Shock & Awe One Year Later: The Awful Shock of Reality

Where have all the flowers gone? What has become of all the heady predictions of garland-strewn, victory parades in downtown Baghdad one year after the war began? The toppled bronze statue, a media event staged to celebrate the toppling of Saddam Hussein, signaled an end to one phase of the war'The Shock and Awe quick strike phase'and the beginning of the long, hard slog of military occupation. To say we were right a year later'those outspoken critics of the patriotic Old Right, journalists like Justin Raimondo and Eric Margolis, or those of the Activist Left'is beside the point. I admit a flawed logic in my own column at that time--Shock and Awe Followed by Block to Block?--but the "block to block" of attrition was sadly foreseeable. One only needed to glance at Gaza or the West Bank and add a thousand times more guns. Few predicted however, and who could have besides perhaps Robert Fisk, the cruel reality of day-to-day human casualties in Iraq after the "war" was over. Most critics of pre-emptive war, whether military or civilian, suggested we know thy enemy, but this restraint was neither seconded by the administration nor the mainstream media. According to author Michael Desch, writing a full three months before the war: "Hawks in the Bush administration are confident that the Iraqi military will not fight, and some like Defense Policy Board Chairman Richard Perle even believe that elements of the Iraqi military will stage a coup d'etat and oust Saddam for us." This was the official viewpoint then. Things have changed now.

Casualties continue to descend like drops of rain falling in the desert without ever once striking fertile ground and nourishing life. Even the word "casualty" does a disservice, hardly describing the physical or emotional suffering. If, as Shakespeare wrote, "the quality of mercy . . . falls like the gentle rain from heaven," then what is affliction but cruelty bestowed upon occupied and occupier alike, a calculated, searing heat that desiccates rather than quenches the human soul.

Remember Colin Powell? Once mentioned as Presidential material, he remains an enigma. Most people believed he could have easily beaten either Bush or Gore in 2000. The once esteemed general Colin Powell aided and abetted the Great Intelligence Fraud--from the world stage of the UN, no less--and gutted any chance of presidency apparently. Loyalty is a wonderful thing but lies leave a bitter taste in people's mouths.

Why did no one listen when Representative Dennis Kucinich reminded us a year ago: "The whole world is watching" what America does? Well, a year later the world is still watching America, but with considerably more trepidation.

A glance at today's gloomy headlines and columns from the mainstream press hardly reflects the cautious optimism of twelve months ago from the New York Times, FOX , MSNBC, and Washington Post--echoing the almost giddy pronouncements from the White House. Why didn't these major, influential forums carry more diverse viewpoints, for example, William Lind's: A Warning from Clausewitz On Fourth Generation Warfare or a daily mega-dose of David Hackworth? These are hardly fringe elements or shrill voices of dissent. Instead today, we read the grim headline, Blasts Kill 143 at Iraq Shiite Shrines, and the words strike the psyche like one of those crucifixion spikes suddenly so much in the news. While we focus intently on one historic crucifixion, a thousand crucifying acts are daily conducted in our name all over the globe. Forgive us Father, for we know too well what we do.

The Achilles heel of any quest for American Empire'the footsoldier'treads lightly across the pages of our so-called free press. In times of war, these murmurs of independent thought are forcibly stilled. But if the footfalls have scarcely been heard, their imprint contains a vividness of language lacking from official policy and the chorus of Pulitzer Prize winning scribes paid well to shill it. Even when faintly heard the voices of soldiers carry a damning freshness. "What a country we live in to where the leader of the strongest nation in the world can lie to his people to get his war and even when the people realize that he lied, he still he sits in his throne in the White House, smoking away on his cigars."

A few good men, Generals Shinseki and Zinni, spoke out beforehand, over a year ago. How many more spoke out in private, at Langley, headquarters of the CIA, and in the corridors of the Pentagon, we will never know. According to Robert Fisk, We Were Warned About This Chaos by General Zinni--but duplicitous voices obviously had the president's ear. Indeed, had the President and his advisors perhaps read Stephen Banko's I Was a Soldier Once on the eve of the war, we would not now be reading headlines like Four Major Guard Units Alerted for Iraq Duty, or the letters that continue to stream out of the war so vividly-- "I was recently discharged with honorable valor and returned to the States only to be horrified by what I've seen my country turn into."--words that cause a grimace, or a scowl of remorse.

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Douglas Herman's picture
Columns on STR: 149

Award winning artist, photographer and freelance journalist, Douglas Herman can be found wandering the back roads of America. Doug authored the political crime thriller, The Guns of Dallas  and wrote and directed the Independent feature film,Throwing Caution to the Windnaturally a "road movie," and credits STR for giving him the impetus to write well, both provocatively and entertainingly. A longtime gypsy, Doug completed a 10,000 mile circumnavigation of North America, by bicycle, at the age of 35, and still wanders between Bullhead City, Arizona and Kodiak, Alaska with forays frequently into the so-called civilized world of Greater LA. Write him at Roadmovie2 @