In the United States, the most significant event of 2011 hands down should have been the withdrawal of the last U.S. troops from Iraq. But for most Americans, the end of an illegal and immoral war and occupation that raged for nearly ten years, hardly registered a ripple.
The reason? U.S. politicians and citizens continue to embrace the idea of American Exceptionalism.
Case in point: In the United States, only U.S. casualties matter. According to the Iraq Coalition Count, almost 4,500 U.S. soldiers perished during the Iraq War, while slightly more than 32,000 U.S. soldiers were officially identified as wounded. No U.S. agency, however, bothers to officially track Iraqi casualties.
Not counting “enemy” casualties would seem to be the ultimate form of dehumanization. (The non-governmental group Iraq Body Count estimates between 104,308 and 113,962 Iraqi casualties.) After all, that’s the point of a war: dehumanize and demonize the enemy. No need to count their bodies, because they’re not worthy of being identified or even acknowledged.
In Iraq, we were able to witness, from start to finish, the ushering in of a preemptive and unjustified illegal war, by the United States, sans legal consequences for those who engineered this massive crime against humanity.
The U.S. government narrative – regurgitated ad nauseam by the mainstream media – told of a war being waged to prevent Iraq from terrorizing the world. Never mind that all the “evidence” was trumped up.
In mind-numbing fashion, we watched and listened to U.S. politicians invoke images of U.S. sacrifice and heroism, while simultaneously ordering U.S. troops to kill and maim untold tens of thousands of Iraqis and displace hundreds of thousands of others, all at the cost of a trillion dollars.
This is how national myths are created. Since 2001, with the ascension and acceptance of the concept of a U.S. “homeland,” the United States now shares the ideological space of dictatorships. The government’s nurturing and selling of that idea was a deft psychological maneuver. Despite being the world’s sole superpower, the United States, with colonial and immigrant roots, could not previously lay claim to a “homeland.” Now, the Department of Homeland Security and the industry built up around it has become the mother’s milk of politicians.
This in turn has led to the exponential growth of the U.S. military machine, for preemptive and never-ending wars to be fought overseas and at home. One could in fact say that via the use of drone technology, the entire world has now become a battlefield. The mantra now is that the homeland must be protected with militarized walls and fences, border patrols, and drone technology.
This perceived need to protect the homeland against “evildoers” at all costs gave rise to the unquestioned post-2001 logic that we must willingly sacrifice our constitutional rights and freedoms, for the security of the nation. If truth was the first casualty, the U.S. Constitution was the second. But this is not logic; it is evidence that the entire nation appears to be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The impact of this frenzied effort to protect the homeland has not only been felt by our external “enemies.” Now, it is the fear and hate of brown men, women and children within our own borders that is driving this pathology. There is a direct connection between permanent war, “the homeland,” the expansion and privatization of the U.S. penal system, the criminalization of youths of color and the degradation of both the U.S. Constitution and human rights, world wide. In the largest penal system in the world (upwards of 2 million inmates), U.S. prisoners are primarily black and brown.
All is not hopeless. Domestically, the Occupy Movement is proof that the 99% are no longer falling for the logic of the 1%. And in Arizona, the ultimate symbol of Homeland Security, state senate president Russell Pearce, has been recalled while his political twin, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, is reeling from a series of Justice Department investigations that found his department guilty of engaging in egregious racial profiling. His days are numbered.
In the bigger scheme of things, though, both are small potatoes. If the World Court were to affirm that there is no statute of limitations for starting illegal wars and indict those that engineered the Iraq War (The Bush-Cheney cabinet, those who made off with book deals as opposed to trials at the Hague), perhaps the world could begin to have a real conversation about justice and American Exceptionalism. It might even prevent further preemptive wars.
Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona, can be reached at: XColumn@gmail.com
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