Democratic Underground

Living In Sin

November 17, 2004
By The Plaid Adder

When I was in high school and studied the Vietnam War for the first time, I noticed something strange about the chronology.

I was born in 1969 and the last American troops were pulled out in 1973. I would only have been four years old at that point, but I remember a lot of things from that far back - my first memory of being able to read is of sitting in the "way back" of our station wagon looking at a newspaper headline about Nixon and asking my parents what "impeach" meant.

I ought to remember the end of the Vietnam War, but I don't have a single memory of seeing anything about the war on TV.

I asked my mother about this. She said, "Oh, that was deliberate." One day, she said, my older brother came running in from the living room telling her what the latest body count was, and she thought, not only should he not be watching this, but it's not doing me any good either. So she turned the TV off and kept us away from the news until the war was over.

As it turned out, she couldn't protect me long enough. I'm getting my body counts and carnage and atrocities after all, 31 years later and from a completely different part of the world.

Once the election results were secured, the assault on Fallujah went full speed ahead. By the most recent count I read, the U.S. military is admitting to having killed 1200 "insurgents," and captured another 1000 - the majority of whom, despite all the ballyhoo about fighting Al-Qaeda in Iraq so we don't have to do it in Idaho, have been identified as Iraqi.

The term "insurgent," in case you were wondering, is now defined as "anyone who was killed during the assault on Fallujah." Since, according to our man Allawi, there were no civilian casualties, anyone now lying dead on the roads or in the rubble is by definition an insurgent. Even the child whose limbs remain wrapped around the body of the adult who was carrying it, though both their heads have been blown off.

There are no civilians any more. Not in Fallujah. Not according to us.

In the middle of all this carnage, the U.S. media, and the U.S. army, has singled out one soldier for prosecution. On Friday, apparently, after some Marines attacked a mosque, they left behind five men who had been shot but not killed. On Saturday, a different group of Marines attacked the same mosque, and shot the wounded men again. Then, a reporter from NBC videotaped one Marine executing one of the twice-wounded, unarmed prisoners by shooting him in the head at close range.

The footage was broadcast on TV, but they blacked out the actual shooting because you can't put that kind of thing on television. It's not too disturbing for our soldiers to do, but it's too disturbing for ordinary Americans to see.

And that's the real crime that this soldier stands accused of: forcing us to see what we have become.

When I first encountered this story I was genuinely bewildered by the amount of attention it was getting. People seemed to be reacting as if this Marine had done something far more horrifying than anything else that will come out of the attack on Fallujah. Well, yes, it is horrifying to see someone blow the head off an unarmed man who's already been shot up twice. But how is it worse, or even significantly different, from things that happen every day in this war? Because the man this Marine shot wasn't able to fight back at the time?

For God's sake, how many civilians who were never armed, who were never even trying to fight back, have already been killed by soldiers who decided - because they were moving around near a window, or because they were driving a car in the wrong direction at the wrong speed, or because they were they left the house during a three-day firefight to look for food for their families - that they were "insurgents?" How many people who weren't anywhere near our soldiers have been bombed into blood and ashes by our various outbursts of "Shock and Awe?"

Last May, in the middle of the night, American bombs killed 40 people who were sleeping after attending a wedding at Makr-al-Deeb - including at least six women and, depending on who you believe, as many as 14 children. Remember that? Nobody got prosecuted over that. Yet now we're going after one Marine because he didn't remember, before he pulled the trigger, that the man whose head he was about to shatter was not a threat to him, and that as a captured human being still clinging to life, he still had some basic human rights that are supposed to be inviolable.

How was that Marine supposed to remember something that everyone back home has long ago forgotten?

The new head of our Department of Justice is the man who explained to the Bush administration how they could get around the provisions of "quaint" human rights agreements like the Geneva Convention, and came up with the strategy that is supposed to protect the administration from any attempt to prosecute them as war criminals. We are running a gulag down in Guantanamo where we have been holding people we picked up in 2001 without charging them, without allowing them legal representation, and without any kind of due process. Being fans of outsourcing, we are also flying prisoners we want tortured to countries where the regimes have gotten so comfortable with torture that they no longer need to waste any time or money fashioning veils of hypocrisy in which to shroud it. Human rights? Fuhgeddaboutit. You won't see them no more.

Absolutely that murder was an atrocity. You know what? War is an atrocity. If you don't want atrocities, then don't start a war - especially when you don't have to.

When our Congress voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq, they voted to authorize the point-blank execution of an unarmed wounded man in a bloodsmeared mosque in a burning city. That's how we fight our wars now. Shoot first, think later. Give no quarter, take no prisoners. And if you voted Bush back into office, then you were voting for this too. This is what you wanted. Someone strong and resolute, who wouldn't be swayed by things like squeamishness or mercy or compassion or the nagging feeling that maybe murder is wrong. Someone who could convince you that even though you are up to your elbows in blood, you still have strong moral values.

It may not bother you at all that your president's army has killed somewhere between 40,000 and 100,000 Iraqi civilians since March 2003; but you can still feel that frisson of outrage and righteousness every time someone brings up same-sex marriage. It must be nice for you to know that no matter how many deaths are on your hands when you go to God, at least he will praise you for having defended marriage from people like me.

As a person like me, I don't have that consolation.

So I have to forget about all the balloons and the confetti and the opinion polls and the hope of a different future, and go back to fighting for my own moral values. There are all kinds of arguments about why Kerry is not about to become our next president. I am staying out of all that because I clearly know as much about how the average American thinks as a golden retreiver knows about astronomy.

I know what hurt me the most about his campaign. Because he had voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq, he could not make the moral case against the war. He made the pragmatic case against it - and God knows that was easy enough, given all the ways in which this war has been botched. But he could not get up there and say that we just should not have done this. He could call the war a mistake, but he couldn't afford to call it a sin.

"Sin" is a word has been used as viciously as you can imagine against me and mine. Well, heads up, values voters, because it's coming right back at you. As long as this war goes on, we are all living in sin. Every minute of every day we get more used to atrocity and we fall farther from all the things that might make us better people. We get more closed, more afraid, more selfish, more hateful. We are deaf to the poor; we are dead to human suffering. We have lived with this sin long enough that we no longer notice it. And as long as we don't, it will go on depraving and debasing and destroying us. You will end up as perverse and as hardened to evil and as far from God as you believe I am. And I wouldn't wish what you believe about me on anyone.

So go turn on the TiVo and watch that footage again. And if it bothers you, then maybe you should come out with us next time we march against the war. We'll be glad to have you. I'll even spring for your bus ticket. You've been working so hard trying to save me from my state of sin. I think it's only right I should return the favor.

The Plaid Adder's demented ravings have been delighting an equally demented audience since 1996. Her den of iniquity is located at

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