Everybody Knows: Storms of Horror in a Tormented Land

The last few weeks have seen disastrous news breaking over the Bush administration, like Katrina come again. This time, though, it's not hurricane winds and surging seas, but waves of innocent blood overtopping the banks of the Tigris and the Euphrates to turn the White House crimson. Report after report of horrific atrocities — long held back by a levee of lies, fear, obfuscation and the natural confusion of war — has broken through, flooding the imperial capital with the reeking, corpse-filled backwash of the vast criminal folly committed by its grubby little Caesar.

So great is the stench of moral corruption that even America's corporate media, for so long a simpering handmaiden to the ruling thugs, have been forced to take notice, just as they did, all too briefly, during the Bushist abandonment of New Orleans. New sites of shame have entered the American lexicon: Haditha, Ishaqi, Hamdaniyah, Samarra — places where horrors large and small, confirmed and alleged, comprehensible and unfathomable, have marked this beginning of the fourth year of occupation.

Meanwhile, this week's reported killing of the man identified as Abu Musab al-Zaqarwi will be the spark for another spiral of bloodshed – and not just from the followers. Zarqawi, whose power and influence was wildly – and deliberately – exaggerated by Pentagon propagandists, was almost certainly betrayed by his ostensible allies in the insurgency: the local Sunni-led nationalists, along with members of his own organization. He had already been "demoted" by the Iraqi resistance for his mad-dog ways; even al Qaeda leaders were disassociating themselves from him, denouncing his mass-murdering attacks on fellow Muslims, as the Christian Science Monitor reported weeks ago (and Eric Garris of Antiwar.com reminded us this week). Now that he's gone, the nationalist insurgents have pledged to intensify their attacks on Americans, to show that Zarqawi was nothing, that they are the ones who have been doing the real fighting, as Juan Cole reports. The frenzy of death and darkness savaging Iraq will only grow, despite the PR blip (see the New York Times regurgitating the whole Pentagon fabrication of Zarqawi's supposed central role in the entire insurgency here) of the Zarqawi hit.

Indeed, as the tormented land flails in agony — racked by civil war, unbounded corruption, religious repression, infrastructure collapse, the violent subjugation of wom
en and all the other evils introduced by President George W. Bush's war of aggression — U.S. forces seem to be gripped by an increasing frenzy of their own. In just the last three months, a string of incidents has seen Iraqi civilians gunned down by U.S. soldiers in outbursts of fury and panic, as Scotland's Sunday Herald reports. The innocent victims include unarmed women (one of them a pregnant woman trying to reach a hospital), infants, children, the elderly and the mentally handicapped.

In May alone, Iraqi government officials charged that 32 civilians, including women and children, were killed in airstrikes on houses, an airstrike on a car and Baghdad house raids, AFP reports. These allegations come from the Iraqi Islamic Party, which has cooperated with the American occupation and "forms the core of the Iraqi Accord Front, the Sunni religious coalition that holds 44 seats in parliament," along with "a vice president, a vice premier, four cabinet members and the speaker of the house," as Juan Cole reports. "So these charges are originating not with hardliners or radicals outside the new system, but with…de facto allies of the United States," Cole notes.

There will be more such killings brought to light as Iraqis, incensed by news of the Haditha massacre and emboldened by the new government's apparent willingness to confront their colonial overseers, come forth with fresh allegations.

As long as the occupation goes on, the discipline of U.S. forces will continue to fray under the literally dehumanizing conditions that Bush's war has established in Iraq. For example, the Marines in the Haditha massacre, many on their second or third combat tour, had already descended into a "feral state," the Sunday Herald reports: abandoning regulation billets and living, unwashed and isolated, in "primitive huts bearing skull-and-crossbones signs." A wife of one of the Haditha soldiers told Newsweek that the degraded unit was rife with "drugs, alcohol, hazing, you name it."

As the BBC reported — back in March, to resounding silence on American shores — Haditha "was not an isolated incident," according to several U.S. veterans of the w
ar. Specialist Michael Blake said it was common practice to "shoot up the landscape or anything that moved" after an explosion. Sniper Jody Casey said he was told to carry a shovel with him at all times, so he could drop it next to any civilian his unit mowed down and then claim the victim was planting an IED. "[Bombs] go off and you just zap any farmer that is close to you," he said.

None of this surprising. As we noted last week, polls show that U.S. forces in Iraq have been inculcated with the false and hate-fomenting idea that their real mission is payback for Sept. 11. With revenge as their prism for viewing the Iraqi people, and facing an ever-more violent and multi-sided resistance, atrocities — deliberate, spontaneous or accidental — are guaranteed.

Even in the most justified conflicts, war spawns monstrosities, drawing
out the beast that lurks in the muddy sediment of our brains. How much greater, then, is the guilt of those who knowingly instigate unjustified wars? How much greater is the guilt of elitist cowards who send troops — deceived, undersupplied, undertrained, overworked — into the death-dealing chaos of urban warfare, in a land whose people can see they are not being liberated but plundered, murdered, tortured, terrorized and driven back into a primitive –indeed a feral – state of existence?

Of course, individual soldiers retain their moral agency and the responsibility for their actions even in wartime. (Although it's true that refusing immoral orders poses risks; several Coalition veterans have already been jailed by the Bush regime and the British government for resisting any further complicity with their leaders' war crime in Iraq.) The triggermen of atrocity should face justice — and no doubt some of the low-hanging fruit will be plucked for heavily hyped trials to demonstrate American "accountability."

But "everybody knows the dice are loaded," as Leonard Cohen sings. "E
verybody knows that the captain lied." Everybody knows there will be no accountability for those who authored this desecration: Bush and his dithering outrider, Tony Blair, two murderous mountebanks dripping with self-anointed piety. Bush will retire with his millions to putter about on his fake ranch, while Blair, robed in ermine, will ascend to the House of Lords — and no doubt to a plum post with the Carlyle Group or some other fine purveyor of backroom grease. So it will be with the other perpetrators, like Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, Paul Wolfowitz: nothing but riches, honors, security and respect – until death drags them howling to the pit where they've sent so many innocent thousands.

So yes, the Bush administration has been swamped with bad news, a lashing storm that has further exposed the dark heart of its malevolent enterprise. But everybody knows that nothing will change, just as nothing changed after Katrina. Indeed, the imperial court of White House and Congress has already moved on this week, shrugging off the death and dishonor it has unleashed across the world to focus on more important issues at home: punishing people who love each other in ways unacceptable to writers of Bronze Age texts; criminalizing the infinitely rare act of burning a symbolic piece of colored cloth; and entrenching the inherited wealth of the aristocracy.

The dead of Iraq mean nothing to them. Their own soldiers mean nothing to them. No outrage, no scandal, no vastation will divert them from their drive for loot and dominion. The madness will go on, growing deeper and darker at every step.