Wednesday, March 14, 2007

On the Anniversary--Part I--Rahul Mahajan

"Although in one sense this date was accidental – Bush had intended to start the war about two months earlier, but Tony Blair persuaded him to try one more time with the U.N. – in another sense, there was nothing accidental about it. That day was itself a macabre anniversary, the 15th of Saddam’s chemical attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja as part of the Anfal, a systematic pacification and counterinsurgency campaign in northern Iraq.

"That crime was committed with the full support of the United States. The Reagan administration and especially the current president’s now sainted father continued the flow of money to Saddam’s regime and made sure that the U.N. Security Council only issued a toothless president’s declaration rather than taking action.

"Had even a single word about the humanitarian nature of the Iraq war actually been meant or even thought through for propaganda purposes, instead of simply providing a sanctimonious cloak for an assertion of American power and a reaffirmation, to ourselves, of our wondrous goodness, something would have been done for the victims of Halabja. After all, the regime change itself was an overt repudiation of George Bush Sr.’s heartless and cowardly crimes in Iraq, and “fixing the problems we created” was often cited as a reason for the war. The victims of Halabja, coughing their lives out and drinking still-contaminated water, were the ultimate “righteous victims,” not like evil insurgents and Communists and hapless “collateral damage.” Yet virtually nothing was done for them, either by the United States or by the Kurdish leadership, after the regime change, except the building of a monument to the dead.

"Two years ago, as part of a massive shift of U.S. “reconstruction” funds to “security,” $10 million that had been approved to renovate and extend the water system was cancelled, a final insult added to the injury that the United States aided and abetted. Last year, at the 18th anniversary commemoration, the victims vandalized their own monument during a protest over the use of the memorial for constant photo ops while no actual aid to the victims was forthcoming. Security forces killed one student in the protest, a young boy whose name, appropriately, was Kurdistan. Jonathan Steele, who recently returned to follow up on that story, quotes a young man who lost half his family in Halabja saying of the memorial, "If they rebuild it a thousand times, I will burn it down a million times."

"There is very little I can add to that.

Empire Notes

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