As the 10th anniversary of the shocking invasion of Iraq approaches, the haunting image of a little boy still sometimes appears in my mind. Several years ago, his father—an Iraqi man of grave composure, perhaps beyond grief—accompanied the child in an appearance on the “Democracy Now” TV program. The boy, perhaps four years old, sat on his father’s knee, fidgeting and anxious—perhaps because his arms had been blown off and prostheses filled the sockets where his eyes used to be.
Try to visualize, if you can, many such children—their curious, hopeful world crushed and trampled in an instant when U. S. soldiers and bomber pilots “just following orders” willingly imposed the tortures of hell upon them. Can you picture in your mind, say, ten or 20 or 200 or 2000 or 20,000 or 100,000 Iraqi children—killed or burned or dismembered?
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Now look at Google Images—under, say, “cluster bombs”: examine the photos of children, children lying on the ground in shock, children whose arms are now bandaged stumps, children who stare unbelievingly into the void. Scrutinize their faces: zoom in as close as you can and try to feel-into their hearts. Single out one of these children, a boy or girl, perhaps a child who reminds you of your own child or your own childhood. Try to feel-into this child’s emotions: terrified bewilderment, a shocked sense of betrayal, a deep sadness and despair.
Little children, like all little children—their idle play and gentle imaginings suddenly pulverized by weapons of senseless malevolence and fiendish cruelty. Little children, awakened into a world they could never have imagined, a world in which bad people suddenly appear, bad people who hurt them, burn them, kill them. I am asking you to call forth (or re-awaken) the wellsprings of empathy, our deeply human capacity for “sympathetic identification”—the moral force of which can be likened to Gandhi’s ahimsa and satyagraha.
Indeed, the pernicious amorality of the U.S. military is sometimes revealed by their own disclaimers. For instance, two years ago Gen. David Petraeus stated that Afghan parents were perhaps deliberating burning their own children in order to bring discredit to the U.S. military. At the time, NATO attacks had killed 64 Afghan civilians in one week. (For example, children busy gathering wood on a remote hillside were methodically executed by a helicopter pilot hovering overhead.) One Afghan official denounced the military’s “blame-the-victim” approach: “Killing 60 people, and then blaming the killing on the same people… This is inhuman.”1
Back in February 2003, had a million American citizens occupied the environs of the White House and the Pentagon, it might have caused Bush to suspend his invasion plans rather than risk the paralyzing effects of widespread civil non-compliance and general strikes. Yet since U.S. citizens, in their vaunted but loathsome faux-democracy, were unable or unwilling to prevent the Bush administration from initiating wholesale war under false pretenses, they are now morally obligated to seek redress on behalf of the millions of people condemned to death, dismemberment, displacement, grief and despair.
In his 2009 essay “Why I Threw the Shoe,” journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi noted that “Iraq is now filled with more than five million orphans, a million widows and hundreds of thousands of maimed. Many millions are homeless inside and outside the country.”2
Lest we forget the tens of thousands of graves of those children I have described, we must, even at this late stage, actively seek some measure of justice. Under both international and domestic laws (the UN Charter, Geneva Conventions, U.S. War Crimes Act, etc.), Bush and his associates committed mass murder and other atrocities which may conceivably be successfully prosecuted.3
- Washington Post, February 22, 2011.
- The Guardian (UK), September 18, 2009.
- The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, by former prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, focuses on the violation of domestic laws (2008). In George W. Bush: War Criminal?, political scientist Michael Haas painstakingly enumerates the dozens of violations of both domestic and international laws and treaties (Praeger 2009).