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Hush Money

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"We regret that we blew off your child's right leg. We weren't aiming for her with our smart bombs if that's any consolation but, please, accept two hundred dollars."

"No, their child died from the injury. We need to pay more than that."

"Okay, here's $2,500. This should ease the grief. Go on. Dry those tears. Turn your frown upside down."

Yes, it's true. US military commanders are handing out money to so many collaterally damaged Iraqi civilians.

"Sorry for your loss."

When I read about this, I recalled those inspirational, Lee Greenwood lyrics and began to sing, "I'm Proud to be an American." Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land--my country that so benevolently compensates the families of the dead and injured. We not only have given democracy to Iraq, but we have provided capitalism--payment for suffering. This is the Free Trade Agreement for the Middle East. We are a veritable wallet of compassion.

Show them the money. Give them the money. That's what it's all about here in the US of A.

How kind and enterprising our leaders are! What's next--harvesting organs?

There's pride in every American heart.... Sing along.

And, then, read Bryan Bender's article, "Condolence Payments to Iraqis Soar, and feel your patriotism as it expands, welling up, up, in your chest, until you have goosebumps of goodwill because the money has "skyrocketed from just under $5 million in 2004 to almost $20,000 million last year."

Are you singing with me? Aren't you proud to be an American?

Go back to Bender's words: "in a single day...Marines from the 11th Expeditionary Unit distributed more than $570,000 in condolence payments and instant restitution for damaged property in the city of Najaf..."

All together now, sing proudly. Convince yourselves that money heals all wounds and buys loyalty. Then, picture those US military commanders who, instead of accepting flowers from grateful Iraqis, are handing out cash jackpots in a shocking attempt to purchase some hearts and minds.
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Missy Beattie lives in New York City. She's written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. An outspoken critic of the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq, she's a member of Gold Star Families for Peace. She completed a (more...)
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