Monday, December 12, 2005

Bush Acknowledges Iraqi Civilian Death Toll

Imagine the impact of ten 9/11's on America: 30,000 civilians. That's the figure Pres. Bush gave today for the number of Iraqi civilians who have died as a result of the U.S.-led war. The respected British journal Lancet estimated a year ago that at least 100,000 civilians had died as a result of war-related violence. The president did not mention that study, however.

Bush tells us that the violence will continue even after the parliamentary elections to be held this week -- but he says that is normal and to be expected.

...Bush likened Iraq's attempts to build democratic institutions to the founding of an independent democracy in the United States, which he said was marked by tension, "disorder and upheaval."

"No nation in history has made the transition to a free society without facing challenges, setbacks and false starts," Bush said at Philadelphia's World Affairs Council, which is just a few blocks from historic Independence Hall, where the U.S. constitution was signed in 1787.

There are a few differences between the American Revolution and the Iraq war, though. For one thing, ours actually was a revolution, not an invasion by a third party. Second, when you read the list of grievances against Britain written by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, many of them are strikingly similar to grievances that Iraqis have against us. For example (and with the most relevant sections highlighted):

HE has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harass our People, and eat out their Substance.

HE has kept among us, in Times of Peace, Standing Armies without the consent of our Legislature.

HE has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to Civil Power.

HE has combined with others to subject us to a Jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution, and unacknowledged by our Laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

FOR quartering large Bodies of Armed Troops among us:

FOR protecting them, by mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

FOR cutting off our Trade with all Parts of the World:

FOR imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

FOR depriving us in many Cases, of the Benefits of Trial by Jury:

FOR transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended Offences:

FOR abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighboring Province, establishing therein an arbitrary Government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an Example and fit Instrument for introducing the same absolute Rule into these Colonies:

FOR taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

FOR suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with Power to legislate for us in all Cases whatsoever.

HE has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

HE has plundered our Seas, ravaged our Coasts, burned our Towns, and destroyed the Lives of our People.

HE is, at this Time, transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the Works of Death, Desolation, and Tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and Perfidy, scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous Ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized Nation.

Third, when the American colonists won their revolution against Britain and started their own new country, those liberated former colonists did not have 14 permanent British military bases pockmarking the newly born United States of America, so that the British could continue to have their military patrolling the country. Does this sound like conditions in the United States in 1789?

...Brig. General Robert Pollman, chief engineer of base construction in Iraq, caused a stir -- and forced his superiors to engage in damage control -- when he told the Chicago Tribune last spring that the bases could be a "swap" for bases in Saudi Arabia. The United States has been closing bases and drawing down its forces in the kingdom in response to the growing unpopularity of the American presence there and repeated terror attacks. In mid-2003, roughly 4,500 U.S. troops reportedly redeployed from Saudi Arabia to Qatar, leaving only about 500 in the kingdom.

Karen Kwiatkowski, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who served in the office of the Secretary of Defense until spring 2003, and has since become an outspoken critic of the war, says that the neoconservative architects of the Iraq invasion definitely foresaw a permanent, large-scale presence. Kwiatkowski says that Pentagon planners view the bases as vital both for protecting Israel and as launchpads for operations in Syria and Iran. The Pentagon, she says, went into the war assuming that once Saddam was toppled a so-called Status of Forces Agreement, like those the U.S. government signed with Japan and South Korea, could be quickly reached with Iraq. The growth of the insurgency and the vocal opposition to a prolonged U.S. occupation among Iraqi leaders haven't changed the plan, Kwiatkowski insists: "We're pouring concrete. We're building little fiefdoms with security, moats, and walls. ... Eighty percent of Iraqis will grouse, but they have no political power," she says. "We'll stay whether they want us to or not."

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