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A Feast of Death
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Now thou art come unto a feast of death.
- William Shakespeare, Henry VI
On Tuesday, some took solemn note of the fact that the total number of "Coalition" fatalities from the invasion and occupation of Iraq had reached 2,000. On Wednesday afternoon, that number blurred upwards again to 2,015 dead soldiers. 1,821 of those served under the American flag. Fourteen US Marines died on Wednesday when their vehicle was shattered by a large bomb. Six other Marines were killed together on Monday, and a seventh is reportedly being held hostage. Two more Marines also died Monday, both from car bombings in separate locations.
We are only three days into the month of August, and 22 US soldiers are dead. 54 died in July, 78 died in June, and 80 died in May. The occupation has lasted 868 days. More than two thousand soldiers, almost all of them young American boys and girls, have had the life blasted out of them because they were sent by their commander in chief to find weapons of mass destruction that did not exist. Those soldiers who remain, those soldiers who have been redeployed into the war zone two or three times already, wait with grim resolve to be brought home to their families whole and sane and safe.
Acclaimed novelist E.L. Doctorow has penned some words about George W. Bush and his understanding of death and this war. "This president," wrote Doctorow, "does not know what death is. He hasn't the mind for it. You see him joking with the press, peering under the table for the WMDs he can't seem to find, you see him at rallies strutting up to the stage in shirt sleeves to the roar of the carefully screened crowd, smiling and waving, triumphal, a he-man. He does not mourn. He doesn't understand why he should mourn. He is satisfied during the course of a speech written for him to look solemn for a moment and speak of the brave young Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country."
"But you study him," continued Doctorow, "you look into his eyes and know he dissembles an emotion which he does not feel in the depths of his being because he has no capacity for it. He does not feel a personal responsibility for the thousand dead young men and women who wanted to be what they could be. They come to his desk not as youngsters with mothers and fathers or wives and children who will suffer to the end of their days a terribly torn fabric of familial relationships and the inconsolable remembrance of aborted life. They come to his desk as a political liability which is why the press is not permitted to photograph the arrival of their coffins from Iraq. How then can he mourn? To mourn is to express regret and he regrets nothing."
The occupation of Iraq is almost a thousand days old now, and as the self-serving justifications for invasion wither in the desert sun, as the neo-conservative "Bush Doctrine" collapses in a swelling flood of blood and total failure, as more and more people see impeachment as a moral necessity, as those who stand in opposition wonder what they can do to thwart a corrupt and crazed administration that exists entirely without checks and balances, there remains one act of defiance and strength and solidarity that cannot be ignored.
On Saturday, September 24th, there will be a protest in Washington DC. This gathering could possibly dwarf all previous demonstrations against this administration. That weekend will see far more than a protest. On the 25th, Progressive Democrats of America will host a wide-ranging strategy session at the David A. Clarke School of Law on Connecticut Avenue. The purpose of this gathering will be to prepare progressive legislative and electoral strategies for the 2006 midterm elections. That Monday the 26th, activists will be walking up and down the halls of the House of Representatives to lobby congresspeople to demand a withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
That is for September. This very weekend will see another gathering in Dallas, Texas. The Veterans for Peace are holding their national convention from the 4th through the 7th, and will be celebrating their 20th year as an organization of military veterans committed to ending war, and specifically to ending the occupation of Iraq.
Among those who will be speaking in Dallas will be Dahr Jamail, the courageous journalist who spent months in the most dangerous places in Iraq so he could tell the world what is really happening there. Michael Hoffman, a lance corporal in the Marines who participated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and returned to form Iraq Veterans Against the War, will also be speaking. Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in Iraq, will be speaking as a member of Gold Star Families for Peace.
Those who would defend Mr. Bush and his deranged war policies are fond of labeling dissenters as unpatriotic, un-American cowards. In Dallas this weekend, there will be a journalist who risked his life over and over to report the truth of Iraq from within. There will be a Marine who fought in Iraq and returned to organize against the war. There will be a mother whose sacrifice and sorrow is beyond description. There will be hundreds of veterans who have served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and elsewhere, who stand now for peace and the end of the occupation.
It has been a hot summer so far, and this feast of death continues in Iraq with no end in sight. The Veterans for Peace, the Gold Star mothers, the Iraq veterans, the journalists who have seen the reality of Iraq, and the hundreds of thousands coming to Washington in September appear to have every intention of making this summer hotter still.
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.