This week, the Boston Globe's Bryan Bender reported another ugly landmark passed: the 10,000 wounded mark. Imagine that, 10,000 wounded Americans in a war our military and political leadership now say may last "years." Unfortunately, were it not for Garry Trudeau wounding his character BD in a comic-strip version of Iraq, the impact of our wounded -- because of better body armor the wounded-to-dead ratio has risen compared to previous American wars -- would have remained of late largely a back-page story. This last week, the TV networks duly noted that American deaths had passed 900 on their upward creep toward the 1,000 mark this fall, but generally deaths in Iraq have been repackaged as inside-the-paper stories, as the canny Robert Dreyfuss commented in "900 and counting," his July 22nd post at The Dreyfuss Report:And this is the real reason that I'm upset with the wall to wall coverage of the Dem Convention. It is a farce and a distraction from what should be on our minds right now - who's dying for 'us'; how many, and for how much longer? Americans are once again letting themselves be distracted and 'entertained', rather than face the hard truths of war. We are at war."The fact that four Americans were killed in Iraq on Tuesday found itself mentioned in the 19th paragraph on an inside page of the New York Times today, meaning that not only did those two marines and two soldiers die for nothing, but their deaths won't even contribute much to the rising American disgust over Bush's Iraq misadventure."It was good then to see Bender's piece, "US casualty rate high since handover, Long guerrilla war is feared in Iraq," which pointed out (as Tomdispatch had the previous week) that American post-transition deaths have been higher than our pre-transition ones. He added: "The relatively high rate of US military casualties has dimmed hope that the handover of power to the Iraqi government would help stabilize the country and reduce pressure on US soldiers." This is -- or should be -- front-page national news.
James Meek, a journalist for the British Guardian, spent some days on patrol with a U.S. Marine platoon near al-Karmah, a town between Abu Ghraib and Fallujah west of Baghdad. Here are comments found in his two-parter, Five days in the life of an invisible war:Nice dream."Another [Marine]: 'I just wonder why we can't come to an agreement with the fuckin' retards out there. If you stop tryin' to kill us we'll stop tryin' to kill you.'"… [A young machine-gunner from south Texas, Lance Corporal Gregory] Farias is loyal to the US military presence in Iraq. He believes in the mission. He worships Bush and despises the conservative hate trinity of John Kerry, Bill Clinton and France. That doesn't mean he's confident about the way it's going in Karmah. 'It's really frustrating 'cause I mean we can't find these guys. They shoot at us all the time, they run away, we try to figure out who it is, we interrogate people - do they know who it was? No, nobody knows who it was, yeah? Ali Baba, the bad guy, nobody wants to tell us where they're at, you know, so we're basically on our own, trying to figure this out, trying to put this puzzle together, where they're at and you know it's frustrating 'cause we can't operate like we should be, cause we're more worried about getting blown up and trying to find these bombs at the side of the road instead of going on a patrol and trying to find these guys…' Just before we part, Farias grew a little more thoughtful and melancholy. 'I don't want to get killed here,' he said. 'I don't want to die here. You know. This is the last place I'd probably ever want to die. You know, it's just - I want to go home…'"Home to his own sovereign country, that is.
Tom Lasseter of Knight Ridder, from the Sunni city of Ramadi, reports a similar phenomenon:And why is Lance Corporal Gregory there, in Iraq? Worried about dying in a foreign country? Because our leader hears voices:"[For American troops] to carry food from one base to the next in Ramadi, a matter of a few blocks, takes four vehicles - armored Humvees and trucks - all with .50-caliber machine guns mounted on top."In another piece, Lasseter describes the way American forces are for the present settling up with the "sovereignty" they turn out not to possess."After more than a year of fighting, U.S. troops have stopped patrolling large swaths of Iraq's restive Anbar province, according to the top American military intelligence officer in the area…. In the wreckage of the security situation, [Army Maj. Thomas] Neemeyer [the head American intelligence officer for the 1st Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division, the main military force in the Ramadi area] said, U.S. officials have all but given up on plans to install a democratic government in the city [Ramadi], and are hoping instead that Islamic extremists and other insurgent groups don't overrun the province in the same way that they've seized the region's most infamous town, Fallujah…In the meantime, the insurgency itself is growing increasingly sophisticated. Bender of the Globe reports, "They have recently shown a greater ability to cut off US military supply routes and to force Americans to adjust their own tactics, officials said… Attacks by mortar have increased in recent months, leading to fears that heavily armed insurgents could soon be using rockets and surface-to-air missiles."
"'The only way to stomp out the insurgency of the mind,' [Capt. Joe Jasper, a spokesman for the 1st Brigade] said, 'would be to kill the entire population'… Pointing to a neighborhood outside the town of Habbaniyah, between Fallujah and Ramadi, he said, 'We've lost a lot of Marines there and we don't ever go in anymore. If they want it that bad, they can have it.' And then to a spot on the western edge of Fallujah: 'We find that if we don't go there, they won't shoot us.'"
This touching anecdote joins a growing shelf of similar tales in which our President claims to have consulted, or even channeled, a far greater Sovereign Power than the American people. For instance, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, in an interview with the President for his most recent book Plan of Attack, questioned him on whether he ever asked his father for advice: "And President Bush said, 'Well, no,' and then he got defensive about it…'Then he said something that really struck me. He said of his father, 'He is the wrong father to appeal to for advice. The wrong father to go to, to appeal to in terms of strength.' And then he said, 'There's a higher Father that I appeal to.'"Do you think maybe Bush is dreaming?
The Israeli paper Ha'aretz reported last year that the President said to then-Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, "God told me to strike Al Qaeda and I struck, and then he instructed me to strike Saddam, which I did."
In fact, it seems that the Sovereign Power he believes nominated him for his present job was not "we, the people" or even "we, the Republican Party," but Someone Higher. According to Paul Harris of the British Observer, "Bush said to James Robinson: 'I feel like God wants me to run for President. I can't explain it, but I sense my country is going to need me. Something is going to happen... I know it won't be easy on me or my family, but God wants me to do it.'"
In this administration, the President is not alone. Lt. General William Boykin, Pentagon under secretary of defense for intelligence and war-fighting support, created a small firestorm of criticism by stumping the Christian evangelical circuit claiming that Bush's non-election was proof of divine intervention. "The majority of Americans did not vote for him…Why is he there? … Because God put him there for a time such as this."
We have much evidence, in other words, that the man in the White House believes sovereignty has a lot less to do with the American people, no less Iraqis, than with that Voice from Above. Let's also remember that his administration now has an almost unparalleled track record when it comes to getting (and taking) bad advice. In fact, almost every piece of earthly advice it bothered to garner on the nature of the world it was about to pummel was off-base or downright wrong; and its major acts, ranging from the setting up of an offshore mini-gulag of "information extraction" to invading Iraq, to ravaging the environment for immediate gain, seem intent on sowing chaos. Far be it from me as a nonbeliever to mention this, but given the record, I wonder whether our President should be quite so certain about Who he's been speaking with, about exactly Whose advice he's been following. Could our President actually be getting that advice from the wrong side of the Celestial Aisle?