LAS AMERICAS Happy Birthday Death! BY JOHN ROSS It was February 15 and this reporter was hunting for a demonstration to cover. A year ago to the date, an estimated 12,000,000 citizens of the world had marched against George Bush’s impending invasion of Iraq, a number worthy of the Guinness Book of World Records. On that day last year, I had arrived in Baghdad, a member of a delegation of self-declared “Human Shields” prepared to interpose our bodies between Bush’s bombs and the Iraqi peoples. All along the road from Turkey through the Syrian desert and finally into Iraq, well-wishers had lined the way, pressing in around our buses so tightly that you could feel their blood pumping. It was a moment of great hope in a terrible time, one that would be dashed to smithereens by Bush’s March 20 invasion and his malignant display of “shock and awe.” On February 15, 2004, instead of seething mobs hurling rocks at the U.S. embassy in Mexico City as had transpired the previous year, only two demonstrators and an activist reporter manned and womanned the barricades in front of Washington’s windowless, bunker-like outpost on a deserted Reforma boulevard. The silence was deafening. As the first birthday of the ill-named “liberation” of Iraq approaches, the dynamic is distinct. 15,000 to 25,000 Iraqis are dead and the country is wrecked and on the brink of civil war. Tens of thousands have been imprisoned under sub-human conditions by the U.S. occupation. The invasion, which was supposed to eliminate Saddam Hussein’s alleged arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, found no WMDs and exposed George Bush as a worthy successor to such purveyors of the Big Lie as Goering and Goebbels. Although the White House now touts Iraq as “the epicenter of world terrorism;’ if Al Qaeda has taken root in that beleaguered republic, it is only because George “bring it on” Bush brought it there. In the days before the bombs began to fall and we were forced to abandon Baghdad, Mr. Karash, the director of the Al Daura oil refinery which we were shielding, invited us into his office for tea. “We know the Americans are coming and we are ready for them;’ he told us affably. “They will come into our cities and we will fight them block by block if only with sticks and daggers just as our grandfathers resisted the British and forced them to leave.” One year later, more than 600 U.S. and coalition forces are officially listed as battlefield dead \(at least one Pentagon official suggests that figure been wounded and “medically evacuated” from Iraq. At least 22 GIs have committed suicide “over there.” Paul Wolfowitz, as much an architect of this war as McNamara was in Vietnam, had to flee his Baghdad hotel in his underwear, and General Abizaid, the highestranking brass in the region, narrowly missed being blown away by a sniper in Falujah. There is no light at the end of the tunnel, just more fog of war. George Bush himself may well be the ultimate casualty of the Iraqi disaster. Flying high on terror octane ever since 9/11, the U.S. president could very well lose his job next November. “Iraq will be Bush’s tomb” the Mexican daily La Jornada editorialized here a few mornings ago. Relations between Washington and Mexico City soured precipitously on the eve of the war last February and March. In one of the few moments of truth in his three-year reign, Mexican president Vicente Fox earned Bush’s enmity by doing the right thing and instructing his representative on the United Nations Security Council, Adolfo Aguilar Zinser, to vote down the U.S.Great Britainsponsored aggression against Iraq. Knowing that it would fail to carry, the White House eventually withdrew its war resolution and unilaterally marched into Iraq with the Brits and the Spanish tagging along at their side, puppy dogstyle. Communication between Bush and Fox got very frosty very fast. Before the resolution was withdrawn, however, British intelligence was asked by its U.S. counterparts to provide “technical” assistance in “observing” the delegations of Security Council members that had not yet announced their intentions, according to testimony offered in a London courtroom by Katherine Gun, a British operative, who leaked the information to the press and was subsequently drummed out of a job. Both Aguilar Zinser and Juan Manuel Valdez, head of Chile’s Security Council delegation, have confirmed that their office telephones were bugged, a violation of United Nations protocols. In an interview with the British Observer last month, Aguilar Zinser revealed how a last-ditch peace effort by six uncommitted Security Council members on the eve of the aggression had been bugged. The morning after the meeting, when the group met with John Negroponte, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., the plan was already on his desk. The espionage “wrecked the last chance for peace,” Aguilar Zinser laments. Notwithstanding, when Aguilar Zinser asked Mexico’s neophyte Secretary of Foreign Relations, Luis Ernesto Derbez, who had just replaced the mercurial Jorge Castafleda as foreign minister, to send him a team of security agents to sweep the Mexican U.N. offices for eavesdropping devices, he was told to forget about it. Derbez apparently wanted no new problems with the gringos 16 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3/12/04
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