Friday, December 19, 2008

White Dyed Crimson

In all the talk of the crisis, the cost of the war in Iraq rarely garners much attention; rather, terms such as "recession" get bandied about. Obama and others have linked the state of the U.S. economy to the war, yet these days much greater costs have been attributed to the war. Last January the NY Times revealed that 121 veterans had been charged with homicide in the U.S., and more have been/will be charged. Furthermore, the number of homeless veterans has been steadily increasing. As if all this weren't enough, Veterans Affairs makes it very difficult to get compensated for PTSD and has even employed some underhanded means to deny. This is far from the worst of it.

In Iraq, estimates of civilian casualties range from 100,000 to upwards of a million. No matter what the actual number is, any estimate in this magnitude is horrific. Fortunately, people have begun to realize this, and even politicians condemn the high number. Blackwater may even be held accountable and lose its contract as a result of allegations of 17 civilian deaths committed by its contractors. A very sinister cost, however, remains hidden: Anna Badkhen has written an article on the vast toll of rape in Iraq. As if the act of rape itself wasn't bad enough, its stigmatization in this region creates dire consequences for a number of victims. Somehow I don't think $300m in whitewashing on Iraq stations will help.

These horrors, however, somehow get diminished, even justified, under the wide umbrella of terrorism, at least the fear of it. Events such as the killings in Mumbai seem to re-enforce the terror of terrorism. Nevertheless, there is so much more to be afraid of: the crisis, our food supply, and climate change; in fact, fear is uncontrollable and omnipresent. North Americans appear to have attempted to encapsulate all causes of fear with terrorism; in other words, we have tried to fight all our fears with the War on Terror. Recently, the economic crisis has ripped apart any success this strategy had, and could even pre-empt other crises, such as climate change. The illusion of security has been shaken in a way that no Listeria outbreak could. Will we wake up this time and not flock toward whatever means of security we hear on TV? Nevertheless, we need to do more than resurrect the line of No Fear T-shirts and watch re-runs of Mountain Dew commercials to combat our herd mentality.

Helena Smith, in her excellent reporting, has shown that the riots in Greece, like those in L.A., were an eruption of an underlying simmering sentiment. A similar sentiment buoyed by high unemployment exists in many of the countries which "foster" terrorism. Aid distribution is changing this; however, the solution seems to lie with much less effusive ways of letting off steam, e.g., shoe throwing. This harmless gesture spoke volumes, especially with the possibility that Bush may pardon himself from any future criminal charges; don't forget the spy bill he introduced and the 35 articles of impeachment that he recently sidestepped. Our path toward peace/reality lies with human ingenuity and our need for expression and self-improvement, the only driving forces that have really gotten us anywhere.


Anonymous said...

Hi Derek:
First Merry Christmas. I imagine you are looking at a similar picture-tonnes of the white stuff piling up quickly. Thanks for this most recent post. It iswell-written and important to consider. I just read an article regarding the increasing anger of Afgahns regarding civilian casualties and the anger over night raids. The only hope of winning the war is through education and support of civilians. These wars are not winnable until the critical role of the 'heart' of the people is addressed. I just read 'three cups of tea'. Very interesting insights into why we are not making progress. The well sponsored extremist schools (Saudi Money) recruit poor and needy-the very people the West bombs and neglects to acknowledge. The issues as to the 'why' of Terrorism still is not being acknowledged-instead we continue to box shadows through money and 'ammo' as a topical solution. Not much hope until the West takes on a new strategy. Hope all is well with the family. Enjoying reading your blog.

D. said...

Merry Christmas. Yeah, we have lots of snow as well; it is a nice change, and has me dreaming of the slopes. Glad to hear you read Three Cups of Tea; I still can't believe the State Department does not employ him, and others like him, as a consultant. Regarding the Afghani anger, I often think about the soldier in this video at the bottom of this post. Appreciate the feedback. Cheers,



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