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Let them eat cakewalk


Reflect for a moment on the one hundred and thirty-seven United States troops who died in Iraq during the second April of America’s occupation. Their faces are available for your review on the front page of last weekend’s USA Today. They are part of the largest one-month American GI body count since the beginning of the war. And the U.S. death toll is mounting at a rapid pace into May.


At this rate, the number of American dead should hit one thousand at some point this spring or summer. The president, who orders mostly working-class youth to an early grave – the April victims’ median age was 23 – in an illegal, immoral, and deceptively sold war, has been unavailable for the growing number of GI funerals. He’s been too busy, among other things, with fundraisers, feeding the overstuffed coffers of the largest campaign finance war-chest in the record of modern plutocracy.


Imagine yourself as “Abdul M,” an Iraqi whose entire family, including a daughter and a wife, was killed when American “defense” planners blew-up 18 civilians in a house they thought sheltered Saddam Hussein in Al Mansur. “I dug them out,” Abdul told “Frontline” last year, “with my own bare hands. I carried them out with my own bare hands. I buried them with my own bare hands.”


There are many stories like Abdul’s in “liberated” Iraq. Abdul’s deceased loved ones are two among many thousands of Iraqis who have been killed in the process of being “liberated” by the United States of America. The exact number of those victims is unclear – the occupation authorities see no need to count Iraqi dead – but estimates range well into the many tens of thousands. This is before the depleted uranium used by the benevolent American military takes its full, long, and terrible toll.


Contemplate the untold number of Iraqis who have been tortured and humiliated by U.S. military personnel in the course of “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” The recent revelations of torment and abuse by U.S. troops in Saddam’s leading prison are surely just the tip of the iceberg.


Think about the strategic imperial disaster – as well as the moral atrocity – that the occupation has become. Reflecting on recent U.S. torture revelations, the New York Times editorial board recently opined that “the invasion of Iraq, which has already begun to seem like a bad dream in so many ways, cannot get much more nightmarish.”


Think about the anti-American hatred that is understandably seething across the Arab world and the recruiting bonanza that the occupation is for Islamic terror groups and the likelihood of newer and bigger terror attacks on Americans at home and abroad.


And think about the lack of global sympathy that Americans will receive after such attacks take place, thanks to the remarkable extent to which the occupation has furthered global alienation from the U.S., the world’s rogue superpower.


Recall the large number of persons and individuals (very possibly including you if you are reading this on ZNet) and organizations who vehemently opposed the invasion of Iraq. The opponents included a fair number of establishment personalities and groups, who worried that an invasion of Iraq would be a catastrophe for American global power.


Now join me on a trip into the private lives of some key war masters. Turn with me to pages 409-411 of Bob Woodward’s recently published book Plan of Attack (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 2004), which claims to give “the definitive account of how and why George W. Bush, his war council, and allies launched a preemptive attack to topple Saddam Hussein and occupy Iraq.”


Here we learn about a glorious dinner party that took place in the residence of super hawk Vice President and former Haliburton chief Dick Cheney on the Sunday night of April 13, 2003. The guests included Kenneth Aldeman, a friend of Cheney and a former assistant to Donald Rumsfeld at the U.S. Defense Department during the 1970s. Also attending were Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, who lead the charge for war, and Cheney’s war-hawk chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby.


Three days before the dinner, Adelman published a Washington Post op-ed that delighted Cheney. Titled “Cakewalk Revisited,” Adelman’s opinion piece ripped those who had predicted disaster in Iraq. Adleman claimed that the invasion was a “cakewalk,” as he himself predicted it would be in February 2002. When Cheney graciously invited him to dine as a way of saying thank you, Adelman cut short a Parisian vacation to attend.


“When Adelman walked into the vice president’s residence that Sunday night,” Woodward writes, “he was so happy he broke into tears. He hugged Cheney for the first time in the 30 years he had known him.” During dinner, “Wolfowitz embarked on a long review of the 1991 Gulf War.” That must have been entertaining.


Cheney said “he had not realized that a trauma that time had been for the Iraqis.” Well, yes, more than a hundred thousand deaths leaves a little distress in its wake.


Adelman brought the discussion back to the present. “Hold it! Hold it!,” he interjected (by Woodward’s account). Let’s talk about THIS Gulf War. It’s so wonderful to celebrate.” “He said,” Woodward writes, “he was just an outside adviser, someone who turned up the pressure in the public forum. ‘It’s so easy for me to write an article saying do this. It’s much tougher for Paul to advocate it. Paul and Scooter, you give advice and the president listens. Dick, your advice is the most important, the Cadillac. It’s much more serious for you to advocate it. But in the end, all of what we said was still only advice. The president is the one who has to decide. I have been blown away by how determined he is.’ The war has been awesome, Adleman said. ‘So I just want to make a toast, without getting to cheesy. To the president of the United States.’ they all raised their glasses, Hear!, Hear!. Adelamn said he had worried to death as time went on that there would be no war.” (Woodward, Plan of Attack, pp. 409-410).


Later in the festive gathering, “Cheney said he had just had lunch with the president. ‘Democracy is the Middle East is just a big deal for him. It’s what’s driving him.’” Then Adelman raised a delicate point. “Let me ask, before this turns into a love fest [too late, P.S.). I was just stunned that we have not found weapons of mass destruction.” “‘We’ll find them,’ Wolfowitz said. ‘It’s only been four days really,’ Cheney said. ‘We’ll find them.’” (Woodward, Plan of Attack, pp. 409-411)


How many people have died in Iraq because of the U.S. invasion since that day when Cheney, Wolfowitz, Adelman, and Libby raised their glasses in a heavily fortified mansion of unimaginable privilege, located within a short cab-ride’s distance from some of the worst scenes of urban misery in the industrialized world? The exact count is unknown, for the reasons mentioned above, but it is certainly a large and ugly number – one that makes you wonder about the soul of a man who was “worried to death” that “there would be no war.” Imagine that as a concern that keeps you up at night!


Let them choke on their “cakewalk” now. Here’s to the demise of George W. Bush, his wicked cabal, and his evil empire!



Paul Street ([email protected]) is an urban social policy researcher in Chicago, Illinois. His writings have appeared in In These Times, Monthly Review, Z Magazine, Dissent (USA), Dissent (Australia), Black Commentator, Dissident Voice, The Journal of Social History, and many other outlets.

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