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Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2004 01:20 am

commentary 11-25-04

A recent study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has shown that since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, an estimated 100,000 more civilians have died in that country than would have died if the invasion had not taken place. Most of these deaths have been the result of violence, most of those killed have been women and children. Until this study was published, the estimated number of civilian deaths generally ranged between 15,000 and 20,000. During his 24 years in power, Saddam Hussein is believed to have caused the deaths of 300,000 of his countrymen. At this rate, America will eclipse that number in no time at all.

These are statistics that should cause us to stop and reflect. The many thousands of Iraqis who have died were not potential human beings or fertilized eggs that might one day have developed into human beings. They were real people who happened to live in a place that fit the Pentagon's criteria for a theatrical miniwar: They could not defend themselves, they possessed resources needed to maintain the American way of life, and, with the help of a compliant media, they could be portrayed as evil and threatening.

This most recent war follows the pattern of how America exports terror. There is no difference between this slaughter of a civilian population and previous massacres in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Central America. If the nations we attack do not possess specific resources, we attack them for resisting a capitalist system rigged to keep us engaged in conflicts that please the war industry. When we have not directly terrorized small nations, we have sent in proxy armies to do our killing for us. Subsidiary regimes in Chile, Israel, Indonesia, and Colombia have kept U.S. deaths to a minimum while guaranteeing vigorous profits for the American manufacturers who supply arms to them. Bulldozers manufactured in Peoria are used to flatten Palestinian villages, and fighter jets built in St. Louis destroy city blocks with the push of a button. This is terrorism, and the economy of this Christian nation is driven in no small part by the export of terror.

Equally important is the psychological aspect of perpetual war. Anatol Lieven once wrote: "The classic modern strategy of an endangered right-wing oligarchy . . . is to divert mass discontent into nationalism." What worked for fascist Germany has worked quite well for the American corporate state. Many of us are thrilled by pictures of our lads energetically firing away at swarthy Arabs. For a few moments we wage slaves can forget about our credit-card bills, the crumbling schools our kids attend, and the health insurance we can't afford. U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

All empires have the same purpose, all behave the same way, and a few even believe the propaganda they make up to justify their actions. They are established to shake down weaker nations and transfer that wealth to the financial elite of the homeland. Healthy doses of flag-waving, goose-stepping, and Bible-thumping are applied regularly to keep the masses on track, but invariably things unravel and the whole thing collapses. Eric Hobsbawm probably described the American empire best: "Few things are more dangerous than empires pursuing their own interest in the belief that they are doing humanity a favour."