War on Iraq

Iraq Vets: 'Racism Endemic; Comes from the Top of Command Chain' (VIDEO)

Vets from Iraq and Afghanistan tell their stories. (With a guide to AlterNet's comprehensive Winter Soldier coverage.)</i>
At its core, the "War on Terror" is inherently racist. Its central tenet is that all Muslims are interchangeable.

To a significant degree, the invasion of Iraq was sold on that premise. At the time of the invasion, a majority of Americans thought Saddam Hussein was behind the attacks of 9/11 (a third still believe that, as did 90 percent of soldiers deployed in Iraq in 2006, according to a Zogby poll). Only a populace that thinks all Arabs are the same could be convinced that it was possible to avenge Osama Bin Laden's attack -- carried out mostly by Saudis and Egyptians -- by invading Iraq.

There probably isn't a single American who would link an IRA bombing in Belfast with an abortion clinic bombing in Birmingham, despite the fact that both are the actions of Christian extremists who justify violence against civilians in the name of religious affinity. In the 1970s and 1980s, Europe had a dozen terrorist groups, all with vaguely similar grievances and with some minor contacts between them. Nobody ever suggested that those groups were parts of a cohesive entity that was waging a war on Western civilization.

But our response to the attacks of 9/11 was, and continues to be, built on the premise that disparate conflicts in predominantly Muslim countries are part and parcel of the same global struggle. Palestinian militants and fundamentalist tribesman in Pakistan's hinterlands and Abu Sayyaf rebels in the Philippines and Algeria's GIA are stripped of history and context and offered by Bush and his supporters as a collective justification for launching a global war in response to a single, if stunning, terror attack.

The reality is that they're conflating a series of independent conflicts, including many that have nothing to do with the United States. Dangerously, that plays right into Osama Bin Laden's preferred narrative of a grand Clash of Civilizations, as far-flung Islamic extremist groups have indeed found value in allying themselves with Bin Laden's "global jihad" since the launch of Bush's terror war.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, racism is operationalized -- it's endemic to the culture of occupation, and, worse still, it comes from the top of the chain of command and works its way down the line. It's used to devalue and dehumanize the populations of occupied lands, and to motivate soldiers to overcome their natural inhibitions against cruelty.

In the window to your right is a brief but powerful video of testimony given during the Winter Soldier Hearings in Washington, D.C., on March 15 by veterans of the Iraq conflict. The Winter Soldier hearings are a project of Iraq Veterans Against the War -- you can support IVAW's work here.

****


More Winter Soldier coverage on AlterNet:

Liliana Segura: Veterans Decry Institutional Sexism in Military

Penny Coleman: America Must Hear These Iraq Vets' Stories

Nina Berman (photo essay): Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans Speak Out

Dahr Jamail: Iraq: 'Rules of Engagement Thrown out the Window'

On AlterNet's blogs:

Adam Howard (video): Winter Soldier Testimonials 2008: Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan Tell All

Liliana Segura: Winter Soldier: "This Isn't Just Some Isolated Incident"

Joshua Holland: Winter Soldier 2008: Who Supports the Troops?

John Stauber: Iraq Veterans Against the War Conduct and Cover Their "Winter Soldier" Investigation
Joshua Holland is an AlterNet staff writer.