House of Broken Toys (2004)
The plans for invading "The House of Broken Toys," as the C.I.A. referred to Iraq, may not have been sitting on his [President Bush's] desk, but he secretly started planning with Rummy for war with Iraq in November 2001, and with Tommy Franks starting the next month. Once they were thick into the planning, the president couldn't turn back, of course. That would make him like the loathed Bill Clinton -- a lot of bold talk and not much action -- not like "The Man," as Mr. Cheney called his warrior president.
--Maureen Dowd, "House of Broken Toys"
I wish I were able to attend today's demonstration in Washington, D.C. My sympathies are certainly with the thousands who have made the journey to protest the war. CNN reports that around 10,000 people showed up in London, and more people might have made it to Washington but
13 Amtrak trains running between New York and Washington were delayed for up to three hours Saturday morning for repair of overhead electrical lines. Protest organizers said that held up thousands coming to the rally.
Strange. I guess Hurricane Rita moved into New England more quickly than predicted.
Daily, the Bush Administration boils over with fresh scandals. Given the fervor and bile with which Republicans boiled Clinton in oil for Troopergate and Travelgate and other bogus allegations, can you imagine if the Democrats had responded in kind? Their heads would now be exploding like the hapless victims in David Cronenberg's Scanners.
And imagining that scenario is the only way you'll ever see it. Democrats are so cowed (and terrified of the "soft on terror" McGovern label) that they consider an election loss of less than five percentage points to be a cause for jubilance. And the media -- minus the temporary spine graft caused by the aftermath of Katrina, which even the Rovians couldn't pre-screen and spin -- enables the administration to beat up on the once favorable image of the United States until its face is unrecognizable.
The Iraq War has killed more than our loved ones and countless civilians. It has killed our integrity, our credibility, our image as the good guy. That's the price paid for waging pre-emptive war based completely on lies. That's the blowback for using Wite-Out on the Geneva Convention. You can't wear the right cowboy hat if you're the torturer running the rape rooms. You're a sadist -- not a soldier. There will be no flowers crunching under your feet as you sit fidgeting in a military court martial.
Unless you're a higher echelon official rather than a "loose cannon" grunt -- or you learned by experience from Lynndie's photoblog to burn all the evidence. Fortunately, the prisoner abuse scandal is behind us, and we're in the "last throes" of that nightmare, right?
Well, as they say in the ad biz: but wait -- there's more. Time reports:
The U.S. Army has launched a criminal investigation into new allegations of serious prisoner abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan made by a decorated former Captain in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, an Army spokesman has confirmed to Time. The claims of the Captain, who has not been named, are in part corroborated by statements of two sergeants who served with him in the 82nd Airborne; the allegations form the basis of a report from Human Rights Watch obtained by Time and due to be released in the next few days.[...]Specific instances of abuse described in the Human Rights Watch report include severe beatings, including one incident when a soldier allegedly broke a detainee's leg with a metal bat. Others include prisoners being stacked in human pyramids (unlike the human pyramids at Abu Ghraib, the prisoners at Camp Mercury were clothed); soldiers administering blows to the face, chest and extremities of prisoners; and detainees having their faces and eyes exposed to burning chemicals, being forced into stress positions for long periods leading to unconsciousness and having their water and food withheld.Prisoners were designated as PUCs (pronounced "pucks")—or "persons under control." A regular pastime at Camp Mercury, the report says, involved off-duty soldiers gathering at PUC tents, where prisoners were held, and working off their frustrations in activities known as "F____a PUC" (beating the prisoner) and "Smoke a PUC" (forced physical exertion, sometimes to the point of collapse). Broken limbs and similar painful injuries would be treated with analgesics, the soldiers claim, as medical staff would fill out paperwork stating the injuries occurred during capture. Support for some of the allegations of abuse come from a sergeant of the 82nd Airborne who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Human Rights Watch quotes him as saying that, "To 'F____ a PUC' means to beat him up. We would give them blows to the head, chest, legs, and stomach, pull them down, kick dirt on them. This happened every day. To 'smoke' someone is to put them in stress positions until they get muscle fatigue and pass out. That happened every day. Some days we would just get bored so we would have everyone sit in a corner and then make them get in a pyramid. This was before Abu Ghraib but just like it. We did that for amusement.""On their day off people would show up all the time," the sergeant continues in the HRW report. "Everyone in camp knew if you wanted to work out your frustration you show up at the PUC tent. In a way it was sport. The cooks were all U.S. soldiers. One day a sergeant shows up and tells a PUC to grab a pole. He told him to bend over and broke the guy's leg with a mini Louisville Slugger that was a metal bat. He was the cook."
Someone needs to point out to Freeper Central that these abusers aren't untrained National Guard "bad apples." And I won't hold my breath waiting for wingnuts to begin Swift-boating these soldier-sadists with the same glee reserved for bootstrap disabled looters in New Orleans.
So, as today's demonstrations churn like hurricanes on globally warmed steroids, we all hope desperately the war will soon end -- but, in our acidic stomachs, we know better:
We've always been at war with Eurasia -- at least until all who have enabled the suffering and madness and deception and lying are removed from power. And that's why I wish I was at a demonstration today, rather than phoning mine in from my blog. Because I feel the same way the protesters do. I'm tired of hanging my head in shame.
I want the political criminals -- Huns all -- out -- and outed in disgrace.
I want my country back -- and to again truly be, as the song says, the land that I love.
I want all of the broken toys fixed.
Update: AmericaBlog observes that hundreds of thousands turned up in Washington today to protest the war. Will the MSM report this show of force against BushCo -- or will all crack media journalists instead be standing out in the rain wearing logo-emblazoned slickers?
Also, Billmon shows again why he is one of our finest writers. Today, in a must read reflection, he reacts to The Nation's report on the war-porn site nowthatsfuckedup.com. Neil Postman remarked in Amusing Ourselves to Death that Hitler's rallies allowed the German people to watch their own genocidal extinction as a form of entertainment. A site like nowthatsfuckedup.com shows the shadow (if not psycho-sadistic) side of rah-rah empire building and serves as an enabling peepshow to turn the eradication of Iraqis into our own neo-fascist reality television. Billmon notes:
There was a time when I would have argued that the American people couldn't stomach that kind of butchery -- not for long anyway -- even if their political leaders were willing to inflict it. But now I'm not so sure. As a nation, we may be so desensitized to violence, and so inured to mechanized carnage on a grand scale, that we're psychologically capable of tolerating genocidal warfare against any one who can successfully be labeled as a "terrorist." Or at least, a sizable enough fraction of the America public may be willing to tolerate it, or applaud it, to make the costs politically bearable.
We expect the "banality of evil" to turn up in a courtroom in Nuremberg -- but are we comfortable inviting it into our homes -- appreciatively downloading body parts totems and other spoils of war souvenirs -- bursting with patriotic pride as we high-five one another over chips and dip?