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New Lows in the Blame Game
July 25, 2003
By Lisa Walsh Thomas

It 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 to answer.

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 deaths.

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 daily average.

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 it had?

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 and sons.

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 ( 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 Publishing.

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