Body Count
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By becky - Last updated: Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - Save & Share - 10 Comments

I don’t think it is political, and I’m not trying to score anything with this.

But Americans were killed in Fallujah today, and apparently Iraquis burned the bodies, dragged them through the streets, dismembered them and put the body parts on display on power lines.

And the Washington Post is doing what it can to keep people mindful of the American human cost of this war.

Posted in Life • • Top Of Page

10 Responses to “Body Count”

Comment from etrigan
Time March 31, 2004 at 1:57 pm

This is where I throw my hands up in misunderstanding. What could possibly lead a crowd of people to murder and defiling of human bodies? What God can they believe in that wants them to behave like this? It’s hard for me to be liberal today. There has to be more to this story.

Comment from Mick
Time March 31, 2004 at 4:53 pm

WARNING: Disjointed soliloquy.

There’s much more to this story, although I’m not sure where to start. On a personal note, I’m shocked, angry, appalled, sick, and sad. Yet, why are any of us surprised that so many people there truly hate us?

I’m curious if this event will turn out to be a tipping point in our involvement in Iraq, war on terror, and domestic election.

I think John’s comments are understandable. Of course, these are the reasonable things for someone like us to think and feel. However, I suspect there are many things that are hard for us “westerners” to fathom, such as:

– the degree to which “America” is truly hated in the developing/3rd world, particularly in the Middle East where regimes regularly paint us as the “Great Satan” and blame us for all of their people’s and society’s ills. These societies are often dysfunctional (high unemployment, high illiteracy, oppressive leaders, lack of economic and political freedoms), so its hard for us to relate. Still, you would think people would see through this stuff. But you try spending a lifetime under-educated and living in a fucked-up society while constantly being fed scapegoating media/propaganda and tell me how you’d view the world?

– Imbalanced U.S. policies where we vigorously support bad regimes like Israel, the Shah, Saudis, Saddam, etc. (so the “Great Satan” mongers don’t even have to embellish that much). I’m no Israel-hater, but I think they’ve been in the wrong for a while now. It is just fuel for the fire.

– the ingrained violence in cultures where “revenge” is accepted. (going way on a limb here) I’m no expert on modern Islam, and I certainly don’t believe violence is a pillar of Islam in its “pure” form (if there is such a thing as a “pure religion”), but it seems to me that this type of violence is more accepted in many (most?) of today’s Islamic societies. So when you mix Old Testament-style views of justice (Islam) with social disintegration (Iraq, Somalia) you get these types of outbursts.

I find myself conflicted. On one hand, I want our boys to kick a bunch of ass, ramming modern-society down these assholes throats whether they like it or not. On the other hand, I want us to get out of this mess immediately to let these jokers stew in their own failed society. If these people were ready for a modern, pluralistic society then how did they let an asshole like Saddam take over in the first place?

I know we should not overestimate the impact of this one episode, but it makes you wonder what the hell are we fighting for?

Comment from Jank
Time March 31, 2004 at 11:15 pm

> I want us to get out of this mess immediately to let these jokers stew in their own failed society

I was firmly in this camp until 9/11. Having had the chance to “see the world” on y’all’s dime (and mostly through the dark end of a periscope), I was willing to accept that we had a good thing going on in the US and in Western Europe, and that the rest of the world could come along after they decided to stop sitting in their own stew.

9/11 changed that for me.

There are enough people with influence and money in the third world societies to do things like construct a global terror network capable of carrying out multiple, simultaneous attacks. 9/11 was carried out with freakin’ airliners, for crying out loud. Even without paranoia about nukes and WMDs, imagine if, say, they sailed a Liquified Natural Gas tanker packed with about a hundred thousand tons of LNG up the East River and parked it off the UN, then exploded it?

Or, for you east coasters – I’m sure you heard about the tanker truck that burned a bridge on IH-95 in Bridgeport and shut down the interstate between NYC and the CT ‘burbs. Imagine the same thing happening at, say 19 points around the DC metro area, or around Boston, or, say, on the Brooklyn Bridge, the lower level of the GW bridge, the Holland and Lincoln tunnels, and the bridge with the corkscrew approaches on IH-95 between Harlem and the Bronx.

There’s also a whole lot of bad stuff out there. By optimistic estimates, the former USSR is only missing a couple dozen nuclear warheads. And, as the anthrax attacks in the fall of 2001 showed, it’s not too terribly difficult to wreak havock with a tiny, tiny amount of possible chem/bio agent, or even the probability of having some. How do we secure against this? I haven’t heard anyone suggest we seal the border, so the only option is engagement on the supply end – sending Americans to track down potential supplies, and shut down anyone who even MAY have the means of production.

There are a lot of evil (and I’m using that word literally this time, not just for effect) people who have gone to Iraq to have a chance to shoot at Americans. Fine. At least most of the Americans they’re shooting at have guns with which to return fire.

Prior to 9/11, we tried disengagement. We stood by during genocides in Rwanda and elsewhere, and waited until Bosnia threatened to boil over into the rest of Eastern Europe before we did anything there. Heck, we’d just won the Cold War – history was over, time to sit back, bone the intern, and watch the stock market head upwards. Sure, there’s still some bad people out there, but we can put them in jail when they try to strike at us.

Only problem is that, as Mick pointed out, there’s an ingrained culture out there that blames us for the world’s woes. And there are people who use that for their gain and entertainment.

Maybe this is just the price for sitting on the top of the heap. Granted, the US hasn’t gone out of its way to conquer the world over the last century or so; it just kind of happened as we stomped the Germans, Spanish, and Japanese, and the British and the French kind of imploded as those countries got tired of getting their kids killed in distant lands. Ditto the cold war.

If it’s the price for sitting on the top of the heap, what is the alternative? Throw up our hands, turn out our pockets and give away our prosperity?

Sorry, but I think that engagement in Iraq, and evenetually in every craphole where people in power want to kill us until such time as we have either exhausted our collective will or have killed the last person with murder in her heart is our only choice.

Truth will eventually win out. We go into a country, rebuild schools, rebuild hospitals, and don’t go around killing people until there are Americans bleeding, and eventually most people will get the picture. The rules of engagement that our soilders most likely are under really are probably that restrictive, not allowing return fire until the shooter is identified, and US or coalition troops are in grave danger or already wounded. The one caveat that I hope they exercise, though, is that when people do choose to shoot, maim, burn, or otherwise do harm to Americans, that we hunt down and kill those associated with the violence.

In general, though, I’m an optimistic person. Without exception, the local folks I took the time to talk to while I was “seeing the world”, were swell folks, interested (as all of us are) in building good, safe, lives for their families and friends through honest, hard work. I’ve got to believe that there are more people out there of the same mindset than there are folks who want to kill their way to prosperity.

IMO, people want to be good, despite original sin, and this is what keeps me going. This is why CNN/BBC/etc piss me off – only showing coalition troops in a harsh light, and not doing nearly enough coverage of rebuilding or Iraqis/Afghanis living peaceful, normal lives. For whatever reason, we are in Iraq, and there are two choices left to us: Either we stick it out until a new generation or two (heck, we’re still keeping the peace in Europe after WWII) of Iraqis take the reins, and learn how to deal with their own problems without shooting each other; or we cut and run, and within a dozen years, there’s a regieme spanning the middle east that makes the Ayathollas in Iran and Saddam look like bush leaguers. And would anyone want to take a bet that the Pakistanis (Musharraf would be almost surely overthrown by someone more militant) wouldn’t hesitate to provide nukes to whomever asked?

Comment from etrigan
Time April 1, 2004 at 7:51 am

agreeing with most of your post, but…

> missing a couple dozen nuclear warheads

I’ve been reading a lot of experts, lately, who say this is a moot point. Most of these warheads have either (a) lost their potency or (b) entropied into disfunction or (c) all of the above. (And don’t get me started on the fallacy of suitcase nukes.)

That said, you’re right that our biggest concerns are terrorists taking ‘everyday’ items and weidling them against us.

> only option is engagement on the supply end

Maybe, but the war on drugs has proven that this is a fallible idea if the governments, economies and culture involved don’t want to stop supplying the bad stuff.

I’m starting to think we need to be fighting terrorism in a New-War/let’s-change-history kind of fashion, but I will save the political discussions of why W is handling all this wrong (and I wish John McCain were president.)

p.s. > coalition troops in a harsh light

I think they show the correct amount of this — who watches the watcher? and all that — but you are right that we don’t get enough stories like that video I posted of the Iraqi interviewing other Iraqis.

Comment from Jank
Time April 1, 2004 at 8:25 am

> this is a fallible idea if the governments, economies, and culture involved don’t want to stop supplying the bad stuff.

Which is why we’re changing governments, economies, and culture. This ties into the “New War/lets change history” thing.

As far as nukes losing their potency, or entropying into disfunction, weapons grade plutonium has a halflife of about 25,000 years, and weapons grade Uranium has a half life of about 700 million years. The “loss of potency” is usually calculated based on the half life of tritium, which is about 12 years.

Therein lies the rub: Most military warheads are hydrogen bombs, nukes that rely on fusing hydrogen into helium to make the big bang. This creates an explosion which is several orders of magnitude greater than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Megatons instead of Kilotons) And yep, they lose potency awfuly quickly.

The kicker is that most h-bombs use a fission bomb to provide the intense heat and compression necessary to start the fusion reaction. So, even if one completely takes out the tritium “kicker”, you’re looking at a pretty big firecracker. Suitcase? Maybe not. But there’s a darn awful lot of tractor-trailers and shipping containers out there.

The last point I’d like to make on the nuke issue is to drag up “dirty bombs” again. Let’s say that terrorists get their hands on a disfunctional core of a former weapon. Or misalign it, or damage the conventional explosives that cause the implosion that kicks off the fission reaction, or whatever, such that the core does not go supercritical when detonated. The resultant “fizzle” (instead of “fissile”; it’s a nuke geek pun, get it?) still spreads a metric butt-ton of highly radioactive material with a long half life around a pretty extensive area. Even a damaged core that doesn’t go “BOOM” will still wreak crap up if it contaminates a high traffic area.

Comment from cynsmith
Time April 1, 2004 at 10:25 am

I sincerely hope that our war on terrorism doesnt go too much further down the path of the war on drugs. Changing governments, funding, training and directing paramilitary operations in foreign countries has done nothing but increase antipathy to the US and its policies in Latin America. Our policies of supporting oppressive regimes that are friendly to us over democratically elected governments that are not has hurt us in both regions.

Back to the original topic, though. The problem as I see it is not that these people were attacked. That is happening everywhere in Iraq, there is resistance to US occupation. Fine. The issue at hand is that a)there was no police or emergency response from Iraqi authorities, but more important, b) there was no response from the US military. This scene played out over several hours. The people were killed with guns. Then the vehicle was set on fire. After the fire died down, the bodies were taken from the vehicle, dragged around, mutilated, and hung from a bridge. At no time did Iraqi or US authorities attempt to stop it. Nurses apparently came to the bridge where the bodies were hung and were chased away with guns.

Why were NURSES from the local hospital the first to come and try to take these bodies away? How can we conceivably hand authority back to Iraq if we obviously dont have any power to start with? We will never be able to kill or convince even half of the people with hatred in their hearts. These people are able to act with impunity now that we have taken control.

Comment from Mixter
Time April 1, 2004 at 12:48 pm

“The issue at hand is that a)there was no police or emergency response from Iraqi authorities, but more important, b) there was no response from the US military.”

Another good argument that the planning for the occupation was misguided. War is hard, I realize that. In fact, I probably have no idea just how hard it is (but its not my job to know, I’m not the POTUS). It just seems like we grossly understimated the difficulty in completely dismantling a society as idiosynchratic as Iraq and trying to re-build it in our image. I think our leaders believed that if we simply removed Saddam and his upper echelon, then a pluralistic society would immediately spring to life from under the weight of the dictator and all would be great. You can see this view in the rhetoric…
“From Meet the Press, March 16… Vice President Cheney: Now, I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.” That’s great, as long as you ignore the fact that those greeting us as liberators will be hiding from the Baathists, al-Quaeda infiltrators, and all the others who drank Saddam’s Kool-Aid and believe we are the cause of all their problems. Surely those folks must be small in numbers, you say? Remember the 12 years of U.S.-led sanctions to “stick it to Saddam.” Wait, you mean to say Saddam manipulated the sanctions so he got richer while his people suffered? Oh yeah, that’s how despots work. How could we have forgotten?

In general I agree with Billy’s arguments above. His point is true that most folks are interested in building good, safe, lives for their families and friends through honest, hard work and that there are more people out there of this mindset than there are folks who want to kill their way to prosperity. However, when have “most folks” ever determined anything? It’s usually the active, committed minorities with power in a society that determine how things go. And in Iraq, as in much of the Middle East, we’ve got groups of folks who hate us so much they could parade burning bodies as victory prizes.

But Billy is right, we don’t see the good news all that much. Nightline showed a survey (I have no idea about its methdology, and I hope I am remembering it correctly) done in Iraq indicating that roughly 70% of folks in Iraq nationwide thought life had improved since Saddam fell and 70% thought it wrong to attack foreigners in Iraq who are there to help. However, in Fallujah (where these latest attacks occurred) the trends were reversed. Only 10% thought it wrong to attack foreigners. The point is, Fallujah is a particular hotbed of pro-Saddam, anti-Americans. We should not assume the whole country is made of these monsters.

I think Billy is ultimately correct about our prospects for success, but my beef with the current administration is about priorities. It seems like Saddam was a containable threat, although I am not saying that he was a good guy who did not deserve to be toppled. Instead of the invasion, we could have more vigorously gone after al-Quaeda, more vigorously re-built Afghanistan, pushed harder for progress with Israel and the Palestinians, and more thoroughly protected the homeland (example: should anyone feel safe on commuter rail anymore?). Instead, we’ve “taken the fight to the terrorists” in Iraq. In the meantime, al-Quaeda has emerged changed from a group into a “movement”.

I’d like to believe we could fix all the problem nations in the world, but I don’t think we have the means, resources, or will. So we have to use the bullets we have carefully, and I’m not convinced invading Iraq was the best use of a bullet.

Comment from Jank
Time April 1, 2004 at 1:41 pm

But then there are encouraging signs like this out of Iran:

“The akhounds [clerics [2] ] who rule Iran have no respect for the national rights of the Iranian people; rather, they use Islam to further their own satanic goals even if this results in the ruin of the nation and the uprooting of religious principles. [But] the most important thing is that their own demonic games are protected at any price.

“My dear countrymen, we must wake up. Our homeland is going to wreck and ruin. In our current circumstances, we must unite. Our disunity is what the enemy of this godly land desires. We must unite in order to save our beloved Iran from the rule of these thieves and criminals. We must rebuild our land. We cannot remain silent, and we must have a united front with good plans.

“We must advance towards our sacred goal liberty, justice, and equality.”

> However, when have “most folks” ever determined anything? It’s usually the active, committed minorities with power in a society that determine how things go.

True, true. But, if used properly (see 60 years of ‘occupation’ in Germany and Japan), the US can be the ‘committed minority’.

Comment from etrigan
Time April 1, 2004 at 3:06 pm

“An article”: by a nut job about the business of terrorism. While she is generally a nut job, she has a few good references. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes, yes?

Comment from Nyagod
Time April 2, 2004 at 7:02 pm

Two words: glass factory

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