Fool Me Once . . .
by Harry Browne
recently received this message from an acquaintance . . .
think it is simply perverse of you to claim that Iraqis are no freer
than they were under Saddam. The mass graves are being exhumed,
not added to; the prison rape rooms are shut down; Saddam and his
thugs are going on trial; and instead of ripping themselves apart
in a vicious civil war, Iraqi Shiites, Kurds, secularists, and even
Sunnis are busily engaged in politics. No freer? Come on, Harry!
Don't let your animus against Bush and the war blind you to the
good American arms have accomplished.
can well understand why the message-writer feels as he does. After
all, rarely does a day go by when you arenít reminded by politicians,
TV announcers and commentators, or radio talk-show hosts of the
terrible acts Saddam Hussein committed.
the orgy of celebrations that occurred on American TV on Iraqi Election
Day, January 31 hammering home the idea that the war had
been worth it after all was "Mission Accomplished"
all over again. It was enough to convince almost anyone that, whatever
mistakes had been made, it turned out that George Bush was right
to persevere and forcibly impose his way upon Iraq.
what way was he right?
heís been proven right to think that he could forcibly remake Iraq
into a peaceful democracy. And the elections were clear evidence
that Iraq is better now than when it was ruled by an evil, brutal
dictator who mistreated his downtrodden subjects.
Back at Reality . . .
so weíre being told.
a moment weíll look at the charges made against Saddam Hussein
charges made so frequently that we come to believe that no one could
possibly doubt them.
letís begin by trying to gauge how free and democratic Iraq has
list of restrictions imposed by the U.S. military on Iraqi citizens
is quite lengthy.
Iraqis must carry ID cards at all times, thereís barbed wire around
many cities, people must be in their homes by curfew time, there
are still roadblocks and checkpoints, American troops sometimes
arrest families and hold them as hostages until suspected "terrorists"
surrender, private property is frequently demolished, there are
prohibitions on protests, and so on.
more about this in my December 2003 article "How
Do I Liberate Thee? Let Me Count the Ways." Very little
has changed since I wrote it.
than likely, a lot of Iraqis are ecstatic that Hussein is gone.
Itís just as likely, however, that many Iraqis are doing what people
in occupied countries have been doing since time immemorial
saying whatever the occupiers, in this case the U.S. military, like
to hear. And there may be quite a few who find it hard to choose
between an orderly police state and a chaotic, violent foreign occupation.
wouldnít be so presumptuous as to try to guess how much better off
Iraqis are today.
I am so presumptuous as to assert that thereís one group
of Iraqis who are not better off or freer than they were
under Hussein. And that group is the people killed by the U.S. military.
donít really know how many Iraqis have died in the war and the occupation.
The U.S. government has made it a point
to ignore the number of Iraqi fatalities. As General Tommy Franks
said, "We donít do body counts."
several private agencies have attempted to estimate the fatalities.
Project on Defense Alternatives estimated that about 13,000
Iraqis died just in the first seven months of the war. However,
medical group Medact put the number between 21,700 and 55,000
for that same 7-month period.
Iraq Body Count Project has counted about 18,000 deaths just
among civilians and counting only those deaths that have
been reported in the media. But the Iraqi
Freedom Party has surveyed the country and counted 37,157 deaths
among civilians alone.
The British medical journal The Lancet, by extrapolating
from the information it could get from hospitals and morgues, said
the death toll could be as high as 100,000 including both
civilians and soldiers.
probably never will be an authoritative body count. But we do know
that itís at least in the tens of thousands of Iraqis including
thousands and thousands of civilians.
are we to condemn those people to death just to fulfill the
fantasy of an American President who knows virtually nothing about
Iraq, its people, its culture, or its history?
when did it become the business of the U.S. government to decide
which foreign countries should have their governments violently
deposed? Just where in the Constitution is the President or Congress
authorized to do that with our money putting our lives at
risk of retaliation in the process?
it amazes me that anyone could place Iraq in the column of free,
democratic, peaceful countries just because one election was held.
were held in the old Iraq, in Nazi Germany, in the Soviet Union
and are held today in Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and in virtually
every one of the dictatorships around the world. Holding an election
means virtually nothing.
should really be three different nations Sunni, Shiite, and
Kurdish. Instead, the three should-be nations have been joined at
the hip and are expected to operate a British-style parliament.
the two months since the election, the parliament has met only twice
the second time erupting into shouting and screaming.
unique characteristic of government is force. What happens
when the three groups begin deciding how that force is going to
be used? What happens when one of the three gains the power to forcibly
impose its way upon the others?
really donít think you can label Iraq a peaceful, working democracy
until itís been operating efficiently for ten years or so. If then
it resembles the Canadian parliament on C-SPAN, it might be fair
to proclaim "Mission Accomplished."
issues of whether Iraqis are really free and whether the countryís
grand democratic experiment will succeed are important and interesting.
But the issue that really fascinates me is the recitation of Saddam
all know about the terrible things he did.
how do we know about them?
know about them because George Bush and his cohorts have told us
fact, virtually all we know about Saddam Hussein and his dictatorship
are what the Bush administration has told us.
how do they know?
they know because their pre-war sources inside Iraq told them so.
same sources along with the CIA, the State Department, the
Defense Department, and other Bush advisors created the stories
mobile laboratories, aluminum
aircraft that could carry WMDs to America's east coast, ballistic
missiles that could threaten the whole Middle East,
uranium purchases in Africa, Al-Qaeda
training camps in Iraq, and much more.
George Bush repeated to us verbatim all these unverified assertions.
However, he didnít mention that they were unverified. He didnít
say he had "reason to believe," or that he thought "there
might be," or "itís possible that." He delivered
these assertions as simple, definite, undeniable facts
as certain as that Cincinnati is in the state of Ohio.
turned out that not one of these undeniable facts was true. Whether
George Bush knew they were false or was himself deceived, one thing
is sure: George Bush is a very poor source of information about
Saddam Hussein or Iraq.
when trying to decide now whether to believe what Bush says about
Saddam Hussein, remember the old adage: "Fool me once, shame
on you; fool me twice, shame on me."
in fact George Bush has tried to fool us more than a dozen times
not only about Iraq, but about his claims to be for
limited government, or his claims that judges and politicians
to the Constitution.
we should set aside the Bush assertions and look at each piece of
evidence through fresh, independent eyes.
Rooms & Torture Chambers
is it that everyone knows about Saddam Hussein?
message-writer alludes to these things when he says, "The mass
graves are being exhumed, not added to; the prison rape rooms are
shut down." He didnít bring up the gassing of the Kurds. He
might also have mentioned the torture chambers but for obvious
reasons Saddam-haters have found it a bit embarrassing to mention
those since weíve become aware of the treatment of prisoners
at Abu Ghraib and
other prisons operated by the American military.
badly as George Bush has needed good news about Iraq and verification
for his claims that it was worth going to war with Iraq, youíd think
that we would constantly be seeing pictures of rape rooms and torture
chambers on TV, on the Internet, and in newspapers and magazines
together with detailed 1-2-3 explanations of the way each
sadistic apparatus operated. This is the way the media normally
operates with such stories showing scenes over and over and
I havenít seen a single one.
George Bush says . . . [well, youíve heard it
all a dozen times].
me twice, shame on me.
his Own People
of course we all know that Hussein gassed his own people at Halabja.
all, George Bush has told us so and told us so and told us
the verdict on that is far from settled. Because the event occurred
on the battle line during the Iraq-Iran war, itís
entirely possible that the gas came from the Iranians (both
sides used gas), or if from the Iraqis that it was
directed at the Iranian soldiers. And if the gassing was done by
Iraqi soldiers, it was done with
chemical weapons that came from the United States. If it was
such a terrible act, why did
the Reagan administration make it possible?
if gassing your "own people" is such a heinous act, why
did the U.S. government do it at Waco in 1993?
"Mass Grave" atrocity has always puzzled me.
is it somehow more heinous to bury people in mass graves, rather
than in individual graves?
anyone wants his loved ones to be honored and buried in a respectable,
individual grave. But it may be that the circumstances of someoneís
death in war or in an epidemic preclude that possibility.
whenever George Bush utters the words "mass graves," weíre
all supposed to react in horror that someone would be so sadistic
as to have authorized mass graves.
the relevant question is: why are there mass graves?
may have dozed off once or twice, but I havenít heard anyone answer
that question. I guess weíre supposed to assume that Saddam Hussein
executed so many opponents of his regime that they had to dump all
the dead bodies in huge, mass graves.
is that what happened?
but I havenít seen any proof of it. No pictures, no eye-witness
accounts. Just uttering the words "mass graves" over and
over like a mantra. From what weíve seen, youíd be hard put to believe
there even are any mass graves.
in fact they do exist some of them for certain, and several
others possibly. Here are a few Iím aware of . . .
- In February
1991, just after the start of the brief Gulf War, there was a
large fight at the "Neutral Zone" located at the Iraq-Saudi
border. American troops slaughtered thousands of Iraqi soldiers,
American earth-movers plowed the Iraqis into the ground and
covered them up. Possibly thousands of Iraqis were buried in the
mass graves the American military created.
- Near the
end of the 1991 Gulf War, U.S. troops slaughtered thousands of
Iraqi soldiers who were retreating from Kuwait. Once again, the
dead soldiers were plowed into the ground. I can only wonder
what weeds will grow from those seeds.
One mass grave near a Baghdad palace is known to contain Iraqi
soldiers who died when American soldiers stormed Baghdad.
- When the
U.S. Marines destroyed Fallujah, at least 600 Iraqis died
and most of them were buried in
mass graves set up in soccer fields, called the "Graveyard
of the Martyrs" by Fallujah residents.
four sets of mass graves have been documented. But (to the best
of my knowledge) they havenít been shown on TV probably because
it was the U.S. military that created them. There may be other mass
graves as well. For example . . .
In the 1980s, Iraq and Iran fought a terrible war in which, most
likely, hundreds of thousands of people died. Itís certainly possible
that many of them were buried in mass graves.
Lastly, perhaps the ghastliest possibility has to do with the end
of the 1991 Gulf War.
George Bush Sr. exhorted the Iraqi people to "take matters
into your own hands and force Saddam to step aside." This provoked
a tremendous uprising that won a few victories against the Iraqi
Iraqi rebels naturally assumed that the U.S. military was going
to help them "force Saddam to step aside." But George
H.W. Bush suddenly reversed himself, and
the U.S. military did everything possible to prevent the
uprising from succeeding. As a result, the Iraqi Republican
Army slaughtered thousands of Iraqis.
A mass grave near Al Hillah was unearthed in the summer of 2003,
producing the bodies of 900 of the Shiites who were massacred as
a consequence of George H.W. Bushís false promises.
me thrice, and a lot of Iraqis die.
2003 the U.S. State Department produced a webpage
designed to make us repulsed by the horrible mass graves in Iraq.
However, for some unexplained reason, it doesnít mention that some
of the graves were created by the U.S. military.
me quadrupily, whatís the matter with me?
Do you remember all the talk about the mass graves in which Serbs
supposedly buried up to 100,000 innocent Kosovo civilians during
the NATO war of 1999? Well, it turned out that the investigative
teams of the War Crimes Tribunal couldnít find evidence of
even one grave that might be called "mass."
me quintupily, and Iíd better see a therapist.
what do we know for sure about Saddam Hussein?
we set aside all the assertions of the Bush administration
and the parroting of those assertions by the media we donít
actually know very much.
sources indicate that, under Hussein, Iraq was a secular nation
possibly the most advanced and best educated of the Muslim
countries but a brutal, one-party dictatorship, similar to
those in Pakistan, Turkminestan, Uzbekistan, and some of the others
that George Bush likes to call "our partners in the war on
sure I wouldnít have liked living in Iraq pre-2003. And Iím sure
I wouldnít like living there now either.
have little doubt that Saddam Hussein was a very bad man (as is
virtually any human being who has such power at his disposal). But
I refuse to accept all the propaganda about him no matter
how many times itís repeated and no matter how many people repeat
it. It still comes primarily from the man who brought us The Great
Myth of WMDs and a dozen more related "facts" that proved
to be whoppers.
me sextupily, and I shouldnít be allowed out of the house.
Iím not convinced and not likely to become convinced
that what is going on in Iraq now was worth the deaths of tens of
thousands of human beings human beings who, if they could
talk, might not agree with George Bush that "freedom is always
then, I value human life.
I donít value the assertions of people who have proven to have no
respect for the truth.
me once, shame on Bush.
me two dozen times, Iíd have to be nuts.
Harry Browne [send
him mail], the author of Why
Government Doesn't Work
and many other books, was the Libertarian presidential candidate
in 1996 and 2000. See his website.
© 2005 Harry Browne