Some Home Truths
By Robert Fisk
27 November 2003
Iraq, they are just numbers, bloodstains on a road. But in the little
town of Madison in Wisconsin last week, they were all too real on the
front page of the local paper, the Capital Times. Sergeant Warren Hansen,
Specialist Eugene Uhl and Second Lieutenant Jeremy Wolfe of the 101st
Airborne Division were all on their way home for the last time.
had died in the military. Uhl would have been 22 at Thanksgiving but
had written home to say he had a "bad feeling". His father
had fought in Vietnam, his grandfather in the Second World War and Korea.
Two of the three men were killed in the Black Hawk helicopter crash
over Tikrit just over a week ago.
But of course President
Bush, our hero in the "war on terror", won't be attending
their funerals. The man who declined to serve his nation in Vietnam
but has sent 146,000 young Americans into the biggest rat's nest in
the Middle East doesn't do funerals.
Nor do journalists,
of course. The American television networks have feebly accepted the
new Pentagon ruling that they can't show the coffins of America's young
men returning from Iraq. The dead may come home but they do so in virtual
Things are changing.
At a lecture I gave in Madison last week, there was a roar of applause
from the more than 1,000-strong audience when I suggested that the Iraq
war could yet doom George Bush's election chances next year. A young
man in the audience stood up to say that his brother was in the military
in Iraq, that he had written home to say that the war was a mess, that
Americans shouldn't be dying in Iraq.
After the lecture,
he showed me his brother's picture - a tall 82nd Airborne officer in
shades and holding an M-16 - and passed on a message that the soldier
wanted to meet me in Baghdad next month.
But I'd better make
sure I don't reveal his name because those in America who want to keep
the people in the dark are still at work.
Take the case of
Drew Plummer from North Carolina who enlisted during his last year in
high school, just three months before 11 September 2001. Home on leave,
he joined his father, Lou, at a "bring our troops home" vigil.
Lou Plummer is a former member of the US 2nd Armoured Division whose
father, unlike Mr Bush, served his country in Vietnam. Asked for his
opinion on Iraq by an Associated Press reporter, Drew Plummer replied
that "I just don't agree with what we're doing right now. I don't
think our guys should be dying in Iraq. But I'm not a pacifist. I'll
do my part."
But free speech
has a price for the military in America these days. The US Navy charged
Drew Plummer with violating Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military
Justice: Disloyal Statements. At his official hearing, he was asked
if he "sympathises" with the enemy or was considering "acts
of sabotage". He was convicted and demoted.
Yet still the US
press turn their backs on this. How revealing, for example, to find
that the number of seriously wounded soldiers brought home to America
from Iraq is approaching 2,200, many of whom have lost limbs or suffered
facial wounds. In all, there have been nearly 7,000 medical evacuations
of soldiers from Iraq, many with psychological problems.
All this was disclosed
by the Pentagon to a group of French diplomats in Washington. The French
press carried the story. Not so the papers of small-town America, where
anyone trying to tell the truth about Iraq will be attacked.
And while the Pentagon
is now planning to have 100,000 GIs in Iraq until 2006, the journalistic
heavyweights are stoking the fires of patriotism with a new and even
more chilling propaganda line. One of the most vicious has just been
published in The New York Times. Claiming that Saddam's torturers are
attacking American troops - some of his intelligence men are now working
for the occupying army, but that's another matter - David Brooks writes
that "history shows that Americans are willing to make sacrifices.
The real doubts come when we see ourselves inflicting them. What will
happen to the national mood when the news programmes start broadcasting
images of the brutal measures our own troops will have to adopt? Inevitably
there will be atrocities that will cause many good-hearted people to
defect from the cause ... somehow ... the Bush administration is going
to have to remind us again and again that Iraq is the Battle of Midway
in the war on terror ..."
What on earth is
one to make of this vile nonsense? Why is The New York Times providing
space for the advocacy of war crimes by US soldiers? I doubt the US
channels will broadcast any images of "brutal measures" -
they've already had the chance to do so and have declined. But atrocities?
Are we now to support atrocities against the "scum of the earth"
- Mr Brooks' word for the insurgents - in our moral campaign against
Amid such filth,
we should perhaps remember the simple courage of Drew Plummer. And remember,
too, the following names: Army Private First Class Rachel Bosveld, aged
19, Army Specialist Paul Sturino, aged 21, Army Reservist Dan Gabrielson,
aged 40, Army Major Mathew Shram, aged 36, Marine Sergeant Kirk Strasekie,
aged 23. They, too, came from Wisconsin. And they, too, died in Iraq.
Copyright: The Independent