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Monday, November 21, 2005

What is it good for? Absolutely nuthin'

I've read and watched a lot of accounts of war, both fictional and non-fictional. War does many horrible things--death, maiming, destruction, starvation, endless waste and environmental damage, and more. But to me, one of the worst to me is the horrible spirit-crushing dilemmas war imposes on people. The war in Bosnia was a recent example--taking a stand on either side of the conflict could get you killed, but so could trying to remain neutral. Whatever you did, you risked being called a traitor, an insurgent, a collaborator, a coward, or whatever, and being shot for the "crime."

World War II in the Ukraine was a particularly brutal example. Ukraine had suffered under Stalin's rule, perhaps more than any other Soviet republic. Millions died of famine in 1932-33 because the Soviet government seized grain from Ukrainian farmers and shipped it to other parts of the USSR, leaving rural Ukrainians without food. This was followed by widespread purges of people suspected of "anti-soviet activity." Ukraine was particularly targeted. So, while most of Europe and probably most of the Soviet Union feared the advance of Hitler's armies, many in the Ukraine saw the Nazis as potential liberators from Stalin's brutal rule. The Communist Party structure was still in place, so openly supporting the Germans could get you killed. However, not supporting the Germans could also get you killed by anti-Soviet "insurgents," or by the Germans themselves. The situation was made infinitely more complicated as the war ebbed and flowed across the Ukraine for some two years, with certain areas nominally under the control of first the Soviets, then the Nazis, and then the Soviets again. Picking a side could get you killed on any given day, but so could not picking a side. Most Ukrainians in no way deserved the sustained horror that was brought down upon them by the maniacal hubris of Stalin and Hitler.

Plenty of other examples, of course--Vichy France, Poland, Vietnam, Somalia, Nicaragua. But I'm sure you already know where I'm going with this--Iraq. A difficult, repressive political environment under Saddam Hussein was made infinitely worse by the US-UK invasion in 2003. Keeping one's head low and mouth shut was no longer a guarantee of anything. Now you can be rounded up and locked away, quite possibly tortured, for just the merest suspicion of being an insurgent. But not only that--the same thing can happen if you are suspected of being a collaborator. The Independent reports that Iraqi police, trained by the Brits, have tortured supposed "collaborators" to death:
Militia-dominated police, who were recruited by Britain, are believed to have tortured at least two men to death in the station. Their bodies were later found with drill holes to their arms, legs and skulls.

The victims were suspected of collaborating with coalition forces, according to intelligence reports. Despite being pressed "very hard" by Britain, however, the Iraqi authorities in Basra are failing to even investigate incidents of torture and murder by police, ministers admit.
George W. Bush and Tony Blair had absolutely no right to bring this ongoing reign of terror to the long-suffering people of Iraq. They are the real insurgents and collaborators and terrorists in this story.