April 2008 – 5 Years, 4,000 U.S. Dead And One Million Iraqi Dead – Mission Still Not Accomplished

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By Jack Neworth 

Last month marked the 5th anniversary of the Iraq war. That’s a year and a half longer than WW2, but the news is back to business as usual which means in-depth coverage of stories like Ashley Dupre (Eliot Spitzer’s call girl) being offered a million dollars to pose nude in “Hustler Magazine.” What a country.

The trend of the networks reporting on stories as much for ratings as for news, goes back to when the decision that news divisions had to show a profit. Today the networks have concluded that after five years the war in Iraq doesn’t get rating. Instead they feed us clips of Dick Cheney suddenly claiming the war is a success. (Keep in mind Cheney also said the troops would be “greeted as liberators” and the insurgency was in its “last throes.”) Last month, when told by a reporter that 2/3 of the country is against the war, Cheney said rather contemptuously, “So?” (As in do you think I give a sh*t?) 

The truth is when Bush and Cheney brag about the “success of the surge” it only confirms the total failure of the previous four years. General Eric Shinseki warned congress that we’d need two hundred thousand troops but Donald Rumsfeld dismissed it as “absurd” and essentially Shinseki was forced to retire. (If only it had been the other way around.) Rummy, another neo-con genius, proudly predicted the war would last “six days, or six weeks but certainly no longer than six months.” 

John McCain is another one. Last year he declared a bustling Baghdad marketplace was evidence that Iraqis could “shop freely.” (At the time McCain was wearing a bulletproof vest, surrounded by soldiers and Blackhawk helicopters.) This year the military informed him that he couldn’t visit the marketplace as it was more dangerous than last year! Some surge. 

Lately people are referring to McCain as “McBush,” especially after a press conference in March where he charged the Iranians with training Al Queda. (The two have only been enemies for 1400 years.) Panicked, Senator Liberman covertly whispered into McCain’s ear and the Senator sheepishly corrected himself. 

The wheels are coming off the straight talk express. Not long ago McCain said, “If there were no casualties Americans would support the war.” No casualties? Hello? We’re at 4011 (3872 since “Mission Accomplished”) with 30,000 wounded, record suicides and PTSD cases possibly in the hundreds of thousands when this occupation is all said and done. If it’s ever “all said and done.” 

One of the many rationales for the war was to bring democracy to Iraq. Five years later we can’t even bring electricity. It seems like only yesterday Paul Wolfowitz said Iraq had “no ethnic strife and had vast oil revenues to pay for the reconstruction.” What happened to those oil revenues? One-third are siphoned off through corruption and actually fuels the insurgency. 

To mark the fifth anniversary of the war last month I visited the Arlington West Memorial north of the Santa Monica pier. A project of Veterans for Peace, every Sunday volunteers erect a memorial on the beach. Along with bulletin boards featuring photos of the wounded and biographies of the fallen, the beach is covered with white crosses, each representing a soldier’s death. In the center is a row of flag-draped coffins which indicate how many GIs have died since the past Sunday. (Thanks to Bush Sr. we’re not allowed to see the real coffins. What do you think this is, a democracy?)

When I gaze at the endless rows of crosses, or read about the fallen soldiers, young men and women whose lives had barely started, it breaks my heart. I don’t know how the volunteers find the strength to come back each week, but they do. They start at 4 A.M. grooming the beach and setting up the crosses. During a typical day thousands of people will view the memorial. Around sunset the volunteers take everything down, only to repeat the process the next Sunday. (To see the website go to: Arlingtonwestsantamonica.org. Be sure to click on “Winter’s Soldiers,” the GI’s actual accounts of the occupation.)

Last month after examining 600,000 documents from Iraq, the Pentagon concluded there was no operational link between Sadaam Hussein and Al Queda. (Now they tell us.) Even more offensive was the Gridiron Club Dinner in D.C. in March where George Bush had the unbelievably poor taste to joke about missing WMDs. Given the loss of life and destruction, I don’t see the humor. Impeaching Bush on the other hand could be good for a few laughs.

The fifth anniversary of the war has come and gone. I wonder if most Americans even care? I worry that for many a bigger question is will Ashley Dupre pose for Hustler?

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