Posted on | June 2, 2006 | No Comments
This just in…we might actually care about Iraqi deaths.
It’s been some time since Lancet, the British medical journal, determined that over 100,000 Iraqis were killed in the invasion and immediate aftermath of our pre-emptive strike against the non-threat known as Iraq.
It’s been some time since the massacre at Fallujah, where we employed white phosphorus on the population…killing everything in that besieged town. Men, women, children, animals and insurgents. Dead.
It’s been well over a decade since we began raining depleted uranium on Iraq, irradiating the land and the air…causing a massive spike in cancer rates and birth defects among the Iraq people. This is particularly so in southern Iraq.
And it’s been two years of returning soldiers telling stories of Iraqis being killed at checkpoints, being run over by tanks and other imposing, high-priced military vehicles. Since we heard about torture. Since we heard British military commanders criticizing us for treating the Iraqis as subhuman.
Now we have Haditha. And yet another “civilian massacre” emerging in Ishaqi. And maybe we do have a conscience.
It’s taken some time and tens of thousands of Iraqis being “liberated,” as in liberated from their corporeal bodies and ushered into the freedom of death. Until now, we’ve spent countless hours mourning our dead and consoling our wounded. Close of 3,000 dead, close to 18,000 wounded. Soldiers. People sent into “battle,” if that what it’s been. But we’ve ignored the lives of human beings who saw their homes, their livelihoods and their families bombed into oblivion, shot apart in a mail of bullets….destroyed.
Warfare requires a level of dehumanization….that’s a cliché of military history. Dehumanize the enemy to engender bloodlust. To soothe the humanity within that may, during the drive of destroy, short-circuit the command to kill. Haditha has finally broken the stranglehold on dehumanization…a stranglehold that kept its grip even throughout Abu Ghraib and countless bombing raids. We’ve soothed ourselves with the idea that Iraqis are terrorists, that they were connected to 9/11, that they would come here if we didn’t kill them there…that we were liberating them.
Now we see what we are. What we are doing. What dehumanization spawns.
And we are beginning to see what dehumanization is doing to us. To the soldiers who buy into the mission, out of a desperate need to justify the unjustifiable and to make sense of the senseless of the killing they see…the killing the do.
Because dehumanizing the enemy ends up dehumanizing ourselves. Life becomes cheaper than usual. Everyone is an enemy. And our soldiers return home and fight the battle within themselves between their wounded humanity and lingering anxiety about day to day survival. They end up dehumanized. Alive…but not fully human.
Now it is time for us…the American people upon whom this war is justified…to wake up to our collective dehumanization. We are all responsible. It is easy to blame Team Bush. It’s fruitless, because they don’t care. Lives and humanity are not on their agenda. They care only about geopolitics, oil and war profiteering. They care about controlling us. And like other historical powers, they use war and dehumanization…the blood thirst for an enemy…to keep us in line. To preserve their agenda. Yes, they have lost support. In polls. But no one is camping out in the National Mall. Few are speaking out. Few are demanding justice and an end to the rape and murder of Iraq.
Coming out of the 20th Century, we find that there is little excuse for succumbing to the dehumanization. From the Nazis in WWII to our dehumanization of Vietnam and the various wars we were involved with around the globe, we saw over and over the result of dehumanization. We have no excuses.
Perhaps it is not too late. Haditha may finally humanize the plight of Iraqis, the death and destruction we’ve wrought. We, my friends. All of us. Because this is, at least nominally, a democracy and we bought into the big lie. It may not be too late for us to stop the dehumanization. It’s too late for the thousands of dead Iraqis. But it may not be too late for us to stop ourselves.