The Ides of March.
March 20, 2007
‘Beware the ides of March’, is said as a warning of impending and certain danger. Since it is from Plutarch, referring to a warning to Julius Caesar, it is unlikely to have influenced George W.Bush’s ‘shock and awe’ decision to invade Iraq in March, since literature is not his forte. (Unless you count ‘My Pet Goat’.)
For Iraq though, March brings not alone the fourth anniversary of the illegal US led invasion, monumental destruction of life, all societal structures, history, the National Museum, libraries of ancient manuscripts, all records from educational qualifications to medical reports, births, deaths and marriages and never ending death and trauma beyond imagination, but the memory of the 1991 ‘turkey shoot’ on the Basra Road and the US encouraged uprisings in the south and north – then bloodily put down – with US assistance. March marked the beginning of the forty day period of mourning for the thousands of retreating conscripts and civilian families incinerated in their vehicles, when B52’s bombed the front and back of the sixty mile convoy, then relentlessly bombed the rest ‘like sitting ducks’, as one pilot explained.
At least ‘fifteen hundred tanks, armoured vehicles, jeeps, water and fuel tankers, ambulances, firetrucks, tractor trailors, buses and civilian vehicles and passenger cars … some flying white flags’ were ‘pounded for hours’ with anti-personel bombs ‘and finally finished off with devastating B52 bombing runs’. It is thought that thousands were crushed, or incinerated in their vehicles. Windscreens and humanity melted. As the William Tell overture and the Lone Ranger theme, blasted out on the USS Ranger, ‘planes reloaded and reloaded, returning to hit the convoy again and again, dropping everything from cluster bombs to five hundred pound bombs ‘like sharks in a feeding frenzy’.
US Air Force planes from Saudia Arabia ‘raced north to join in the fun’. There was so much air traffic involved in the ‘frenzy’ that the ‘killing box’ had to be divided up by air traffic controllers to prevent aircraft colliding. ‘I think we’re past the point of letting (Hussein) get in his tanks and drive them back to Iraq ….’ a US pilot said, adding: ‘I feel fairly punitive about it.’ Saddam Hussein, in whose name the United Nations denied medicines, food, pencils and even blackboards since he would personally misuse them, was now apparently capable of driving sixty miles of vehicles, single handedly.
‘It’s a slaughter’, Jordanian businessman Zaki Ayoubi said:’You are going to slaughter one hundred thousand young men who belong to one hundred thousand families. We’re not talking abstract artillery and machinery.’ President Bush senior, cared, not about indescribable carnage, but semantics. ‘Saddam’s most recent speech’ (saying Iraq was withdrawing from Kuwait, which they did) ‘is an outrage … his forces are retreating.’ Vice President Dan Quayle (over who, stories abound regarding string pulling in order to avoid service in Viet Nam abound) chimed in saying that a lasting peace and Saddam were incompatable. Thus was bloodbath justified.
Admitting ‘massive casualties’, those not vapourised were buried in mass graves in the desert. Soldiers cleaning up ‘said they were satisfied justice had been done.’ Bush senior was asked in beautiful Martinique whether he had any thoughts that the carnage had got out of hand and replied: ‘No, none at all’. Much was made of the fact that many of the vehicles contained ‘looted’ items – toys, silverware, vaccum cleaners, soap, even underwear, as some kind of justification for the massacre. Even in the casual world of US justice, looting does not carry the death penalty (if it did, there would be even more dead US and British soldiers in Iraq currently) and whilst there was indeed looting, Iraqis and Kuwaitis intermarried and many were fleeing with personal belongings from a home they had now had to leave. Then as now there were also many fleeing Palestinians. (See: ‘Desert Mirage’, Martin Yant, Prometheus Books.)
White House spokesman, Marlin Fitzwater had given a committment that US and coalition forces would not attack Iraqi forces leaving Kuwait. Yet: ‘Even in Viet Nam, I didn’t see anything like this. It’s pathetic’, stated Major Bob Nugent of US Army Intelligence. (War Crimes. Ramsey Clark and others, Maisonneuve Press.)
The Iraqi pull out from Kuwait began on 26th February 1991, the ceasefire was signed on the 28th February. On 2nd March 1991, the US 24th Mechanised Division slaughtered thousands more Iraqi soldiers, an action approved by General Norman Schwatzkopf (who famously remarked: ‘no one left to kill’. His autobiography is ‘It doesn’t take a Hero’. Indeed.) ‘We really waxed them’, said one Commander. Another American was recorded saying ‘Say hello to Allah’, as his Hellfire missile obliterated a vehicle. ‘Yee-hah’, said another voice. There was an attempt to cover up the carnage of another vehicle strewn road, since: ‘..it didn’t look good coming after the ceasefire.’ (Ramsey Clark, The Fire this Time, Thunder’s Mouth Press.) The then US Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, had told Saddam Hussein that America had ‘no view on Arab-Arab conflicts.’ Hussein had consulted her on the possible invasion. Iraq accused Kuwait of slant-drilling into their Rumaila oil field across Kuwait’s border, destabilising Iraq’s currency and moving Kuwaiti settlements well into Iraqi territory.
One conscript who survived the horrors of the Basra Road, with the remnants of his unit, told me how they had walked the five hundred and fifty kilometres, through the destruction, by the body parts, home, to carpet bombed Baghdad, none knowing whether family or house had survived: ‘We wanted to cry, but we had no tears left.’ Eighty eight thousand five hundred tonnes of bombs had fallen on ancient Mesapotamia, which brought the world all we call civlized.
As the wickedness of George W.Bush and his war criminal Administration are marked, four years on from the illegal invasion and destruction of the ‘cradle of civilisation’, another George Bush and other criminal acts should also be remembered. He may have taken to crying publicly over his son, he should also look in the mirror.
And on this March day another Minister in Iraq’s legitimate government (‘sovereignty and territorial integrity’, guaranteed by the United Nations) is hanged at dawn, taking civilisation back five hundred years, under the blood-lust watch of America and Britain, in a further act of barbarism, we all should. The unspeakable sins of the son and his Whitehall lackey, are being perpetrated in our name.