Sunday, April 15, 2007

Four year anniversary; ongoing tragedy.

I am going to break a general rule about not blogging directly about American Politics even though I am a US citizen in exile (this has less with my last US policy politics blog which got me emails calling me “a nazi” than the general rule that once you told a friend to stop playing Russian Roulette the first 10 times, it seems a bit pointless after that – we all know the outcome). Yet, it is the fourth anniversary of the great adventure into freedom. Haven’t a clue what I am talking about.....neither does Iraq; four years ago we invaded it for its own good.

The BBC compiled the opinions of the press across the Middle East; for me the Pan-Arab AL-QUDS AL-ARABI summed it best: “Today, on the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, Iraq is experiencing the worst conditions it has ever seen. There is no water, electricity or security, no schools, universities or hospitals. The only things readily available are graves and mortuaries. Iraq today is a republic of real fear, whose people are escaping in hundreds and thousands. It is living through the worst kind of torture and death.”

Of course, a few days ago, the Defence Department announced that tours of duty for those in Iraq had been extended from 12 to 15 months. Along with this was that the DoD was looking for a general to oversee the war operations, a “war tsar” – apparently this is seen as a poisoned chalice as the three generals approached have all turned it down. So, not a lot of happy US troops there either.

To get a sense of places where the troops and the civilian population meet and what passes for logic in Iraq, the ACLU, through the freedom of information act, got 496 claims to the military for compensation: the majority for Iraq from 2003 to 2006. Relatives killed by Coalition soldiers can submit compensation claims. There are two types of pay outs – those admitting negligence and those of “compassion” which is capped at $2,500. The logic is odd and somewhat surreal as the BBC accounts: “ Another, dating from February 2006, describes how a fisherman in Tikrit was shot as he reached down to switch off the engine of his boat. He had been shouting "fish, fish" and pointing to his catch. The US Army refused to compensate his family for his death, ruling that it was the result of combat activity, but paid $3,500 for the loss of his boat - which drifted off - net and mobile phone.”

If you want to test how high your irony/Catch 22 meter can go, I recommend reading the short summary of each claim here. There is the claim denied because the person submitting did not use a new form, claim denied due to bad grammar, indicating a “false claim”, claim denied marked both “submitted on time” and denied for “not submitted in a timely manner”, man killed sleeping on roof (denied: combat exception), family killed in car at checkpoint, evidence later that neither cones nor signs were out to indicate it was a checkpoint (denied: combat exception), munitions blown up without checking the area killing a man tending his sheep nearby (denied: the disposal of munitions is part of combat), a US tank went into the oncoming lane of traffic and ran over a car, crushing the driver inside (Denied: no evidence it was a US tank.....I’m sorry, how could a claimant falsify getting a car driven over by a TANK? Who else has TANKS?); driver of car shot dead by contractors guarding convoy (Denied: contracted personnel are not US military). Man driving KIA minibus was pushed from behind by a US convoy into opposing lane where he was struck by an oncoming US convoy, flipping the minibus and later killing him ($2,500 compensation for the mini-bus). Child going to school held up a school bag and was shot by sniper at military base (Denied: Military exception, sniper thought it was “dangerous object”), Taxi driver and his wife hit in their taxi by a HumVee; US soldiers stopped, took photos and apologized (Claim denied: lack of evidence) – this letter denying the claim finishes with “I wish you well in a Free Iraq.”

Only 15% of the claims admit any negligence, the majority are rejected. It is good to see that government assistance forms are sort of universal; massive denial by a gigantic organization that leaves you feeling helpless and frustrated because no one seems capable of caring. “I wish you well in a Free Iraq”: I have a feeling a sign with that on it, being set on fire as the last of the Coalition Personnel flee Iraq ala the Vietnam helicopter scenes in somewhere in the future. The whole situation now is a house reconstruction project gone bad – can’t leave, can’t figure out how to succeed and so it goes and on and on. Wish I had some super duper advice other than, “Don’t invade another country to try and prove something to your father.” But a bit late for that now, I guess. Still, since the US remembers the tragedies like 9/11, I thought it fitting to remember another ongoing tragedy, one which will kill more US citizens than 9/11, leave tens of thousands of US citizens disabled, and for Iraqi citizens, those not killed accidentally for “Free Iraq” in a worse state now than under a dictatorship. Not really a good advert, I guess. But up there with denying a squished car with giant tread marks wasn’t actually run over by a tank.


kathz said...

For me, a news item on the Red Cross report brough it home to me again (as much as that is possible without being there). It's about the woman who, asked what would most improve life for herself and her children, responded "Someone to pick up the corpses". I blogged about it here:

What began as a personal blog has inevitably taken on bigger subjects - I can't avoid the way in which my own government's complicity in occupation is a backdrop to my everyday life. I remember thinking that we had at least reached the end of empire, but the imperial brutality continues. And all the marches and public protests - and the disagreement of most of the population - seems to have no effect.

kathz said...

I think the link to the post wn't work - the string was too long. But if you go to the main blog address, it was my post on 11th April. There's a calendar with links on the right hand side-bar if you want to look. (No need to look but it's irritating to have given you a link which doesn't work - yahoo blogs have awkward urls for entries and aren't so flexible as blogger - I just felt like trying a different format).

KateJ said...

This idea of a war "tsar" is an interesting one (and nicely parodied by Jon Stewart on the "Daily Show" too.)
I don't know whether this "tsar" idea started over here (UK) or over there (US) but if the record of our drugs tsar, mental health tsar and the like are anything to go by, he (or might it even be a tsarina?) won't make any difference one way or another to the war. It's just another way of Bush passing the buck.
Mission accomplished? This war has surely gone way beyond satire. In fact I've almost stopped watching or reading political satire because it's unnecessary - Bush'n'Blair manage to satirise themselves to perfection.

GayProf said...

There is also the persecution and murder of LGBTQ people in Iraq that seemingly has the tacit approval of the U.S. military forces.

It is an impossible situation. I am still shocked that people saw this as an okay move four years ago. Yeah, we can all agree that the reigning government in Iraq was pretty wicked. Still, it was obvious (at least to me) that the U.S. administration had no idea what they were doing and lacked legal justification for their war. Most Americans just went along with it.

Now the options seem pretty limited. I don't agree with the notion of just pulling out and hoping for the best. We broke it, we bought it. On the other hand, I see no insight (or even grasp of reality) about this situation in the U.S. government.