How Many More Must Die? A Way Out of the Iraq War

I first wrote those words in 1968.

It was a different war, a different place, a different time, and yet, like today’s war, timeless in its sacrifice and absurdity.

Once again, courageous soldiers stare back at us from our newspaper’s “War Deaths” column, youngsters with names like James, Ernest, Ramon, and Elizabeth. From little towns with huge hearts, now baffled as ever by the deaths of their loved ones.

And for what?

The eternal question: For what?

We now know that this war, like Vietnam, was born of lies.

Phantom WMDs.

Phony links with 9/11.

Now our government moralizes about Iraq’s democracy and constitution. This too is deceptive. When our administrator, L. Paul Bremer, gave that country “Full sovereignty,” it came with the following hushed disclaimers:

  • Foreign contractors – that’s us – have full immunity from Iraq’s laws.
  • We can own any Iraqi business, with irrevocable 40-year ownership licenses.
  • We can take unlimited money from the country, tax-free.
  • Iraq must privatize their state-owned enterprises for foreign ownership.
  • We can own their banks.
  • And their oil.

Oh yes, Big Oil loves this war! A war all about greed, power, and legalized looting, concepts it understands so well.

Bremer’s binding fiscal flimflam gives Iraq little voice in its economic future, no matter what the Iraqi democracy or constitution says.

Meanwhile, patriots across America open their doors to solemn men in dress uniform who “regret to inform you” that your son, your father, sister, brother, mother “was killed today in Iraq.”

Kids, for the most part, like your kids and mine at that age. Kids full of promise and hope. And life.

But they’re dead. Almost 2,000 now, killed in a war conceived in lies, fought with inadequate planning, personnel, and protection, solely for corporate profits. In fact, the only abundance in Iraq is troop heroics and political hypocrisy.

Have we learned nothing from history?

Lyndon Johnson sent brave Americans into Vietnam with no strategy, armed solely with the myth that our boys, better trained and equipped, would beat the crap out of their boys. Fifty-eight thousand American deaths later, this proved delusional.

How many must die in Iraq for this same imperial fantasy?

“Pulling the troops out would send a terrible signal to the enemy,” the president warned reporters yesterday from his current five-week holiday in Texas.

What enemy?

We invaded Iraq to rid it of Saddam Hussein. Right? We did that. Didn’t the president fly in full battle gear onto the deck of an aircraft carrier proclaiming “Mission Accomplished?”

So why are we still there? Making every day worse than the last for Iraqis, most of whom now have no security for their families, no electric, no sanitation, no job, no water. (Paul Bremer famously said, “Let them drink Coke,” when asked about rising bacteria in the water supply.)


To many Iraqis, the era of Saddam’s rule looks pretty good about now. Insurgents are seen as patriots while we’re the Redcoats, the foreign bullies in this occupation, backing a corrupt, theocratic government every bit as brutal and undemocratic as before.

Iraqis often cheer when GIs are dismembered in roadside bombings. Washington politicians then feign indignation when the 13,489 maimed GIs ship home to a VA hospital system a billion dollars short of needed funding.

This war is all about money.

Unfortunately, there’s little profit to be made caring for those courageous young men and women who have lost their limbs, many because the armor needed for protection is still not available in this third year of the war.

Why? For war profiteers Halliburton, the Carlyle Group and the others, there are far fatter contracts to grab.

In this arrogant Age of Swagger, self-interest prevails over the common good.

By 1968, most Americans knew the murderous futility of Vietnam. But profits were still to be made, faces to be saved. It would take six more years and thousands more deaths before we admitted failure.

Today, it comes down to this: Is Exxon’s bottom line worth the death of even one more brave American soldier? Ten more? A thousand more?

Only you can answer, “How many more must die?”



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