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Dec-03-2011 04:11printcommentsVideo

Reflections of the Iraq War

It's a war where nationalism drove an aggressive U.S. to mirror the behavior it supposedly believed Iraq was 'capable' of committing.

View from a U.S. soldier's sunglasses
View from a U.S. soldier's sunglasses shows a fellow soldier and their HUMVEE, the vehicle that will forever be associated with U.S. military aggression. Salem-News.com photo by Tim King

(SALEM) - For many the war in Iraq will never end, and for their sake everyone should understand as much as possible about this military operation that claimed far more lives than western media sources accurately reveal, and also the complicity of the U.S. politicians who led Americans down this road.

Simply said, American politicians are sheep, and their excuses for apathy and ignorance are unacceptable. There is right and there is wrong and there is popular opinion. American politicians with few exceptions, follow that third option.

While the public jumps on any bandwagon John Wayne-style presidents tell them to clamber aboard, it is the politicians who did it first in regard to the Iraq war. New York Times reporter Judith Miller wrote stories about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction that ranged from largely untrue to completely false. I personally believe that without her direct assistance and that of the NY Times itself, that President George W. Bush and his team could not have sold the war effort as well as they did.

The only thing the Iraq experience leaves us, is the knowledge that the United States went from being a tempered country interested in peace at least by appearance, (if you overlook the Genocide of the Native American population, slavery and Jim Crow laws) to a hawkish attacking country intent to carry on some version of the Crusades against Middle eastern Muslims in a modern day and age.

We know the U.S. government fought the Nazi's and freed the slaves, but at the same time we also know that America backed the South African government during the apartheid years of intense racism, and that it backs Israel and Sri Lanka that have the exact same apartheid policies today toward Palestinians and Tamils, respectively. ( The Russell Tribunal on Palestine found that Israel subjects the Palestinian people to an institutionalised regime of domination amounting to apartheid as defined under international law.)

America is rarely on the right side of history as it turns out, sometimes it is, but not lately. Nationalism is the disease that overcomes this place. Religion is often used to drive the call for war, which seems quite backward in my humble opinion. I believe in resistance to violence and oppression, but not in unilateral attacks against countries based on bad or even slightly questionable information.

First Friend, then Enemy

Iraq was an ally of the United States for many years under the reins of President Saddam Hussein, who unwittingly became an enemy of the the first U.S. President George Bush, after his forces invaded Kuwait, an ally of Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Americans were shocked to learn of Saddam Hussein's troops raiding hospitals in Kuwait and tossing newborn babies out of incubators, people all over the west felt their blood boil. However it wasn't true.

Graffiti on a Kuwait military bathroom wall- 2008

In recent years we learned that the babies and incubators story was an idea hatched in a Kuwaiti advertising agency, seriously.

Something else that will not surprise our readers in the Middle east and most of Europe, yet most Americans will have no idea... would be the stories of angled Kuwaiti oil wells that are the reason Iraq invaded Kuwait in the first place. These wells supposedly bore into the earth at 45 degree angles that are undetectable from the surface, allowing Kuwait to illegally harvest Iraqi oil.

I am not citing this as fact as I have no real way to prove it or disprove it, but people everywhere overseas are familiar with reports of Kuwait drilling wells that actually crossed the border with Iraq, underground.

April Glaspie's first meeting with Saddam
Hussein, accompanied by Saddam's translator,
Sadoun al-Zubaydi

Americans with sharp memories remember that April Glaspie, a U.S. Diplomat in Iraq, told Saddam Hussein that if he did invade Kuwait, that the U.S. would not object or attempt to intervene. According to a transcript published by The New York Times on 23 September 1990, has Glaspie said:

...we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait. I was in the American Embassy in Kuwait during the late '60s. The instruction we had during this period was that we should express no opinion on this issue and that the issue is not associated with America. James Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction.

In the opinion of the average person, that would be called a set up for a fall. Iraq invaded, then Osama bin Laden, who had recently returned to Saudi Arabia after helping oust the Soviet Union from Afghanistan as a Mujaheddin leader, told the royal family he and his fighters would fight the Iraqi forces, but the Royal Family elected to bring the U.S. and its Coalition to the Middle east instead, forever poisoning relations with bin Laden who resented the U.S. intervention in Middle east problems.

The Highway of Death in Kuwait where U.S. Air Force fighters
slaughtered retreating Iraqis. Salem-News.com photo by Tim King

Then when Iraq retreated, the Americans slaughtered them while their forces were in retreat. That road today, the Highway of Death between Iraq and Kuwait, is still a land of wreckage, even though so many years have passed, primarily because of Depleted Uranium (DU) and other so-called 'dirty' bombs that were used to kill the fleeing Iraqi soldiers.

The worst part is that those Iraqi soldiers were veterans of the war on Iran, which Iraq effectively lost a few years earlier, and that was all paid for by the United States government. The U.S. funded Iraq's invasion of Iran to the hostage incident in Tehran in 1979.

It also pitted the Arabs against the Persians and that is a perpetually brewing ancient conflict- that was being managed, with violence avoided, until Uncle Sam became involved.

All of the U.S. hostages were returned alive, but the war the U.S. paid Iraq to conduct in Iran, left hundreds of thousands dead, including a large number of innocent civilians. This was a U.S. financed revenge war for the sake of American pride. The Iranians would not have taken U.S. hostages in the first place, if the U.S. hadn't led a coup d'état in 1953 against Iran's Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh who talked about nationalizing Iranian oil. The U.S. replaced him with Mohammad Rezā Shāh Pahlavi, Shah of Iran; who allowed the west to pillage Iran's oil until the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

There has been a lot of support for Iraq from Iran in recent years. That too would not be taking place were it not for an intense hatred of western intervention in the Middle east.

U.S. - Friends with the Wrong Arabs

Camp LSA in Kuwait
Salem-News.com photo by Tim King

It is important to remember that the United States is 'friends' with the very worst Middle eastern countries; primarily Saudi Arabia, where the Muslim Wahhabi extremists exemplify everything wrong with that culture. These are the guys who are super rich with oil money, who turn their backs on Human Rights subjects like Gaza, while forcing their own women to wear burqas and not drive, or face being whipped if they do.

These are the people that the U.S. government traditionally sees fit to do business with, while declaring resistance fighters terrorists.

The United States carved out its Arab relationships in the Arab world, based on revenue and the alliances in no way represent the values that Americans supposedly adhere to.

The Saudis have allowed their oil, money and relationship with the U.S. to guide their growth; they are friends with Israel which is something Iraq and Iran would never do, as Israel has killed so many in the Middle east in its desire to take every piece of land possible since 1948, when Israel was first established, on land that belonged to existing Palestinian families.

Kuwait is a barren place where some still live in what appears to be extreme poverty, in spite of the national wealth. In the end it is simply tragic that these countries are pitted against each other and even more regrettable that they are not allowed to conduct business without the U.S. military being deployed on full combat alert, to the tune of tens or hundreds of billions of dollars.

Egypt which was once a stronghold against Israel, became a close ally in recent years and blocked the Palestinians off from exiting and entering Gaza through Egypt at Rafah. Now, after the Revolution, the Muslim Brotherhood is about to take control, and this is bad news for Israel. Iran has been supportive of Palestine since shedding its western masters. Countries that back Palestine almost always are not allies of the U.S.

Dividing Iraqi People

The divide between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslim is a very old issue, but Saddam Hussein didn't run his country with religious fanaticism and that is a fact, he also allowed women to have opportunities that the leaders of Saudi Arabia are light years away from implementing, and don't forget the other U.S. 'friend' government in the 'Islamic Republic of Afghanistan' where political leaders pretend to improve conditions for women when that idea is in fact, an insanely vast project that hopefully will happen some day, but has a long way to go.

Could Removal of U.S. Support Shift Iraq's Peaceful Balance?

The western powers lost their chance to help Afghanistan in 1989, when the western-funded Mujaheddin defeated the Soviet forces and terminated their ten-year invasion. There were excellent leaders available to back at that point, but as those who have watched the movie Charlie Wilson's War already know, that opportunity was like a window that quickly opened and closed. Americans prefer spending money on war, than on ways to prevent it.

It is the U.S. military that for the first time in history, erected walls in Baghdad to divide Sunni and Shi'ite communities- and then lured the Sunnis to come across and switch sides for pay. I spent time around the 'Sons of Iraq' and learned how hard life had become in a country where the entire military was disbanded and suddenly unemployed.

The scenario created endless recruits for the insurgency which has funds to pay well. That allows Iraqi men to feed their families. Of course some of the men crossed over and worked for both sides. The Sunni Awakening Councils and 'Sons of Iraq' were being disbanded when I was there and there was a lot of emotional reaction.

First, Americans attacked the country's infrastructure, cut power, established checkpoints, and then when people were starving, they were offered money to sell out to the Coalition side. The Americans created a scenario where those who worked with the U.S., will probably ultimately pay with their lives once there is no longer any U.S. presence, or even while there still is.

Blame Politicians, not Veterans

Story author catching a ride to Baghdad aboard the jet that at
the time, was primarily used to transport U.S. General David
Petraeus. He wasn't aboard on this flight. Photo by Justin King

All of this and far more painful reality about America's aspirations and actions, is taught in schools in other parts of the world, but try gaining an understanding of these subjects of war and America in your kid's public school books, it isn't there.

I truly doubt that most here in the comfort of the USA realize the implications and repercussions that their country has potentially set them up for.

The recent closure of the Khyber Pass due to a 'mistake' attack on not one but two Pakistani military outposts, is immediately straining the supply effort for Afghanistan in large proportions.

It continually gets worse, and random and mistaken fire from the U.S. military is at the root of this pending failure in SW Asia.

I was in Iraq to see the beginning of the end of this current, second war, in 2008. The only real thing to hold onto is the knowledge that Americans who served in these conflicts are just people like anyone else; they served because they believed that was the right thing to do. They need our continual appreciation and support, and it needs to be viewed out of the political realm.

We must honor and respect them and take care of them and if we can ever withdraw our troops from these places completely, as well as the U.S. mercenaries who are still in Iraq then we can perhaps find our way back to a place close to where we were before the men named Reagan and Bush started guiding the United States.

Ken Ramey wrote about this earlier today in his article, As the Troops Come Home. I try to imagine how this all looks to Ken, who was raised as a child during the Great Depression, watching the U.S. go full circle in his life; from Depression, to some type of economic success that spanned from the 50's to the 90's, and right back to where it began.

Never Ending for Some

Scott Helventson - Blue Star Chronicles

The news is that the end of the Iraq war is now here, the truth is that U.S. mercenaries are still there and they operate off the grid; if they die we don't necessarily know, and if they kill the same holds true. I recently had a valuable conversation with Scott Helventson's mom Katy Helvenston-Wettengel, who told me several things about her son's death that harsh does not describe.

In the end, she believes Scott and three other Blackwater security men; all extremely experienced military special forces veterans, were sent to their deaths in Fallujah on their first mission in Iraq in order to give the U.S. a reason to escalate violence there. Their brutal deaths sufficed, and soon the Marine Corps was in Fallujah to amplify the effort to defeat the resistance.

Katy's son is one of the two men whose bodies were ultimately burned and hung from a bridge over the Euphrates River. Prior to Blackwater, he had been the youngest Navy SEAL in history at the age of 17; later Scott worked with actress Dimi Moore as a personal trainer, but in the end there were bills to pay and Blackwater paid big, so he took a job and then ended up subject to orders from a man he knew had a running personal grudge against him.

Scott and his team drove to a point where militants and video photographers appeared to be waiting for them. They desecrated the American's remains; Scott and the other three deserved no such fate.

His story is the subject of an upcoming Salem-News.com feature article. Fallujah is a place that has not and will not soon forget the U.S. military presence. At least 6,000 people in this previously peaceful city died before it was over.

PBS photo depicts the terrible end of Scott
Helventson in Fallujah. The other men ambushed
that day are Wesley Batalona, Jerry Zovko and
Michael Teague

In two cases, members of the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne fired on civilian protestors, multiple people were killed, in one case they were protesting the Army's use of their school, and their children's being denied their educations. Prior to these events, there was no violence conducted toward U.S. forces.

Before it ended, insurgents from all over went to Fallujah to take part in the fighting against U.S. Marines who suffered many casualties. The darkest part of that story is the rate of birth defects now in Fallujah, and the fact that the parents and kids are all contaminated with enriched uranium- meaning the U.S. covertly deployed a nuclear device in Fallujah without ever revealing it to the public. This is detailed in the recent article, Birth Defects Reveal Weapons-Grade Enriched Uranium Used in Fallujah, Iraq

I'm continually learning more and more about this war and what did and did not take place. I also have unshakable memories of having to watch hooded and bound Iraqi detainees receive abuse during a bizarre flight on an Army helicopter out of the Marine base at Fallujah that lasted for hours. I was ultimately taken away by U.S. intelligence forces and forced to erase my tape. I had recorded things that might have changed the course of the war. In the world of U.S. Army intelligence, you allow a journalist to record abuse and then force them to erase the evidence, what a system. (see: A Disturbing Night in Iraq: Witnessing the Abuse of 'Insurgent' Detainees)

Saddam Hussein's Meat Grinder

I personally was told by two members of the U.S. Army; one a major and one with the Baghdad Public Affairs Office, that I was standing "just out of sight" from Saddam's human meat grinder one very hot day in Baghdad.

Later, I learned that like the Kuwait baby story from 1990, this too was total fiction; the product of a PR and media campaign. There was never a human meat grinder, there may have been any number of strange things, but a story like this requires proof and it does not and never has existed, and I have written about this at length and never found anyone who could dispute this unfounded story that once again, was propaganda to fuel a war against Iraq.

It illustrates the importance of reporting, and the fact that American reporters and their agencies have massively failed in this regard. That is a real let down for the American public, but mostly for the people who have died as a result of American (and Kuwaiti) propaganda. (The Insanity of Saddam Hussein's Human Meat Grinder)

Conclusion

The people who served in the war are not at fault for why the U.S. went there, but the politicians who choose to have their military carry out unprecedented violence against other nations that did absolutely nothing to deserve it, all need to be held accountable in whatever form they can be.

Conservative Americans often point to the Democrats when we reporters heap the blame for Iraq on Bush. They cite the left wing's nearly blind support of the conflicts in the Middle east, and whether Bush was the torch bearer or not is beside the point, they are right.

It is time for Americans to get off the one-way path, we must never allow this to happen again. I love the people of Iraq just as I love Americans. People are people and nationalism is poison.

International competition should be taken out on the sports fields.

Wars ruin the planet in terms well beyond human life; they destroy people with trauma and invisible wounds, and they leave behind public health hazards as I detailed in a recent article. Wars wreak havoc on tourism. (see: War and its Aftermath... a Real Killer for Tourism)

I began this article as a simple introduction for a government video, that shows a national ceremony in Iraq marking the official end of the U.S. military presence there. I am including that video below.

(Video: Government of Iraq Ceremony w/ Vice President Joe Biden - U.S. Forces Iraq Video by Staff Sgt. Joash Buenavista )

_________________________________________________________

Tim King: Salem-News.com Editor and Writer

Tim King has more than twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines. Tim is a former U.S. Marine.

Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Silver Spoke Award by the National Coalition of Motorcyclists (2011), Excellence in Journalism Award by the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs (2010), Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), First-place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Tim has several years of experience in network affiliate news TV stations, having worked as a reporter and photographer at NBC, ABC and FOX stations in Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. Tim was a member of the National Press Photographer's Association for several years and is a current member of the Orange County Press Club.

Serving the community in very real terms, Salem-News.com is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. As News Editor, Tim among other things, is responsible for publishing the original content of approximately 100 Salem-News.com writers. He reminds viewers that emails are easily missed and urges those trying to reach him, to please send a second email if the first goes unanswered. You can write to Tim at this address: newsroom@salem-news.com




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Anonymous December 3, 2011 12:05 pm (Pacific time)

Tim you have opinions but they are not based on academic credentials. Just like your 911 conspiracy opinions when you talk about "melting temperatures." You should have addressed the "softening" temperature of the towers steel superstructure. This steel loses 50% of it's strength when the temperture reaches 60% of it's melting point. As per your background in historical events you have no training nor actual latitudinal/longitutinal experience in the middle east. Oh sure you "feel" you know things, but let's be intellectually honest Tim, you have an agenda and facts are the first casualty of that agenda. In terms of being examined by testing/debating of your fund of knowledge would be devastating for you and your very fragile personality.

Tim King: I do not have a fragile personality, I would be dead by now if I did with what I do for a living.  For example, you write every single day and you generally write far worse things but you have toned it down a tiny bit in hopes that I will carry your comment as I did.  

Yes, I have an agenda, I want people to live in peace and have happiness and I want them to have the ability to feed their kids healthy food and visit a doctor when they need to.  I believe in Maslow's hierarchy of needs; if you want to shake down my philosophical views, then start by dismantling that idea, because that is where I am coming from.  I believe in equality and I believe in civil and human rights and also the right to privacy.  I do not believe governments should randomly kill people.  Let's see, I believe religion teaches us not to kill without exception.  I believe in battling corruption and that certain subjects like human trafficking get far too little play in the media, which I see as vastly corrupt and sold out.  I believe the American veteran is getting a raw deal with the VA.  I believe locking people up for smoking pot is stupid.  Fragile personality, that is really funny.  Truth, man I am truth, and your right wing agenda is not.  That about sums it up.  


Anonymous December 3, 2011 10:06 am (Pacific time)

Tim how do you think you would do taking a mid-term exam (not a final exam, they're more comprehensive)) in a college history (lower division) course in American History? Western Civilization? Typical exams have multiple choice, true/false, and essays. Are you familiar with the flow of world history in regards to the causal factors that study entails? Ditto for any other area of history concentration? How about a formal debate with someone who is an actual historical scholar in the above areas you discussed in this article?

Tim King: Name the time and place... 


Ralph E. Stone December 3, 2011 6:44 am (Pacific time)

Tim, nice piece. I agree that we should not blame the veterans, who like in many wars were the unwitting pawns in the war. I am a veteran of the Vietnam war where many Vietnam veterans became the scapegoats of a disastrous war. As yet, I don't see this happening to the veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Tim King: Thank you Ralph.

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