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The arrogance and stupidity of the United States military was obvious from the very beginning of the Iraq war. When soldiers from the 507th Maintenance Company were attacked on March 23rd the Pentagon wouldn’t publicly respond to reports that Americans had been killed and captured. Someone forgot to tell Donald Rumsfeld that journalists in the rest of the world don’t bow down to the U.S. government and that their work is accessible to Americans. While our government declined to comment and CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN and Fox went along with the charade, families of the POWs saw their loved ones on foreign language television. Claude and Eunice Johnson were caring for their granddaughter whose mother, Shoshana Johnson, was stationed in Iraq. The Johnsons were watching the Spanish language network Telemundo when they saw footage confirming that their child was among the captured.

On December 18th, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that Johnson would be a special guest at the New Years Eve celebration in Times Square to help ring in 2004. Johnson is a good choice and deserves the honor, but I was once again put off by the rote declarations of support for our invasion of Iraq and other military interventions. Johnson expressed thanks for support of the troops while Mayor Bloomberg droned on that the Iraq war started on September 11th. 

Any thinking person was disgusted by the discrepancy in attention and compensation given to Johnson’s more famous comrade, Jessica Lynch. We were told that Lynch fired her weapon at the enemy. That was not true. We were told that she had been shot and stabbed. Neither assertion was true. Then we were told she was rescued after a fierce fire fight. Needless to say, that wasn’t true either.

Shoshana Johnson was shot in both ankles and did fire her weapon. By now we all know who got the million dollar book deal, a made for television movie and $700 more per month in disability benefits. The father of one of those killed on March 23rd called Lynch a “profiteer” for making money when his son was killed. How can I forget, but Lynch is also known for posing nude for her fellow soldiers. We have the generosity of Larry Flynt to thank for keeping the photos under wraps, which is more than Lynch could do for herself.

I was torn when I saw Mayor Bloomberg’s press conference. Given what Shoshana Johnson endured I feel uncomfortable being critical of her actions or statements. I suppose she should say whatever she likes. But it is time for the propaganda surrounding this war to end. Soldiers are not fighting for our freedom in Iraq. They are fighting for American economic and political hegemony in that region.

War is a racket. It always has been.
It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

These are the words of Smedley Butler. Butler retired from the United States Marine Corps with the rank of Major General. He fought for American interests in Haiti, Mexico and China. He also described himself as a “gangster for capitalism.” Butler wrote about wars in other parts of the world but his statements ring true for Iraq as well. Shoshana Johnson was captured and more than 400 Americans have been killed to make Iraq safe for the military industrial complex, represented in this instance by Bechtel and Halliburton. Halliburton has been accused of over charging for fuel delivered to Iraq. Vice President Cheney is the former CEO of Halliburton. Yes, war is indeed a racket.

When Johnson was recently discharged she said that she didn’t regret her military career. I find it very difficult to believe that she is telling the truth. A mere $500 per month is not enough money to justify being shot in both ankles, held prisoner, and suffer post traumatic stress. In my latest fantasy I hear Iraq war veterans say the following. “I got screwed. I was sent on a fool’s errand and I’m mad. I wish I had taken out college loans instead of believing that stupid commercial that said I would be an army of one. If I had it to do over again I wouldn’t go.”

I recently watched a CNN story about soldiers wounded in Iraq. Luis Calderon became a quadriplegic when the Army deemed it necessary that he and his tank unit knock down a wall because it displayed a picture of  Saddam Hussein. The wall fell, but in the wrong direction. It struck Calderon’s tank and broke his neck in the process. As I watched this heartbreaking story I waited and hoped that Calderon, his wife or his parents would say, “He is paralyzed so that Saddam’s picture could be removed. He lost the use of his body over a picture? I hate Bush and the rest of his greedy cronies!”

But no one said anything like that. We will get the usual propaganda about brave soldiers enduring hardships, sounding like characters in bad war movies insisting that the doctor look after their friend first. But I don’t want to hear any more lies. I don’t want to hear a lie coming from Shoshana Johnson any more than I want to hear it coming from George W. Bush. Unfortunately, the truth can be uncomfortable and lies can be easy.

Most of us find it difficult to acknowledge that we have been had, by the government or anyone else. It would have to be painful for Shoshana Johnson to admit that she got a raw deal when she joined the military expecting to be a cook but ended up as a wounded prisoner of war. But another member of her unit, Lori Piestewa, was even less fortunate. Piestewa was part of the same attacked convoy and died when her humvee collided with another. Piestewa, the first Native American woman to die in combat, had two pre-school aged children. Shoshana Johnson could have had it worse. She could have been Lori Piestewa.

Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in .  Ms. Kimberley is a freelance writer living in New York City.  She can be reached via e-Mail at [email protected]. You can read more of Ms. Kimberley's writings at




January 1, 2004
Issue 71

is published every Thursday.

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