Lows in the Blame Game
By Lisa Walsh Thomas
is unlikely that many mourned the killing of Uday and Qusay
Hussein on July 22. From a wealth of eyewitness accounts,
the sons of Saddam were as brutal toward the Iraqi people
as was their father. But their killing - which some might
technically describe as murder - raises some embarrassing
questions that the Bush Administration should someday be forced
Osama bin Laden is unfound and seemingly unremembered, even
as a world-scale terrorist who eluded the most powerful military
force on earth after supposedly masterminding and financing
the plot that killed 3,000 innocent people in the World Trade
Center. Along with his escape is Mullah Omar, an Afghan leader
who may have been a threat to the U.S. by way of offering
Osama protection. When the military could not capture them,
the two men were brushed aside, as quickly forgotten as George
Bush's lost military records.
Then there is Saddam himself. While there is no recent evidence
that Saddam Hussein, thug and ruthless dictator that he was,
had any intention of harming anyone outside his country, he
was painted by the Bush Administration as a figure who would
bring our nation to its knees with a massive supply of nuclear,
chemical, and biological weapons. In retrospect, one wonders
if the dynamic emphasis on Saddam's misdeeds to his own people
was not only a way to grab the world's second largest oil
source but also a method of making people forget about Osama.
At any rate, 147,000 American soldiers and the most sophisticated
intelligence-gathering machinery in the world cannot so far
find either him, or, more importantly, the weapons of which
Bush and Powell and Rumsfeld were so certain - the same weapons
that U.N. inspectors could not find.
So the world has to settle for the sons. While their deaths
do indeed rid Iraq of two evil despots, they also bring about
the question of why the brothers could not have been captured
and tried by their own people. Instead, they were summarily
killed simply because Bush, Cheney and gang pointed their
finger at them and marked them for death in the absence of
being able to find any of the big fish (namely Osama and Saddam.)
Reasons were given, of course. U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary
Paul Wolfowitz has told us that the feared brothers' deaths
might quell violence against U.S. forces by eliminating fears
that Saddam could return to power. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez,
commander of ground forces in Iraq, has stated that the elimination
of Uday and Qusay would demoralize the Iraqi resistance and
help bring in Saddam, with a $25 million bounty being offered.
The latter supposition of Sanchez has merit. The Iraqi people,
however much they may have opposed Saddam and his sons, have
stood by quietly as the resistance picked off American soldiers.
One has to wonder why no one among 24 million Iraqis seems
to know who keeps killing their "liberators." $30 million
did the job with one Iraqi, however, so the $25 million being
offered for Saddam's head may do the trick.
But what will the accomplishment be, beyond allowing the
U.S. military and administration to save a little face following
their lack of success in finding Osama and Saddam? One would
think that if the Iraqi people had any genuine "appreciation"
of the Anglo-American armies, they would turn in members of
the resistance without requiring $30 million for doing so.
Wolfowitz' assurance that the guerrillas will stop their
attacks once they are certain that no Saddam, Uday, or Qusay
will return to power is utterly devoid of logic, as the increase
in resistance activity shows. The American soldiers, hated
as they may be, were the best assurance the Iraqi people had
of stopping a return of the Baathists. To try to pick off
the U.S. army soldier by soldier would be to remove the Iraqi
people's protection against such return.
Blaming the existence of the Hussein brothers for the insurgence
against American occupation is a new level of absurdity, about
as believable as a student's my-dog-ate-it excuse. One might
conclude that either Wolfowitz and crowd (including Bush)
is full of it, or that they are back to honking out meaningless
excuses and assurances to avoid taking any responsibility
for anything gone haywire, including a growing number of American
In the midst of such illogical assurances, the blame game
gets propped up: the Iraqi people love their liberators; they
yearn to put flowers around the necks of their saviours. Apparently
the only thing stopping them from erecting statues of the
soldiers who killed more than 3,000 of their children and
permanently poisoned their land with depleted uranium is the
fear that Saddam will return. Come again?
The brothers appear to be genuinely dead, and the killing
- contrary to Wolfowitz' assumptions - has picked up. In the
two days since 200 American soldiers stormed the villa to
kill four people (Uday, Qusay, a 14-year old grandson of Saddam,
and an aide), the resistance has risen to become more determined
and deadly than ever. During those two days, five more American
soldiers have been killed, more than doubling the earlier
We, the people of our own country, are being forced to crawl
around atop a garbage heap of lies and lame excuses, cutting
our hands and knees to shreds when we try to believe our leaders
cannot lie to us. Should we be surprised? It's been only thirty
years ago that the Church Committee showed us a dark side
of our country, CIA ties to the Mafia, umbilical connections
with Nazis, experimentation with LSD on the unsuspecting.
Do we remember the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution when almost the
entire Congress swallowed Johnson's lie about a fabricated
North Vietnamese attack? Remember the Maine. Can anyone call
it unpatriotic to bury facts and consequent suspicions?
Bad information, whether it sprang from ineptitude or outright
lies, led us to go against world opinion - to pre-emptively
invade a sovereign nation that we now know posed no threat
whatsoever to us or to any other country. The power of Iraq
was shown in their almost immediate defeat and their inability
to get even one plane into the sky.
Our clearly stated reason for the invasion was to take Iraq's
weapons of mass destruction from them before they were used
to attack our people. The "proof" of weapons of mass destruction
was, we now know, fabrication. Insistence upon the first premise
is now embarrassing: the weapons were smuggled out of the
country; Saddam destroyed them as U.S. forces marched into
the country; Islamic magicians teleported them to a distant
planet. What kind of man would, in the face of watching his
country be conquered and killed, destroy the only protection
So the "reason" for the war changed, and we were told that
yes and oh-shucks, our leaders had fudged a bit, that the
"real" reason for the invasion was to liberate the people
of Iraq, that such liberation was so important to the Bush
administration that they tossed international law, global
respect, and approval from the United Nations out the window.
But while at it, a strong foothold in the oil-rich Mideast
wasn't really a bad thing.
Some begin to ask the obvious question. Where was the dedication
to free people from brutal dictators in the past? Where was
such dedication when the U.S. and all of the West stood by
and watched Saddam allegedly use chemical weapons
on the rebellious Kurds? Well... he was our ally at the time.
Where was the dedication to free the Nicaraguans from the
Somoza family when they took the entire country for only a
handful of wealthy supporters, killing off those who opposed?
Well... the Somozas were our allies. Franklin Roosevelt himself
said of the first Somoza that "he may be a son-of-a-bitch,
but he's our son-of-a-bitch." That attitude has heartily
prevailed, aptly hanging there in our alliances with both
Saddam and Noriega, alliances broken only when they had outlived
their use to us.
In the dark corners of our history are Cuba's Batista, Chile's
General Pinochet, El Salvador's Martinez, the Dominican Republic's
Trujillo, Brazil's Humberto Branco, Guatemala's Mont, Iran's
Reza Pahlevi, Indonesia's Suharto... the list goes on and
on. They were all brutal dictators of their own people, and
the U.S. stood by during atrocities that pack the history
books, because they were our allies and it was financially
advantageous to U.S. corporations to keep them in power. Imagine
the effect on the American people if they had seen the people
of Chile prosper when Salvador Allende nationalized the copper
mines. Might it have put ideas in the minds of America's poor?
Might it have erupted into the populist power that arose with
the formation of labor unions early in the last century?
Even worse than standing by, these aforementioned killers
were often given arms and support by the United States if
it was financially advantageous to the U.S. to maintain the
status quo. The Nicaraguan Contras who shot innocent peasants
for registering to vote were lauded by Ronald Reagan and the
far right as "freedom fighters." (Companies like United Fruit
never spoke up, of course.) The men who ran the El Salvadoran
and Honduran death squads were trained in the U.S. school
of terrorism ("School of the Americas" was the name at the
time) in Georgia. The U.S. ambassador to Honduras accused
of knowledge of death squad activity (including the throwing
of leftist nuns into the jungle from a helicopter) by the
Honduran Human Rights Commission was tapped by George Bush
to be our U.N. ambassador. Memory is short.
Now, Saddam Hussein, once an ally to whom we provided the
very chemical weapons for which we later invaded the country,
is a reason to destroy a nation whose conquest most notably
provides millions upon millions of dollars to defense contractors
and those corporations given the contracts to rebuild what
we bombed. Halliburton's fortunes from this war are already
becoming legendary. A large number of people running our country
are growing wealthier by the day from this invasion alone.
And in the meantime, when the lies won't hold, there is
the unending blame. Bush provided the country with false information,
but it was only because the CIA goofed. If the CIA didn't
goof, then it was because the information came from Britain.
Whatever happened, there is one mantra: "It's not Bush's fault."
The blame is appropriate to an administration who has cost
our citizenry well over two million jobs and spiraled our
economy into deficit spending that may yet be our undoing,
all the while managing to say that such disasters are really
Clinton's fault (forgetting that Clinton reversed the Reagan
deficit spending to actually create surpluses). The fact that
we were not prepared for the terrorist attack on 9-11 was
Clinton's fault, despite Al Gore's report that, if heeded,
would have provided more secure cockpit doors that might have
prevented the deaths of 3,000 Americans. The Bush administration
ignored that report, along with the Hart-Rudman conclusion
that a major terrorist attack was headed for our soil, and
has been busy blaming others ever since.
Now, when the people of Iraq form a resistance to try to
free themselves from American occupation, to try to stop the
humiliating presence of U.S. soldiers who are killing too
many Iraqis, turning the entire country into a wasteland,
resulting in over 60 percent unemployment, doing little to
replace the destroyed infrastructure, and allegedly funneling
oil to Israel and Halliburton, the administration tells us
that it is because these people fear the return of Saddam
Come again, Mr. Bush? Is this not the lowest level yet in
the absurdity of endless blame? First you say that the "resistance"
is made up only of Saddam loyalists being well paid, and when
that doesn't fly you try intimidation of the Iraqi people
by their former leaders, two excuses at odds with each other.
Should we truly trust either our leaders or our media? It
was reported yesterday, July 24, that there was negligence
on the parts of the CIA, the FBI, and NSA regarding the 9-11
attack, but we are told that none of this ineptitude qualifies
as a smoking gun, someone to actually blame for the
attack. At the same time, Senator Bob Graham of Florida points
out that the most significant set of events, in his opinion,
"are in the section of the report that has been censored and
therefore won't be available to the American people."
Right. When it is too damaging, it becomes "classified."
Fools are perhaps defined by how clearly they act like fools.
If we continue to watch the incessant blaming and secrecy
and refusal to take responsibility for errors, we are making
a contribution to every death suffered by American soldiers
who are, perhaps, young enough to confuse patriotism with
blind trust in their superiors.
There was a story something like that in Germany a couple
of generations back.
It didn't fly either.
Lisa Walsh Thomas (email@example.com)
is a lifelong writer - poetry, fiction, art reviews, and political
essays. Her second book, The Girl with Yellow Flowers
in Her Hair is available from Pitchfork