Remember the little Iraqi boy with the charred torso, whose arms were blown away by an American dumb bomb? Not that the news-cable operators would know it, but Baghdad’s hospitals, such that they are, are full of similar small children. Still, the networks have only just awakened to the optics of Ali; Ali has become the face of “collateral damage.” As such, he is the recipient of a very twisted message from American group thinkers. And who better to deliver the message to the docile boy than a CNN anchorwoman who has probably never had an independent thought in her carefully coiffed head?
While conducting an interview with the boy’s befuddled physician, the vapid woman repetitively inquired as to whether Ali had been told why he had been “disarmed.” The boy should be “helped” to understand that it was for a Greater Good that he has two bleeding stumps for arms, the woman doggedly insisted.
The American collectivist calculus is as coarse as that.
The math that goes into winning hearts and minds for an unprovoked, unjust war was even better encapsulated by Victor Davis Hanson, author of Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power. Hanson correctly forecast that the civilian deaths would be in the low thousands. He told writer Michelle Goldberg of Salon that for him, the arithmetic was easy. “If you ask, ‘Do you really want to free Iraq at the price of 500,000 dead?’ people will say, ‘Of course not.’ If you ask, ‘Do you want to free Iraq at the price of 2,000 or 3,000?’ more people would say yes.”
This is how it works in the diseased system of democracy. Make no mistake; the president and his Revolutionary Assembly have gone by the polls. The Reign of Terror during the French Revolution was also executed by popular demand. Assembly-line guillotining was voted on by the leadership, which, much like Bush and his grisly henchmen, claimed to represent the Common Will.
Repulsed by majority rule, the American Founding Fathers sought to prevent a descent into democracy, but failed. Our own Revolutionary Assembly now gets to not-so-delicately calibrate who gives up his arms for which political expedients, and how many thousands like Ali luck out.
There are some minor snags, but democracies accommodate them just dandily. While all Americans have no option but to fund the Administration’s adventures, American soldiers, at least, are not conscripted against their will. They voluntarily undertook to level a small desert nation that had done them no harm.
On the other hand, Ali and other dead and disfigured Iraqis are involuntary conscripts—they get to partake of the wonders of American democracy only indirectly. Having been deprived of majority decision making in their own country, the mob in a far-away land has more than compensated them, by deciding their fate. And by golly what a splendid job this mob has done.
Ali will never be a policeman and will never get to hold the woman he loves, but he can rest assured that a distant democratic nation had his welfare in mind, a distant democratic nation that would never allow its leaders to sacrifice 2,000 or 3,000 unwitting American civilians for the so-called Common Good.
The Iraq Body Count, a project that arose because no official agency has committed to providing an account of the cost of this aggression to civilian lives, confirms that the minimum number of collateral disposables is, at the time of writing, 1,878, and the maximum 2,325. (It has since risen to 7918 and 9749 respectively.) The Project doesn’t take into account tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers who were forced to fight because of unprovoked American aggression.
The fighting has almost ceased, but not the death toll. Children are maimed or killed daily by cluster bomblets that litter their neighborhoods. Ali Mustapha, age four, for instance, was blinded when he picked up a cluster bomb near his Baghdad home and it blew up in his face. Iraqis are supposed to pick up the shards of their broken lives, but how can they in a country that has been destroyed, pummeled to the ground. Many neighborhoods are in ruins. The “coalition” disabled water purification plants, the electric grid, and the sewerage services, leaving most residents in Baghdad to battle disease and hunger while fending off bandits.
To survive, the vast majority of Iraqis relied on a steady supply of aid. At the rate the UN is re-establishing it since the end of fighting, it will be a very long time, if ever, before pre-war levels of aid are delivered once again. Most of Baghdad’s economic activity has come to a halt. Hospitals and clinics are closed or inoperable. Staff that isn’t afraid to return to work labors without power, water, medicines or food to save hundreds of people.
But even Americans understand that you cannot operate a respirator or perform surgery without electricity or generators; that you cannot save people in the absence of disinfectants, medicines, anesthetics, and oxygen.
Balderdash about liberation and democracy notwithstanding, even the insular American public can understand that Iraqis whose lungs are airless, whose hearts are not beating, and whose eyes and limbs are missing are not free and will never be free.
Murder with majority approval is still murder.
©By ILANA MERCER
April 23, 2003