When I was a nineteen-year-old soldier in South Viet Nam, one of the tunes played most often on Armed Forces radio was "Jimmy Mack" by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. Although a great pop classic with pulsing bass and a tight horn section underneath Martha's fabulous vocal, the content of "Jimmy Mack" was about little more than a girl caught in a triangle. If Jimmy Mack didn't make it home soon, she warned Jimmy (and all of us), the other boy just might win her affections.

But for young GIs far from home, the central question of "Jimmy Mack" always carried an extra level of meaning with a special weightiness. Yes, we had girlfriends back home who might decide that they had waited long enough. The "Dear John" letter was a well-known phenomenon in hooches in country. What was even more troubling though was the always unspoken follow-up question to "When are you comin' back?" The ultimate question for all of us was "Are you comin' back at all?" Or are you going to die thousands of miles away for reasons no one really understands?

Watch FOX and CNN interviews with GIs in Kuwait and you will see the same unarticulated anxiety behind the eyes of young men waiting for war. One CNN reporter disturbs a handsome African American youth trying to get some sleep. Pressured by the reporter about whether he wants to fight, he answers, "That's what we're here for." "I just want to get this over with," he adds. "Yeah, right. So you can sleep," jokes the reporter. "Yeah, so I can sleep." The terrible irony strikes me that should war come to this young man, someone's son, husband, and father, he may be "sleeping" forever.

Another GI, a Southern boy who sings and plays guitar, performs briefly and CNN affords him fifteen seconds of international fame. He wants to be a country singer he tells the reporter. As soon as this war is over, he'll get serious about his career. We can only wish him every success.

Like those of us who served in America's war in Southeast Asia a generation ago, these young men know little about the whys and wherefore of diplomatic maneuvering, foreign policy debates, and geo-political strategies. Are they about to sacrifice their lives to "disarm a regime," overthrow a brutal dictator, liberate the Iraqi masses or all of the above? Or none of the above? Are they going to fight and die "to protect our freedom"? No more so than did those of us who were in Viet Nam. I have no doubt that what motivates the majority of these young men is one thing and one thing only - to survive the conflict and get back to their families.

Do those of us who disagree with Bush's drive to war support our troops? I would argue that we support them much more than the flag-waving jingoes lining up at pro-war rallies and posing as FOX anchors. We support them so much that we want them home now, alive and psychologically sound. We want them home now so that young girlfriends and wives can embrace them and need no longer sing, "Jimmy Mack, when are you comin' back? Need your lovin's"

Jorge Mariscal was a Specialist 4th Class in the U.S. Army who spent most of 1969 in South Viet Nam.


Secretary of State Colin Powell gets good press. He's often portrayed as a war hero, a diplomat, a moderate, who lends balance to the Bush administration. He's a white media darling. However, Powell's actual record in foreign affairs contradicts the good-cop image. Powell has always been a militarist seeking to extend U.S. corporate power through force of arms, with or without U.N. support.

Colin Powell was a key player in the Iran-Contra scandal. As top deputy to Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, Powell supervised the army transfer of 4,508 TOW missiles to the CIA, missiles that became part of the illegal arms-for-hostage swap with Iran. Powell promoted illegal CIA-Contra attempts to overthrow the government of Nicaragua. In defiance of the World Court, he supported the Contra terrorists when they were killing thousands of civilians. As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Powell led a brutal invasion of Panama. On the first day, when hundreds of civilians died, Powell declared: "We have put a shingle outside our door saying, 'Superpower lives here.'" Three thousand Panamanian civilians - the same number that died on 9/1l - were bombed and gunned down in Panama City.

There is nothing moderate or reasonable about Colin Powell's approach to the First Amendment during wartime. Along with then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, Powell played a decisive role in creating a new system of military control of the press in wartime. When the air war began in Iraq in 1991, Powell and General Norman Schwarzkopf fed carefully selected footage to Washington.

In an essay on the "limitations imposed on reporters on the battlefield," Pulitzer Prize author Patrick J. Sloyan wrote: "Under rules developed by Cheney and Powell, journalists were not allowed to move without military escorts. All interviews had to be monitored by military public affairs escorts. Every line of copy, every still photograph, every strip of film had to be approved - censored - before being filed. And these rules were ruthlessly enforced."

Under Powell directives, the administration "produced not a single picture or video of anyone being killed. This sanitized, bloodless presentation by military briefers left the world presuming Desert Storm was a war without death." Powell's victory over the compliant press may be his greatest conquest of all.

Powell's Propaganda Challenged

In September 1995, Colin Powell conducted a national tour to promote his autobiography, "My American Journey."

In "Target Iraq: What the news media didn't tell you," media critics Norman Solomon and Reese Erlich recount an incident that took place in San Francisco. As Powell praised U.S. military invasions abroad, a middle-aged man, hunched in a wheelchair, shouted from the back of the room: "You didn't tell the truth about the war in the Gulf, General." Powell ignored the interruption. He continued to speak about the glory of the wars that brought him fame: "It is very rewarding to see this change in attitude toward the military."

The man in the wheelchair was Ron Kovac, author of "Born on the Fourth of July." Struggling to be heard, he raised his voice: "I want the American people to know what the General hid from the American public during the Gulf War. They hid the casualties. They hid the horror. They hid the violence. We don't need any more violence in our country.... We need leaders who understand the tragedy of using violence in solving our problems."

Regarding the issues of race, Powell is duplicitous. He supports affirmative action. Far more important, however, is Powell's support for world empire, international white supremacy. Powell's ascendancy is associated with the suffering and deaths of thousands of innocent people of color - civilians in Grenada whose psychiatric hospital was bombed; the Black Panamanians who lost their lives in Panama City; half a million Iraqi children killed by air raids and years of sanctions. When asked about the number of Panamanians killed by U.S. intervention, Powell said: "It isn't a figure I think about."

Under the Bush doctrine, countries of color, nations of the Third World, have no sovereignty, no rights, which the Anglo powers are bound to respect.

Colin Powell is hardly a moderate . He's a hawk with smooth talons.

Paul Rockwell is a writer in the San Francisco Bay Area. He may be contacted at [email protected]


Hail and Salaam to the Coalition of the Willing, to your Leaders, to your Senators, and to your Citizens !

We, the Citizens of Iraq, are gathered here for your entertainment in the first 21st Century media circus, to celebrate once again the tradition inaugurated by your forefathers during the time of the Roman Empire - an empire that your current Leader aspires to emulate.

"We who are about to die salute you" was the phrase traditionally used by those about to die in the gladiatorial circus arenas of that time. Now millions of you can enjoy the slaughter through the technology with which it is effected. But it remains appropriate that we salute you with those same words - in the language of that now fallen Empire: Nos Morituri Te Salutamus !

We salute you...

  • for the skills and training of your impeccable beasts of war - which your civilization is about to unleash upon us in this arena
  • for your courage in seeking to ensure that we disarm before unleashing your long intended attack on us - history has few examples of great armies requiring that their opponents lay down their weapons before a battle
  • for the conscientious application of your highest moral and ethical values to justify your need to kill us - and for sincerely believing that our deaths will be for the highest cause and that the price will be worth paying
  • for praying for guidance so assiduously to the God whom as yet you know not how to share with ours - may your God truly bless you for your sacrificial use of us to increase your understanding
  • for your God-given trust, and lack of doubt, that you have a historical mission to safeguard civilization - including our own, even though it is so distant from yours in many ways

  • for endangering your own souls in the higher scheme of things by taking into your hands an understanding of God's will, guided by your Leader's spiritual advisors - in dying we pray that you have made the right choice
  • for the sacrifice of your own soldiers abroad in ensuring our salvation - especially given the probability that most will die from friendly fire or suffer for years from radiation-related illnesses associated with the use of the depleted uranium missiles you intend to use
  • for the honor you do us in selecting us as a living sacrifice to your God - we hope that shedding our heart's blood will nourish new insights for humanity's future as believed by cultures of the past

  • for your principled rejection of any need to understand our culture, our communities and our language, and your conviction that you can export your democratic values to displace ours - and that we desire this wholeheartedly to affirm our cultural identity
  • for your uncanny ability to recognize our country and our Leader as embodying the greatest evil in our region - when our paltry weapons and skills are acknowledged to be insignificant in comparison with some of our neighbors, whose ability to systematically abuse their minorities, flaunting the will of the international community, exceeds ours by far
  • for your diplomatic ability to assemble a "Coalition of the Willing" - we trust that they will be paid off as promised, now that they can no longer confidently appeal any contractual breach within the framework of the international law that you have undermined in order to kill us
  • for your superior insight in recognizing the desirability of molding our cultures and institutions in your image - even while you are forced by the importance of your mission to neglect the many intractable challenges that are becoming so powerfully evident in your own way of life
  • for your respectful observance of historical pattern in engaging once again in the heroic endeavor in which your forefathers engaged over several centuries long ago - recognizing that neither of our peoples seem to have learned much of consequence since then
  • for your undeclared efforts as Christians to reform and modernize our Muslim societies and culture - although we wonder at the relevance of these efforts given the increasing difficulties you have in sustaining the qualities of life and authenticity in your modern cultures
  • for mobilizing an honorable core group of former Christian crusading nations to lead a new crusade to liberate and occupy our Muslim region as did your forefathers - the Franks - in the time of the earlier crusades
  • for the historically profound symbolic gesture in appointing a General Franks to conquer and subsequently rule our country on this occasion
  • for the conviction of your expert advisors in the efficacy of direct action in killing us - and avoiding any wasteful investment in the futile hope that those holding radically opposed views could ever dialogue fruitfully, other than on your terms
  • for the wisdom of your advisors, in their networks of excellence and think tanks, in choosing such a simple method to resolve a complex problem of humanity - having learned so well from their past failures in effectively addressing the issues of poverty, injustice, unemployment, arms proliferation, shelter, disease, and pollution around the world
  • for valuing our arid land and its resources above those of our neighbors - condemning them to continuing abuse by their leaders, in the absence of your humanitarian intervention, in order to privilege the salvation of our people
  • for your consideration in killing us stealthily and from so far away, so that we can never fully recognize how honorable an antagonist you are - and then discretely to relieve any personal discomfort arising from your stressful slaughter with pool-side relaxation and video war games.
  • for your unquestioning confidence in the technology that will enable you to kill us with such great precision - and your fatalistic acceptance that if your weapons unfortunately go astray, any level of collateral damage will be as Allah willed it
  • for the manner in which you clean and cover up the messy effects of your deliverance of death, with unmarked mass graves of unnamed people, filled by bulldozers with industrial efficiency - in such curious contrast to the sorrowful memorialized religious celebration of any deaths amongst your own soldiers

  • for giving some of us the possibility to live after your liberation - whether traumatized, bereft of family, maimed, burnt, blinded, incurably affected by "toxics", or suffering from the radioactive effects of depleted uranium shells that will empower some of us to pass genetic abhorrent defects on to our children
  • for the considerable resources discretely allocated by you over recent years in developing a more suitable governance structure for our peoples - although we wonder at your preference for associates who have been indicted or convicted for a variety of offences
  • for your efforts to engage in nation-building to provide structures to receive your gift of democracy to our culture - despite the modesty of your success on previous occasions
  • for making such wonderful promises to us through your propaganda tracts and broadcasts - even though you have had to suffer embarrassment in keeping such promises on other occasions
  • for demonstrating to us and the world, through the UN Security Council, that the democracy you seek to bring to our country really only works through tying votes to collateral aid and trade - those of us who survive will endeavor to apply these lessons more assiduously, although the approach is long familiar to our people
  • for the loyal support you have given so effectively, as an ally and as a trading partner, to our Leader - who has acted so repressively with your knowledge for so long
  • for the chemical and other factories you built for our Leader - to enable him to manufacture weapons to attack and slaughter the minorities in our country
  • for the weapons you sold to our Leader in the past that enabled him to attack and slaughter our neighbors - and allowed us to be slaughtered in return
  • for bringing weapons of mass destruction ("daisy cutters", "toxics" and depleted uranium shells) to our country so we can be reminded what they look like - since your inspectors have been unable to find traces of those you sold to our Leader or enabled him to make
  • for the sanctions that you have applied to our country for so many years to teach us the basic humanity we have been so slow in learning - depriving us of essential medical and food supplies, clearly a necessary punishment even though it has unfortunately resulted in the death of so many
  • for the inspired European colonial administration which created and governed our country in its early years and established the educational and civil frameworks that gave rise to those who rule us - and of whom you would now rid us
  • for the inspired European leadership, notably in the person of Winston Churchill, regarding the use of gas on Kurds and Iraqis in the 1920s as a "scientific expedient" not to be prevented "by the prejudices of those who do not think clearly": "I do not understand this squeamishness... I am strongly in favor of using poison gas against uncivilized tribes" - leaving us perplexed by the righteous insistence of your Leader (known to model himself on Churchill) to remove our Leader who so assiduously followed this prescription in years past

  • for the amazing power you demonstrate so simply and dramatically through your instruments of war - a power that contrasts so significantly with your total impotence in response to the more complex problems of the billions around the world whose condition you neglect, exemplified by your continuing need to increase the numbers that you incarcerate
  • for your conviction that the level of guilt of our brutal Leader justifies the disruption that you plan to cause to our region - in the absence of evidence (now that you seem to have mislaid the receipts) other than your secret and highly sensitive knowledge of what you and your agents have supplied to our Leader
  • for your conviction that after our deaths you will find additional evidence to justify the acts you undertake against us - we sincerely hope that you will not subsequently be discredited if you are obliged to secretly fabricate and plant such evidence of our Leader's misdeeds in order to fully justify our deaths to the world
  • for honoring our people by elevating our Leader to be the most wanted man in the history of mankind, as measured by the unprecedented resources the Coalition of the Willing is devoting to his removal - we trust that you will in future continue to devote a significant proportion of such resources to the conditions of people in need around the world
  • for granting us the opportunity to sacrifice ourselves in celebration of the values and vision you claim to be universal - without questioning the possibility that we might have preferred to live with values of which you may have no understanding
  • for the courage of your leadership in secretly abandoning the many interwoven values that have sustained your society in favor of the blatant pursuit of naked power in our region and elsewhere - we hope that the resulting moral vacuum in your leadership will bring you to fruitful learnings for the future and avoid making your culture as arid as our lands
  • for the risks you take in relying increasingly on methods developed in totalitarian societies you formerly claimed to deplore, although emulated by our Leader - in dying we wonder at the possibility that unknowingly your society may become essentially indistinguishable from theirs
  • for your Leader's mobilization of the world to avenge a failure of his father - a degree of familial devotion and tribal loyalty that we also admire in our culture, although never having practiced it to such a degree
  • for your method of honoring history through seeking to bomb the region which gave birth to your civilization and culture thousands of years ago - we wonder whether you will ensure that any remnants of that glorious past period of our culture have been carefully added to your target list to demean us further
  • for the strict censorship that you will ensure on media coverage of your method of killing us in order not to offend your audience worldwide and spoil their appreciation of the skills of the precision bombing of your heroic pilots - who are all family men

As we die on your TV programs, kindly brought to you by CNN and its sponsors, we will try to think of you entertained in your homes and bars, eating your popcorn and pizzas with a cool drink - and switching to Star Trek when our agonies offend your sensibilities or become too boring.

Hail and Salaam to the Coalition of the Willing, to your Leaders, to your Senators, and to your Citizens !

About to Die, We - men and women, old and young - of the Iraqi people Salute You

Nos Morituri Te Salutamus !

The preceeding commentary was submitted to BlackCommentator.com by Prof. Roldan Tomasz Suárez L. Centro de Investigaciones en Sistemología Interpretativa Facultad de Ingeniería, Universidad de Los Andes Mérida, Venezuela

The author of the preceeding guest commentary is Anthony Judge Director, Communications and Research, Union of International Associations Rue Washington 40, B-1050 Brussels, BELGIUM http://www.uia.org. Mr. Judge can be reached at [email protected]


Your comments are welcome. Visit the Contact Us page for E-mail or Feedback.

Click here to return to the home page





Issue Number 34
March 20, 2003

Other commentaries in this issue:

Cover Story
They have reached too far
Bush’s road leads to ruin - for himself and his Pirates

The Issues
Cynthia McKinney on patriotism... Conyers studying impeachment... Marching for action, affirmatively

Frederick Douglass denounces Bush... Dream Black ticket for '04... Phony, funny Black "fronts"... BC a hit in UK, Greece



Commentaries in Issue 33 March 13, 2003:

Cover Story
Racism & War - Perfect Together

The Issues
Why Blacks are under-represented at peace rallies... Supreme Court ponders another capital case... Pardon sought for executed woman

The Unchristians... Onward Sharpton soldiers... Randall Kennedy exhumed

You can read any past issue of The Black Commentator in its entirety by going to the Past Issues page.