By David Peterson at Feb 08, 2006
Not that the images themselves are particularly graphic or startling. Aside from a few, that is. I wish only that they were more graphic. And that there were more of them.
There are, of course, several Abu Ghraibs. Including the image of the mound of human (i.e., Iraqi, Arab) flesh that queues-up around the 46th or 47th overall. Though the Abu Ghraibs have been in circulation for close to two years now, this image never grows old.
There are multiple images of the kind of confrontations that occur daily between the American forces and Iraqi civilians. Soldiers, weapons drawn, invading Iraqi homes and detaining people on the streets. A young girl down on her haunches, her face and up-turned palms smeared with blood. A baby lying across the ground. Diggers working on a mass grave. A father cradling his lifeless daughter. Several dead children in a coffin. Iraqi women restrained behind barbed-wire. Smoke rushing skyward from massive detonations and burning buildings. Soldiers occupying a mosque. The charred remains of a baby buried in rubble. "Falluja Semitu American." ("Falluja - Cemetery of the Americans.") And everywhere, heavily armed Americans. A Bush - Cheney '04 campaign rally. Osama bin Laden. The American President not less than seven different times. Including his May 1, 2003 "Mission Accomplished." Even the "Marlboro Man."
No Bravery also happens to be the title of the music that accompanies the images. Written by James Blunt, the refrain to Blunt's lyrics read:
And I see no bravery,
No bravery in your eyes anymore.
Upon No Bravery's completion, after the images of terror and of desolation and of family members wailing over the bodies of loved ones and the armed forces of the United States lording over the lot of them, No Bravery's producers do something that I find unfathomable: They give viewers four last slides. Not of images. But of text.
Taking them in order, the concluding four slides read:
Support Our Troops
Outsource the War
Now. What the hell kind of message is this? A slide presentation documenting Iraqi suffering under the American occupation culminates in a body-count of American casualties and a call to "support our troops" by letting the Iraqis fight it out for themselves? I don't get it. How do we move from the documentation of what the troops are really doing to Iraqis---I mean, the last time I checked, Falluja was not in California---to the number of troops killed at the time No Bravery was completed (i.e., 2,245, presumably on or around January 31, 2006) and a call to "support our troops"?
But---that number 2,245 rings a bell. Because, if you can make it out in the photo, the same 2,245 also happens to be the number of American war dead recorded on Cindy Sheehan’s tee-shirt the evening she was arrested in the chamber of the House of Representatives prior to the President’s State of the Union address, on January 31.
(That is, the '5' is the tiny little number that has been inserted between the '4' and the now-crossed-out '2'.)
As Sheehan herself tells it ("Numbers," Feb. 6):
[O]n the morning of January 31st, before my fellow peace activist and partner in patriotic dissent, Ann Wright, and I set out for our day's adventures, Ann put masking tape over the zeroes in the 2000 and wrote: 242. Thus changing the number to 2242, which was the upsetting casualty total for that day.
Before I set out for my fateful trip to the Capitol Building, we discovered that the number had sorrowfully risen to 2245. While Ann and I were giving the People's State of the Union address that afternoon with Congressman John Conyers, courageous Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey and Katrina rights activist, Malik Rahim, three more American families were sent into a tailspin of loss, grief and despair from which they will never fully recover.
The number on my shirt was changed to 2245. 2245 Dead. How many more?
(Quick aside. According to the continually revised estimate of the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count website, by the morning of February 8, 2006, the total stood at 2,261 American dead, 101 British, and 103 others---covering the 15 other "coalition" states to have lost one or more soldiers as a result of the Iraq war.)How many more---an excellent question. But---I have an even better one: Whose dead, exactly, are we talking about? All of the dead, no matter which side? The dead belonging to the "coalition" forces? The American dead exclusively? How about the Iraqi dead and the deaths of those killed resisting the occupation?
In this same commentary about "Numbers," Cindy Sheehan---who, ever since the first weekend in August of last year was baptized by establishment sources as perhaps the leading figure in the anti-war movement in the United States---also called on all "people who are for peace and justice to wear the number [of American war dead] on their chests every day...near their hearts."Now. A public statement such as this very well may count as an expression of the opposition to the death of American military soldiers in Iraq.
It may even count as an expression of the opposition to the American military’s seizure of Iraqi territory. (But only on account of the deaths of some 2,261 American soldiers in Iraq. And counting.)But may we also count it as the expression of an anti-war philosophy? (Here meaning a philosophy of opposition to war---and not just to a war that, to date, happens to have caused 2,261 American deaths. And one death in particular.)
A philosophy of peace?You tell me.
"Numbers," Cindy Sheehan, CommonDreams.org, February 6, 2006
"How Many Deaths Are Too Many?" ZNet, September 13, 2004
"Iraq, Civilian Fatalities, and American Power II," ZNet, October 28, 2004
"When America Kills I," ZNet, February 26, 2004
"When America Kills II," ZNet, March 14, 2005
"Cindy Sheehan," ZNet Blogs, February 8, 2006
Postscript (February 10): In what does a philosophy of peace consist? In what does a philosophy that is anti-war? And to what extent can they take sides? You know. "I'll count my war dead. You count yours."
"Numbers," Cindy Sheehan, Truthout, February 6, 2006
"It's Not Enough to Criticize the President's Policies," Cindy Sheehan,
Truthout, February 9, 2006
"Cindy's Decicision Could Lead to National Campaign," Scott Galindez,
Truthout, February 10, 2006
And which do you suppose is the more tragic, ultimately? That Army
Specialist Casey Sheehan of Vacaville, California, aged 24, was killed during
a firefight in the Sadr City section of Baghdad on April 4, 2004? Or that Army
Specialist Casey Sheehan was shipped to Baghdad as part of an American
effort to seize Iraq and to rule Iraq by force---the only qualifier being that the
other person happened to kill Casey before Casey killed the other person?
Now. Tell me something. Would you? Within the context of these questions and the hardly-trivial issues they raise about war, about peace, about American Power, and about what each and every last one of us may or may not think about what Randolph Bourne rightly called the "most noxious complex of all the evils that afflict men"---what do you suppose this very public figure Cindy Sheehan really represents?
Postscript (February 20, 2006): Am posting here weblinks to three Chicago-area print-dailies' coverage of Cindy Sheehan's stops in and around Chicago over the last few days (though please note that you will need to be a registered user to one or more of these websites to access their material):
"Activist preaching to 'choir'," Deborah Horan, Chicago Tribune, February 17, 2006
"Enlisting opposition," Aamer Madhani, Chicago Tribune, February 19, 2006
"Strident Sheehan harms anti-war effort," Jennifer Hunter, Chicago Sun-Times, February 15, 2006
"'Peace Mom' greet by protests at St. Xavier," Mark J. Konkol, Chicago Sun-Times, February 17, 2006
"Peace Mom coming to Mount Greenwood," Jonathan Lipman, Daily Southtown, January 31, 2006
"'Peace Mom' doesn't quite fit anymore," Dennis Robaugh, Daily Southtown, February 3, 2006
"South Siders for Peace wants U.S. out of Iraq," Phil Kadner, Daily Southtown, February 9, 2006
"Saint Xavier to play host to dueling rallies," Courtney Greve, Daily Southtown, February 15, 2006
"Peace Mom faces divided Southland," Courtner Greve, Daily Southtown, February 17, 2006
"Anti-war mom Sheehan loves America, hates the war," Phil Kadner, Daily Southtown, February 17, 2006
"Views on war should not inhibit free speech in U.S.," Editorial, Daily Southtown, February 19, 2006
"Is it possible to listen amid sounds of war?" Phil Kadner, Daily Southtown, February 19, 2006
"Anti-War Coalition Hear Sheehan, Torres Speak out Against the War," Mary Helt Gavin and Claire Bryant, Evanston RoundTable, February 22, 2006
Don't be surprised if I'm missing some. Particularly for those newspapers with very small circulation. And for the webpages associated with radio and television news channels. (Though not for the newspapers I've bothered to check.)
Anyway. Since there are committed legions of America-should-rule-the-world-by-forcers who will attack anyone who stands in their favorite State's way, a stream of voices that genuinely dissent from this line couldn't hurt. (With the emphases placed on both dissent and on genuinely. Pease note well.)