Norman Solomon: Ten years ago today: A warfare state of mind

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Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” He writes the Political Culture 2013 column.

On a plane circling Baghdad in gray dawn light, a little Iraqi girl quietly sang to herself in the next row. “When I start to wonder why I’m making this trip,” Sean Penn murmured to me, “I see that child and I remember what it’s about.”

After the plane landed at Saddam International Airport, we waited in a small entry room until an Iraqi official showed up and ushered us through customs. Soon we checked into the Al-Rashid Hotel. Back in Washington the sponsor of our trip, the Institute for Public Accuracy, put out a news release announcing the three-day visit and quoting Sean: “As a father, an actor, a filmmaker and a patriot, my visit to Iraq is for me a natural extension of my obligation (at least attempt) to find my own voice on matters of conscience.”

With U.S. war drums at feverish pitch, Sean Penn’s sudden appearance in Baghdad set off a firestorm of vilification in American media. Headlines called him “Baghdad Sean”; pundits on cable news channels called him a stooge for Saddam.

But as the U.S. media attacks got underway, our focus was Baghdad. At the Al-Mansour Children’s Hospital, youngsters lay on threadbare mattresses with haunting dark eyes, mournful mothers sometimes seated next to their tiny beds. As we left, Sean said to me: “You don’t even want someone to slam a door too loud around these children, let alone imagine a bomb exploding in the neighborhood.”

There were meetings with Iraqi officials, including Tariq Aziz, who -- with his well-cut suit and smooth talk -- epitomized the urbanity of evil. But most of all, we kept seeing children and wondering what would happen to them. The threat of war overshadowed everything.

UNICEF took us to schools in the city, and improvements were striking in the ones being helped by the agency. Sean and I visited the office of UNICEF’s Iraq director, a Dutchman who talked about prospects for aiding the country’s emaciated kids. But what if an invasion happens, we asked. Suddenly, there was silence.

On our last morning in Baghdad, across a breakfast table of pita bread and hummus, I watched Sean write out a statement on a pad. Later in the day, speaking at a huge news conference, he said: “I feel, both as an American and as a human being, the obligation to accept some level of personal accountability for the policies of my government, both those I support and any that I may not. Simply put, if there is a war or continued sanctions against Iraq, the blood of Americans and Iraqis alike will be on our hands.”

That was 123 months ago, in mid-December 2002. The invasion of Iraq came a hundred days later.

The resulting tragedies have been so horrific and large-scale that the overall reporting by U.S. mass media scarcely provides a clue. In real time and in retrospect, the dominant cliches about this war have stayed in circular motion, self-referential, within American bubbles.

Occasional, usually dimmed, strobe lights flicker on the real suffering of American soldiers and their loved ones. Numerically much larger, the Iraqi suffering gets short shrift, barely discernible in the shadows of U.S. media and politics.

A just-released report, “Iraq War Among World’s Worst Events,” provides a cogent summary of devastation so extensive and terrible that readers will be challenged to not turn away. In the report, David Swanson offers a 10-year overview of human consequences of moral turpitude for which no American official or propagandist has been held accountable.

Ten years after the invasion of Iraq, don’t expect the vast numbers of media hotshots and U.S. officials who propelled that catastrophe to utter a word of regret. Many are busy with another project: assisting the push for war on Iran.

Days ago, speaking of possible actions against Iran, President Obama told an Israeli TV reporter: “I continue to keep all options on the table.” Earlier this month, Vice President Biden told AIPAC’s annual conference that the president “is not bluffing.” Biden said “all options, including military force, are on the table.” Those statements are similar to the threats from President Bush and Vice President Cheney before the invasion of Iraq.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” He writes the Political Culture 2013 column.

Comments

biggest threat in the Mid-East to western interests. So, yes, it is absolutely correct for Obama to use the now well established Bush Doctrine in seeking to achieve optimal outcomes in that volatile area.

If we don't take out Iran's nukes, Israel will.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 21, 2013 @ 7:05 am

I still can't figure out what Iran has done in violation of international law or IAEA supervision. It is a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and is complying with international inspections, unlike Israel or the United States.

What does Iraq and Afghanistan have been neutralized mean. Neither country posed a threat to the United States.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 21, 2013 @ 7:54 am

with your contention that Afghanistan's encouragement of Al Queda was not a de facto threat to the US.

While Iraq repeatedly threatened it's neighbors and western interests before we finally neutralized those threats.

Iran is attempting to produce nuclear weapons and already has the capability to launch medium-range missiles capable of reaching Israel and Southern Europe. They need to be stopped.

Posted by anonymous on Mar. 21, 2013 @ 11:10 am

had just been granted aid to reward them for helping stamp out poppy production (i.e. heroin) not six months before the WTC attack and afterwards they expressed a willingness to give up Osama to a neutral third party for trial.

For this demonstrated willness to cooperate they met the same fate as Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

To the contrary, the clearest danger to U.S. interests was most clearly demonstrated by President G.W. Bush, who ignored the memo "Bin Laden determined to attack within the U.S." -- presumably so the PNACs dream could come true.

Iran is doing *nothing* illegal, but is only being portrayed as doing such by the same folks who always strive to have us conflate U.S. interests with the aims of Israel's right wing.

Posted by lillipublicans on Mar. 21, 2013 @ 11:29 am

had just been granted aid to reward them for helping stamp out poppy production (i.e. heroin) not six months before the WTC attack and afterwards they expressed a willingness to give up Osama to a neutral third party for trial.

For this demonstrated willness to cooperate they met the same fate as Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

To the contrary, the clearest danger to U.S. interests was most clearly demonstrated by President G.W. Bush, who ignored the memo "Bin Laden determined to attack within the U.S." -- presumably so the PNACs dream could come true.

Iran is doing *nothing* illegal, but is only being portrayed as doing such by the same folks who always strive to have us conflate U.S. interests with the aims of Israel's right wing.

Posted by lillipublicans on Mar. 21, 2013 @ 11:29 am

AQ hatched the 9/11 plot in Afghanistan, aided by the then Afghan government, for which the world rightly judged them culpable and sent in a multi-national coalition of forces to seek justice and to kill the threat.

There isn't a credible, established source that says otherwise - just a few crackpot conspiracy theorists like you.

Iran is now rightly considered the biggest threat to the West, along with North Korea, of course. The Axis of Evil has been constrained, but not yet defeated.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 21, 2013 @ 11:47 am

verified by reading reputable news outlets, but the really radical stuff you need to go elsewhere to find:

http://www.opednews.com/articles/Cheney-Admits-that-He-Lied-by-G-Washing...

Posted by lillipublicans on Mar. 21, 2013 @ 12:58 pm

All politicians lie to achieve their goals. You're naive to think otherwise and, of ten, it is to protect you.

That said, there was very broad, global support for the Afghanistan invasion. And I feel sure you are aware that it was an international coalition that invaded and not the US or any other single nation.

A threat was neutralized.

Posted by anon on Mar. 21, 2013 @ 1:11 pm

The trolls who are so fond of saying this would freak out if I wrote "all corporations lie."

All politicians are not the same. They all may be "economical with the truth" at times -- that is only politics -- but the difference between them and the ones like Cheney who actively deceive their countrymen and lead us into illegal, unjust, and economically ruinous wars is *vast.*

Posted by lillipublicans on Mar. 21, 2013 @ 1:33 pm

argument you have been presented with.

We're onto your tricks.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 21, 2013 @ 1:56 pm

Just relax into it.

Otherwise, you may become so agitated that you'll start spouting gibberish; like when you refer to a motley collection of bizarrely-false suppositions as "arguments."

Posted by lillipublicans on Mar. 21, 2013 @ 2:42 pm

you have lost the debate, and instead elect to muddy the waters.

Handy shortcut. Keep it up.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 21, 2013 @ 4:40 pm

Did you mean "rabbit wringer"?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 21, 2013 @ 1:24 pm