THE LONG ROAD TO REMEMBERING
Never mind that the hijackers were mostly Saudi nationals. Two years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 69 percent of Americans continue to believe that Saddam Hussein had a role in 9/11.
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A US soldier is being killed each day on average in Iraq during what is supposed to be “peace time.” In Afghanistan, the Taliban is staging attacks with increasing ferocity and frequency while women and girls continue to be abused and threatened. Vile warlords are in control once more as Afghanistan regains its ranking as the world’s largest source of heroin. “Everyone is back in business,” says Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of President Hamid Karzai.
A closed mouth truly gathers no feet.
Didn’t Bush declare the end of major combat operations in Iraq on May 1? And wasn’t there supposed to be a similar end in hostilities when Bush announced in Arkansas in August 2002 that “we [have] liberated Afghanistan from the clutches of a barbaric regime”?
Excuse me. Righteous America liberated Afghanistan from a wicked regime?
Taliban officials were being entertained in Washington and Houston in 1997, for crying out loud. Far from the revulsion that was displayed just before the US reduced Kabul and Kandahar to rubble, according to Karl Inderfurth, who, as US Undersecretary of State oversaw relations with Afghanistan at the State Department from 1997 to 2000, “The feeling was, ‘Gosh, wouldn’t it be great to have some commercial undertakings?’”
On the anniversary of the day the war reached America’s shores, did the jingoist US media bring up the memory of the days when the US government boogied with the butchers it is hunting down today? Will America be made to reflect on the 10,000 Iraqi civilian casualties of the US invasion of their country? Are you kidding?
As with America’s past imperial adventures, the story of Iraq has been transformed into a narrative of the occupier, an American tale where US troops evince daily stoicism in the face of tribulations while locals are relegated to playing groveling or sinister roles.
We are reminded about the “steady progress” being made by the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC), a body bestowed by imperial America with fussing rights minus the power to govern. (By the way, embezzler emeritus Ahmed Chalabi finally realized his dream -- it was finally his turn at the rotating presidency of the IGC on September 1.)
We are reminded about the many captured Ba’ath Party “evildoers” through Proconsul Paul Bremer’s press releases. There is a daily tally of wounded and killed US soldiers in reports that remind the world of the heavy toll being shouldered by America.
But what of the Iraqis in whose name the US invasion was launched? Apparently, they deserve no death tally.
“Up to 20 innocent Iraqi civilians a day are now believed to be dying -- in murders, revenge killings, at US checkpoints—and yet they no longer count,” reports The Independent’s Robert Fisk, who holds more journalism awards than any other foreign correspondent for his reporting of the Iranian revolution and the wars in Lebanon, the Gulf, Kosovo and Algeria.
“No wonder journalists now have to seek permission from the occupation authorities to visit Baghdad hospitals,” adds Fisk. “Who knows how many corpses they would find in the morgue?”
So many Iraqi souls liberated from their bodies courtesy of America’s “humanitarian” invasion. An intervention premised on denying the histories of the occupier and the occupied. An invasion based on an implicitly racist predicate -- that the peoples of Iraq were utterly incapable of breaking the iron grip of Ba’athist rule without the noble disinterested swagger of America.
Utterly incapable? Here’s a ridiculously abbreviated helping of a rarely discussed Iraqi tradition:
• June 1920: An armed Iraqi revolt breaks out against British rule, which kills 450 British troops. A major organized strike is held in 1927 demanding freedom of trade union organization. More uprisings in 1930.
• 1931: a general strike joined by thousands of Iraqis is held in protest of new draconian tax impositions.
• 1936: strikes break out throughout Iraq against the wave of repression launched by a newly installed military government.
• Bread strikes in 1943. An oil workers’ strike in 1946 demanding higher wages and other benefits. More strikes in the same year by printers and railway workers, which forces the Cabinet to resign. Strikes in 1947 against the proposed establishment of the Zionist state of Israel at the expense of the dispossessed Palestinians. A huge uprising in 1948. More strikes in the same year by thousands of Iraqi laborers.
• 1952: port workers strike for higher wages, more housing, better working conditions. Students go on strike in the same year leading to mass riots in most urban centers. Huge demonstrations and strikes in 1956 as Britain, Israel and France attack Egypt, which had nationalized the Suez Canal. The July 14 Revolution in 1958. A coup led by members of the Free Officers seizes power, abolishes the monarchy installed by Britain, carries out land reform, denounces imperialism and proclaims a republic.
Where was America in all this? In 1958, fearing the spread of rebellion throughout the Middle East, the US sent 14,000 Marines to Lebanon in preparation for a joint US-British invasion of Iraq, which came to nothing because “nobody could be found in Iraq to collaborate with.”
In 1963, Washington helped engineer a coup that not only overthrew Gen. Abdel Karim Kassem, the leader who had abolished the West-leaning Iraqi monarchy five years earlier. The putsch also installed—you guessed it—the Ba’ath Party, which included among its members an ambitious 25-year-old Iraqi named Saddam Hussein.
Hussein would reach the highest echelons of power by 1968 but not before purging the ranks of those he perceived to be his rivals in a bloodbath which claimed the lives of thousands of workers, including hundreds of doctors, teachers, technicians, lawyers, as well as military and political leaders.
According to Roger Morris, who served on the US National Security Council during the Johnson and Nixon administrations, the efficiency with which Saddam carried out the slaughter was helped greatly by the lists of radicals and dissidents supplied by the CIA to the Ba’ath regime. A monstrosity that Morris asserts “was unquestionably midwived by the United States.”
Sounds familiar. Wasn’t it also the CIA who provided Suharto’s thugs with lists of people to slaughter, which led to the murder of a million Indonesians during the 1965-66 reign of terror?
Remember what Kissinger said about the US-spawned ouster of the democratically elected Allende government on September 11, 1973? “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.” And so America decided for the hapless Chileans and proceeded to prop up the brutal regime of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.
If only we remembered more, there would be far fewer events of infamy to commemorate.
It is a weary world that we will bequeath to our children and there will be a lot of difficult explaining to do. The road toward remembering will be long and arduous. We can begin by recounting to them the words of a wise American named Benjamin Franklin, who, 220 years ago -- on September 11, 1783 -- wrote: “There never was a good war nor a bad peace.”
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