By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Photo by James BunoanPerhaps you've heard President George W. Bush's recent complaint that the media hasn't been doing enough to tell about the "good progress" we've been making in Iraq. Bush was quoted recently by the Associated Press as saying that news reportage is so rife with opinion that he rarely reads or watches it himself. "I'm more interested in news, and the best way to get the news is from objective sources, and the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what is going on with the world," he said.
The cynical among you might be asking, "Isn't 'good progress' redundant, and how would Bush know what's in the news if he ignores it?"
But didn't he know Iraq had weapons of mass destruction despite our best intelligence to the contrary? Didn't he predict that Iraqis would welcome us with open arms (okay, so the arms were rocket launchers) and that the war would practically pay for itself from oil revenues? Give the man some credit for insight.
And, darn it, Bush is right: a lot of news from Iraq is unreported or underreported. Let's help him out:
CONVERTS TO DEMOCRACY! The 10,000 civilians we killed in the war are still dead. The noncombatant men, women and children killed during the "active" phase of the war were barely mentioned then and have been all-but forgotten since, though probably not by grieving relatives. And no one in the news even began counting the untold thousands of soldiers we bombed into bloody tapioca in the first weeks of the war. I'm not talking about crazed Saddam loyalists, but hapless conscripts forced into uniform, who were as much victims of Saddam as anyone. Maybe Bush thought he was helping them and the civilians to go Patrick Henry one better: give me liberty, and give me death.
What are these deaths compared to the 300,000 dead found in Saddam's mass graves? Aren't those graves reason enough for us to have gone to war? You bet, but when? Unmentioned in news accounts is the fact that most of these graves date from the 1980s, when the Reagan and first Bush administrations were arming, financing and supplying intelligence to Hussein. "If you harbor or support a terrorist, you are a terrorist," another Bush said, not that there's a moral here.
CREATING JOBS! U.S. officials and the U.S.-formed Iraqi Governing Council are considering employing former crazed Saddam loyalists—including members of his homicidal secret police—to form a paramilitary force (rhymes with "death squad") to hunt insurgents in Iraq, the Los Angeles Times (but no TV news) reported last week. Wow, isn't that too much democracy too fast? For example, look at Afghanistan, where, two years in, we're using thugs on loan from friendly warlords as advance troops. Reported in the LA Times, but few other places, our new partners in freedom have been terrorizing villages, looting, stealing, stabbing and torturing in our name. Consider also the recent case in which U.S. planes bombed targets—killing several civvies, including four children—under the direction of an Afghan snitch who, it turns out, was just settling an old score. Let me put this in terms even rah-rah supporters of American should get incensed at: the world's most powerful nation is being played like a piss-pants bumfight wino by these foreign spooks. The freedom and democracy we've brought to Afghanistan, by the way, seems limited to Kabul, while the rest of the country is abandoned to chaos or the warlords. Heroin fans will get a warm glow from hearing that opium poppy farming has returned in a big way.
WE'RE GETTING SOME ACTION! Speaking of us getting played, the Iraqi National Congress (INC) exile group fed "intelligence" to the Bush administration, used to justify our going to war, despite red flags our intelligence community raised about its truth (which our own WMD search in-country is showing to be a load of hooey). Once our troops cleared the way for him, we installed INC leader Ahmad Chalabi as head of the Iraqi Governing Council, where he's awarding lucrative contracts—with your tax dollars—to his cronies and political allies. What makes him think he can get away with that?
BRINGING PEOPLE TOGETHER! Remember Bush's prewar claim that Saddam's Baathists and international terrorists were allied? Well, listen to this: "There are some clear indicators that they have now begun to work together," says General Ricardo Sanchez, the U.S. military commander in Iraq. The problem is that he said it on Oct. 30 of this year. There's still no evidence supporting Bush's prewar claims of Iraqi links to al-Qaida and/or Sept. 11, but our occupation of Arab soil is bringing the otherwise ideologically opposed Baathists and jihadists together. Next maybe we'll get Dracula and the Wolfman to make friends.
WHEN THE PRESIDENT TALKS, TERRORISTS LISTEN. Remember when the best-guarded man in the world dared terrorists to do their worst, taunting, "Bring 'em on"? There has since been a marked increase in violence against our troops, driving the post-"mission accomplished" death toll higher than the number killed in the "active" war.
And when our enemies bring it on, the soldiers it's brought to are woefully ill-protected, many of them issued Vietnam-era flak jackets that don't stop modern munitions. While Bush is blaming his record deficit on the cost of making sure our soldiers get the best, stateside parents have to themselves buy and send working body armor to their kids in Iraq. And once the kids are wounded? Injured reservists have been languishing without proper care in sweltering cinderblock wards at Fort Stewart, Georgia, and elsewhere, where they are warehoused, waiting from four to six weeks for surgery. It took a public outcry to stop the practice of charging hospitalized soldiers for their meals.
WE'RE CLEARING TREES! Taking a page from the Israeli Army textbook on how to win friends and influence people, U.S. troops have bulldozed Iraqis' orchards if they felt the farmers weren't helpful enough in identifying the guerrillas in their midst. There's no claim the farmers are guerrillas or are aiding guerrillas, just that, since we don't know where the guerrillas are, they must. Dozens of farmers have seen orchards that sustained their families for generations plowed under by U.S. bulldozers. It may seem harsh, but why should they have due process when we don't anymore?
WE KILLED A TIGER! We haven't zeroed in on Osama or Saddam yet, but we killed a tiger. In September, beer-drinking U.S. soldiers forced their way into the closed Baghdad Zoo, where one of them decided to feed a Bengal tiger, which opted to feed on a finger. Another soldier shot the tiger dead. That's one fewer of the less than 5,000 Bengal tigers left in the world. The killing raised an international outcry but got barely a blip in the U.S. news.
THAT LEAVES MORE FOR US! Though news agencies parrot the phrase "coalition forces," it is U.S. troops who have shouldered the bulk of the war's work and danger, and they continue to do so. The "Coalition of the Willing" largely means us being willing to accept longer rotations for our troops and more undertrained reservists and National Guard members locked into active duty. While the U.S. had the sympathy and support of the world after Sept. 11, the self-righteous arrogance of Bush's foreign policy has frittered most of that away. Don't count on the world joining us in the mire of a war they urged us to avoid.
NO PHONE SEX FOR KIDS! Osama bin Laden may not feel the heat yet, but your pocketbook will. Add $87 billion to the $79 billion already spent, and Bush's war-on-terrorism detour into Iraq has cost each man, woman and child in America $575 apiece. Would you give a child $575? Hell, no—he'd spend it on gum and phone sex. Good thing it's not going directly to the Iraqi people, either. If so, each of the 22 million people there would get nearly $7,500, or $37,500 per household of five—in a country where the prewar per-capita annual income was only $1,090 per year. That was back when they had jobs, electricity, gasoline, potable water and working sewage systems, so it's a relative fortune now. Rather then let them blow it all on new date orchards, we're using the trickle-down formula, where their economy will gradually absorb the flow coming down Halliburton's pants leg.