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Steve Weissman: For What Did We Die, Mr. Bush?

For What Did We Die, Mr. Bush?

By Steve Weissman
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Friday 08 October 2004

War is a wondrous thing. Against mere logic, it justifies itself. We must stay the course, the battered Mr. Bush keeps repeating. Or those who fell in battle will have died in vain.

No retreat. Line in the sand. More must kill and die in Iraq to give meaning to the deaths of the poor GIs who perished there before them.

No matter that Mr. Bush and Vice-President Cheney sent American troops to save us from non-existent nukes and other weapons of mass destruction. Or to avenge 9/11, in which Saddam Hussein played no part. Or to bring the Iraqis "democracy" with hand-picked collaborators, rigged caucuses, postponed elections, and - at least so far - a stubborn refusal to allow the non-secular Shiite Muslim majority to govern.

No matter that Bush and Cheney were so keen to invade that they acted in bad faith with both the United Nations and U.S. Congress. Or knowingly lied to the American people. Or failed so miserably to prepare for the long guerrilla war that now saps so much blood and money.

Let none of their colossal lies and errors distract us. American soldiers died to fulfill the mission, whatever it was, and only victory can give meaning to their sacrifice. Nearly 1100 by now, they stand as a phantom chorus demanding that American troops carry on killing and dying in Iraq until they achieve whatever Mr. Bush sent them there to do.

Or would our dead soldiers say something different if only they could speak for themselves?

Use your imagination. Listen to their voices in the stillness. Watch the drama play out in the theater of your mind.

"What was the mission?" asks the chorus of the dead. "Why, Mr. Bush, did you send us to die?"

"Oil," interject the would-be realists in the wings, both left and right. "No blood for oil!" chant those of a Marxistical bent. "We're running out," counter their imperious foes. "We have to secure Iraqi oil reserves. It's in the national interest, you know."

The chorus looks confused. "Was oil why you sent us to die, Mr. Bush?"

He, too, looks confused. A one-time oilman who lost his shirt in the biz, he turns to his veep, who did not. Cheney smiles. He and his neo-conservative friends had long ago spelled out their thinking through the Project for a New American Century.

The goal, he explains, is not only to secure the oil for ourselves, or rather our corporations. It is also to keep potential competitors like Europe, Russia, China, or Japan from gaining control of the oil and challenging America's undisputed world dominance.

"But what about the Jews?" a voice calls out from the back of the theater. "Mr. Bush, didn't you send the troops to Iraq to protect Israeli interests?"

Again, the commander-in-chief loses his way. He knows his neo-con advisors are good Zionists, but so is he. So are most of his evangelical Christian supporters. Unless the Israelites hold Palestine, Christ will not return to fulfill the Prophecy and usher in the blessed Rapture that will mark the End Time.

"Is that why you sent us to Iraq?" the chorus chimes in. "To bring the Messiah to rule the earth?"

"Hardly a democratic solution," a cynic responds. "And how does it help Israel for the meshuganeh Mr. Bush to go to Iraq and encourage thousands more suicide bombers to roam the world? All that, and a Biblical Armageddon in which most of the world's Jews are condemned to perish? Thank you, all the same, but no."

The chorus snaps to attention, welcoming a new specter onto center stage. A highly decorated, thirty-three-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, the legendary Major General Smedley Butler had seen it all in the down and dirty, as he famously described back in the 1930s.

"War is just a racket," his wraith repeats. A racket in which he himself had played a major role.

"I helped make Mexico, and especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914," he says. "I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenue in. I helped in the raping of half-a-dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers and Co. in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras "right" for American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested."

Grand strategies, it seems, have their corporate bottom line. Are the dead soldiers beginning to understand their mission? Will they soon ask embarrassing questions about Halliburton and Bechtel, the weapons makers and Big Oil?

The chorus stirs. They have died, but for this? And now Mr. Bush cruelly uses their sacrifice to prolong the charade.

Their anger builds. "Stop!" they shout at last. "You have taken our lives for corporate greed, Mr. Bush. Do not steal our souls to sell your effing war!"


A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he writes for t r u t h o u t.

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