Bob Higgins

On the Wrong Side of the Road

Posted in Politics by Bob Higgins on January 10, 2010

“Why?” Badriya Hussein asked as she surveyed the grim wreckage, the blanket covered bodies before her on the highway south of Baghdad last Wednesday. “Why?’ she pleaded with US troops who had been riding in the convoy, traveling on the wrong side of the road, when one of its vehicles, a 36,000 pound MRAP, tore through a mini van carrying a dozen Iraqi civilians, five of them members of Badriya Hussein’s family. All five were killed; seven other Iraqis were injured along with 3 US soldiers. “Why?”

Her relatives had been on their way to a funeral. Now the only funeral they would attend would be their own.

“Why,” asked Helen Thomas a day later and 7000 miles distant, why do they hate us, what is their motivation for wanting to hurt us? She was pushing the two politicians; counter terror wonk John Brennan and Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano to explain the reasons why an educated, middle class, young Yemeni man would attempt to blow up a perfectly good airplane on which he happened to be riding. “Why?”

He had intended this trip to be his last; a flight that would end in his death and the deaths of many others.

The same question, asked by a grief stricken woman on a blood spattered, wreckage strewn road in Iraq and half a world away, was now asked by the grand old lady of the Washington Press Corps, in a press briefing.

They received the same answer, which was no answer at all.

At the side of the road Ms. Hussein was told, “It was a tragic accident, we’re sorry.”

In the White House Ms. Thomas was told, well, some double talk:

Thomas: “And what is the motivation? We never hear what you find out on why.”

Brennan: “Al Qaeda is an organization that is dedicated to murder and wanton slaughter of innocents… They attract individuals like Mr. Abdulmutallab and use them for these types of attacks. He was motivated by a sense of religious sort of drive. Unfortunately, al Qaeda has perverted Islam, and has corrupted the concept of Islam, so that he’s (sic) able to attract these individuals. But al Qaeda has the agenda of destruction and death.”

Thomas: “And you’re saying it’s because of religion?”

Brennan: “I’m saying it’s because of an al Qaeda organization that used the banner of religion in a very perverse and corrupt way.”

Thomas: “Why?”

From “Answering Helen Thomas on Why” by Ray McGovern / Consortium News

In truth the two women weren’t asking the same question at all. The plaintive “why” of the Iraqi woman was the universal “why” of anyone who is faced with the sudden violent death of a loved one, the timeless “why” that hovers above so much of our barbarous history. I have asked, no, screamed it, myself, on more than one occasion.

In its passion, and terrible pain, the question can’t be answered in any effective way, only covered over with the syrupy balm of platitudes and sympathy.

Helen Thomas’ question was different, clinical, analytical in a sense, yet I could see the passion in her eyes, she wanted an answer, insisted, asked again and once again, “Why?”

She wanted something other than the obfuscatory double speak that we have all been fed throughout this decade of continuous war.

I’ve asked the same question as have thousands of others without results.

The mantra from leadership is the same in instance after instance, in country after country, “they hate us, they are evil, they pervert their own religion, they destroy innocent life;” but never a direct answer to the simple question, “why?”

Abdul Wahab, the Iraqi traffic captain, strode up to American Army Sgt. Jon Bricker, who was part of the U.S. convoy. The men asked a McClatchy reporter to translate.

“Ask them, ask them! Why do they drive on the wrong side of the road?” Abdul Wahab demanded.

“Tell him, from me, that we are sorry,” Bricker said pain evident on his face.

“What’s ‘sorry’? They keep doing it, so what good is ‘sorry’?” Abdul Wahab said.

“It’s a terrible tragedy,” Bricker said.

Abdul Wahab looked at the bodies and avoided eye contact with Bricker.

“There are no words,” Bricker said.

The Iraqi captain walked away.

“These were ordinary people, a family,” Abdul Wahab said over his shoulder, his face tight with grief.

From “Iraqis question U.S. convoy’s driving in fatal crash” by Hannah Allam / McClatchy Newspapers

During the last several years of reading, and writing about the so called “war on terror,” I like many others, have been forced to try to find the answers on my own and I think that I have gained some small insight into what it is that they refuse to tell me, or you, or Helen Thomas, or poor Badriya Hussein as she weeps and prays on another unlucky road that was traveled by Americans.

I’ve noticed some things that they never say:

Our policies and support for Israel in their conflict with the people of Palestine coupled with our wars in Iraq , Afghanistan and Pakistan have enraged much of the Muslim world.

The oil and gas sector of corporate America wants free access to the oil and pipeline routes of the Middle East and central Asia.

The “defense” sector of corporate America wants to build and sell more weapons, from bombs to bullets and from cruise missiles to MRRAPs and MREs.

A large portion of our military leadership depends on continuous war to ensure their career advancement and their future in the “defense” industry.

Our so called public officials are constantly on their knees before the lobbying lackeys of corporate America, happily and pathetically prostituting themselves while selling their constituents down the river.

Our corporations need to open wider markets for everything from cell phones and computers to Big Macs and high fructose corn syrup.

Without the continuing expansion of American hegemony and military empire our poor beleaguered oligarchy may crumble.

The business of America is business, this is what the corporations want, and war is an efficient and cost effective way for us to turn public money, taxpayer money to private hands.

The American people are deluded suckers who are completely uninterested in anything outside their own gratification and enrichment and “we” are making a killing; plus we can easily get away with it.

That’s it; my only insights come from what they won’t say and what any observer not on heroin could not fail to notice. American government is owned and directed by the country’s largest corporations and “national interest” is corporate interest, national defense is corporate defense. This is nothing new and has been the motive for much of “American” foreign policy for a century and more. It has just become more obvious as we approach crunch time.

They know that people are pawns and sheep, citizens are taxpaying, burger, plastic, and oil, consuming suckers, and voters are dupes and fools.

To paraphrase Leona Helmsly, only little people believe in this crap anymore, the big guys are making fortunes and planning their children’s futures in gated communities in areas that can be defended by Blackwater (Xe).

“The Americans always use the wrong side of the road. They always behave like they’re the only ones on the road, without respect for other vehicles,” said Hameed Mohamed, a truck driver who transports construction materials up and down Iraq ‘s highways.

“Who can stop them at checkpoints? Who can make them accountable? They respect neither the Iraqi police nor the military. If anyone crosses them, they shoot and don’t care about the consequences, because what does it matter if one more Iraqi dies in the streets?”

From “Iraqis question U.S. convoy’s driving in fatal crash” by Hannah Allam / McClatchy Newspapers

Mr. Hameed Mohamed may be unaware that he has offered us a perfect metaphor for the disgraceful behavior of America and the fact that we must somehow wrest the controls from the hands of the corporate criminals.

America, my America is driving on the “wrong side of the road” with madmen and thieves at the wheel.

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