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Iraq, Sandy Hook and America

William Rivers Pitt: Cowardice allowed the Iraq war to happen and the assault weapons ban to fail.

(Photo: Dave Barger / Flickr)

In my own country I am in a far off land.
I am strong but have no power.
I win all yet remain a loser.
At break of day I say goodnight.
When I lie down I have great fear of falling.
– Francois Villon

There is a certain miasmic symmetry to the fact that America passed the ten-year anniversary of the onset of the Iraq war in the same week that the assault weapons ban went down to dirty defeat in Congress with nary a vote passed.

The war in Iraq was a crime, as was the Sandy Hook massacre that temporarily inspired the ban.

The rank and ravaging cowardice of those who should have known better allowed the Iraq war to happen, just as the rank and ravaging cowardice of those who know better allowed the Sandy Hook massacre to happen through their inaction and indifference, and then allowed the ban to fail in the aftermath.

No one – not the politicians, or their hyper-enabling media whores, or the “defense” contractors who robbed the country blind, no one – has been punished for the crime that was Iraq, just as no one – not the gun manufacturers and sellers who armed the shooter, or the NRA shills who empowered them all, no one – has been punished for Sandy Hook.

And some got very well paid: the cash shelves in the Treasury are barren and empty because of Iraq, just as the ammo and weapon shelves in almost every gun store in the country are barren and empty after a season of heady and hearty sales. Cleaned out, pocketed, thanks very much, you pack of numb suckers.

Some got paid, no one is faulted or held accountable, and the dead lie still and voiceless in the cold ground.

That is America.

Sandy Hook is a microcosm of Iraq – the slaughter of innocents writ small and large, and both a payday for low men – and the failure to do anything of any weight or import about the former taking place during the ten-year anniversary of the crime-of-the-century latter tells you all you need to know about where we stand as a nation and as a people.

Adam Lanza fired 154 rounds in less than five minutes during his rampage at Sandy Hook, amounting to one shot fired every two seconds. A number of his victims were dismembered by the barrage, literally cut in half. He only had to reload four times as he unleashed those 154 shots, because of the size of the magazines he was packing.

Facing this, we are incapable of summoning a response to address it. The very fact of it fades, because we are Americans, and well-trained to forget.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were massacred, whole neighborhoods were razed to the the ground – men, women, children, all turned into hamburger and stains on the wall – in a war that was nothing more or less than an act of deliberate murder that paid out trillions of dollars to the friends of the perpetrators. Tens of thousands of American soldiers are either dead – on the battlefield and by their own hand here at home – or crippled, or deranged by PTSD, or unemployed in the rampaged economy they came home to, facing a VA system utterly overwhelmed by the avalanche of their plight.

Facing this, we are incapable of summoning a response to address it. The very fact of it fades, because we are Americans, and well-trained to forget.

I spent the anniversary of the Iraq invasion reading every thought and opinion on the day I could find. Charlie Pierce, as usual, got it right; Paul Savoy got it right; and Twitter in general got it right in response to Donald Rumsfeld’s astonishingly awful self-congratulatory message for the day.

But no one got it as right as Tomas Young, an Iraq veteran whose spine was severed by a bullet, who is today dying in hospice, another victim of the crime of the century. In his “Last Letter,” Young wrote:

I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans-my fellow veterans-whose future you stole.

My day of reckoning is upon me. Yours will come. I hope you will be put on trial. But mostly I hope, for your sakes, that you find the moral courage to face what you have done to me and to many, many others who deserved to live. I hope that before your time on earth ends, as mine is now ending, you will find the strength of character to stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness.

If one of the children slaughtered at Sandy Hook could also write a letter, might they have very similar words for those who delivered them to their bleak estate? Might they have similar words for a country that can bear witness to such horrors, only to shrug them off?

Iraq, and Sandy Hook and America.

It is all of a piece.

Some got paid, no one is held accountable, nothing is done.

And the dead lie still.