American Violence In Iraq: Necrophilia
Part 4 of a 5-part series:
Obedience, Defiance, And Conscience
By Kim Petersen and B. J.
Online Journal Contributing Writers
August 26, 2005—On the cover of its
April 1994 issue, The World & I magazine printed the following question: "How violent is America?" On that occasion,
the magazine was referring to US domestic violence.
On the index page, the editors expanded on the argument
by placing under that same question the following introduction: "More people died in gunfire in the United States during the
past four years than were killed in the Vietnam War. Finally, Americans have had enough. But how effective are the proposed
More revealingly, on page 20, the magazine's editor,
Morton A. Kaplan, commenced the special essay on the topic by stating, "Violence seems to rule America . . ."
Since the magazine posed these questions on American
domestic violence, we decided to transpose them from their domestic milieu to the wider horizons of US international violence:
1. How violent is America abroad? 2. How many people have America's military killed around the world? 3. The world has had
enough of US fascist violence . . . But are there any solutions? Finally, a fundamental question: Since violence rules America,
is the US also ruling the world through violence?
Answer to question 1: America's violence worldwide
speaks for itself. From the destruction of the Originals Peoples of the United States to the inhabitants of Iraq, the US motivation
to annihilate its designated enemy, to conquer, colonize, place under tutelage, or control foreign resources has not undergone
any substantial change in over two centuries. Beyond that, the ideology of confrontation and violence appears to have cemented
itself so deep in the American mind that some segments of the American people have become more overtly enthusiastic about
war and conquest than the ideologues of empire themselves.
Answer to question 2: Wars directly after World
War II: Korea, 3 million; Vietnam, 3 million; Panama, 4,000; Iraq (Gulf War: 400,000; sanction, 1.5 million, Operation "Iraqi
Freedom" and ongoing occupation; over 128,000): 2 million; Yugoslavia, 24,000; Afghanistan, 20,000. If we add all those who
the US indirectly killed by arranged military coups in Indonesia, Congo, Chile, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Latin America, and elsewhere,
as well as all those Palestinian murders abetted through the largesse of US arms and "aid" to the Zionist program of ethnic
cleansing and genocide, the number of people murdered worldwide as a result of militaristic US foreign policy implemented
by its obliging soldiers is beyond count.
Answer to question 3: Yes, but proposing these,
goes beyond the scope of this series. Suffice it to say, the solution requires immense and sustained sacrifice by the masses.
Answer to the fundamental question: Yes, America
is ruling the world through violence or the threat of using violence.
Considering the entrenchment of ideological supremacy
inside the American polity, is there any relation between the government's war options and the American people's response
to them? Yes, a relation does exist. In fact, once the government goes to war for its own reasons, the American people, with
the exception of a minority, approve of it, thus becoming extremely vociferous war activists through their uninformed opinions
as reflected in opinion polls.
American violence seems atavistic in nature;
i.e., inherited and transmitted from one generation to the next. This could explain why the system always defends the status
quo. Nevertheless, throughout modern American history, the voices that opposed US imperialism and its violence have always
remained an ostracized intellectual faction without significant mass movement that could stop or reverse US insanity in the
world. In the case of Iraq, although the American people now know that US aggression is a product of deception, although many
know about the tens-of-thousands of civilians that the US forces slaughtered in that hapless nation, the voices that rise
up to stop that insanity are confined to progressive media and scattered fringes of the American society. Where are the American
people and where are those mythical "values" that Bush fulminates about ad nauseam?
The Case Against American Imperialist
Is there a pattern for premeditated US violence?
The following quotation could shed some light on the matter. Seven months before 9–11, Donatella Lorch, a former writer
for Newsweek wrote a premonitory article on America's march to inventing future wars and, of course, to necrophilia
through war. She subtitled her article  in a warmongering fashion as follows, "In the Bunker, as the army's
elite braces for a new enemy," where she described how the army was preparing for future wars. Lorch, of course, must have
been privy to the Pentagon's planned wars and in what environment they are to take place. She wrote:
"The 135 men of Charlie Company, part
of the Army's elite Ranger regiment, have to learn how to handle more than fire fights to prepare for the chaotic battle field
of the future—where civilians will be hard to tell from combatants and the booby traps may include TV cameras.
A Newsweek reporter and an MSNBC camera team tagged along on 'Operation Savage Strike,' a training exercise that stimulated
the sort of real-life action. . . . The men seem to accept the ordeal, even in the wrinkles, like showboating reporters and
difficult diplomats . . . They believe they are the Army's best, and they say they want a real-life chance to show it."
Exactly why do these soldiers want a real-life chance
to show their homicidal prowess? Is it not sufficient that they show it only during the training camps? Must soldiers train
so they can defend their country from foreign aggression or to go the world's "hot spots" as the US regime calls much of the
rest of the planet, so they can demonstrate how violent is their imperialist determination to inflict death and destruction
on people they have never met before?
How does all this apply to Iraq, now that those
same 135 soldiers have eventually had the chance to show the murderous side of their personality?
Arguably, if the entire American state bases its
foreign policy on violence, what should one expect from its soldiers? As for the US in Iraq, of course, it is not alone in
committing atrocities; other "coalition" troops have been implicated in heinous acts as well.  When the
highest level of power condones violence, violence tends to become an animalistic party for all. It bears mentioning, though,
that some "coalition" partners have demonstrated reluctance to carry out directives of the US command. 
War philosopher Carl von Clausewitz held that "to
introduce into the philosophy of war itself a principle of moderation would be an absurdity."  Historically,
war brings out the darkest side of humanity, but there are guiding principles for warfare and its prevention. 
Does that mean people have to accept US violence because war brings out the darkest side of humanity? Based on observation
of US reactions consequent to the torture of prisoners in Iraq, the establishment and its media condoned it and declared it
a tiny manifestation of bad behavior by only a few bad apples and not a manifestation of a deep-rooted aberration in the American
establishment where military and civilian commanders planned it from the top.
Those people who maintain that in times of war the
troops must have "our" support are logically deluded. For one matter, the same rationale must be applicable to the population
of the enemy. By such reasoning, one could not and should not hold the population of the enemy state accountable for the state's
violence. Furthermore, by the same reasoning, one would have and should have expected Germans to support Adolf Hitler and
his Nazi fighters. Applying this rationale to the current batch of US troops would require Americans to support them despite
their war crimes: torture, atrocities, looting, and the savage plunder of another land.
Why then, one wonders, did the US invade Iraq: to
rid it of weapons-of-mass-destruction, to oust Saddam Hussein, or to stop his atrocities? By now, it is widely known that
these are just pretexts. So is there any other rationale? There is also the "noble" cause of neocons Paul Wolfowitz and Richard
Perle to promote "democracy" in the Middle East through the invasion of Iraq. If so, how many other non-democratic lands will
the US invade to install democracy? China? Just how can the US call its election in Iraq "democracy" when it prescreened and
selected all candidates based on their allegiance to the occupation regime?
The pressing question remains: Is the transfer of
the source of atrocities from the hands of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to the hands of the occupiers an acceptable
alternative because atrocities are now being committed under the auspices of a "democratic America?"
To answer all these questions, one must scrutinize
the way in which US politicians, media, and the American people treat the occupation and the atrocities of US soldiers in
Iraq. The US atrocities in Iraq are of three types: 1. the pre-invasion rhetorical violence, 2. the invasion as a supreme
act of fascist atrocity, and 3. post-invasion and occupation atrocities. While most media ignore the first two types, they
always minimize the third.
It is edifying to observe how the establishment's
magazine, Time, treats the third type of atrocities. Time declared the American soldier the magazine's "person
of the year" for 2004. On this issue, war journalist Chris Hedges wrote, "It is part of war's perversity that we lionize those
who make great warriors and excuse their excesses in the name of self-defense."  He added, "Many young
men, schooled in the notion that war is the ultimate definition of manhood, that only in war will they be tested and proven,
that they can discover their worth as human beings in battle, willingly join the great enterprise. The admiration of the crowd,
the high-blown rhetoric, the chance to achieve the glory of the previous generation, the ideal of nobility beckon us forward."
While Hedges described war in psycho-epical terms
because it "gives us meaning," the reality is that although conditioning attempts to bring about a uniform obedience, the
military is not a monolithic body that one can school in any precise notion. For whatever reasons a soldier initially enlisted,
afterwards some discover that life in the military was not what they originally thought it would be. The carnage and mayhem
that the US has inflicted on Iraq and Afghanistan have undoubtedly adversely affected some service personnel. Many are starting
to question why they are in Iraq. One enlistee insisted, "I never signed up to kill fathers, mothers, children. Otherwise,
if we had scrupulously followed military procedures, Iraq would be empty!" Others have even ridiculed the crucial notion of
an al Qaeda-9/11-Iraq connection. 
There are signs also that the tide is turning against
the war venture, as recruitment is becoming increasingly difficult.  The US military has even desperately
headed north to try recruiting Inuit and First Nations people in Canada.  Financial enticements aimed
at Latin Americans are being used to plug the recruitment gap.  The Army wants to double the top cash
bonus for new recruits to $40,000 in an effort to stem recruiting losses. 
In addition, replenishing troops for Iraq has become
increasingly difficult to do, as many US soldiers refuse to return to Iraq. US soldier Jeremy Hinzman is one of an estimated
6,000 deserters—150 of whom have defected to Canada rather than "kill babies."  Hinzman told of
conditioning meant to dehumanize the designated enemies. Recruits were compelled to chant: "What makes grass grow? Blood,
blood, bright red blood," and "Train to kill, kill we will." During training, he said, "We were on the run, singing cadences
about raping and pillaging." It is eerie that one does not hear more often serious concern from the trainees and the trained
because of their training. 
One US Fallujah veteran, Jim Talib, told of a directive
to shoot detainees and described the "medieval display" of dead Iraqis strapped to a car hood like trophy deer. Said Talib,
of the situation in Iraq: "So much of what I experienced seemed out of control, I saw so little respect for the living and
almost none for the dead, and there was almost no accountability." 
The reality is that there is nothing inherently
greater or less great about a soldier. Soldiers are humans and their capacity for good or evil is a result of their sense
of humanity. The US military in particular, seeks to condition soldiers in a way that removes them from this sense of humanity.
In response, many people propose that the antiwar movement should not militate against the soldier but seek to educate them
in the principles of the movement. Is this proposal possible?
Some may think so; but the fact is that there is
a diametric contradiction between enlisting to fight and preserving a sense of compassion or humanity. Practically, it is
impossible to retain the two at the same time: war is about killing. In other words, how can one carry out the principles
of being antiwar while she is conducting a war? The only way that such a thing could happen is when a soldier stops being
a soldier; that is, when he deserts the army. Desertion is one legitimate "out option" for troops coerced to violate legal
and moral principles. While deserters are typically classified as cowards, the truer cowards are the troops who violate conscience
by shooting at unarmed civilians. It requires far greater courage to refuse orders to perpetrate abominations and to attempt
escape from the most powerful military in history. Under these circumstances, deserters are certainly not cowards but rather
heroes of morality.
Some soldiers prefer to stay in the US to face whatever
"justice" the military metes out for their refusal to take part in the US atrocities committed abroad. Camilo MejŪa, an imprisoned
conscientious objector who refused to report for return duty in Iraq said, "It wasn't until I came home that I felt it—how
wrong it all was and that I was a coward for pushing my principles aside. I'm trying to buy my way back into heaven . . .
and it's not so much what I did, but what I didn't do to stop it when I was there. So now it's a way of trying to undo the
evil that we did over there. This is why I'm speaking out, and not going back." 
US Army Sergeant Kevin Benderman concluded
that the fighting in Iraq was immoral and it was his duty to refuse to kill. Benderman's bid for conscientious objector status
failed as the authorities refused his application.  One can only surmise that the panel that summarily
dismissed Benderman's petition must have been ignorant of former US president John F. Kennedy's lament: "War will exist until
that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today."
Harvey Tharp, who served in Kirkuk, declared,
"Most of what we're talking about is war crimes . . . war crimes because they are directed by our government for power projection.
My easy answer for not going is PTSD . . . but the deeper moral reason is that I didn't want to be involved in a crime against
The military is not about conscience. Willful or
unwilling obedience to engage in the act of killing cannot be a matter that attracts people based on conscience. Those service
personnel who carry out war crimes as commanded are guilty. Coalition Provisional Authority Regulation Number 17, however,
bars prosecution in Iraqi courts of "coalition" soldiers. The US, in further contempt of international law refuses to recognize
the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. This grotesque defiance of international law contradicts the declared
pretext for the aggression of Iraq: the lethally phony assertion about Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction in
contravention of UN Security Council Resolution 1441. In the end, the UN, itself, is complicit in the undermining of its very
own raison d'Ítre through complicity with the aggressors of Iraq. 
Next, in the final part of this series: Is the United
States a torture nation?
 Donatella Lorch, "Tomorrow's
Fire Fight," Newsweek, 15 January 2001, 33
 Press release by Amnesty International,
"Human rights watchdog details the killing of civilians in Iraq
by British armed forces and armed groups," Spotlight, 11 May 2004.
 Frank Walker, "Our pilots refused to bomb 40 times," smh.com.au, 14 March 2004. Australian and other "coalition"
pilots have been aborting bombing runs often, reportedly, to avoid killing civilians. It seems that there were "fundamental
differences between the US dominated headquarters and Australian pilots over what constituted a valid military target." Daniel
McGory, "US heavy-handedness baffles British," News.com.au, 3 April 2003. British troops were
depicted as aghast at the egregious behavior of US troops: "The Americans are still behaving like invaders, not liberators.
They behave as if they hate these people."
 Carl von Clausewitz, On
War (Wordsworth Classics, 1997), 6
 John Keegan, A History of
Warfare (Vintage, 1993), 388. Confucianism is a philosophy that seeks to constrain the warrior instinct to law.
 Chris Hedges, War Is A Force
That Gives Us Meaning (Anchor Books, 2003), 8
 Ibid, 84
 Told by Joshua Key, written
up by Annick Cojean, "Zombies in the Fog of War," Le Monde, 24 July 2005. As one deserting soldier related,
"Imagine you're at home back in the States, in the middle of drinking a beer. And then we show up at your house in the middle
of the night. You'd go crazy, right? You'd fight back! You'd want to kill everybody! Man, if it was me, I'd want to do things
a thousand times worse than what they have." Steve Fainaru, "For Marines, a Frustrating Fight. Some in Iraq Question How and
Why War Is Being Waged," Washington Post, 10 October 2004. Lance Cpl. Alexander
Jones spoke of catching the US government "in a lie." Cpl. Brandon Autin was unfazed about possible punishment for speaking
out: "We don't give a crap. What are they going to do, send us to Iraq?"
(Note: The article "Zombies
in the Fog of War" can be read at New Socialist )
 Bud Deraps, "Dying in Iraq is not a career choice," People's Weekly World, 25 May 2005.
 James Ridgeway, "Uncle Sam Wants You, Eh? Our Military Tries to Recruit Canada's
Inuit," Village Voice, 24–30 December 2003
 Dave Moniz, "Army bonuses may rise to $40K," USA Today, 10 June 2005
 Diego Cevallos, "Fewer and Fewer Latinos Willing to Die in Iraq," Inter Press Service News Agency, 31 May 2005
 "Military Deserters Flee To Canada," WESH.com, 26 May 2005
 Joseph Kay, "US soldier seeks refugee status in Canada," World Socialist Web Site, 11 December 2004
 Quoted in Ignacio Ramonet,
"London, twinned with Baghdad," Le Monde diplomatique, 1 August 2005
 Quoted in Dahr Jamail,
"'What Have We Done?'" Iraq Dispatches, 5 August 2005
 Robert S. Finnegan, "Conscientious Objector Status for Army Sgt. Kevin Benderman Denied:
Ft. Stewart Command Quickly Rubber-Stamps Disapproval," Dissident Voice, 29 April 2005
 Quoted in Dahr Jamail, op.
 Salim Lone, "An uprising in support of democracy: By backing the US over elections,
Kofi Annan inflamed the Iraq crisis," The Guardian, 13 April 2004
Kim Petersen is a writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada;
B. J. Sabri is an Iraqi-American antiwar activist. You can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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