Rajab 1424 H
Volume 16-09 No : 201
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The deaths of American service men in Iraq since the end of the war are worth mourning,
By Mirza A. Beg
The title, is a line from Tagore’s poem, “Play things.” It alludes to the innate goodness in most of us. As individuals (the man), we try to help the weak and needy, but as a group (Men), under the blinding umbrella of tribalism or nationalism we become cruel toward them. Whoever them of the moment may be.
In Iraq the American casualty figures are released carefully, classifying them as dead by hostile action, or accident. The figures for the Iraqi dead are not released; they are reported as Saddam loyalists or collateral damage. In essence, American casualties are ‘us’, therefore worth counting and mourning, but Iraqis are them, good riddance or at best ignored.
American casualties are mourned; news media keeps a daily count. Iraqi dead is no less human; they have families and neighbours that mourn them as well. Most of the Iraqis killed are “collateral damage.” Most were caught at the wrong place at the wrong time. That is Iraq, where they live, their home.
Iraqis count their dead too. In the absence of credible information, that may be a few thousands. The rumour mill exaggerates the numbers to hundreds of thousands, spread by the grapevine mired in distrust and resentment. This is more damaging than the truth.
Saddam used the oil wealth to gradually bribe, coerce, intimidate and finally terrorise Iraqis into following his megalomania. By the time the Iraqis realized; it was too late for them wiggle out of his iron grip.
There were ample justifications to dislodge Saddam from power, but Bush was not willing to spend time to convince the Americans, therefore he resorted to the misuse of intelligence and scared America into believing an imminent danger from Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction. This canard worked and overwhelming support was garnered.
Gen. Eric Shinseki, Chief of Army staff, and many others warned of inadequate preparation about the post-war winning of peace. They were treated ignominiously, in the headlong rush to war.
The same warning came from the French, the Germans, and others in the United Nations. The Administration came to hate them for the fault of not supporting its misrepresentations, and in retrospect having the audacity of being right.
The military and economic might of the United States prevail; the problem of Iraq and its future is in America’s lap. America cannot afford to fail. The world is watching intently. American word, intentions and actions are under scrutiny.
Under Saddam, Iraqis lived an apolitical, circumscribed life with guaranteed lively-hood and basic amenities. Almost four months after Saddam’s defeat, they do not have jobs, basic necessities and safety. In the absence of food, water and safety, the old bad times do not look so bad.
Iraqis, distrustful of the American motives, are getting desperate. The guerillas are not necessarily supporters of Saddam. All shades of nationalists resent American occupation. They subsume their differences to fight the common enemy. President Bush falsely tied mutually antipathic Saddam Hussain with Osama bin Laden. Now that Saddam is gone, Iraqi guerillas are willing to get help from all quarters and bin Laden is probably aching to help. The bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad is indicative.
Iraqi guerillas maneuver to attack Americans in such a way to elicit indiscriminate overwhelming response. Officially, about 5,000 Iraqis have been detained, but many more have been searched, shoved and humiliated. This creates fear, resentment and sympathy for the guerillas, irrespective of their brand of ideology.
This appears to be a long-term disaster in the making. A great nation should not jettison truth to achieve short-term objectives, using falsehood. It always comes back to haunt. The administration has asked other countries for policing and economic help that is so sorely needed in Iraq. Many countries are willing to help, but not under the present hegemonic set up. They need the U.N. umbrella of international legitimacy.
In a small world, no place is far enough. Iraq has exacerbated the war on terrorism and isolated America. It cannot be fought in isolation. American safety depends on world peace and justice for the downtrodden. It is time to show that we care for others as well, by actions as much as in words. It is time to rise above crass nationalism and consider the world as our neighbor and be kind to “them” as well.
Mirza A. Beg is a freelance writer living in Tuscaloosa. He has written extensively on international affairs and issues related to ethnicity.
(Courtesy: The Anniston Star)