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Imperial tea party in Iraq

With recent "revelations" of Iraqi mistreatment, the Bush horror show in Iraq has assumed a surreal dimension, say Julia Nambalirwa-Lugudde and Daniel Patrick Welch

As we watch the horror unfolding before our eyes like a giant time-delayed broadcast, a deeper horror should also be setting in. The entire discussion surrounding the "revelations" of mistreatment of Iraqis by the US (does bombing water purification plants count as mistreatment?) has taken on a sickening, surreal turn. I feel like we are watching "things fall apart," as Chinua Achebe once wrote. The center, indeed, does not hold, and we are witnessing the spiraling out of control of almost every element of our perception: moral compass spinning aimlessly, intellectual ground slipping, right merging with wrong, a sort of Mad Imperial Tea Party. Up is down, day is night, and war is peace as we descend Down the Spider Hole.

Let's be blunt here: this is nothing new –  this is just some more shit hitting the fan. Let's not forget the Giant Elephant in the Room – the albatross the Bushies have hung around the necks of the American people. Make no mistake and keep on track: This is an illegal war, and that's where it all starts. It's not for nothing that the Nuremburg tribunal saved special venom for the ultimate War Crime of starting an unprovoked war of aggression: the Fog of War may cloud certain truths, but the worst crime is that which "contains the accumulated evil of the hole."

Let's not be naïve: This administration, more so than Kerry (a Lesser War Criminal who admitted to atrocities, slated to replace the one in office come January) is using this opportunity to cleanse themselves of the atrocities that they have imposed by "bringing Democracy to the Middle East."

In war games, or any other hostile takeover on behalf of imperial interests, the thing that is considered "the enemy" is always demonized. From the beginning of the American experiment, remember the 'savage' Native Americans who were slaughtered and forced off their lands to make a place for "the chosen people" to create their Utopia.

In order to rebel against their European tormentors, the colonists moved to another place and wiped out an entire population. Other European countries are also players in the age-old game of humiliating while plundering and murdering. The British treatment of Africans and Indians? The Dutch South Africans? The Americans in Korea and Vietnam?

There is, of course, no defense for these newly revealed, abhorrent 'findings'-though they can hardly be labeled as such given the facts that led to this tragedy. This administration cheated its way into power and is now using this opportunity to let themselves off the hook.

Because they are undoubtedly well aware of Bush's moral and popular decline-though his own bio clouds the claim that he was born with any morality in the first place--this incident provides a perfect way to relieve the tension that has built up around them and the war.

Here we see Bush on the lesser-watched Arab TV claiming that these "aberrations" had nothing to do with what America is all about. This is just a "stain" on the country's history. He makes no apology, of course, for bombing schools, mosques, hospitals-the entire infrastructure of a sovereign nation-nor for the mass detention of innocents while denying them the due process of the Democracy which is our alleged gift. Democracy is messy, we are told--yeah, right--especially for those on the shit end of the stick.

Bush has been asked to apologize, as if by doing so he could absorb the guilt of his people, be a martyr and cleanse them of the sin of looking blindly on and supporting this evil war. Meanwhile, to cement this ironclad commitment to "justice," Rumsfeld is being asked to resign! Well, I never! Of course, this is more a media phenomenon than an actual one, but still – resign? It never ceases to amaze me how those with their greasy hands on the levers of power, whose policies kill people by the hundreds of thousands – how they can meet a fate less than that of a black teenager who sells an ounce of dope.

And don't hold your breath, by the way. After all we've learned of this administration, it's anathema (that means they don't like it, for Seinfeld viewers) for them to take any responsibility whatsoever for their criminal behavior. Heads up to the mainstream media: there is no way in hell Rumsfeld will resign, or be asked to do so by his close buddy. Their time will come: my own eight ball tells me it's "Outlook Good" that they will all be moved, one by one, perhaps to one of the 'detention facilities' of which they are so fond, after the indictments hit.

The revelations plainly show just how unplanned and unorganized Iraq's "Road Map to Democracy" was. No streets paved with gold (or oil – take your pick) here. Feival Mouskowitz would be disappointed. The spin of the photo scandal miraculously and inexplicably relieves them of having to explain why they attacked Iraq in the first place-at least insofar as the "debate" has evolved on the American political scene. Unless they are forced to admit that these soldiers were reservists who took orders from the chain of command, the Bush administration is using untrained young men and women to do its dirty work. What else is new? We are now looking at six to ten 'rogues" who have derailed the road map. They are going to be sacrificed in the name of the Chosen Ones. How could a twenty-year old girl be deemed to be the single soul that has "stained" all that America represents?

As elementary school teachers, we now have to rethink the exercise we had planned with the kids: writing letters of support – personal, not political support – for soldiers we know sent to Iraq. It took  awhile to embrace this activity: as fervent opponents of the war, and since Julia is as an African immigrant whose country was among the dozens plundered by the soldiers of the British Empire, we had little sympathy for those on the front lines of imperial conquest. When we talk to students about the horrors of war, we introduce them to the side most Americans never see: civilians always feel the brunt of war. Julia would wax nostalgic (if you can call it that) about her experiences of civil war back home, running from place to place, hiding by day and returning home at night. She talked of the disruption of daily life, cutting off access to food and medicine and hospitals, clean water – the real killers of war. We didn't think to include the section on torture, humiliation, and sexual assault.

But one of us is a Black woman in the US, and the pieces of this geopolitical puzzle necessarily fit together differently. Although we may shelve the letter-writing activity for the time being, we still have to remind ourselves that these are young people, like trained dogs meant to sniff out drugs in someone's carry-on. They are taught and trained like the NYC cops who herded us like cattle into pens last February 15, or like prison guards (some of them are). We bristle at first when Charlie Rangell proposes the draft, until we realize that what he is implying is that, as soon as the war hits home for the majority population, when it is their own kids choosing the army just to avoid jail or WalMart, or just to be able to go to college, the war will end the next day. Charles Ogletree pointed out, in the aftermath of the Michigan decision, that a society whose army is all brown and whose law schools are all white is one heading for serious trouble.

The fraud of a classless American society shudders beneath the weight of the truth, its fa
çade shattered by the Navy ads promising teenagers escape from dipshit little towns just like the one Lynndie England came from. Suicide rates are phenomenal among soldiers in Iraq, so why not expect this? Sick products of a sick system, those who do the dirty work for empire will be sent to bursting jails to be overseen by some of their former colleagues. Meanwhile, the architects of the terror may (though probably not) lose some of their government pensions. Like the song says, "You know it's funny when it rains it pours, they got money for wars but can't feed the poor." What we need to ask is, will the real men get up? I know we're fed up.

Note: This article was first published by JUST Response on May 12 2004. Daniel Patrick Welch lives and writes in Salem, Massachusetts, USA, with his wife, Julia Nambalirwa-Lugudde. Together they run The Greenhouse School. A writer, singer, linguist and activist, Welch has appeared on radio and is available for  interviews.

Also in JUST Response
Road to hell
Fair warning
American Taliban
Suffering suffrage

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