James Blake Miller, a 20-year-old marine from Appalachia, has been christened "the face of Falluja" by pro-war pundits, and the "the Marlboro man" by pretty much everyone else. Naomi Klein writes in the Guardian:
Reprinted in more than a hundred newspapers, the Los Angeles Times photograph shows Miller "after more than 12 hours of nearly non-stop, deadly combat" in Falluja, his face coated in war paint, a bloody scratch on his nose, and a freshly lit cigarette hanging from his lips.If my eyes dampen, it is not for the same insipid reasons as Dan Rather. I weep for the innocent victims of men like James Blake Miller. I weep for the witless stupidity of these blind, killing fools, and the greedy, subservient masses who cheer them on.
Gazing lovingly at Miller, the CBS News anchor Dan Rather informed his viewers: "For me, this one's personal. This is a warrior with his eyes on the far horizon, scanning for danger. See it. Study it. Absorb it. Think about it. Then take a deep breath of pride. And if your eyes don't dampen, you're a better man or woman than I."
Impunity - the perception of being outside the law - has long been the hallmark of the Bush regime. What is alarming is that it appears to have deepened since the election, ushering in what can only be described as an orgy of impunity. In Iraq, US forces and their Iraqi surrogates are no longer bothering to conceal attacks on civilian targets and are openly eliminating anyone - doctors, clerics, journalists - who dares to count the bodies. At home, impunity has been made official policy with Bush's appointment of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general, the man who personally advised the president in his infamous "torture memo" that the Geneva conventions are "obsolete".The Guardian has another good article investigating why the British people are very unhappy with Blair, while many Americans think everything is going fine...
This kind of defiance cannot simply be explained by Bush's win. There has to be something in how he won, in how the election was fought, that gave this administration the distinct impression that it had been handed a get-out-of-the-Geneva-conventions free card. That's because the administration was handed precisely such a gift - by John Kerry.
In the name of electability, the Kerry team gave Bush five months on the campaign trail without ever facing serious questions about violations of international law. Fearing that he would be seen as soft on terror and disloyal to US troops, Kerry stayed scandalously silent about Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay. When it became painfully clear that fury would rain down on Falluja as soon as the polls closed, Kerry never spoke out against the plan...
There was a message sent by all of this silence, and the message was that these deaths don't count. By buying the highly questionable logic that Americans are incapable of caring about anyone's lives but their own, the Kerry campaign and its supporters became complicit in the dehumanisation of Iraqis, reinforcing the idea that some lives are expendable, insufficiently important to risk losing votes over. And it is this morally bankrupt logic, more than the election of any single candidate, that allows these crimes to continue unchecked.
A couple of months ago, a senior British officer in Baghdad said to me: "I have been surprised to perceive the moral strength of the Americans here. Before I came, and remembering Vietnam, I thought that by now they would be cracking. Yet I have not met a single American officer or soldier who questions ... what they are doing".The same article has a realistic look at Iraq's immediate future:
Iraq's elections will take place as scheduled, because everybody involved has such a powerful stake in them: the Iraqi people, the Americans, the British, even the United Nations. Polling will be impossible in some areas controlled by insurgents, and turnout will be low by international standards. But we should all hope that the outcome possesses credibility.
Whoever is the nominal victor, the most powerful figure in the country will be the Shia cleric Ali al-Sistani, if his health holds out. Most of what happens thereafter is likely to depend on whether Sistani can persuade a majority of Iraqis to rally behind a new government...