This Wheel's on Fire: Iraq Veterans Against the War

I'm not a veteran, but these people are, and they know whereof they speak. They make sense, they've got passion, they've got guts, they're out there every day working to end the war crime in Iraq. Here are their goals:

* Immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces in Iraq;
* Reparations for the destruction and corporate pillaging of Iraq so that Iraqi people can control their own lives and future; and
* Full benefits, adequate healthcare (including mental health), and other supports for returning servicemen and women.

Can you get behind that? Then get behind the Iraq Veterans Against the War. Their goals -- straightforward, ungainsayable -- consitute a genuine political program, the only one that has even a remote chance of providing some mitigation of the monstrous damage that Bush's war of aggression has wrought in Iraq -- and in the United States.

I wrote of similar goals in a Moscow Times piece I did way back in April 2004 -- barely a year into the war. The quagmire was already deep and drenched with blood -- although in those days, one could still write of "hundreds of corpses" as the running death count, instead of the thousands now chewed up every single month:

As the red wheel of Operation Iraqi FUBAR continues to roll, spewing hundreds of corpses in its wake, it becomes clearer by the hour that there is only one way for America to end this stomach-churning nightmare it has created: get out.

That's it. The occupying armies – including Bush's 20,000 corporate mercenaries – should leave now. They should never have been sent in the first place on this ghoul's errand: a war of aggression, a mission of murder and plunder – the perversion of every enlightened value of the civilization that the Coalition's "Christian leaders" purport to defend...

The way to rectify a crime is not to keep doing it – or in [presidential candidate] John Kerry's ludicrous formulations, to keep doing it in some different, "better" way – but simply to stop doing it. The illegal invasion was a crime, the occupation is a crime, and if you would not be a criminal, you must stop committing crimes.

The reprisal in Fallujah is a perfect example. Late last month, a four-day U.S. military incursion there – totally ignored in the "Coalition" press – left 18 Iraqis dead. Days later, four American mercenaries were killed and their bodies desecrated – a savage act by a small, angry crowd. Now, in retaliation for those four deaths, U.S. forces have killed more than 600 people, including many women and children. This isn't justice, this is collective punishment – disproportionate, indiscriminate, just as the Nazis practiced it during their "liberation" of Europe.

With each new reprisal, each act of repression, each killing of an innocent person – even unintentionally – Bush is recruiting vast cadres of new fighters, and an even larger pool of passive support, for the armies of Islamic extremism. America – and the world – will be reaping this whirlwind for generations.

The only solution that might, just might, offer some slim hope would be the immediate withdrawal of Coalition forces and their replacement with a much larger United Nations force – made up of troops from counties acceptable to the Iraqis – to provide security and stability while the Iraqis themselves reconstruct their society, hold elections, etc. America and its war allies would have nothing to do with this stabilization force, beyond helping to fund and supply it.

The departing Americans should then give the $18 billion slush fund now earmarked for Bush's "reconstruction" bagmen to the Iraqi people, as reparations for the Coalition's war crime. Iraq's foreign loans, procured by Saddam Hussein from sugar daddies like George Bush I, should be written off – and all of Little Bush's imperial edicts opening Iraq's economy for despoilation by his cronies should be rescinded. The United States and Britain should also be prepared to take in the vast horde of refugees who will flee the hardline Islamic regime that will doubtless be created in the ruins Bush has made of the once-secular state.

As for the "leaders" who committed this crime, there is only one thing left for them to do now, only one way for them to serve the people they have betrayed so vilely and stupidly. All of them – Bush, Blair, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condi Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, Colin Powell, Geoff Hoon, Jack Straw, Richard Perle, the whole sick crew – should pick up a rifle and go to the front lines in Fallujah and Baghdad. Let them take the places of the young men and young women who signed up as soldiers to defend their country or make a better life for themselves – not to become pawns and killers for the Hitlerite ambitions of the bloodsoaked fools who threw them into this quagmire.

Yes, Hitlerite ambitions: dreams of global dominance, fetishes of militarism, fantasies of superiority, and the willingness to impose your self-serving vision of "universal truth" – in this case, the rapacious crony capitalism that Bush has officially named "the single sustainable model of national success" – at the barrel of a gun. That's what lies behind this madness.

As we've noted so often here before – and will ring the bell one more time – the conquest of Iraq has nothing to do with terrorism or liberation or WMD or national security or Arab democracy or Bush family revenge. It's been planned for years by Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld and other Bush retainers, planned openly, and for one reason only: to give the United States direct military control of the Middle East in order to dominate global economic and political life for "the New American Century." This need was so great, said the group – openly, in September 2000 – that it "transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein." It wouldn't have mattered if Saddam had found Jesus, or freed his people, or set himself on fire in Madison Square Garden: the Bushists were always going to invade and occupy Iraq – always, no matter what.

So they'll never embrace any sensible solution for getting out. The red wheel will just keep rolling on, spewing thousands more unnecessary deaths – until...Bush and Blair finally FUBAR themselves into the inevitable, ignominious retreat.

Nothing has changed in the three years since that piece was written -- except for the unimaginable levels of suffering inflicted on the Iraqi people since that time. And of course, I was wrong in my conclusion: the red wheel is obviously going to keep on rolling even after Bush and Blair have quit the field.

But the IVAW is out there on the streets, putting their bodies on the line -- and in the courtrooms -- to stop the red wheel in its mad course. Give them a visit, give them some support if you can. Their cause is yours -- if your cause is peace.