Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Farewell to Arms:
Jenny, Iraq and the Next War
By Ramzy Baroud
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, October 6, 2010
Let’s call her Jenny. Jenny was alone, and clearly confused. Her
face was dotted with acne, and her short, blond hair was stiff at the ends.
As the Skyline train sped towards the next destination, she stood ‘at
attention’ in her military fatigue and boots staring aimlessly into the
vastness of the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
not the only returnee from Iraq. The airport was bustling with men and women
in uniform. There seemed to be little festivity awaiting them. The scene was
marred with the same confusion and uncertainty that have accompanied this
war from the start: unclear goals that kept on changing while its own
advocates - in the media, the government and within right-wing think tanks -
began slowly and shamelessly disowning it. They all changed their tune, and
many of them redirected their venom at Iran. In the meanwhile, the soldiers
continued to fight, kill and fall in droves. Following the recent reduction
of troops in Iraq, thousands were expected to come home, while others headed
to Afghanistan to battle on, carrying with them their inconceivably heavy
gear and their continued bewilderment.
America’s poor have
always carried the burden of wars undertaken by America’s rich, who
barefacedly scurry for the spoils while soldiers give up their lives, or are
otherwise left with medals and untold physical and psychological scars.
“As of Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2010, at least 4,421 members of the U.S.
military had died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003,” reported
the Associated Press. “Since the start of U.S. military operations in Iraq,
31,951 U.S. service members have been wounded in hostile action, according
to the Defense Department's weekly tally.” As for the Iraqi body count, the
number fluctuates from hundreds of thousands to well over the one million
mark. This doesn’t include those who perished in the first Iraq war
(1990-91) or as a result of the long-term sanctions that followed. But one
cannot blame the Associated Press for not spitting out exact numbers. The
rate of death among that shattered nation was happening at such an
imaginable speed that the victims were lucky to even get a proper burial.
The Skyline high-speed train came to a stop at Terminal A and
quickly resumed its circular journey. Passengers departed and newcomers
embarked. Jenny remained in her place. She reminded me of Lynndie England,
the army reservist famed for dragging a poor, tortured Iraqi prisoner with a
leash in Abu Ghraib. The prisoner’s face was a testament to all the pain an
expression can possibly communicate. England’s face was frozen, as she
stared at her captive without a decipherable expression. She was later
convicted with connection to the torture.
Abu Ghraib was only a
microcosm of Iraq. No one was convicted for the much larger crime that has
decimated the civilization that served as the cradle of all civilizations.
Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush are enjoying retirement to the fullest. Those who
fabricated the ‘case for war’ on Iraq are still as busy as ever, in their
think-tanks, universities and media outlets. Now they are concocting a ‘case
for war’ against Iran.
But Jenny might not be the Lynndie
England type at all. Maybe she did some clerical work in the Green Zone.
Maybe she developed an affinity to Iraq. Maybe she even befriended an Iraqi
family or two. Maybe she is currently carrying in her handbag some photos of
an Iraqi child named Hiyyat, meaning “life”.
Jenny might never have
committed even the most minor of crimes. She might have genuinely thought
that her deployment to Iraq was going to better the world, to protect the US
from the terrorists that she was mislead to believe coordinated their
attacks on America with Saddam Hussein. She may be too young to understand
how the world works. She has the face of a teenager, because she is one.
They gave her a gun and taught her how to shoot. They told her things about
democracy, and how the Arabs think. They promised her tuition and a variety
of other perks. Is Jenny at all responsible for what happened in Iraq?
Now at terminals B and C, Jenny doesn’t seem to be paying the slightest
attention to the robotic voice in English and Spanish informing passengers
about the upcoming stop and when to get off the train.
Jenny even sent to Iraq? Were the disasters created by the war as clear then
as they are now? Those who lead wars always promise that the world will be a
better place - once the guns are silenced, the dead are buried and the
‘collateral damage’ is conveniently justified and forgotten. But in the case
of this war at least, the world has certainly not emerged a better place.
Neither the Middle East region nor the US are in any way safer. It fact, the
whole world is much more dangerous now. The war was provoked on faulty
premises, concocted evidence and forgery. It created chaos, enlivened
sectarian divisions, pitted governments and people against each other. While
the Iraqis, of course, have paid the heaviest price by far, the war is also
a major component of the current crisis engulfing the United States:
political division at home, loss of foreign policy direction (and
leadership) abroad, economic recession, which struck first nationally, then
internationally, among many other manifestations.
The war is not
over, and an older war is being expediently reignited. Jenny, once home,
will be told of how bad things have been. How difficult it is to find a job.
Her chances of making a dignified living in America have dwindled
significantly since she joined the army, regardless of when that was. The
army, after all, might be her best chance at making a living.
will it be now, Jenny? Back to Iraq, maybe, but under a mission with a
different title? Operation New Dawn?
At the last terminal, D, Jenny
is still in her place. Now every last passenger will have to disembark, as
the Skyline speed-train is about to restart its circular journey. Where will
it be, Jenny? It is, after all, your choice.
- Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net)
is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of
PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter:
Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press, London), available on Amazon.com.