There is No Glory in Victory

Another U.S. Dirty War is fading away and can be summed up now that the president’s declared “mission accomplished” in Iraq.

The war on Iraq compares directly to the U.S. wars in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. As Douglas Ladson of the Urban Justice Center has written, the parallels include: “a push for war based on lies and distortions (ask Robert S. McNamara); a war with no clear objective; enemy combatants we can’t distinguish from friends; an underestimation of troop needs; an American-backed regime lacking legitimacy in the eyes of the people; long-drawn-out fighting with no end in sight; draining our country’s valuable resources; and, tragically, cutting short young lives.” If you think the end is in sight, U.S. military combat “trainers” on 10 bases will be staying in Iraq.

Was the aggression against Iraq based on lies? After reporting to the Bush White House that there was no sale of uranium to Iraq by Niger (a basis for a major reason for attacking Iraq), Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson wrote that if “the information was ignored because it did not fit certain preconceptions about Iraq, then a legitimate argument can be made that we went to war under false pretenses.”

Nelson Mandela rebuked George Bush just before his 2003 invasion and take-over of Iraq. He said, “What I am condemning is that one power, with a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly, now wants to plunge the world into a holocaust. Why does the United States behave so arrogantly?” It was an exaggeration to use the word holocaust, but hundreds of thousands of lives have been destroyed, hundreds of thousands have been internally displaced, hatreds and resentments have been manufactured with the use of torture, abuse and open-ended imprisonment without charges – crimes committed by both U.S. occupiers and by their Iraqi students.

These abuses show no sign of being eliminated as Iraqi “security” forces stand accused of using electric, shock, power drills, water torture and other crimes against current detainees in the ongoing conflict with insurgents.

It’s even dishonest to talk of the latest U.S. aggression as having begun in 2003. Throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, the U.S. Air Force bombed Iraq relentlessly. Spreading a bit of the bull that always accompanies warfare, President Clinton said Dec. 20, 1998 that his Christmas bombing “operation is now complete.” And even though travel editor Catherine Watson of the Mpls StarTribune reported Jan. 3, 1999 that “The bombing has ended,” it hardly let up a bit. U.S. airstrikes were made almost daily under Clinton beginning Dec. 17, 1998. U.S. officials said in October 1999 that its forces had flown almost 16,000 sorties since beginning in Dec. 1998.

An unscientific review of news reports includes strikes by U.S. warplanes in: 1999 (Jan. 25, Feb. 3, 11, 12, 13, 15, 20, 23, Mar. 2, April 16, 18, 20, 22, 26, May 8, 9, 13, June, 19, Sept. 1, 2, 3, 4, 14, 18, 28, Oct. 7, 26, 28, Nov. 3, 5, Dec. 7); 2000 (Feb. 29, March 3, 10, 16, April 7, 12, 26, 30, May 3, 11, 12, 13, 30, 31, June 1 & 2, Nov. 3, 9);  2001 (Aug. 13, 14, 29, Sept. 1); 2002 (May 21, Aug. 31).

The 1991 U.S. war on Iraq may have killed as many as 200,000 civilians. The Pentagon tallied the civilian death toll from its 2003-to-2011 warfare in an Oct. 15 report. It claims 77,000 were killed between January 2004 and August 2008, although actual numbers are higher. My little bumper sticker says “Any unjustified war is mass murder,” and so the people of this country have a lot to answer for.  

Lau Tsu’s timeless Tao Te Ching reminds us, “There is no glory in victory, and to glorify it despite this is to exult in the killing.” Lao Tsu said, “When great numbers of people are killed, one should weep over them with sorrow. When victorious in war, one should observe the rites of mourning.” It’s the least we can do.

-- John LaForge is on the staff of Nukewatch an anti-war and nuclear watchdog group in Wisconsin.