Saturday, October 15, 2005

Tomgram: Nick Turse, Casualties of the Bush Administration

As the American toll in Iraq climbs toward 2,000 dead and 15,000 wounded, and the horror of those shortened or constricted lives continues to sink deep into American communities, various memorials to the fallen -- American soldiers, journalists, contractors, and sometimes Iraqis as well -- have sprung to life. Arrays of combat boots; labyrinths and candlelit displays for the dead; actual walls and "walls" on-line; newspaper "walls" as well as walls of words; not to speak of websites with ever-growing military and civilian casualty counts. The American Friends Service Committee, for example, has an exhibit, "Eyes Wide Open," that has long traveled the country, featuring "a pair of boots honoring each U.S. military casualty, a field of shoes and a Wall of Remembrance to memorialize the Iraqis killed in the conflict, and a multimedia display exploring the history, cost and consequences of the war." The exhibit began with just over 500 combat boots and now features almost 2,000.

Informal memorials and citizens' efforts are part of the growing movement against George Bush's Iraq War. Walls of every sort are being built. In Asheville, North Carolina, for example, as part of a "peace park," townspeople have been building their own Iraq Wall with each "sponsored" stone representing one American who has died there. Planned also is "a memorial to the Iraqi dead, presently estimated at over 100,000." Sometimes these projects are very personal, even individual, ranging from spontaneous displays of candles on beaches to, in the case of one reader who wrote in to Tomdispatch, a garden/labyrinth of the American dead built in her own backyard.

These "walls," each with its own character, all influenced by architect Maya Lin's Vietnam Wall in Washington (which movingly reflected a grim American disaster and defeat), are signs of a growing sense that this war is a horror and a dishonor to which the honorable have fallen (a sense backed strongly by the latest opinion polls).

But the particular dishonor this administration has brought down on our country calls out for other "walls" as well. Perhaps, for instance, we need some negative walls built, stone by miserable stone, to cronyism, corruption, and incompetence. In the next few weeks (as in the last few), we seem certain to see the dishonor of this administration spread around widely. In addition to the Iraq situation, ever devolving into further chaos and anarchy, there was, of course, the recent catastrophic failure of FEMA; then the squalid fall of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay as "the Hammer" got hammered. There is the ongoing fiasco of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's sale of family stock in a "blind trust" just before its price plummeted. He's now under investigation for possible violations of insider trading laws and the SEC has just subpoenaed his "personal records and documents." Soon, it seems, there will be dishonor to go around as the expected Fitzgerald indictments in the Plame case come down. (Caught in the crosshairs of Plame case scandal is the New York Times, a paper tied in knots and at war with itself, which managed to loose both former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's famed op-ed on Saddam's nonexistent Niger yellowcake and Judith Miller, the near-neocon journalist whose reporting helped bring us to the edge of the Iraq War. To catch up on this aspect of things, make sure to read Jay Rosen's remarkable recent columns at his PressThink blog.)

With all this in mind, it seems a worthwhile endeavor to remind the world of those who opposed an administration whose actions, in the end, are likely to make the no-bid Teapot Dome Scandal of the 1920s look like a tempest in... well, a teapot in the no-bid Halliburton era. Bernard Weiner of the Crisis Papers blog has already written a kind of verbal "wall" to honor those -- mainly journalists and bloggers of every sort -- who fought to hold the line against this administration in media bad times and are here to watch the process of rollback happen. At Tomdispatch, we had another idea. Below Nick Turse has created the beginnings of a "wall" to quite a different legion of the fallen; in this case, the governmental casualties of Bush administration follies, those men and women who were honorable or steadfast enough in their government duties that they found themselves with little alternative but to resign in protest, quit, or simply be pushed off the cliff by cronies of this administration. Here are the first 42 names of those we thought might be put on such a wall (and brief descriptions of their fates). Tom

The Fallen Legion continued


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