Monday, October 02, 2006

Truth on the Ground

Sojourners is urging everyone, from Oct. 4 to 11, to watch a new DVD documentary on the human cost of the war in Iraq, "The Ground Truth," which was released last week. I ordered a copy from Netflix and I found it a kick in the stomach and a further (if anything more is needed) incitement to resistance to our government's murderous misadventure in the Middle East.

The so-called "war on terror" in Afghanistan and Iraq is not only killing combatants and innocent civilians, it is also brutalizing a whole generation of young Americans. Produced and directed by Patricia Foulkrod, the film features interviews with 10 returning vets, men and women, several of them with disabling wounds. The stories they tell of random killing and disregard for human life, promoted in boot camp and by senior officers in the field, are disturbing. And the nightmare does not stop when they return home to encounter the insensitivity and cruelty of the Veterans Administration. Anyone turned into a killing machine does not transition easily to civilian life.

One gung-ho Marine tells of killing an iraqi woman only to discover later she was holding a white flag. It was a turning point for him against the war. Another vet recalls being screamed at by an Iraqi who was carrying his brother's head, which had just been blown off. One Marine speaks of images of the destruction that remain with him back home. "Your purpose is to kill, make no mistake," he tells the camera. "There was nothing honorable about what we did. And that broke my heart."

This documentary joins a whole raft of others that have revitalized the cinematic genre. Because of them, we know much more today about the war and terrorism, 9/11, crossword puzzle addicts, global warming, birds and penguins, Enron, and, in "Jesus Camp" soon to be released, the threat from militant far right Christian children. For more information about "The Ground Truth," and to see a preview of the film, click here.

Despite more stories in the media that the Democrats might actually have a chance to retake Congress in the November elections, there was disturbing news last week. Joe Lieberman and a few other turncoast Senate Democrats supported the Republican majority to pass a torture bill not much different from what Bush had originally requested, despite McCain's feeble attempts to make it more palatable. An editorial in the New York Times, "Rushing Off a Cliff," summarized the bill's biggest flaws (click here to read it).

And in related news, Congress authorized an additional $70 billion in "emergency" funds to pay for expenses in Afghanistant and Iraq, including almost $24 billion to repair and replace worn-out equipment. The new funds include $2 billion to somehow prevent roadside bombs which are the leading cause of deaths among U.S. troops in Iraq. One proposal has been to dig a trench around Bhagdad, one of the world's bigger cities, and idea that Saddam had thought up (too late) as a way to prevent defeat. Madness. Since Sept. 11, our government has turned over $507 billion to the military. And that's just the beginning, if Bush and the Republicans remain in power. The United States spends more on its military than ALL of the other countries in the world combined. Can you imagine how these enormous sums might be spent to promote life rather than death?

Can the Democrats take over? They certainly have not yet mounted a challenge in Washington. Alexander Cockburn, the curmudgeonly columnist for The Nation, whose challenges to the left (from the further left) sometimes make my blood boil, believes that the US antiwar movement is "near dead," with the environmental movement running a close second in the mortality race. One of the reasons, he writes in a column titled "From Flying Saucers to 9/11," is distraction from the conspiracy buffs who believe Bush was behind the terrorist attacks. Speaking of cynicism towards government and conspiracy theories which include the Kennedy assassination, he writes:
It seems to demobilize people from useful political activity. I think the nuttishness stems from despair and political infantilism. There's no worthwhile energy to transfer from such kookery.
Cockburn believes that "the Bush gang, and all the conspirators of capital, are delighted at the obsessions of the 9/11 cultists. It's a distraction from the 1,001 real plots of capitalism that demand exposure and political challenge." (I wrote about the 9/11 conspiracy movement here.)

You can read Cockburn's full column here.

More optimistic news would be gratefully appreciated.

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