10 May 2007

Three Quarters Of A Million Dead In Iraq, And It's All My Fault (And Yours)

Why has John Howard has not been blamed for the Iraq War to the same extent as the disgraced Tony Blair? I think it is partly due to Howard's tacit deferral to Bush on all matters Iraqi. Australians blame Bush, the "Decider", not Howard, the willing accomplice. But responsibility does not wash away so easily: it is not only Bush and Howard who are guilty, but ourselves as well.

Just as the 9/11 did not require the absurd military response of a bogus "war", post-Saddam Iraq needed trained police, not young, witless, scared, stupid, untrained and ill-disciplined soldiers, roaming the streets. As Ted Rall says, Iraq needed cops but it got "trigger-happy suburbanites" instead. He quotes Tony Lagouranis, from his book "Fear Up Harsh: An Army Interrogator's Dark Journey Through Iraq":
"We kept our guns trained on them as they moved through. This was our first close-up look at these people, and it was not a friendly exchange. Their stares were full of wonder at why they were under our guns, mixed in with a bit of disgust at our overreactions...

"Force protection was our number-one priority. Everywhere I went, Americans were hunkered down and on alert, quick to point a gun at an Iraqi, quick to use it. Our primary preoccupation was not with rebuilding the country, but with keeping danger at bay; not with providing security for Iraqis, but with making sure that we were safe inside our bubble."
The results were predictable:
And it wasn't just one bad apple. Alberto Gonzales constructed a legal justification for torture. Donald Rumsfeld signaled the troops that it was OK. But no one forced hundreds of sadists at Abu Ghraib or Bagram or Guantánamo to sodomize and murder countless innocent detainees. They did it by choice, while thousands of other soldiers stood by and watched.
It wasn't just the soldiers, though, was it? As James Reston says, we are all responsible for Iraq:
The philosophers tell us that there are four types of responsibility for which an individual and a society can be held to account for aggressive or unprovoked war. Criminal guilt applies to the power structure that drags a country into an abyss against its will or upon false pretenses, or the individuals who engage in crime on the battlefield. ..

Metaphysical guilt means that every human being is responsible for injustices committed anywhere in the world, but especially crimes that are committed in our presence and with our knowledge. Does this apply to us? The legitimization of torture is one instance that seems to fit. It has been done in our presence, with our knowledge...

The two other categories, moral and political guilt, are most pointedly relevant at this stage of the Iraq conflict. It is not enough to complain about President Bush, or to mock him. To mock the president does not relieve one from responsibility for the war being fought in the name of every American. Bush's disaster has become the country's disaster. Every American is now connected to it politically and morally.
Substitute "Howard" and "Australia" in that last para, the facts are the same. We re-elected Howard, knowing he was a War Criminal, and those of us who did not vote for him did not do enough to stop that. Our troops are still in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we have not done enough to bring them home. Innocent people are still dying every day on the far side of the world, and we all have blood on our hands.

Indeed, it occurs to me that unless we can all acknowledge our guilt, jail those responsible for the decision making, and make amends to the victims of our violence, we as a nation will not be able to move forward, unless it is in the continued direction of militant Fascism. At some stage we must acknowledge the truth: "This was wrong". Otherwise we are locked into the Bush-Howard logic of one lie piled upon another.