Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Lives of Other Folks

In the first air strike of the Iraq war five years ago, a house that had been identified as having Saddam Hussein inside was bombed without warning. Hussein was far away. A six-year-old child died. This is symbolic to me of the atrocity of this war.

I have had advocates of the Iraq war insist that we are morally superior because of the "humanity" of the targeted bombs we use. If I were killed by a direct hit, would I be any less dead or would it be any less a crime? Not to me, and not to those who care about my life.

The U.S. is a sovereign nation. We guard our air space and coastal waters jealously. Any country violating them for purposes of aggressive action, no less by launching a missile against an American town, would be committing an act of war and would certainly be treated accordingly.

If, somehow, such an event did occur, it would be denounced in Washington and on editorial pages across the country as a shocking contravention of international legal conventions and a crime of war… unless, of course, we did it in a country where sovereignty has been declared meaningless.

In fact, an almost exact replica of the above fictional incident -- at least the fourth of its kind in recent months -- did indeed take place at the beginning of March in the embattled failed state of Somalia. (For that country's most recent abysmal collapse, the Bush administration, via an invasion by Ethiopian proxy forces, can take significant credit.) One or two houses in Dobley, a Somali town, were hit, possibly by two submarine-launched Tomahawk Cruise missiles in what a U.S. official termed "a deliberate strike against a suspected bed-down of known terrorists."

The missiles were evidently meant for Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, an al-Qaedan suspect in the bloody bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. He was, however, not in Dobley, despite the "actionable intelligence" on hand. Accounts of the dead and wounded in the town vary. One report claimed only wounded Somalis (and two dead cows); most spoke of anywhere from four to ten dead civilians. Local district Commissioner Ali Nur Ali Dherre told CNN that three women and three children had been killed and another 20 people wounded; while a "U.S. military official said the United States is still collecting post-strike information and is not yet able to confirm any casualties. He described [the] strike as 'very deliberate' and said forces tried to use caution to avoid hitting civilians."

For the dead Somalis, not surprisingly, we have no names. In stories like this, the dead are regularly nobodies and, though the townspeople of Dobley did indeed march angrily in protest yelling anti-American slogans, just about no one noticed.
This version of globalization is already so much the norm of our world that few here even blink an eye when it's reported, or consider it even slightly strange. It's already an American right. In the meantime, other people, who obviously don't rise to the level of our humanity, regularly die.

And here's the thing: In our world, there is a chasm that can never be breached between, say, a Sunni extremist clothed in a suicide vest who walks into a market in Baghdad with the barbaric intent of killing as many Shiite civilians as possible, and an air or missile attack, done in the name of American "security" and aimed at a "known terrorist," that just happens to -- repeatedly --- kill innocent civilians. And yet, what if you know before you launch your attack, as American planners certainly must, that the odds are innocents (and probably no one else) will die?

Not so long ago in the United States, presidentially sanctioned assassinations abroad were illegal. But that was then, this is so now. Nonetheless, it's a fact that the "right" to missile, bomb, shell, "decapitate," or assassinate those we declare to be our enemies, without regard to borders or sovereignty, is based on nothing more than the power to do it. This is simply the "right" of force (and of technology). If the tables were turned, any American would recognize such acts for the barbarism they represent.

The people we are killing and maiming, and whose lives we are ruining, have as much value as you and I have. We don't even have an accurate count of the Iraqis we've killed, or that our war against them has caused to be killed.

Our indifference to the lives of those we just don't see as valuable is one cause of the rise of terrorism. In similar circumstances, we would rise up and attack such atrocity. It is past time to see that we are committing crimes. We have to end the careers of those who are the instigators and the perpetrators of war crimes.


Other folks seem to be establishing a welfare state for themselves in those Wall Street offices, and E.J. Dionne makes a wonderful comment on the subject.

The Wall Street titans have turned into a bunch of welfare clients. They are desperate to be bailed out by government from their own incompetence, and from the deregulatory regime for which they lobbied so hard.

The profligacy the Elite shows in throwing away our money is something else that can't end too soon. But if, as Alan Greenspan notes, the bottom has to be reached by finally getting to the lowest housing prices, we have a way to go before we can be comfortable again.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please don't ever let a Republican get on tv and lecture us about Government Entitlement Programs again!

Let's investigate where all the Govt. grants, subsidies, and bailouts have gone in the past 30 years. Then and only then can we discuss their issues on a basis of facts.

If anyone believes that the war machine is based on a group of private corporations at this time in history, you are wrong. It is all paid for by average taxpayers. Until we have a voice loud enough, blood is on our own hands.


9:38 AM  

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