Christmas Greeting from a Futurist
16 December 2004
SEASONS GREETINGS AND GNASHINGS
Since posting the piece below, the whiff of irony has vanished. Are the American occupiers really a match for the Mongols? As originally posed, the question was an act of polemic. Now, its the daily news. Iraqi public health is worse than it was before the war, yet funds have been found to turn Falluja into a gated police state (retina scans, total monitoring). The torture revelations keep coming, while those who give the orders get rewarded. Systemic sadism spreads its wings. Executive jets leased by the Defence Department and the CIA, fly hundreds of prisoners to torture cells in Egypt, Syria and Uzbekistan, according to the UK Sunday Times (15 November/02), which obtained the log books. Forget Geneva, forget human rights. The eagle is rabid. Saddam is a monster, our leaders are monstrous. But now tis the season to be shopping. My webmistress is taking a break, lucky you (lucky me - wm). This journal will be resumed early in the New Year, when it will do its best not to mention the war.
Last night (on his birthday - wm) I went to a public lecture on the Globalisation of Nothing, which painted a bleak future for tomorrows consumers; about which more will be aired at richarneville.blogs.com. Plus much else that matters,
Oh, and one more thing.
In the early stages of the terror wars, the Pentagon launched the Office of Strategic Influence (OSI) with the aim of planting bogus news stories in the media. Such was the outcry, the idea was canned. Or so it was announced. The announcement was OSIs first operation. Ever since, the disinformation unit has been in full swing. In September, according to the L A Times, commanders in Iraq combined public affairs, psychological operations, and mis-information into a "strategic communications" office. And guess whos in charge? None other than the star of our story below, Air Force Brig. Gen. Erv Lessel. He not only gets to carpet/cluster bomb Falluja, but he also gets to invent his own press releases. Nice one.
Have a thrilling Christmas, but dont think too deeply about the message of Christ while watching the news, or youll be sick.
The Bad Santa
Journal of a Futurist - 6 December 2004
The other night I was brushing up on the 13th Century sweep of the Mongols through the Middle East ancient history is suddenly so modern when a gruesome event caught my eye. Rod Stewart at the American Music Awards; a performer I respect for his staying power and because he started his career as a busker. So why pick on Rod, when the whole show was a swirling bowl of vomit? Well come back to that.
The reason I was surfing the history texts was to contemplate the questions raised by American academic, Sam Hamod, a former advisor to the State Department on Islam and the Middle East. Why would our young men and women go into battle saying, Lets killem all? Why would an American helicopter crew gun down women and children trying to escape Falluja, who were crossing a river in broad daylight? Why would one of our officers gun down wounded civilians in a mosque?
In short, Sam Hamod wants to know, WHO IS TURNING OUR TROOPS INTO MONGOLS ON A KILLING SPREE?
An excellent question, considering that the late residents of Falluja were never a threat to America. Or Australia. (Our troops are there too, but their role is kept hidden). However, is it a fair question? I mean, is it fair to compare the Marines to the Mongols?
At first glance, the parallels are uncanny. When the Mongol hordes sacked Baghdad in 1258, they "fanned out through the prestigious city demolishing buildings, burning neighbourhoods, and mercilessly massacring men, women, and children". The waters of the Tigris ran red with human blood, many libraries perished, water resources trashed, irreplaceable cultural treasures were lost.
All achieved without an airforce. While the scale of the Mongolian slaughter is the stuff of legend, it is time to ask the obvious follow up have the excesses of Mongols been surpassed by those of the Marines?
You bet, reckons US Air Force Brig Gen, Erwin Lessel, who crowed on the evening news: Weve done a great job in Falluja. His joy is understandable. Imagine being in charge of the worlds biggest air force, when the enemy doesnt own a plane? The 12,000 marines were supported by F-16s, AC-130 gunships, Cobra and Apache helicopters, an array of missiles, 500-pound and 2,000-pound bombs, tanks and Bradleys. The strategy was simple: the indiscriminate killing of everything that moved, and a lot which didnt, whether from the air or through the back door:Battalions like ours are coming from behind, going house-to-house killing guys" boasted a US marine, Lt. Michael Prato. Handstand, UK Monthly
THE MOST HUMANE ARMY IN THE WORLD
Part of Brig Gen Lessels great job was to bomb a clinic, despite assurances from American officers that they were aware of its location and would ensure that it was spared military action. (The Independent, UK, 24/11/2004). A former clinic worker, Dr Sami al-Jumaili, says the bombs took the lives of 15 medics, four nurses and 35 patients. Fallujas main hospital was stormed, its doctors bullied, patients dragged off, some to be executed. To slow the news leaks, the soldiers stole the doctors cell phones.
The Independent reports that American snipers killed a large number of civilians in Falluja, including women, old men and children as young as four. Wounded civilians were repeatedly denied medical attention by US forces the most humane army in the world, according to Richard Armitage - and Aid convoys were blocked. In all, 200,000 inhabitants were forced to flee the city.
Some Falluja residents were reportedly burned alive by a poisonous cocktail of polystyrene and jet fuel, an improved napalm. Banned by the UN in 1980, napalm was dropped around the bridges over the Saddam Canal and the Tigris river in March 03: "We napalmed both those [bridge] approaches," said Colonel James Alles, commander of Marine Air Group11. (The Independent 10/August/03) "Unfortunately there were people there ... you could see them in the [cockpit] video. It's no great way to die." What the hell. It wasnt the Americans who was doing the dying.
Meanwhile, back at Falluja, unarmed men were slaughtered; children mutilated and murdered. Some women spontaneously aborted babies due to the terrible shock and pressure of carpet bombing. (Go to We Hold These Truths - and click on 'Kill on Sight').
At Falluja hospital, according to the notes of a Turkish doctor, Hakim Mirzoev there was an endless stream of wounded children, women, and elders. Not dozens - hundreds! On the third day the medicines started to come to the end. Especially anaesthetics and antibiotics. Then the Americans stormed the wards, strip searched the doctors, smashed the last bottle of Iodine, dragged away the half dead male patients, as family visitors wailed and watched in horror. A process that was repeated over several days.
As reports such as these circulate among the dwindling number of Westerners curious about our war crimes, there have been half baked apologias. Look, a torture room, intones the voice, as the camera pans a squalid interior. We are supposed to be thankful for the flattening Falluja; instead, we are reminded of the majestic horrors at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.
GOD BLESS THE MONGOLS
Meanwhile, the use of torture by the US is gradually being legitimised by the White House and the Courts. On this point we a spot a difference between the two Great Invaders. The Mongols did not torture, mutilate or maim, even though their enemies did.
Another difference: while both invasions led to the destruction of museums and libraries, the Mongols at least had a reason their troops needed the leather of the bindings to make shoes.
From the latest barrel of 'bad apples'
Both the Americans and the Mongols put their faith in the Almighty. Another parallel between the two invasions, 746 years apart, is the belief that God is running the show. Hulagu Khan said on the eve of the Baghdad sacking, that victory was in the hands of the Creator: If God the eternal befriends me, what do I have to worry?"
Lt. Gen. William Jerry Boykin, a Special Forces veteran in charge of counter insurgency, stated that as a commander of a Christian army, he answers only to God. Certainly not to the Geneva Conventions. A Marine Colonel said "
the enemy has got a face. He's called Satan. He lives in Falluja. And we're going to destroy him."
Hulagus grandfather was Ghengis Khan. In his History of the Mongol Invasion, W.M. Thackston makes the point that Ghengis Khan's subjects saw themselves at the center of the universe, the greatest of people and favoured by the gods. They justified Ghengis Khan's success in warfare by claiming that he was the rightful master not only over the "peoples of the felt tent" but the entire world. Sounds like a draft for the New Mongolian Century.
After the blood-letting Hulagu Khan entered Baghdad and settled into former rulers home, the Octagon Palace and hosted a banquet for his commanders, a scene that was replicated seven and a half centuries later by the US command. The Moguls moved on, (to Syria!) but the US is staying put, both in the former palace, and in Iraq, with 14 enduring military bases under construction.
The US now calls Saddams palace its home, an elaborate new embassy rising from the rubble, its bloated building fund siphoned from vital projects of public health. Iraqi citizens face massive outbreaks of cholera, diarrhoea, nausea and kidney stones" from drinking contaminated water, according to Public Citizen, which hasnt stopped the US State Department purloining $184m earmarked for purifying drinking water projects and using it to guild the lair of the Eagle. Today, local residents still fetch water from the river, muddy, gray and dead.
In order to flood the encampments of their opponents, the Mongols wrecked the famous irrigation networks of Mesopotamia, which hastened the decline of Eastern civilisation . In todays Iraq, the attacks on infrastructure have been more prolonged and deadlier.
Okay, lets face up to enemy casualties.
Historians estimate the number of deaths caused by the Mongol invasion of Baghdad to be anywhere between 200,000 and soar to as high as 800,000. The total is uncertain. Like General Tommy Franks, Hulagu Khan, did not do body counts. At first glance, it might seem that the Moguls managed a higher kill rate than the US, despite the latters stupendous arsenal. However, even if we stick to the higher estimate of 800,000 dead, mainly Muslims, there is an eerie parity.
Starting in August 1990, the UN imposed a program of sweeping sanctions on Iraq, which blocked supplies of all basic humanitarian needs and continued until the current invasion. According to Joy Gordon (Harpers Magazine, November 2002) US policy makers turned a program of international governance into a legitimised act of mass slaughter. By 2002, as a result of the sanctions, half a million Iraqi children under the age of 5 had died. The drinking water of major cities was kept contaminated on purpose, to accelerate social catastrophe. Goods banned by the US included incubators, medicines, vaccines to treat hepatitis, tetanus & diphtheria, as well as cardiac, dialysis, dental & fire fighting equipment, water tankers, machinery for the production of milk, yoghurt, agricultural & educational items.
The total fatalities caused by the manipulations of sanctions is said to exceed one million dead. Added to this are the casualties from the first gulf war, say 150,000, plus the tends of thousands of soldiers and civilians mowed down in full retreat on the Road to Basra (an incident not yet turned into a Hollywood blockbuster). This total can be topped up by those Iraqis slaughtered after being urged George Bush senior to topple Saddam Hussein: 40,000 to 100,000 Kurds, 60,000 to 130,000 for Shi'ites.
To this can be added the deaths of civilians caused by George Bush Juniors invasion, estimated by The Lancet to be 100,000, prior to the rape of Falluja. This puts the total well above the Mongol maximum and leads to an inescapable conclusion: Comparing the Americans to Moguls is unfair on the Moguls.
It was while I was mulling over this, puzzled at the lack of outrage, that the 2004 American Music Awards blared from the back room (two weeks after its live US broadcast). How tame it was, despite the rapper throngs, evoking the sterility of Dick Clarks 1950s Bandstand. One surprise was a presenter in a red hourglass dress who hugged herself passionately and asked: Like my body? I laughed. Better political incorrectness, than a political vacuum. What came of the hopes once lavished upon Dylan/Stones era rock? There was rock against racism, which seems to have succeeded, and rock against war, which seems to have failed. Although screened in a hundred countries, the American Music Awards was the voice of denial, self obsession, isolation. No climate change, no tortures, no stifling of dissent. As 200,000 citizens fled their own city, Rod Stewart was prancing about singing, Its a Wonderful World.
Remember: first you piilage, then you burn
(image from The Guardian, 22 September 04)