by Paul Balles
All wars are dirty wars. One stands out for the number of lives lost in the minds and memories of Americans–the Vietnam War.
The American public had enough of both the meaningless domino theory and the seemingly useless deaths of 58,000 American servicemen.
Then as a gift to those who wanted that war ended: a photo taken from a helicopter of a young girl running along a road with her whole body aflame.
That one incident involving the carnage on a very young victim resulted in America ending 15 years of a war that nobody won.
Did that provide a lesson for us against the conduct of dirty wars? Unfortunately not. We are worse off today than during the Vietnam War.
What makes a war dirty? It has been referred to as the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians. In a column in Salon, Gary Kamiya defines a dirty war: “America has decided it has the right to kill whoever it wants, whenever it wants.”
The American public was fed up enough with the Vietnam War that it was difficult to get public support for the routing of Iraq from Kuwait.
That rout was so severe, when followed by no-fly zones and years of sanctions, that more than a half million civilians died.
Prior Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Iraq’s “Grim Reaper”, confirmed on Sixty Minutes (May 12, 1996) that the deaths of half a million children as a result of the absolute, all-embracing deprivations of the UN embargo were: “A hard choice, but the price, we think the price is worth it.”
America’s warmongers needed the excuse of 9/11 to first attack Afghanistan and then Iraq.
The Bush government lied first about Osama bin Laden admitting responsibility for 9/11, and denied the Taliban’s request for evidence of bin Laden’s responsibility.
Then, under the coaching of the neocon lobby of Israeli-Americans, they lied about Saddam Husain’s possession of WMDs.
The only thing America has to show for 11 years of war in Afghanistan and nearly nine years of invasion in Iraq are fewer American lives lost, thanks to their use of depleted uranium.
Judging by the continued attacks against would-be terrorist enemies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia, as well as the involvement in Israel’s wars in Libya, Syria and Lebanon, America is dedicated to continuing its dirty wars.
That America’s and Israel’s latest wars are dirty wars has been established by photographic evidence released by whistle blowers that the U.S. government desperately wants to stop.
The murder of civilians by Americans flying over Iraq, caught on film should have been as moving as the girl in flame on a Vietnamese road.
It seems not. Was the burning girl a more moving murder for American eyes? Has it received less media coverage? Has the Israeli pre-emptive approach to everything been adopted by the American public?
Americans seem to have adopted Israel’s absence of guilt for anything that can be justified as defence against attack, whether present, future, imagined or real.
America’s behaviour seems to indicate this. So much misbehaviour reveals a lack of guilt on anyone’s part.
The exception perhaps fits the returning servicemen who suffer Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or who commit suicide.
Assassinations, drones, surveillance, secrecy, the death of civil liberties, no-fly zones, sanctions and the absence of guilt have become the icons and symbols of dirty wars.
The best solution would be America’s divorce from guiltless Israel and reconciliation with the defensive moral imperatives that guided America’s foreign policy during the cold war.