Evincing a depraved indifference to homo sapiens as a species, the United States last week oversaw the erasure of the evidence of 5,000 years of human civilization - a crime from which humanity cannot recover. Although certainly not their final act of barbarism, the burning of the Baghdad Museum and the Iraqi National Library under the armed auspices of the U.S. military is an offense to human consciousness that no temporal tribunal can ever be empowered to forgive, and that history will never forget.

Two worlds are clashing. One is real, observable by normal human beings. The other exists in the minds of the Bush Pirates and a majority of their home population. In the delusional world - which has no substantive existence but is manifested in virtual form by the Bushmedia - civilization dashed into Baghdad on the treads of U.S. tanks to the near-universal acclaim of the citizenry. In ecstatic jubilation, the populace rose up and devoured the symbols of past oppression - that is, everything in sight that might possibly be of value. In the Pirate's worldview, the burning of Baghdad's historical repositories, the looting of its hospitals, and the utter destruction of civil infrastructure, is a cleansing event.

"One can understand the pent-up feelings that can result from decades of repression," said Donald Rumsfeld, smiling like a serpent and still drunk from the previous day's toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad. "They're free. And free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things."

At that moment, and in the sense of a "black," gallows humor to which African Americans are most receptive, Rumsfeld was howlingly, obscenely hilarious - and the distance separating him from sane humanity was never greater. If there is one social phenomenon with which African Americans have a collective body of experience, it is looting and rioting. Scarcely a decade ago, our memory-reservoirs on the subject were replenished in circles of fire spreading outward from South-Central Los Angeles. Had we known then that these acts of destruction, puny compared to the evisceration of Baghdad, were in fact behaviors of "free people [who] are free to make mistakes and do bad things," and therefore sanctioned by the ruling elite, we would have looted much further and longer and with a greater sense of righteous purpose.

Pirate logic

Still, there is the tricky matter of timing when considering Los Angeles 1992 and Baghdad, 2003.

Rumsfeld's logic becomes a revelation. The mobs of Baghdad, each arsonist and looter, are collective victims of 35 years of oppression by Saddam's political party and personal clique. (Damn, that's not very long, from a Black perspective, but we're getting the rhythm of this reasoning.) The looters, who in their zeal have killed shop owners, medical personnel and others unwilling to contribute to the "liberation" festivities, are justified because they are happy at the political turn of events. This is a joyous riot, violence in solidarity with U.S. soldiers and Marines and their commander-in-chief. Now we understand why Rumsfeld can't keep from smiling, just thinking about all that joy.

Hundreds of years of oppression without many events to celebrate about have evidently numbed Black American sensibilities to the etiquette and proprieties of looting. Apparently, we have been engaging in the practice at the wrong time (colored people's) and for the wrong reasons, thus inviting upon our foolish heads the penalties of summary execution and long imprisonment.

Suddenly the mists part, and all becomes clear. Thanks to the revelatory logic of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer ("It's a reaction to oppression"), and Secretary of State Colin Powell ("I think it has to be understood in the context of people who have been oppressed and are reacting to their oppression"), Black Americans may now intelligently plan their next riot. It must coincide with a happy occasion. If by some miracle George Bush is defeated in November, 2004, we will wreck the joint and, this time, not a single building or institution of value will be left intact. Churches will empty immediately into the streets in righteous plunder, so uncontainable will be our joy! The sick and infirm will trash their own wheel chairs and intravenous tubes in rapturous celebration of Bush's demise. Two million inmates will burn the prisons down around themselves, forgetting to first unlock the place - Oh Happy Day! After the subways of New York have been stripped of wiring, the Black masses will gather in Harlem, where crowds will dance deliriously as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture goes up in flames, its new Malcolm X museum section reduced to ashes. Sweet victory!

We will call it the Great-Right-Time-Place-and Reason Riot. Rumsfeld, Fleischer and Powell will, of course, appreciate the logic of events as they hitchhike their ways home from burnt out Washington, D.C. They will understand the "context" of our actions, and agree that even a brief respite from nearly 400 years of oppression demands a suitable orgy of celebratory destruction.

Willful Blindness

The Bush men are mad, insanely believing that world hegemony is within reach, an assessment that can only exist for more than a nanosecond in a perceptual vacuum from which most of reality has been removed. To learn anything of the real world beyond that which must be true based on a general understanding of human behavior (for example, the knowledge that people do not enjoy being bombed or bossed around by 22-year-old foreigners), we are forced to turn to non-corporate, largely non-American sources. The Bush/media have devolved into vectors of insanity, a positively dangerous influence on an already deformed white American psyche.

We have chosen this April 13 report from Robert Fisk, of The Independent (UK) as an example of how a human being reacts to the destruction of 150,000 priceless pieces of our common patrimony at the Baghdad Museum.

Why? How could they do this? Why, when the city was already burning, when anarchy had been let loose and less than three months after US archaeologists and Pentagon officials met to discuss the country's treasures and put the Baghdad Archaeological Museum on a military data-base did the Americans allow the mobs to destroy the priceless heritage of ancient Mesopotamia? And all this happened while US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, was sneering at the press for claiming that anarchy had broken out in Baghdad.

Facts unrelated to Pentagon handouts or the conditions of American troops appear as if by mistake on the electronic Bushmedia. Some facts are unavoidable. The press saw anarchy outside their high-rise hotel windows, and could not help but note it. They observed that the U.S. cordon of security stretched only a few blocks, and that even this enclave was unsafe. Their circumscribed ventures by car revealed that U.S. soldiers guarded only two buildings: the Oil Ministry and the Ministry of the Interior, a source of files on the citizenry.

Amid the irrelevant chatter, a CNN voice reported, on April 15, ""What was left of one of the most important museums in the world remains unprotected." The United Nations had already called an emergency meeting of world anthropology experts to attempt to salvage what was left of human history, while the occupying power did nothing. The Bush men are guilty of depraved indifference to the human species. Clearly, they perceive no direct connection between themselves and ancient Mesopotamia.

Would the Americans have watched The Louvre burn, along with all the public ministries vital to the people of Paris and the French nation? We do not know, although it is a question that some Frenchmen must wonder about. What we do know is that the Bush men's war for oil, for dollar supremacy and for world hegemony is being waged by Pirates in the only way that an American supermajority will allow - as a race war. Nothing of value could possibly have been stored in an Arab museum.

The civilized world, which resides in peoples, not governments, will never forgive the despoilers of Baghdad. The world will not blame the nameless looters from among a people still on the receiving end of shock and awe. Civilization recoils in disgust from the Bush men and - by extension and logical implication - American society. Burning Baghdad and lost human history herald the beginning of the American occupation of Iraq, and the definitive end of any illusions that the world may have held about the fitness of the U.S. as a global citizen - much less, master of the planet. These are the important facts of the past week, the perceptions that will be acted upon by Iraqis, Arabs, Muslims, and all other peoples not afflicted with peculiar American delusions. History makes itself felt, whether CNN covers it or not.

Veteran British war correspondent John Pilger sees what the world sees - and what U.S. reporters cannot help but see although seldom report, billeted as they are with the international press at the Palestine Hotel. U.S. behavior in Baghdad is like American behavior, everywhere, writes Pilger, in a Znet dispatch.

That is what the Americans do, and no one will say so, even when they are murdering journalists. They bring to this one-sided attack on a weak and mostly defenseless people the same racist, homicidal intent I witnessed in Vietnam, where they had a whole program of murder called Operation Phoenix. This runs through all their foreign wars, as it does through their own divided society. Take your pick of the current onslaught. Last weekend, a column of their tanks swept heroically into Baghdad and out again. They murdered people along the way.

They blew off the limbs of women and the scalps of children. Hear their voices on the unedited and unbroadcast videotape: "We shot the shit out of it." Their victims overwhelm the morgues and hospitals - hospitals already denuded of drugs and painkillers by America's deliberate withholding of $5.4bn in humanitarian goods, approved by the Security Council and paid for by Iraq....

No one disputes the grim, totalitarian nature of the regime; but Saddam Hussein was careful to use the oil wealth to create a modern secular society and a large and prosperous middle class. Iraq was the only Arab country with a 90 per cent clean water supply and with free education. All this was smashed by the Anglo-American embargo. When the embargo was imposed in 1990, the Iraqi civil service organized a food distribution system that the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization described as "a model of efficiency... undoubtedly saving Iraq from famine". That, too, was smashed when the invasion was launched.

These are facts known to every Iraqi and to the people of the Arab "street" - facts that will shape their reaction to the American occupation.

By Tuesday, as many as 300 Iraqis were shouting "Go home Yankee" in the square where embedded media had feasted all day on Iraqi abuse of Saddam Hussein's statue, the previous Thursday. The anti-occupation demonstrations were begun over the weekend, by retired Iraqi police officers, summoned to the secure area to assist in restoring order. Rattled at the effrontery of the middle-aged crowd, a Black GI strode forward, his rifle ready. "We're here for your fuckin' freedom, so quiet down!"

In the northern city of Mosul, Iraq's third largest, American troops fired on a crowd that had come out to hear the region's American-appointed governor. According to Al Jazeera:

Doctors at the city hospital said that many were injured in the firing. "There are perhaps 100 wounded besides the 10 or 12 dead," said Dr Ayad al-Ramadhani of the city hospital.

Eye-witnesses said that the US troops had opened fire after the crowd that had gathered to listen to the governor, Mashaan al-Juburi in front of his office in one of the city square's turned hostile to him in the middle of his pro-US speech.

Doctors at the city hospital recounted being told by wounded patients that the new governor was exhorting people to cooperate with the US when chaos broke out. The crowd called him a liar and insisted that he end his speech. When he continued with his speech, the angry crowd pelted stones and menacingly approached him.

Many among the wounded alleged that the besieged governor had asked the US troops to open fire.

The Agence France Presse reported substantially the same facts. American media led their stories with U.S. claims that the troops had been fired upon.

However, the American media is apparently not docile enough to satisfy the military. CNN found its own discomfort to be a subject worth reporting:

Teams of U.S. Marines looked "for unauthorized weapons" and people "not friendly to the United States" in a search Tuesday at a Baghdad hotel that is a home base for many journalists, a military source told CNN's Michael Holmes.

The Palestine Hotel houses about 2,000 international journalists who are covering the war. It has been the site of two firefights.

Arrests were made, but information on the number and nationalities of those detained was not immediately available. Sources at the hotel said the Marines searched at least the ninth and 17th floors. "This operation was to look for people who are not friendly to the United States," the source said. "Our intelligence is that there may be such people staying in the Palestine Hotel."

A U.S. attack on the hotel last week killed two journalists.

Even when abused by the military, the Bushmedia continue to toe the line because they are also delusional Americans who cannot fathom their surroundings.

Black fatalities higher than expected

A study by the University of Maryland's Center for Research on Military Organization found 19.4 percent of invasion combat fatalities were African American, "which will be the highest cost African Americans have paid in any of America's wars if the trend continues." According to the Seattle-Intelligencer:

This isn't the result of minorities being assigned to dangerous duty in front-line units. Elite combat troops such as Special Forces units and the Green Berets are disproportionately white, military experts said. The U.S. Army's dash to Baghdad forced supply convoys occasionally to traverse enemy-held territory in southern and central Iraq, leaving minority troops assigned to vulnerable logistical units.

"We opened ourselves up to this by driving forward, leaving long logistical supply lines that must travel territory that we do not militarily control," said David Segal, director of the University of Maryland's Center for Research on Military Organization. "But our combat doctrine is one of deep intrusion after all, to go after the command-and-control centers of our enemies."

The study was based on an analysis of the 105 fatalities identified by the Defense Department as deaths related to the war as of April 10. Scripps Howard was able to determine the race of 98 of these, of whom 19 were African American.

"I was not aware of this and am surprised by it," said Julian Bond, national chairman of the NAACP. "I knew that black soldiers were concentrated in the non-combat positions of the military, which makes this all the more surprising. But clearly, these support troops were subjected to battle conditions unexpectedly."

There will be no front lines in the occupation, which will require far more manpower on the ground than the invasion. (Alternatively, the occupation will fall apart more quickly.) Therefore, it is to be expected that casualties among Black men and women (who make up more than half of all females in the Army) will be around 22 percent, their proportion of the combined services.

Four decades ago, Malcolm X had this to say about Black soldiers:

Why you can tell them to sic 'em and he bites the Japanese. You tell him to sic'em and he'll bite anybody you say. He would go to Korea and be the bravest man on earth and the best soldier you ever had. But he'd come right back here in Mississippi and see a cracker coming in the door to rape his mother and he'd sit there in the corner with his knees knocking. Why? You weren't there to say sic 'em, he won't bite anybody unless you say sic 'em.

Mad Philly Bomber's son makes good

Malcolm made those remarks before the huge influx of Blacks into the Vietnam-era Army and the explosion of the Black Power movement. However, his words might well apply to that long, tall Black Brigadier General familiar to TV war watchers. Forty-four year old Gen. Vincent Brooks, a Pentagon press briefer in Qatar, is the son of retired General Leo Brooks, city manager of Philadelphia when police bombed a house in West Philadelphia, burning to death 11 Black men, women and children.

The elder Brooks is credited with being Black Mayor Wilson Goode's right-hand action-man in the conflict between the city and MOVE, the activist organization the city sought to evict from the neighborhood in May 1985. The police bomb, dropped from a helicopter, also destroyed the entire block of 61 homes. "As Mayor of this city I accept full and total responsibility," Mayor Goode told the New York Times. "There was no way to avoid it. No way to extract ourselves from that situation except by armed confrontation."

Leo Brooks resigned six weeks later to "spend more time" with his family in Alexandria, Virginia. A recent article in the Washington Times quotes son Vincent lauding another one of his role models. "Colin Powell is not secretary of state because he's black. He's there because of what he can offer and that's the way we were raised to think." General Brooks' brother, Leo A. Brooks Jr., is also a general.

Money for AIDS, not war

Depraved indifference to human life, the equivalent of a murder charge under criminal law, is public policy for the Bush men and the ethical guide of their corporate media. More than 70 organizations released a statement, Monday, demanding ""Money for AIDS, Not for War!"

Africa Action executive director Salih Booker described the action as "both a rejection of U.S. aggression in the Persian Gulf and an affirmation of the real priority that we should be addressing - the global AIDS crisis."

"Only racism has allowed the loss of so many lives to AIDS," said the 78 signatories to the letter.

AIDS is the greatest global threat to human security that exists today. It is more deadly than terrorism or the alleged existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. AIDS has already cost 25 million lives worldwide. In Africa, ground zero of the global HIV/AIDS pandemic, whole communities are being wiped out and the future of the entire continent is at risk. Around the world, HIV infection rates continue to rise at alarming rates. In the U.S., the toll from AIDS is mounting, particularly among communities of color.

AIDS is a clear and present danger to all of humanity. That it is not the top priority of the U.S. government highlights just how misguided U.S. priorities are. This year, while the U.S. focuses on potential threats in Iraq and possible terrorist attacks at home, it is certain that AIDS will kill more than 3 million people globally, most of these in Africa.

No jobs on horizon

Basking in the glow of destruction, Bush continues his relentless assault on the economy and civil infrastructure of the United States, demanding $550 billion in tax cuts for the rich with the same bait-and-switch claim that jobs will somehow emerge from the process. Yet the people who are expected to create these jobs see nothing of the kind on the horizon.

"We've got a pretty weak economy," said John T. Dillon, the chairman of the Business Roundtable. "We all feel great about the war," he added, in an interview with the New York Times.

Businesses are using less than 80 percent of their productive capacity, Mr. Dillon said, and they will not begin investing in new equipment or hiring more workers until demand increases. Many executives believe that their companies are still suffering through the overhang of the 1990's boom….

"I think there will be a short-term improvement as inventories are rebuilt," he said. "Inventories have been held at very, very low levels because of all of the uncertainty in the world. But frankly the fundamentals we're talking about here are largely not war-related."

This means that American industry already has more plant capacity than it can use - but thanks for the tax breaks. Dillon speaks for 120 of the nation's top CEOs.

Domestic degradation

There was never a doubt that a nation with a $300 billion yearly war budget would quickly destroy the organized military of a country whose entire gross domestic product was less than $60 billion (CIA estimate, 1999). In the Iraqi occupation and the invasions that follow, the Pirates will ravage the world order and further degrade the domestic economy - all for the profits of a Pirate class that doesn't even have John Dillon's boys' interests in mind.

One of the best accounts of Bush's take-no-prisoners domestic strategy comes from Dr. David Hilfiker. His, "Bringing the War Back Home: The stealth assault against the poor," is available on The Nation Institute's daily service, TomDispatch.

While our minds have been absorbed by the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq, the President has been waging preemptive assaults on the states, disarming them so that they will ultimately be incapable of responding even to the minimal needs of those children and the elderly. The current attacks on Medicaid--one of the few programs for the poor currently intact--are early bombing runs softening up the target, but if Medicaid becomes a capped block grant, it will be mortally wounded.

This war on the poor is primarily one of attrition. A full frontal assault on women and children would be unseemly, but taking their defenses out one at a time does not seem to raise objections back on the home front. So childcare, public education, school lunches, the Earned Income Tax Credit, even Head Start are besieged.

The role of the media in this war has largely been to remain silent. There are no embedded reporters in the assault on the poor and virtually no analysis. Perhaps it is because the exciting battles in the war are largely over.

Let us not fool ourselves. The health of a society can be judged by how it cares for its poor. A nation that declares war on its poor is deathly ill.


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Issue Number 38
April 17, 2003

Other commentaries in this issue:

Cover Story
Conspiracy Theories

Injustice for All

Tracking Black youth to prison... Torturing Black Tulia... The Redlining of America... "Common Threads" of humanity

HIP HOP'S (UNSPOKEN) TEN COMMANDMENTS by stephanie mwandishi gadlin

Bush’s Other Declaration of War By Tammy Johnson, director of Race and Public Policy at the Applied Research Center


Commentaries in Issue 37 April 10, 2003:

Cover Story
From Soul Power '68 to Pirate Power '03

The Issues
The 2 million-person Gulag... Racists flood northern Utah... Black opinion dissected... Tulia’s long ordeal

Will Colin Powell eat his own words?... An International Edition of BC?... Too much talk about "racism"?... How many reasons for skeezin’?

News From BC
BlackCommentator.com Enters 2nd Year

I've Been to the Mountaintop
April 3, 1968 speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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