Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Five Years

Today is the fifth anniversary of the United States' terrorist war against the people of Iraq. Five years of war in Iraq. Five years of crimes. Five years of lies. Five years of dead bodies--more than a million dead Iraqis, millions displaced, thousands of dead and maimed Americans. Five years. Disgusting.

What have we been doing over there? Look at some Winter Soldier testimony from Michael Prysner (thanks to Lenin's Tomb for the clips):

For what it's worth, I found Prysner stirring and inspiring, and the details of his testimony profoundly disturbing (though at the same time unsurprising). Obviously there is a lot more of this (of course, see especially Iraq Veterans Against the War), but these were the two clips that I saw first.

See also here, here, and here for transcripts of Democracy Now! from the last three days, featuring further Winter Soldier testimony (first link via pas au-delĂ ).

I don't have much else to say just now, but I wanted to mark this day. Nothing else is possible--no favored domestic agenda, no healthcare palliative, no ecological plan, no economic recovery--while this war continues. This war--as well as the just as criminal war in Afghanistan--needs to stop. Now.


david e. ford, jr said...


this is a good post and i appreciate your sharing these links and videos with us. i have been writing a bit lately about the cinematic response to the iraq war in particular and the war on terror in general. in march of 2003, i was one of several hundred individuals who marched in protest of the invasion of iraq at the federal building in downtown salt lake city. in the years that have since gone by, those of us who knew that this war was based on false pretenses and would invariably lead to great chaos have found ourselves vindicated--but this is a vindication without any sort of satisfaction. as we pass the five year anniversary of this foolish enterprise, i find myself in a position which does not necessarily ally itself with the anti-war movement as a whole. here is the problem as i see it: my participation in the anti-war movement was in the hope that we could prevent this war from happening at all. it has happened and iraq is a much worse place because of it (who would have thought we could have damaged this country more than we already had). iraqis want us out, this is true. but inevitably if we were to summarily exit, the horror would intensify for ordinary iraqis. where is our responsibility? i certainly dont think a continuation of the occupation as it is is a solution. but what is? it seems to me that the ideas of the anti-war movement today are just as idealized and unrealistic as those of the administration. this issue--like all intractable issues--is far more complicated than most would have it seem. i think this is a discussion that needs to take place amongst thoughtful people who object to the military actions of our government.


Richard said...

Hi David, thanks for reading and commenting. I've appreciated your blogging about politics in film. Good stuff.

In my view, our responsibility to the Iraqi people is immense. Unfortunately, I don't know what kind of shape that responsibility should (or even can) take. For one thing, I'm not sure it is inevitable that the "horror would intensify for ordinary Iraqis" if we summarily pulled out. That, of course, is part of the standard liberal argument against pulling out, an argument that I disagree with. However, the risk is there, I can't pretend it's not. Things could indeed get worse for ordinary Iraqis.

What, then, should be our responsibility? I actually don't know. Like I said, I think we owe Iraqis a lot. We could spend years rebuilding the place, gratis. We could encourage actual democratic tendencies, or at least stable tendencies. Whatever the case, I do believe that our military should play no role whatsoever. We have lost the right (which we've never had) to impose our will on other people, or to have any real say in the direction of Iraqi rebuilding.

Also, even in the event of an immediate pull-out, I think we will lack the economic resources (not to mention political will) necessary to own up to what I agree is our moral responsibility. And American denial of moral culpability is so entrenched, especially in the political class, that I have a hard time seeing what we would be able to accomplish even if we could articulate certain responsibilities. This lack of political will, of recognition of historical and political history, is manifest in the Obama and Clinton campaigns. With either of them, nothing substantial would change on this front (and with nothing changing on this front, even if the specific war/occupation in Iraq ends on their watch, nothing else they claim to represent even matters). And McCain is a lunatic. Where does that leave us, those of us who opposed the invasion, oppose the occupation, yet feel a responsibility to Iraq?

I fear I am babbling. I'll just close by invoking something Howard Zinn said in a talk I saw him give about four years ago. He was addressing the arguments against pulling out. He said (totally not quoting): "people worry about what would happen if we leave, an imagined evil, but we know what is happening now. We have the responsibility to stop the evil we are currently imposing". Ok, so he said it better than I'm remembering, but I'm sure you get the drift...

Richard said...

Oops. Posted too early.

Anyway, I definitely think the topic of our responsibility is worth discussing. But I think the immediate focus should be on ending the war and the occupation (no that the antiwar movement has been effective on this point). I'm afraid that any useful, actually helpful to Iraqis, course of action, beyond pulling out, is likely anathema to our political ruling class, not to mention the general sense of American exceptionalism and triumphalism.

And how will our looming economic disaster affect everything? My fear is that we will respond with ever more desperate military adventurism, regardless of who is elected.

I hope these couple of comments were at least a little coherent...


david e. ford, jr said...


thank you for the thorough response to my comment (oh, and for reading my little blog). in re-reading my comments, it seems i was in something of an emotional frame of mind when i wrote them--not that this effected my opinions at all. i think it is fair to say that it is not inevitable that conditions for ordinary iraqis will worsen with a sudden pullout, but my fear on this matter comes from something of an understanding of the larger shifts in the balance of power in the arab/muslim world, particularly to the phenomenon of a resurgent shi'a islam. sort of parenthetically, i heard lindsay graham on a radio program this morning talking about how mccain's gaffe about iran's arming and training al qaeda was not so much a gaffe as there are 'known' links between the iranian regime and al qaeda fighters. this shows a remarkably naive understanding of the legal philosophy which guides al qaeda and its ilk. i am drifting from the point, but i guess what i see as the worst case scenario is that neighboring sunni powers (e. g. saudi arabia) might feel that having two powerful and resource rich shi'i dominated neighbors is an untenable prospect, and with a u. s. withdrawal, there may be an escalation in tensions between sunnis and shi'as with respect to state actors. this, of course, is speculation.

i do agree on the point that the american military needs to get out if for no other reason than the majority of iraqis want us out. it is simply remarkable to me how little of history is understood by policy makers when they lament what happened to afghanistan after the u.s and soviet union pulled out and yet it seems we are looking at the prospect of another afghanistan, except this one with several billion barrels of oil. i realize i am being a little hyperbolic, but the shortsighted arrogance of our supposedly educated officials is maddening.

but you are undoubtedly right--americans are rightfully incensed at the amount of money that has been wasted on this war when millions do not have health care, millions are losing their homes and hundreds of thousands are losing their jobs and they will be unlikely to support billions (trillions?) more in aid to help account for some of the destruction we have wrought. if humble dudes like you and me who read proust and tend to our blogs can figure this shit out, what's wrong with the people who are paid to do it?

you are also right about the players in the political scene--hillary and obama loudly claim they will get us out while quietly assuring folks that they will leave it up to 'the generals,' while mccain, as you suggest, is a lunatic.

it is difficult to believe that knowing what they do now the american public would stand for another similar adventure--whether its iran or pakistan or anyone--but who knows? people have short memories.