“Do you understand, gentlemen, that the horror is just this --
that there is no horror?”
-- Alexandre Kuprin
A New “First” For Bush
Sometimes you've got to wonder if newspaper managers are deliberately trying
to numb readers with Orwellian madness.
Look, for example, at the top page of last Tuesday's USA Today, the "national
newspaper" that has done so much to blur the line between print journalism
and bad television. On the rightmost column of that page you can read about
"a first" for the Bush administration. During a recent speech in Philadelphia,
the paper reports, Bush acknowledged that a specific and specific number --
"about 30,000" in the president's words -- of Iraqi deaths have resulted
from his imperial invasion and occupation (Coren Dorell, "Bush Puts Deaths
of Iraqis at 30,000," USA Today, 13 December, 2005).
The White House "offered no details," USA Today observed, "about
how the 30,000 died, or who killed them."
"Bush's number," USA Today reporter Coren Dorell notes, "roughly
matches an estimate by Iraq Body Count, a research group that uses media accounts
to measure civilian deaths. On Monday, that count numbered between 27,383 and
30,892. That is far lower," Dorell acknowledged, "than the count in
a 2004 study published in the medical journal The Lancet, which used a survey
of Iraqi households to estimate that about 100,000 Iraqis had died."
On "How The 30,000 Died and Who Killed Them"
USA Today neglected to mention it, but Bush and the rest of us can easily learn
a great deal about "how the 30,000 died and who killed them." Iraq
Body Count (IBC)'s recently published "Dossier
of Civilian Casualties in Iraq, 2003-2005" reports that 1 in every
1,000 Iraqis was violently killed between March 20, 2003 (the day after the
beginning of the U.S. invasion) and March 19, 2005.
Of the 13,181 victims of violent death for which IBC has age and gender data,
10 percent were infants or children, 9 percent were adult females, and 82 percent
were adult males.
By projecting from readily available data on Iraqi marriage and childbirth
rates, IBC infers that "tens of thousands of Iraqi women and children have
lost a husband or father to violence since March 2003, a loss which will have
long lasting psychological and economic consequences for the bereaved families."
Iraqi families are also dealing with crippling injuries resulting from wartime
violence. By IBC's careful tabulation, 42,500 Iraqis have been wounded during
Who has done the killing and wounding? By IBC's meticulous account, based on
multiple verifiable media reports, anti-occupation forces have killed less than
10 percent of the total number of the nearly 25,000 dead for whom the killers
can be identified. "Criminal elements," who have thrived in the lawless
environment created by the destruction of Iraqi civil authority, killed 8,935
or 36 percent.
The biggest killers have been the U.S.-led armed forces, which violently ended
the lives of 9,270 Iraqis or 37.3 percent.
"Under Fire by U.S. Snipers"
In separate databases that include real-time accounts from reporters in Iraq,
IBC presents a number of accounts of Iraqis killed by American "liberators."
IBC's "Falluja Archive" contains (to give one among many examples)
an April 2004 Associated Press (AP) story relating how more than 600 Iraqis,
"mostly women, children, and the elderly," were butchered during Uncle
Sam's massive "retaliatory" (after the resistance killed U.S.-funded
Blackwell Security mercenaries) campaign in Falluja. "Iraqis in Falluja,"
the AP noted, "complained that civilians were coming under fire by U.S.
One such civilian was mentioned in an especially chilling account quoted in
the Falluja Archive. "One of the bodies brought to the clinic," wrote
Nation correspondent Dahr Jamail in The Nation, "was that of a 55-year
old man shot in the back by a [U.S.] sniper outside his home, while his wife
and children huddled wailing inside. The family could not retrieve his body
for fear of being shot themselves. His stiff corpse was carried into the clinic,
flies swarming above it. One of his arms was half raised by rigor mortis."
"If We Don't Care For Our Families, Soldiers are Not Going to
Yet even with USA Today's repetition of Bush's refusal to comment on "how
the 30,000 died and who killed them," I still found it jarring to move
from the story on Bush's acknowledgement of mass Iraqi death to the other main
item on page one of the paper's Tuesday edition.
This second story is titled "War's Trauma Wears on the Children Left Behind."
It highlights a major Pentagon program to soothe the anxieties of the children
of the people sent to "liberate" "about 30,000" Iraqis from
the burden of living.
Young schoolchildren on and around major U.S. military bases, USA Today reports,
are being treated to a Pentagon-sponsored puppet show called "Nothing to
Worry About." In one "Nothing to Worry About" show, "Mr.
Grumpy" tells assembled young children: "Maybe this will get you worried!
Maybe your dad's [military] company will get attacked like we see on the news."
At this point, a soothing maternal figure steps in to say, "OK, Mr. Grumpy,
you know what? If that happens they have big airplanes and big helicopters and
a lot of soldiers who are extremely well trained. They know exactly what to
"Nothing to Worry About" is just one part of what USA Today reporter
Gregg Zorroya calls "a sweeping Pentagon effort to emotionally safeguard
children when parents are at war."
According to Zorroya, "an estimated 1.9 million kids have a mom or dad
in uniform, and since 2001, a third of all U.S. forces have served or are serving
in [the official ‘war zones’ of] Iraq or Afghanistan."
So far, Zorroya reports, one thousand and thirty six (1,036) American children
have lost parent-soldiers to the "war in Iraq."
Due to real and feared parent death and maiming in George "Bring 'em On"
Bush's illegal occupation of Iraq, military children across the imperial "homeland"
are experiencing chronic anxiety, loneliness, fear, and depression.
In one elementary school adjacent to North Carolina's Fort Bragg, Zorroya reports,
"kindergarteners barely able to write their names have lined up to fill
out slips for counseling. As they did last year, guidance counselors will soon
form group sessions with children around a small table; on the walls, the counselors
will hang a National Geographic map with construction-paper hearts framing two
countries: Iraq and Afghanistan."
The survivors of Iraq's "about 30,000" war dead would be touched,
doubt, to learn that counselors of the children of some of their loved one's
immediate executioners have lovingly circled occupied Iraq in a paper heart.
According to USA Today, these and other such military child-"safeguarding"
efforts are "unprecedented" in "number and scope," revealing
"a new willingness of the military to promote counseling and family assistance,
especially as the war in Iraq approaches its fourth year." By helping out
families on the emotional "home front," the Pentagon hopes "to
encourage soldiers to re-enlist."
Here Zorroya gives an especially touching quote from Lt. Col. Mary Dooley-Bernhard,
who manages the U.S. Army's Family Advocacy Program. "We realize that if
we don't care for our families," Dooley-Bernhard told USA Today, "soldiers
are not going to stay."
Yes, it's getting harder and harder to send America's beleaguered working-class
troops back for third and fourth tours in the vicious, deadly, and brazenly
imperialist war of occupation that has been ordered by George W. Bush.
In a particularly moving expression of its deep commitment to families and
children, the U.S. military will soon release an activity book giving "tips
to [military] children living with a parent who's an amputee."
There are a few things missing from USA Today's second article. The most relevant
deletions include any sense of the spectacularly immoral, illegal, and unnecessary
nature of the war that is causing so much pain for American military children
Another thing missing is any sense of concern for Iraqi children, who are being
victimized by this imperialist war in larger numbers and to a greater degree.
Iraqi children need even more emotional safeguarding, living as they do in a
nation with so little basic protection from massive imperial assault.
Equally absent is any sense of connection between children's pain at home and
abroad -- this even as a directly adjacent story tells us that even the president
has been compelled to acknowledge higher Iraqi casualties.
How are the children of U.S.-butchered Iraqis supposed to feel about the Pentagon's
effort to sustain the American imperial-familial "home front's" ability
to support Bush's murderous assault on Mesopotamia? Will military child counselors
keep putting paper hearts around Iraq as U.S troops are increasingly replaced
by deadly and indiscriminate bombs as the primary enforcers of imperial rule?
Another thing missing is any sense of a key issue that many U.S. military children
are already dealing with: the deep emotional scars carried by fathers and mothers
who have acted on orders to murder, maim, and torture Iraqi civilians. Is the
military working up an activity book to give children tips on how to live with
a parent who has been emotionally shattered by his or her role in the killing
of innocent Iraqis?
The main thing missing, it seems to me, is any appropriate sense of horror
at the viciously circular militarist madness of Bush's miserable, messianic
war of aggression.
But then, last Tuesday's USA Today is just another example of dominant ("mainstream")
media's mandatory inability to acknowledge the awful criminality of U.S. foreign
policy. Dedicated at heart to making authoritarian evil seem normal and even
banal, that corporate war media perfectly expresses the timeless moral idiocy
that led Alexandre Kuprin to write his famous line.
Paul Street is a Visiting Professor of American History
at Northern Illinois University. His latest book is Empire
and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (Boulder, CO: Paradigm
Publishers, October 2004). He can be reached at: email@example.com.