What did these soldiers die for?

Bush has distanced himself from intelligence reports which suggested Saddam Hussein possessed WMDs.
Bush has distanced himself from intelligence reports which suggested Saddam Hussein possessed WMDs.
Credit: 
Photo courtesy of worldphotos.com
Kerry said he too would have sent troops to Iraq.
Kerry said he too would have sent troops to Iraq.
Credit: 
Photo courtesy of worldphotos.com
Kevin Caners, Sci '07
Kevin Caners, Sci '07

Recently, the inauspicious milestone of one thousand American soldiers killed in Iraq was surpassed, a detail that pleads for a very legitimate and serious question to be answered by the American president: What did these soldiers die for?

Before the invasion, the reasons for war provided by the Bush administration were security related. The American public was bombarded with statements like “Saddam is hiding weapons of mass destruction” and “Iraq has connections with Al Qaeda.” The public lived under the umbrella of an impending terrorist attack. It has, however, been a year and a half since the bombs started dropping and no weapons of mass destruction have been located. Terrorism experts and the 9/11 commission have since refuted the Al Qaeda link. As the daily bloodshed continues, the lack of substance behind the President’s claims is troubling.

So if not for security reasons, what do these soldiers continue to die for?

If you believe the rhetoric of the Republican administration, they died fighting for the freedom of the Iraqi people. Zell Miller, a democratic senator who delivered a keynote address at the recent Republican convention alleged that “Never in the history of the world has any soldier sacrificed more for the freedom and liberty of total strangers than the American soldier.” I do not believe the American presence can be this easily justified.

With the help of corporate U.S. media, the Bush administration effortlessly molded the reasoning behind the invasion from unquestionable evidence of weapons and links with Al Qaeda, to an act of pure benevolence to free the Iraqis on behalf of the American people. It’s as if it were a page taken straight from George Orwell’s classic novel 1984. Given very little attention from major U.S. media outlets is the fact that low-end estimates show 12,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed as a result of the invasion and ongoing occupation.

Not surprisingly, the taking of 12,000 civilian lives by the Americans doesn’t register much concern among the corporate media or the Bush administration and as a result, the American public by and large demonstrates the same apathy.

Luckily the administration’s flimsy new rationalization isn’t hard to refute.

Considering that the Pentagon rarely, if ever, apologizes for civilian deaths and simply writes them off as collateral damage, it’s no wonder the Iraqi people see the invasion as something other than an act of benevolence and respond in an often-violent manner. I can only wonder when the bloodshed may cease if the U.S. does not quickly withdraw its presence from the nation of Iraq. To trust in the rhetoric of the current administration, claiming troops are in Iraq only to establish democracy, one has to ignore recent polls of the Iraqi population demonstrating only a marginal number of citizens believe reasons given by Bush for the invasion.

According to a poll conducted by the Gallup Organization, only five per cent of Baghdad residents said they believed the U.S. invaded Iraq “to assist the Iraqi people,” and only one per cent believed the Americans invaded to establish democracy.

One also has to ignore the American government’s past and continuing support of harsh and repressive regimes over the past 50 years. This is in addition to the U.S.- backed economic sanctions overlooked by the UN, which have caused many deaths among the civilian population from starvation and disease. I guess the American government suddenly had a change of heart.

In spite of this obviously false pretext for the invasion, there is almost no debate in America about its lack of merit. It is regarded instead as an axiom that soldiers are in Iraq to fight for the Iraqis’ freedom and nothing else.

Those doing the fighting may not know any better. This is little justification for all the deaths that have occurred.

The lack of debate isn’t improved by the fact that in the current presidential race, the stance of Kerry and Bush regarding Iraq is practically identical. Kerry has said he would have voted to support the war in Iraq even with the absence of weapons of mass destruction. The differences in policy on Iraq between the two candidates lies in Kerry’s claim that he would have pushed harder for international support for the war, and had it approved by the United Nations.

How can there be any real debate on the matter when the supposedly left-wing candidate’s stance is almost identical to that of the current Bush administration? This is why, instead of a debate focused on the occupation in Iraq, the faltering economy, or the fact that some 40 million Americans are without medical insurance, the debate in this election has been dominated by what Bush and Kerry did or did not do in their military service during the Vietnam War some 30 years ago.

Whatever the real reasons are for the invasion of Iraq, be it American imperialism, the act of securing massive oil reserves, to install a friendly Muslim government in the Middle East, or a simple display of America’s hegemony as a warning for other nations, the massive bloodshed continues in Iraq, and in spite of the uncertainty regarding the next American president, it is bound to stay that way.

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