Rolling over in our sleep

LI has long contended that the proper analogies for the Iraq war should be sought in U.S. foreign policy in Central and South America, with its heavy emphasis on the electric wire to your balls and support for a compliant elite, sitting on all those extractable raw materials, rather than in WWII or in Vietnam.

Oct 24, 2004 – LI

“The Lord Raglans of the Rumsfeld gang – the Tommy Franks and Ricardo Sanchezes – have, if anything, been even more coddled by the press, which does love a man in uniform, and since getting their fingers burned in the Vietnam war have reliably laid down a covering fire of delusions for the U.S. government as it has supported death squad democracy in Central America and, now, Iraq. It is rather embarrassing for the newspapers to have to confront the obvious screwups of our politicized and incompetent high command – Franks inability to hurt Al Qaeda when it was concentrated in Afghanistan, and Sanchez’s mindblowing underestimation of the insurgency last fall – so the reporters prefer to do in depth reports on these things a year or two after they have happened. News may upset the bourgeois reader, but never his prejudices. And so the world is cut out for us on a paperdoll pattern.”

Read Peter Maass’ excellent article in this Sunday’s NYT Magazine. LI has found surprisingly little comment about it – but then, we are all so tired of the war. Being tired, there is a simple solution -- re-file Iraq in the national dream life from the drawer in which the dreams are remembered to the drawer in which the dreams are forgotten. Every night the body politic goes to sleep and rolls over on another two or three American bodies, and fifteen to twenty Iraqi ones:

“The officer in charge of the raid -- a Major Falah -- now made it clear that he believed the detainee had led them on a wild-goose chase. The detainee was sitting at the side of a commando truck; I was 10 feet away, beside Bennett and four G.I.'s. One of Falah's captains began beating the detainee. Instead of a quick hit or slap, we now saw and heard a sustained series of blows. We heard the sound of the captain's fists and boots on the detainee's body, and we heard the detainee's pained grunts as he received his punishment without resistance. It was a dockyard mugging. Bennett turned his back to face away from the violence, joining his soldiers in staring uncomfortably at the ground in silence. The blows continued for a minute or so.

Bennett had seen the likes of this before, and he had worked out his own guidelines for dealing with such situations. ''If I think they're going to shoot somebody or cut his finger off or do any sort of permanent damage, I will immediately stop them,'' he explained. ''As Americans, we will not let that happen. In terms of kicking a guy, they do that all the time, punches and stuff like that.'' It was a tactical decision, Bennett explained: ''You only get so many interventions, and I've got to save my butting in for when there is a danger it could go over the line.'' But even when he doesn't say anything, he explained, ''they can tell we're not enjoying it. We're just kind of like, 'O.K., here we go again.'''

Iraqification. It is a glorious sound, no? And this is a glorious phase in helpin’ the liberty lovin’ show that they love liberty in the approved American way. We have the right people in place: the U.S. has been using, as its liaison with the squad Maass followed, a certain Jim Steele, formerly the prime U.S. link with death squads in El Salvador.

This is the Samarra detention center that Maass visited:

“We walked through the entrance gates of the center and stood, briefly, outside the main hall. Looking through the doors, I saw about 100 detainees squatting on the floor, hands bound behind their backs; most were blindfolded. To my right, outside the doors, a leather-jacketed security official was slapping and kicking a detainee who was sitting on the ground. We went to a room adjacent to the main hall, and as we walked in, a detainee was led out with fresh blood around his nose. The room had enough space for a couple of desks and chairs; one desk had bloodstains running down its side. The 20-year-old Saudi was led into the room and sat a few feet from me. He said he had been treated well and that a bandage on his head was a result of an injury he suffered in a car accident as he was being chased by Iraqi soldiers.”

And here are a few grafs showing freedom lovin’ at its best:

“The Saudi I interviewed seemed relieved to have been captured, because his service in the insurgency, he said, was a time of unhappy disillusion. He came to Iraq to die with Islamic heroes, he said, but instead was drafted into a cell composed of riffraff who stole cars and kidnapped for money and attacked American targets only occasionally. When I asked, through an interpreter, whether he had planned to be a suicide bomber, he looked aghast and said he would not do that because innocent civilians would be killed; he was willing to enter paradise by being shot but not by blowing himself up. He gladly gave me the names of the members of the cell. One was a Syrian who had been arrested with him.

That evening, as I was eating dinner in the mess hall at Olsen base, I overheard a G.I. saying that he had seen the Syrian at the detention center, hanging from the ceiling by his arms and legs like an animal being hauled back from a hunt. When I struck up a conversation with the soldier, he refused to say anything more. Later, I spoke with an Iraqi interpreter who works for the U.S. military and has access to the detention center; when I asked whether the Syrian, like the Saudi, was cooperating, the interpreter smiled and said, ''Not yet, but he will.''


Deleted said…
&partnerI have nothing of value to offer other than the permanent link to the Maass article.
Deleted said…
I manage to screw the previous one up nicely.
article link
roger said…
Thanks Harry. I sometimes wonder if my evident computer illiteracy discourages people out there. I want to assure all of LI's readers -- in three out of four tries, I have successfully tied my shoes.