Maybe New York Times columnist and corporate globalization champion Thomas Friedman should consult his paperâ€™s news desk before crafting his creepy, power-worshipping editorials.
THE UNITED STATES AS A BENEVOLENT â€œELEPHANTâ€
On page A21 of yesterdayâ€™s Times, Friedman praises the supposedly benevolent United States for â€œprovid[ing] the basic governance that keeps the world stable and on a decent track.â€ America provides this noble service, Friedman argues, â€œthrough its vast military deployments, diplomatic engagements, and vital role buttressing the global economy and its rulesâ€ (â€œSocial Insecurity Crisis,â€ 4 January 2005).
In support of this nationally self-congratulatory thesis, Friedman cites leading academic foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaumâ€™s claim that (in Friedmanâ€™s words) â€œmost countries in the world likeâ€ American global dominance. â€œThey like it,â€ Friedman says, â€œbecause they know that the U.S. is not a predatory powerâ€ and that American rule â€œis helpful to every country in the world.â€
Friedman gives a lovely quote from the professorâ€™s recent book, â€œThe Case for Goliath: How America Acts as the Worldâ€™s Government in the 21st Century.â€ The U.S., Mandelbaum writes (to Friedmanâ€™s applause), â€œis not the lion of the international system, terrorizing and preying on weaker animals in order to survive itself. It is, rather, the elephant, which supports a wide variety of other creatures â€“ smaller mammals, birds, and insects- by generation nourishment for them as it goes about the business of feeding itself.â€
â€œThe best evidenceâ€ for this benevolent “elephant” thesis, Friedman feels, â€œis the fact that no military coalition has ever formed to counter Americaâ€™s global governing role â€“ as happened with other hegemonic powers in history.â€
DESTROYING ANOTHER INNOCENT FAMILY
After reading Friedmanâ€™s ode to Mandelbaum and Uncle Sam, readers of Wednesdayâ€™s Times could turn to page A8 to find a jarring and curious example of the â€œnourishmentâ€ and â€œstabilityâ€ the noble American â€œelephantâ€ gives to the world systemâ€™s â€œweaker animalsâ€ through virtuous â€œmilitary deploymentsâ€ and â€œdiplomatic engagements.â€ According to Times correspondents Richard A. Oppel and Omar Al-Neaml, â€œAmerican F-14 warplanes killed nine members of an Iraqi family, including women and young children, during a bombing and cannon strike on Monday night that obliterated a home near the northern industrial city of Baiji,â€¦American officials said the warplanes had been pursuing insurgents who had been observed setting up a roadside bomb. They fled to a building, and the American planes struck the building and destroyed it. The attack enraged Iraqi officials in Baiji, about 150 miles north of Baghdad, who said that the airstrike was unjustified and that it had destroyed an innocent family.â€
By Oppel and Al-Neamlâ€™s account, â€œa preliminary investigation indicated the blast had killed the wife of the home’s owner, his daughter-in-law and seven children and grandchildren, including one son who worked for the police.â€ â€œThe owner of the house is a very simple man,â€ an Iraqi official reported, adding that â€œthe American forces did not provide us with any justification for the attack. Agence France-Presse in Baiji,â€ Oppel and Al-Neaml note, â€œreported that eight bodies had been pulled from the rubble along with three survivors – two unconscious women and an 8-year-old boy whose cry for help alerted rescuers. A Baiji police colonel,â€ the reporters ad, â€œtold Reuters that the family members killed in the bombing did not include any suspected insurgentsâ€ (â€œU.S. Strike on Home Kills 9 in Family,â€ 4 January, 2006).
â€œTHIS IS YOUR FREEDOM?â€
The American Empireâ€™s deadly attack on a family home in Baji (a story that actually belongs on the Timesâ€™ front page) is all-too consistent with its record of â€œterrorizing and preying on weaker animalsâ€ in its illegal, diplomatically disengaged occupation of Iraq. Iraq Body Count (IBC)’s recently published “Dossier of Civilian Casualties in Iraq, 2003- 2005″ (www.iraqbodycount.org.press/pr12.php) reports that roughly 30,000 – 1 in every 1000 —- Iraqis was violently killed between March 20, 2003 (the day after the beginning of the U.S. invasion) and March 19, 2005. By IBC’s tabulation, 42,500 Iraqis have been wounded by violence during that period.
Who has done the killing and wounding? By IBC’s meticulous account, based on multiple verifiable media reports, anti-occupation forces have killed less than 10 percent of the total number of the nearly 25,000 dead for whom killers can be identified. “Criminal elements,” who have thrived in the lawless environment created by the destruction of Iraqi civil authority, killed 8,935 or 36 percent.
The biggest killers have been U.S.-led armed forces, who ended the lives of 9,270 Iraqis or 37.3 percent. And “at least 21,000 of the 45,000 reported injuries,” IBC adds, “were caused by U.S.-led forces.”
In separate databases that include real-time observations from reporters on the ground, IBC presents a number of journalistic accounts of Iraqis killed by their supposed American “liberators.” IBC’s “Falluja Archive” contains (to give one among many examples) an April 2004 Associated Press (AP) story relating how more than 600 Iraqis, “mostly women, children, and the elderly,” were butchered during Uncle Sam’s massive “retaliatory” (after the resistance killed U.S.-funded Blackwell Security mercenaries) campaign in Falluja. “Iraqis in Falluja,” the AP noted, “complained that civilians were coming under fire by U.S. snipers.”
In a May 7th (2004) dispatch reproduced by IBC, New Standard correspondent Dahr Jamail reported that â€œrows and rows of fresh gravesâ€ occupied by civilians killed by their American â€œliberatorsâ€ â€œfilled the football stadium in Fallujah. Many of [the graves],â€ Jamail noted, â€œare smaller than others. My translator Nermim reads the gravestones to me: â€˜This one is a little girl.â€™ We take another step. â€˜This is one is her sister.â€™ Next to them is their mother.â€
â€œWe walk,â€ Jamail continued, â€œslowly under the scorching sun along dusty rows of humble headstones. She continues reading aloud to me: â€˜Old man wearing jacket with black dishasho, near industrial center. He has a key in his hand.â€™ Many of the bodies were buried before they could be identified. Tears are welling up in my eyes as she quickly reads: â€˜Man wearing red track suit.â€™ She points to another row: â€˜three women killed in car leaving city by American missile.â€™â€
Jamail quoted an Iraqi man who â€œâ€™saw American snipers shoot a woman while she was hanging her clothesâ€™
â€œAnother manâ€ interviewed by Jamail pointed to a mosque and recalled that â€œMarines entered the mosque before they bombed it and slit the throats of refugees. This,â€ the man asked Jamail, â€œis their democracy? This is their freedom?â€™â€
“One of the bodies brought to the [Falluja] clinic,” wrote Jamail on April 14th, 2004, “was that of a 55-year old man shot in the back by a [U.S.] sniper outside his home, while his wife and children huddled wailing inside. The family could not retrieve his body for fear of being shot themselves. His stiff corpse was carried into the clinic, flies swarming above it. One of his arms was half raised by rigor mortisâ€ (www.iraqbodycount.org/resources/falluja/index.php)
ROGUE STATE AMERICA AND THE â€œPRICE WORTH PAYINGâ€
Even before the re-initiation of formal U.S. military hostilities in Iraq in March 2003, it is worth recalling, the economic sanctions imposed on that devastated nation by Friedmanâ€™s beloved Clinton administration murdered at half a million Iraq children. Friedmanâ€™s favorite Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, publicly described this massive juvenile body count as â€œa price worth payingâ€ in the advancement of benevolent, U.S.-imposed global order.
Of course, Uncle Samâ€™s terrorization of Iraq under Clinton and the two Bushes is part of a broad and venerable pattern of American imperial depredation that fosters (contrary to Friedmanâ€™s notion of a world that â€œlikesâ€ American power) rampant global fear and hatred of â€œrogue state America.â€
Most of the planetâ€™s politically cognizant populace actually sees Friedman and Mandelbauamâ€™s friendly elephant the U.S. as the single greatest threat to world peace and prosperity. The preponderant majority of the worldâ€™s citizenry, we can be sure, supports the development of effective international institutions and rules to â€œcounter Americaâ€™s global governing role,â€ which consigns more than 2 billion people to life on less than a dollar a day. Absent such institutions and rules, military coalitions to check deadly Uncle Sam are a certainty in the 21st century.
Paul Street ([email protected]) is a writer, teacher, and activist in Iowa and Illinois. He is the author of Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (www.paradigmpublishers.com) and Segregated Schools: Educational Apartheid in the Post-Civil Rights Era (New York, NY: Routledge, 2005)