"Every New Year is the direct descendant, isn't it, of a long line of proven criminals?" --Ogden Nash
Over 80 Iraqis were reported killed yesterday in the wake of the hanging of Saddam Hussein. The total number of Iraqis killed since the start of the U.S. invasion has been estimated at between 200,00 to nearly 600,000. There is no apparent jarring milestone to be reached for Iraqis as they take heed of the numbers of their dead - at least not like the milestone Americans will focus on this weekend as the 3000th U.S. soldier is killed in the ongoing occupation of Iraq. However, the barbaric execution of Saddam Hussein, that one death, will serve to mark this point in time as the moment of completion of Bush's carefully choreographed coup of Iraq, and will mark the beginning of the end of the facade of American neutrality in Iraq's civil war.
From the U.S. military installation of the first 'interim authority' after Saddam's overthrow, to the installation into power of Maliki and the smothering embrace of the junta by Bush, our soldiers have been forced by Bush to fight and die on one side of a multi-fronted sectarian struggle for power. With the U.S. sponsored trial and conviction of Saddam concluded, and the former U.S. puppet executed with the blessing of the Shiite-dominated government, there is no more pretense of any even-handedness toward those factions thrown out of power and influence along with their rogue leader. Sunnis, Batthists, and others who have found themselves in the minority of the propped-up new regime, are, more than ever after the show-trial and hanging, left with little evidence that their differences and concerns will be fairly dealt with by the new rulers.
The short-sighted zeal and determination of Bush and Maliki to see Saddam dead was a tragic forfeit of an opportunity for reconciliation between the new regime and those militarized factions who've been operating in violent resistance to the Bush-Maliki confederacy. The example of restraint which would have resulted from the sparing of the dictator's life, and possibly encouraged similar expressions from opposition forces sympathetic to Saddam, has been tossed aside in Bush and Maliki's pyretic rush forward to some imagined crushing victory that they would gamble even more of our soldiers' lives to achieve.
The hanging was an incredible provocation to those who might have still been inclined to line up with the new U.S. sponsored regime, and a gift to the Shiites who would align with Iran. Right now, the U.S.-sponsored Shiite militias are practicing their own brand of justice as they execute those in the opposition right on the street where they encounter them. The entire Iraqi conflict is filled with folks exercising their own versions of justice with their violence. Without a credible system of laws and uncompromisable courts, there will continue to be chaos and anarchy in Iraq. The illegitimacy of the tribunal prosecuting Saddam will just make it harder to get Iraqis to put down their arms, and harder for them to put their faith in any due process of law and justice that the new regime might offer.
The manner in which that "justice" was meted out to Saddam should matter to those who deplore the anarchy taking place in Iraq. Without a credible system of laws and enforcements, Iraqis will never have confidence enough in the new government to lay down their arms and trust them to resolve their differences within the system instead of on the streets.
The barbaric nature of the hanging, which our nation facilitated, is yet another hypocrisy in the way of Bush's attempt to tie his bloody aggression together with our own nation's traditional values and morals. The entire coup of Iraq - complete now with the legal-like execution of Saddam - has been prosecuted by Bush far outside of our nation's constitution and conscience. The nature and character of those who our government holds in opposition should not be license for leaders like Bush and Maliki to so thoroughly compromise those morals and values abroad which we rely on to sustain and preserve our democracy here at home.
"People always ask me about a New Year's resolution," Bush told reporters Thursday after meeting with his War council at his Crawford ranch. "My resolution is, is that (the soldiers) will be safe and that we'll come closer to our objective, that we'll be able to help this young democracy survive and thrive and, therefore, we'll be writing a chapter of peace."
Bush is dreaming now; sleepwalking through history, like he slept through the execution of Saddam. "War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength."
Three thousand dead American soldiers were "important" in Bush's "war on terror," but their sacrifices did little to effect any of the lofty ambitions of Bush in the three years that he's subjected them to his historically long deployments, and to the unprecedented three tours of duty some battalions have had to endure. Now these same soldiers are being gathered up from their extended deployments in Afghanistan and elsewhere to bolster the beleaguered forces in Iraq - assembled on paper as part of some commanding general's mission plan - to be presented to Bush as kindling to give his imperious fire a momentary flash of fragile, false brilliance.
If we stop his abusing defense of his junta, Bush says; if our soldiers stand down from the pursuit of the militarized resistance; if we stop our soldiers from participating in the joint, smash-and-grab raids of Iraqi neighborhoods; if we stop trying to beat some victory for America out of Iraqis, then our nation will be hostage to reprisals from the victims of his aggression. Ignore the terrorists, Bush says, who our government hold responsible for the 9-11 attacks, as they enjoy "safe harbor" in Afghanistan, and, instead, follow him forward as he bears-down on the deepening crisis of his own making in Iraq.
Ignore the 3000 American soldiers already killed, as Bush does, and follow him forward as he corrals even more into Iraq. That 3000th American death in Iraq may provide our historians with a sharp symbol to punctuate their account of Bush's fiasco, but, it will be of little matter or consequence to the 'decider-in-chief' as he bids for more fodder for his manufactured militarism. The 3000th American death will also be of little matter or consequence to Iraqis faced with a growing holocaust of their own citizenry.
Yet, the 3000th American death in Iraq should serve as a rallying point for our resolve to end the Iraq occupation and bring our soldiers safely home. Every time Bush and his minions insist that they are still looking for some sort of "success" in Iraq using our troops, they should be reminded that 3000 of our servicemen and servicewomen lost their lives trying to achieve it.
Three thousand tragic mistakes will be mourned by Americans as this new year arrives. One overriding resolution this year from us -- apart from Bush's feint concern for our soldier's safety as he drives them forward in Iraq -- should, undoubtedly, include our own resolve to achieve just one more meaningful milestone as we urge our troops home.
Bush should be forced to explain just what in Iraq he believes is worth the sacrifice of more of our soldiers. Orwellian pipe dreams about increasing the force in Iraq and "surging" to victory should be put aside, and, instead, be replaced by a credible exit plan as American voters demanded from Bush in November. Three thousand unanswered wake-up calls . . . and Bush is still dreaming.