosed those bombs 74 weeks ago, we went into Iraq because:

  • Iraq was in possession of 26,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX gas, 30,000 munitions to deliver these agents, unmanned aerial drones to deliver these agents, mobile biological weapons labs, and uranium 'yellowcake' from Niger for use in the development of nuclear bombs.
  • The Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein enjoyed operational relationships with Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorists, and were involved in the attacks of September 11. Because of this relationship, Hussein would happily hand over the aforementioned weapons of mass destruction for bin Laden to use against the United States.
  • The Iraqi people desperately want a democratic government, and will welcome the United States as liberators.
  • Saddam Hussein was a bad man.
  • Let's take these one at a time.

  • No weapons of mass destruction have been found. The few 'unmanned aerial drones' were pathetic model-airplane specimens apparently made from tongue depressors and Q-tips, none of which had a prayer off getting off the ground. The 'mobile biological weapons labs' were in fact helium weather balloon launching platforms sold to Iraq by the British in the 1980s. The 'yellowcake' story was based upon fabricated evidence, and has led to a political scandal involving the exposure of a deep-cover CIA agent whose husband had the gall to call Bush a liar in the public prints.
  • No relationship whatsoever has been established between Hussein and bin Laden. In fact, bin Laden despised Hussein because Hussein was a self-styled Socialist, Godless to the core, who killed every Islamic fundamentalist he could get his hands on. The U.S. has, in fact, done bin Laden a great service by disposing of his Iraqi enemy. Now, the stage is set for an Islamic fundamentalist takeover of Iraq, something bin Laden would very much like to see. As for Hussein giving bin Laden weapons of mass destruction, well...you can't give what you don't have.
  • It is entirely possible the Iraqi people would have embraced democracy, if that is what Bush's plan actually had in mind. Unfortunately for them, the whole push for democracy was a farce to begin with; Bush wanted to establish a government-by-remote-control in Iraq, so as to maintain control of the oil fields and the development of military bases. In a nation where the Shia enjoy a 60% majority, a democratic vote would have elected a Shia government, which would have then had the temerity to act as it pleased, regardless of American desires. It was never going to happen, and it never will happen, so long as Bush's people man the stick.
  • Saddam Hussein was indeed a bad man, whose fortunes were created and augmented by the U.S. government over a period of 20 years. We knew he was developing and using chemical weapons. We helped him do it. We didn't care, so long as he was gassing Iranians. Beyond that, the math is pretty straightforward. If the U.S. is going to adopt an Invade Every Country Run By A Bad Man foreign policy doctrine, everyone reading these words who approves of the notion better haul ass down to their local military recruiting office. We're going to need every warm body we can get. How about you, and right now. Go.
  • These guys went:

    Army Spc. Armando Hernandez, age 22; Army Spc. Anthony J. Dixon, age 20;Marine Cpl. Dean P. Pratt, age 22; Army Spc. Justin B. Onwordi, age 28; Marine Sgt. Juan Calderon Jr., age 26; Army Pfc. Harry N. Shondee, Jr., age 19; Marine Capt. Gregory A Ratzlaff, age 36; Army Sgt. Tommy L. Gray, age 34; Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph L. Nice, age 19; Marine Gunnery Sgt. Elia P. Fontecchio, age 30; Army Spc. Donald R. McCune, age 20; Marine Sgt. Moses D. Rocha, age 33; Army Pfc. Raymond J. Faulstich Jr., age 24; Marine Sgt. Yadir G. Reynoso, age 27; Marine Lance Cpl. Larry L. Wells, age 22; Army Spc. Joshua I. Bunch, age 23; Marine Cpl. Roberto Abad, age 22; Army Pfc. David L. Potter, age 22; Marine Lance Cpl. Jonathan W. Collins, age 19; Army Capt. Andrew R. Houghton, age 25; Marine Lance Cpl. Tavon L. Hubbard, age 24; Marine Staff Sgt. John R. Howard, age 26; Army Capt. Michael Yury Tarlavsky, age 30; Marine Lance Cpl. Kane M. Funke, age 20; Marine Lance Cpl. Nicholas B. Morrison, age 23; Army 1st Lt. Neil Anthony Santoriello, age 24; Marine Corps Pfc. Geoffrey Perez, age 24; Marine Corps Pfc. Fernando B. Hannon, age 19; Army Spc. Mark Anthony Zapata, age 27; Army 2nd Lt. James Michael Goins, age 23; Army Sgt. Daniel Michael Shepherd, age 23; Army Pfc. Brandon R. Sapp, age 21; Army Sgt. David M. Heath, age 30; Army Spc. Brandon T. Titus, age 20; Marine Lance Cpl. Caleb J. Powers, age 21; Army Spc. Jacob D. Martir, age 21; Marine Sgt. Harvey E. Parkerson III, age 27; Marine Lance Cpl. Dustin R. Fitzgerald, age 22; Army Pfc. Henry C. Risner, age 26; Pfc. Kevin A. Cuming, age 22; 1st Lt. Charles L. Wilkins III, age 38; Pfc. Ryan A. Martin, age 22.

    Now they are dead. They never found weapons of mass destruction, they never found a connection between Saddam and 9/11, they never got the chance to create a democracy, and they were never fully informed that part of their mission was the removal from power of a former employee of the United States government.

    In Iraq today, 780,000 cubic yards of human and industrial waste is dumped into the Diyala River every day by one sewage plant. The Diyala joins the Tigris seven miles downstream. There isn't anything the plant can do about it; it is shattered from the war. Power, water, road, health care and educational infrastructures are completely wrecked. The World Bank estimates that it will cost $55 billion to repair all of this damage, and it will take over four years to do it.

    $24 billion in U.S. tax money has been allocated to 'rebuild' Iraq. According to Christian Parenti, who has reported from Iraq on the reconstruction process for The Nation magazine, "Only $5.3 billion had been allocated to specific reconstruction contracts as of late June 2004. According to a report from the White House Office of Management and Budget, of the $18.4 billion reconstruction honey-pot approved last fall only $366 million had been spent by late June - that is, invested in Iraq. Instead of creating 250,000 jobs for Iraqis, as was the original goal, at most 24,000 local workers have been hired."

    "Most amazing of all," writes Parenti, "the OMB report showed that not a single cent of US tax money had been spent on Iraqi healthcare, water treatment or sanitation projects - though $9 million was dithered away on administrative costs of the now defunct Coalition Provisional Authority. Most of the little that has been invested in healthcare, water treatment and sanitation has come from Iraqi oil revenues, managed for most of last year by the Development Fund for Iraq, a US controlled successor to the UN-run Oil for Food program. In all, the CPA spent roughly $19 billion of Iraqi oil money - on what exactly is not quite clear."

    And we wonder why there is an 'insurgency.' We wonder why a nobody named Moqtada al-Sadr has emerged as an Iraqi version of Thomas Jefferson, fighting the good fight against imperial usurpers. We wonder why so many Iraqis flock to his banner, pick up a weapon, and shoot Americans.

    Sit in the dark for a year, be unemployed because all the jobs have gone to non-Iraqis, have no place to see your children schooled, have no place to bring your children if they get sick, drink water that tastes like something you squeezed into your toilet, and stand a good chance whenever you step outside of being shot by a sniper, blown up by a laser-guided bomb, or run down by a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, and you might think about picking up a weapon, too.

    This is how terrorists and suicide bombers are created. Desperation is the seed, time is the fertilizer, and rage is the crop reaped by American soldiers sent far from home to die because they were lied to, as were we all.

    This is, perhaps, the most galling aspect of the whole Swift Boat Veterans nonsense. It has distracted us from realizing that our children still burn in Iraq, while simultaneously insulting every veteran who was given a medal for service in action. It implies that medals awarded for service in Vietnam somehow do not count, which when taken to the end of the argument, implies that medals awarded for service anywhere do not count.

    In a recent and eloquent truthout essay, Vietnam veteran John Cory wrote the following words: "There are veterans of all conflicts, who fall in love with the terrible sweet beauty of war. Men who polish their armor long after the parades have faded. Their glory is not in duty, honor, and country; but in the carnival mirrors of their own warped reflections. These are veterans who march with swagger and blaring brass, like small boys struggling to be seen and heard. There are veterans who have paid passage through the heart of darkness; who dedicate their lives to eliminating the horrors that hide behind their eyes at night, when they dream. These veterans testify to the unreal and repulsive acts of war that forever wound the soul. And there are veterans who let it go and never look back again. Not that they forget, they simply choose not to dwell in those memories. They seek peace of mind and hope."

    The men who have foisted this rending open of old wounds upon us are the ones who polish their armor, who revel in their own warped reflections. They insult fellow veterans everywhere. My father earned a Bronze Star in Vietnam. Should he give it back? The men and women serving and dying in Iraq have earned thousands of medals, many of them Purple Hearts to replace missing legs or faces. Should they give theirs back?

    How many medals did George W. Bush earn to allow him to make this frontal assault upon those who served in his stead a generation ago, and those who serve now in the free-fire zone he placed them in with his deceptions?

    When a person puts on the uniform of the United States military and swears an oath, that person is promising to sacrifice their life for their country. The only promise they expect in return is that their life not be spent for no good reason. That promise was broken.

    Do not forget your dying children. They wear the uniform of your country, they live and die for all of us. Some lie still, wrapped in your flag. Some walk the land trying to remember, or trying to forget, how they got their scars so long ago. Some yet fight, in a war of choice that was not their doing. Do not forget them. Do not insult them. They are your children.


    ***********

    William Rivers Pitt is the senior editor and lead writer for truthout. He is a New York Times and international bestselling author of two books - 'War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know' and 'The Greatest Sedition is Silence.'

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