Fog of War

In the fog of war, we are being told that this invasion against Iraq, this premeditated act of aggression, is actually a liberation.  We are told that our soldiers, our troops, are the good men and good women, doing good things, as they drop missiles and cluster bombs on cities and villages, and fire at families at checkpoints in Iraq.  We are told that Iraqis should be welcoming an invading force with flowers and cheers. 

In the fog of war, we are not told about the deaths of Iraqis, but are given only numbers, if that at all.

Yesterday, Geoff Hoon, the British Defence Secretary, suggested that mothers of Iraqi
children killed by cluster bombs would “one day” thank Britain for their use. Hoon’s claim came as the Ministry of Defence confirmed for the first time that it had dropped 50 airborne cluster munitions in the south of Iraq, leaving behind up to 800 unexploded bomblets.

Last night, seven civilians, including three children, were killed by US Marines at another checkpoint.

A few days ago, cluster bombs were dropped on Hillah, a town in southern Iraq.  The Hillah hospital itself has seen 61 dead in a matter of a few days. Hundreds wounded.  Among the wounded is 10-year-old Maryam Nasr and her 5-year-old sister Hoda. Maryam has a patch over her right eye where a piece of bomblet embedded itself. She also had wounds to the stomach and thighs. Hoda has a deep puncture in the right side of her head, just above her ear, congealed blood sticking to her hair but the wound still gently bleeding.

And earlier, still, 11 members of Hassan’s family were killed. His daughters, aged two and five, his three-year-old son, his parents, two older brothers, their wives and two nieces aged 12 and 15 – they were all killed by US fire at a checkpoint.  11 members of his family – killed by US fire.  “I saw the heads of my two little girls come off,” Hassan’s heavily pregnant wife, Lamea, 36, said numbly. “My girls – I watched their heads come off their bodies. My son is dead.” They were fleeing their farm town southeast of Karbala, where US attack helicopters had fired missiles and rockets the day before.  “We had hope,” Hassan said. “But then you Americans came to bring us democracy and our hope ended.”

In the fog of war, they want us to forget the humanity of Iraqi lives.  They want us to forget that approximately 1000 Iraqi civilians have been killed thus far.

And they want us to forget that the thousands upon thousands of Iraqi soldiers who have been killed – thus far – were killed defending their country. Defending their country from invaders.  Defending their country from our invading troops.

In the fog of war, we are not told the truth about the military.

We heard, in passing, that Jessica Lynch – the rescued POW now in Germany – joined the military because it was the only job available in her town.  She couldn’t get the civilian job she needed at 16 in order to educate herself in her small town of Palestine, WV. Her brother and sister also joined. 

Why is that? Jessica is a European-American, a white woman.  How many people of color face this choice daily?

Why is that for too many Americans – primarily African-American, Latino, Native-American/American-Indian, and primarily low-income communities – why is it that for too many of them, of us, the choice is not between getting a job or joining the military, but the choice is between unemployment or the military? The choice is not between joining the university of your choice or joining the military, but rather not getting a college education or joining the military.  Why is that?

And what about Jose Antonio?

Jose Antonio grew up in Guatamala in the 1980s when the US-backed government there was busy torturing its own people. He was 8 when he and his sister were orphaned. The children drifted on to the streets. In the world of the slums, a world with no safety nets, no social security. After his parents died, Jose Antonio went to work in a steel factory – it was virtual slave labor.

At 22, Jose Antonio decided to make the journey of his life. He said goodbye to his sister Encina and his friends, and took the roads and the rails north to the US. Some 50,000 street children and teenagers make this journey every year. In the US borderlands, the ranchers hunt down the “illegals” and turn them over to the Immigration Service. They are not wanted.

Jose Antonio was picked up and detained by the fabled and much-feared INS. But he was a persuasive boy and looked younger than his years. He said he was only 17 years old. They believed him. As a minor, he was entitled to asylum.

What he wanted most of all was US citizenship, in order to be able to bring his beloved sister Encina to join him. He decided to sign up with the US Marine Corps, knowing that military service would speed his citizenship application. Last week, with the ground attack on Iraq in its opening hours, Jose Antonio was with his unit in the port of Umm Qasr when he was struck in the chest by a high velocity bullet. He died instantly.

In this fog of war, both the domestic war at home and foreign war, and in the fog of slumberous peace that afflicts too many communities, we are told not to think about the conditions of Jose Antonio’s life or death. We are told not to think about how his life is similar to our lives here.

Or similar to the life of Thaer Othman, a Palestinian refugee, born in the slums of a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon.  Made into a refugee by the Israeli government.  He left Lebanon and moved to Denmark, and became so disgusted by the civilian casualties that he made up his mind to go to Iraq. So he headed for Beirut and joined up with a unit of Arab volunteers heading for Baghdad. Thaer was traveling in a minibus – he had yet to fire a shot – when it was hit by an American missile. He died in a Baghdad hospital.

What kind of war is this? Who is killing who?

People of color communities comprise 60% of the U.S. military’s front line:  African-Americans, Latinos, and, let us not forget, Native Americans.  On a per capita basis, there are Native Americans soldiers and marines serving on the front lines than any other population group.  The first female American solder killed in this war was a Native American.

All of them, all of us, should be asking, “Why are we doing the rich white man’s dirty work?” and “Why are we serving the empire that stole our homelands and massacred our people?” “Why are we serving the empire that chained our people and continues to chain our people?”

And with all this fog that they are trying to push in our eyes, and in our hearts, what is happening in Palestine?

More than 104 Palestinians, including 26 children, were killed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in March by the Israeli Army. 638 wounded during this period.

Christine Sa’adeh, a 10-year-old girl in Bethlehem. The 406th child killed

Rachel Corrie who wrote:

“Mama Love you. Really miss you. I have bad nightmares about tanks and bulldozers outside our house and you and me inside… mama I’m witnessing this chronic, insidious genocide and I’m really scared, and questioning my fundamental belief in the goodness of human nature.” 

The West Bank has been almost entirely reoccupied by Israeli troops for months.

Palestinian hospitals, medical centers and ambulances had been targeted by Israeli soldiers during Israeli operations in the occupied territories.

Meanwhile, the Israeli troops rounded up at least 1,000 Palestinians in the
West Bank city of Tulkarm two days ago. Soldiers in tanks and armored vehicles backed by helicopters imposed a curfew in Tulkarm and searched homes before telling males aged 14 to 40 to gather in the courtyard of a school or face punishment. About 2,000 people were rounded up.

And throughout all of this, the former Israeli army chief who presided over the invasion and destruction of entire neighborhoods in the Jenin refugee camp, a man who was being investigated by the Scotland Yard over allegations of war crimes, become Israel’s new Defense Minister last year. (November 1/ The Independent UK). And more recently, the US government has chosen to learn from the massive destruction and killing that the Israeli occupying forces did in the Jenin refugee camp.  They want to learn how the Israelis killed and destroyed the homes – in case our government wants to employ the same technique in attacking Baghdad.

In the fog of war, how many of us realized that the Israeli army Apartheid wall–A wall double the size of the Berlin Wall– is going up?

A wall that be built within the West Bank, seizing still more Palestinian lands.
About 384,918 Palestinians shall be effectively illegally annexed to Israel, or hemmed into the wall.  Palestinians unlawfully transferred to the direct control of the Israeli State will not be granted residential status or citizenship, while Israeli settlers already enjoy full Israeli citizenship.

A wall that restrict Palestinian freedom of movement, Palestinian livelihoods and Palestinian access to land – a wall which divides upon ethnic, national and religious identity.  We, here in the South, know of such walls. Don’t we?  Restrict freedom of movement for people of color? Restricting access to jobs? Access to homes? To education?  We recognized that segregation here in the South as pure racism and we fought against it.  We recognized that segregation in South Africa as apartheid and we fought against it.  It is only magnified in Palestine.

The Israeli government is hoping that in the fog of war, while the international community has its eyes on Iraq, the Israeli occupying forces will commit another ethnic cleansing
200 members of the Israeli academe have issued an “urgent warning” – warning us all that “the Israeli government may be contemplating crimes against humanity.”  They write: “We, members of the Israeli academe, are horrified by the US buildup of aggression towards Iraq and by the Israeli political leadership’s enthusiastic support for it.  We are deeply worried by indications that the ‘fog of war’ could be exploited by the Israeli government to commit further crimes against the Palestinian people, up to full-fledged ethnic cleansing.”

This past week, National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice apparently promised Israeli Finance Minister Benyamin Netanyahu that the US will provide Israel with $10 billion in aid – $9 billion in loan guarantees, and $1 billion in military aid. Rice promised the Israel government $1billion more than they requested. Israel already receives more US aid than any other country in the world.

Whose money is this? From whose pockets? And when has the Congress and the US administration ever responded to the people’s demands for social services, for health care, for education, by actually giving us MORE money than we requested?

What will we do with all this fog?

It is our responsibility, individually and collectively, to keep our sight clear.  To keep our hearts open.  To inform our minds.

We must keep our eyes, our hearts, our minds, and our actions on both the Iraqi people and the Palestinian people. 

We need to recognize how our struggles are all one struggle. They are using one oppressed people to kill another oppressed people.

Let’s also look inward and stamp out any western arrogance that is within us
It is arrogant of us to ‘grant’ control of so-called ‘post-Saddam-Hussein’ to the UN. Arrogant of us to grant control of anything Iraqi to anyone not Iraqi, or even to grant control

It is arrogant of us to ask the Palestinians to compromise more. They have nothing left to compromise. Nothing left to give

It is arrogant of us to ask for a quick end to the war against Iraq. What is needed is an immediate end.

It is arrogant of us to ask for a quick end to the occupation against the Palestinians – when what is needed is an immediate end.

As we recognize our own rights for self-determination, and as we struggle to have our own freedoms – including the freedom to go to college without joining the military, and the freedom to have a job without joining the military – we need to recognize the intrinsic rights of self-determination of other peoples as well, including the Iraqis and Palestinians

We need to recognize that all our freedoms are linked; one cannot be achieved with the other.  

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