Friday, January 28, 2005


Terry Jones, of Monty Python fame, recently commented:
"An abstract noun [terror] can't surrender; it can't do anything really. How do you know when you've won? When the noun gets kicked out of the Oxford English Dictionary? But that's a very useful tool for politicians, to declare an unwinnable war. They can keep it going as long as they like. They can decide when it's won.".
George W. Bush held up his right hand to take the oath of office. And though the Ohio electors were challenged, he was certified by the House, and stood there in the cold, to begin his second term as President. There was never a mention of the war in Iraq, or terrorism, or the War on Terror. His speech was about freedom, the future freedom of the whole world, the freedom America will help to shape. It's the nation's mission, after all. He made no mention of America's anointment or appointment to this task; but some things are simply understood.

No, what President Bush was articulating, in the most benign language, was a course of war against nation states which aren't, at present, democracies. It was all delivered in a very idealistic way, and in a pleasant tone of voice. He never sounded rash. The President's Inaugural was meant to be upbeat. The United States would hold other nations responsible for their breaches of human rights. Bush's policy has violated the Geneva Conventions, but this was not covered in the speech. But the more that other countries improved their human rights issues, the better their standing in the eyes of America.

Pay no attention to those nations America needs, as bulwarks of policy, which maintain a sound tradition of torture. And on a day recently, when close to 40 American soldiers were killed, the President fielded a number of tough questions, which he resolutely evaded answering. Bush declared then, as he had in his Inaugural, that all life is precious to him. And under close questioning, he shunned all implicit criticism and simply declared how much faith he had in good people like Condoleezza Rice and Alberto Gonzales, who one assumes would never lie, or have anyone tortured.

And no, he didn't mention that nations like Syria and Egypt have tortured some in custody, as a favor to his government. But those who pay close attention will realize that there is absolutely no relationship between the President's rhetoric and what he actually does. The President's language is completely plastic and porous, and the fabric of reality is torn around its edges.

When Seymour Hersh first began speaking about the abuses of Abu Ghraib, before the story broke in the mainstream press, it had become known to him that members of Congress had seen the pictures that were later released. They had also been advised of even more terrible things, of children being tortured, in the presence of their mothers, to gain confessions. There has been a contemptible cover-up of tortures that were (and perhaps still are) an institutional process of the US Government. The Senate recently exempted the CIA from restrictions in how they may deal with foreign nationals. All the high-sounding phrases and posturing of Senators in the recent Gonzales hearing are moot, as far as the intelligence community is concerned.

President Bush is a man who can't seem to understand why people are so focused on all the death. At least that's part of his rhetorical style. His delicate concern for life hasn't prevented him from killing on an industrial scale. Two weeks ago, the BBC reported that of 300,000 people who once lived in Fallujah, only eight-and-half thousand had returned to the ruined city. In the words of an eye-witness, Ali Fadhil, an Iraqi doctor, it is a "city of ghosts". He described it as such a place, where packs of wild dogs gorged themselves on corpses.

Aside from the dead fighters, others the Americans killed are seen in photos from Fallujah: people who had been too impoverished to make a getaway. These pictures show elderly and middle aged people shot to death in their beds, and boys who lay face up in the street, still clutching the white pieces of cloth with which they tried to surrender. It is estimated that a little over a thousand insurgents were killed; and to accomplish this, the Geneva Conventions were violated, and a cruel, collective punishment was inflicted. The city was destroyed. Hundreds of thousands were made homeless. Doctors and patients were deliberately killed. And the frantic, who tried to swim the Euphrates, sank in a hail of bullets. The walls of Fallujah toppled; the sewer mains were broken ; the fire and stench spread over the town.

This history will not be obscured by disingenuous rhetoric, because we are witnesses to a crime. And this is not the War on Terror. This clearly is the Terror.

image via Dahr Jamail


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