Buencamino does foreign and political affairs analysis for the NGO Action for Economic Reforms. This piece was published in the newspaper Today, page 11, May 4, 2004 edition.

“Change the channel. The stations that are showing Americans killing women and children are not legitimate news sources.” -General Mark Kimmit, US military spokesman for Iraq

And so we changed channels and we saw female American soldiers in group photos with naked Iraqis.

Thank you, General. A naked Iraqi prisoner is much more pleasing to the eye than mutilated bodies. Thank you, sir.

One soldier, with a cigarette hanging from the corner of her mouth, looked like a male commander in chief reviewing his naked troops. The other soldier, grinning from ear to ear while bent over a pyramid of naked butts, looked like she was having her picture taken with a bunch of fraternity pledges from Skull and Bones, the Yale fraternity that Bush belongs to.

Both female soldiers, nice American girls of the trailer-next-door type, looked like they were having the time of their lives. And maybe they were.

But on 60 Minutes II, General Mark Kimmitt, the military spokesman, did not look like he was having any fun at all. He said, “This is wrong. This is reprehensible. But this is not representative of the 150,000 soldiers that are over here. I’d say the same thing to the American people. Don’t judge your Army based on the actions of a few.”

Of course Americans shouldn’t judge their Army based on those photos and the “actions of a few.” There are many other photos and actions to judge their Army by.

In Fallujah, there are photos of their Army killing and mutilating women and children with 2,000-pound bombs, helicopter gun ships,and 60-on tanks.

Unfortunately, the General says those types of photos do not come from legitimate news sources so those can’t be used as evidence. Even more unfortunately, the gneral and his superiors in Washington do not allow pictures to be taken of flag-draped coffins of the”heroes”who gave up
their lives for a stupid war.

So, what are the American people going to judge their Army on?

They can use corporate annual reports. They can judge how well the war is going by looking at the profit-and-loss statements of war profiteers like Halliburton and its subsidiary, Kellog, Brown and Root. Or they can look at the bank accounts of people like Dick Cheney, Richard Perle, and a dozen or so Bush administration officials and relatives who composed the symphony between war profiteers and foreign policy. Or they can change channels and stop watching Fox News for what is actually happening in Iraq.

Abu Ghraib, the fun palace where the group photos were taken, used to be one of Saddam Hussein’s most notorious prisons. It was famous for its torture chambers. Now, Abu Ghraib has taken on a distinctly American character. Many of the interrogators/torturers in that prison are civilian contractors. (Civilian contractors or mercenaries are the third largest contingent in Iraq, after American and British forces.)

These days it is quite common for mercenaries to do the work of regular forces in the US military. The practice is known as outsourcing or privatizing the military. It saves the government a lot of money and it avoids accountability for the actions of mercenaries. Furthermore, civilian deaths are not considered military casualties so they are not counted. Finally, and it goes without saying, outsourcing means more profits for war profiteers.

A year ago, George Bush landed a fighter jet on an aircraft carrier, emerged in a GI Joe flight suit and stood beneath a huge banner that said “Mission Accomplished.”

A year later, George Bush appeared at the White House Rose Garden and revised the meaning of Mission Accomplished. He said,”A year ago, I did give the speech from the carrier, saying that we had achieved an important objective, that we’d accomplished a mission, which was the removal of Saddam Hussein.”

One could ask Bush what effect the carrier landing, the GI Joe flight suit and the banner would have had if it read “Accomplished A Mission” instead of “Mission Accomplished” but the truth hurts.

A year ago, Abu Ghraib was Saddam’s favorite torture chamber. A year later Bush proclaims, “… there are no longer torture chambers or rape rooms or mass graves in Iraq.” Today, on the first anniversary of the downfall of Saddam, Abu Ghraib is a romper room for Bush’s fun-loving soldiers. Mission accomplished.