“Well, Mandela is dead, because Saddam killed all the Mandelas”
I know, I know, another post about President Bush. usually I don’t pay a whole lot of attention, but lately it seems that he is trying to outdo himself. And Bush’s latest version of history is too much to ignore, and it leads into some other points I wanted to discuss. Since “segues are us” around here…perfect!
In a nutshell, when asked why democracy wasn’t taking hold in Iraq, Bush said that it was because the people of Iraq are still traumatized by Saddam’s rule, and that Saddam killed all the Mandelas. (Nelson Mandela was a freedom fighter in South Africa who spent 27 years in jail before becoming President after the fall of apartheid.)
First of all, blaming the Iraqis for the chaos that has engulfed their country since we moved in is a bit of misdirection. It was pointed out before the war that we weren’t sending in enough troops to maintain law and order, and when chaos and looting broke out immediately upon the fall of Saddam, we still did nothing. Now, years later, it’s all the Iraqis fault that we were never in control of the situation and naively believed that the Iraqis would get together and gratefully form a modern democratic republic under our beneficent gaze? Hmm.
Secondly, has Bush forgotten what happened after Gulf War One? His own father urged the Iraqis to revolt against Saddam after we had defeated his army. Then what happened? The Iraqis revolted…and over 500,000 American troops watched from the sidelines while Saddam crushed the revolt and killed people by the tens of thousands. In other words Mr President, your own father arranged for tens of thousands of potential Iraqi Mandelas to stand up and be killed. I’m not defending Saddam, far from it, but ignoring the role the US played in Iraq’s recent violent history, including our role in supporting and arming Saddam in the first place, is disingenuous at best.
However, Bush is a politician who has to put the best face on things. That’s his job, and at worst he is surrounded by people who tell him what he wants to hear. Still, the constant drumbeat of “it’s not our fault” about the mess in Iraq is starting to wear a bit thin. In fact it reminds me of the efforts made throughout the seventies and eighties to blame any social problems in the USA on the hippies, remember that? That one finally died an ignominious death when Reagan tried to use it one last time to lay blame for the Rodney King riots. Does this mean everything bad that happens in Iraq for decades is going to be blamed on Saddam? Sigh, could be, it’s not like he’s around to defend himself or implicate his American former co-conspirators.
Moving right along, we come to cognitive dissonance. What the heck is cognitive dissonance? And why am I bringing it up? I bring it up, because I in a recent American poll when asked how many Iraqi civilians had died as a result of the US invasion, the median answer was 10,000 (9,890 for the purists.) IE the typical person in America thinks that about ten thousand civilians have died in Iraq since the USA removed Saddam from power. Honestly, the mind reels. In 2006 alone UN monitors put the civilian death toll at over 30,000. Even the mainstream media says that 45,000-80,000 or more civilians have died in Iraq since we invaded.
It gets worse. How many civilians have died by violence since the US moved into Iraq? A recent study pegs it as somewhere between 750,000 and 1.5 million. This is after a previous Lancet study showed the death toll to be over 600,000. In other words, there is every reason to believe that at a very minimum, hundreds of thousands of people have died by violence in liberated Iraq. On top of that, millions of people have been displaced. By any standard, Iraq is approaching the horror of such human rights disasters as Rwanda or the Killing Fields in Cambodia. So, even if one takes the mainstream media figures…the typical American is still underestimating the civilian toll of the war by tens of thousands!
How is this even possible in this day and age of the Internet, cable TV, and the like that so many Americans are so wildly off about their assessment of the death toll in Iraq? I’m not quite sure, though I have a few ideas. Some people just don’t really care, I mean, Iraq is on the other side of the planet, doesn’t have a pro football team, and has never been visited by Britney or Paris. So news of Iraq will never get to these people, so be it. Many people should know better though, and I think that’s where cognitive dissonance comes into play. Basically when presented with information that conflicts with a person’s belief and/or actions, they resolve the issue in the easiest way possible, which in many cases is simply by not believing the conflicting information. Or managing it so as to make it more palatable, I suspect when confronted with the civilian death toll in Iraq a lot of Americans simply do what Bush is doing, they blame the Iraqis.
Now I’m going to ask my pro-war friends how many Iraqis they think have died by violence since we invaded. Granted, I’m not laying the blame for all these deaths on the USA, half of them or more are Iraqi on Iraqi violence. Still, if we are to have meaningful debate about our policy on Iraq, we need to at least agree on the facts underlaying the mess. Maybe if we agree on the facts, we can agree on what to do now. And the facts are, Iraq is well on its way to being the Killing Fields of our day, and the USA played a major role in creating this situation.
Finally, these facts mean that some of this blood is on my hands, something I try not to think about too much.
And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?
And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.
Try to have a great weekend everyone, Peruvian X-Files meteor update and things that go bump in the night are coming soon to Doug’s Darkworld.
(The above image of Reagan White House Middle East Special Envoy Donald Rumsfeld meeting Saddam is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is central to illustrating the post, it is not being used for profit, and it is an historically important image. The Reagan administration continued good relations with Saddam even after the UN reported he was using nerve gas and mustard gas in battle, in defiance of International Law. Credit: Getty Images.)