American imperialist arrogance is almost comical in its ineptitude. Invade Iraq, kill so many and still make off with the oil contracts.
This piece in the Washington Post by John Tierman is that rare piece of remembrance of the mostly nameless civilians we kill in the name of freedom and democracy. And we wonder why they hate us (as they should):
As the United States officially ended the war in Iraq last month, President Obama spoke eloquently at Fort Bragg, N.C., lauding troops for “your patriotism, your commitment to fulfill your mission, your abiding commitment to one another,” and offering words of grief for the nearly 4,500 members of the U.S. armed forces who died in Iraq. He did not, however, mention the sacrifices of the Iraqi people.
This inattention to civilian deaths in America’s wars isn’t unique to Iraq. There’s little evidence that the American public gives much thought to the people who live in the nations where our military interventions take place. Think about the memorials on the Mall honoring American sacrifices in Korea and Vietnam. These are powerful, sacred spots, but neither mentions the people of those countries who perished in the conflicts.
The major wars the United States has fought since the surrender of Japan in 1945 — in Korea, Indochina, Iraq and Afghanistan — have produced colossal carnage. For most of them, we do not have an accurate sense of how many people died, but a conservative estimate is at least 6 million civilians and soldiers.
Our lack of acknowledgment is less oversight than habit, a self-reflective reaction to the horrors of war and an American tradition that goes back decades. We consider ourselves a generous and compassionate nation, and often we are. From the Asian tsunami in 2004 to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Haiti earthquake in 2010, Americans have been quick to open their pocketbooks and their hearts.
However, when it comes to our wars overseas, concern for the victims is limited to U.S. troops. When concern for the native populations is expressed, it tends to be more strategic than empathetic, as with Gen. David H. Petraeus’s acknowledgment in late 2006 that harsh U.S. tactics were alienating Iraqi civilians and undermining Operation Iraqi Freedom. The switch to counterinsurgency, which involves more restraint by the military, was billed as a change that would save the U.S. mission, not primarily as a strategy to reduce civilian deaths.
Pollsters, meanwhile, have asked virtually no questions of the public about foreign casualties. But on the rare occasions when they do, the results have been striking. A 1968 Harris poll found 4 percent favored an end to the Vietnam war because of harm to civilians. A University of Michigan pollster concluded: “More and more Americans now think our intervention was a military mistake, and want to forget the whole thing.”
On Iraq, when an Associated Press survey asked Americans in early 2007how many Iraqis had died in the war, the average of all answers was 9,890, when the actual number was probably well into the hundreds of thousands. In several polls in 2007 and 2008, Americans were asked whether we should withdraw troops even if it put Iraqis at risk of more civil unrest; a clear majority said yes.
Today there is virtually no support for helping rebuild Iraq or Afghanistan — no campaigns by large charities, no open doors for Iraqi refugees. Even Iraqis who worked with the American military are having trouble getting political asylum in the United States and face a risk of retribution at home. The U.S. response to so many dead, 5 million displaced and a devastated country is woefully dismissive.