Friday, September 17, 2004

Update on my fallen soldier:

His name was Private 1st Class Devin J Grella, of Medina, OH. He served with the 706th Transportation Company, US Army. He was killed by an improvised explosive device on Sept. 6 - the Pentagon is still not saying where. He was 21 years old.

I was in Medina in May, I was best man at my friend Will's wedding. Medina is one of these classic Ohio small towns, it has an honest to God town square surrounded by Victorian-era commercial buldings housing a pretty good family restaurant and a coffee shop, as well as more practical businesses. I liked it there, although I'm not about to move there - I find the slow pace of such places brings out something ugly in me, turning me into a depressive couch potato. But it's a decent place nonetheless, and seemed to have escaped the boarded-up decay that has plagued so much of small-town Ohio as the factories have shut their doors over the past two decades. Soon it will be just another far, far suburb of Cleveland.

The rehearsal dinner was held at the Medina Inn, the restaurant on the square. It was a big, open kind of place, the kind where a large party like ours could actually hear each other talk. I imagine the whole Grella clan gathering around one of the long tables in the back when Devin came home after Basic Training. I imagine they were proud of him, but worried, the world being what it is.

He is dead today because the George W Bush decided to invade Iraq. He claimed that Iraq was in "material breach" of UNSC Resolution 1441 because a document submitted to comply with that resolution, Currently Accurate, Full and Complete Disclosure, which claimed that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction, "fails to acknowledge or explain procurement of high specification aluminum tubes...[and] fails to acknowledge efforts to procure uranium from Niger.... " As we now know, Iraq did not attampt to procure uranium from Niger, secured the aluminum tubes to make conventional rockets, as they would have been useless as centrifuge components, did not posess significant stockpiles of WMDs and had not produced such weapons since the end of the 1991 war. Bush lied - Devin died. How's that for a bumper sticker?

The results of this invasion? Iraq today is not a democracy. US right-wingers claim that removing Saddam was worth it, and point out that by some estimates the Baathist regime killed 300,000 of its own people over 30 years. But the US has killed perhaps 30,000 Iraqis - soldiers, civilians, and insurgents - since March 2003. So far, we have killed more Iraqis in an average month than Saddam did! Indeed most of the Baathist death toll was racked up putting down Shiite insurgencies - a task at which the US Army is gaining a great deal of experience as well. We are killing the same people, for the same reason, as Saddam! Meanwhile, the streets are lawless and dangerous, the infrastructure is deteriorating, we "built new schools" but the majority of high school aged Iraqis are kept out of school - probably out of fear for their safety.

Perhaps no one could have succeeded at the thankless task of nation-building in Iraq. But Bremer's CPA ("Cannot Provide Anything" according to the locals) didn't even try. Its staff of political hacks and Heritage Foundation rejects ("According to the Post, the threesome, who included the daughter of a prominent conservative activist, had never applied to go to Iraq and could not figure out how they were selected. Finally they realized that the one thing they had in common was that they had applied for jobs at the conservative Heritage Foundation, which had kept their resumes on file.") was so incompetent that they failed to spend 90% of the money Congress appropriated for reconstruction in the invasion's aftermath. My favorite anecdote:
The privatizing of Iraq's economy was handled at first by Thomas Foley, a top
Bush fund-raiser, and then by Michael Fleisher, brother of President Bush's
first press secretary. After explaining that he had got the job in Iraq through
his brother Ari, he told the Chicago Tribune—without any apparent sense of
irony—that the Americans were going to teach the Iraqis a new way of doing
business. "The only paradigm they know is cronyism."
Someday this will be fodder for some really funny satire. I'm sure Second City is having a field day in their latest show . . . but I'm not laughing. I'm fighting mad, aren't you? Then do the right thing. Hold Bush accountable Nov. 2. Fire him.

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