On Monday this week, the Arab Resistance Movement claimed responsibility for a car bomb that killed the U.S. appointed head of the Iraqi Governing Council along with nine others. Several more were wounded, including two U.S. soldiers. Also on Monday, two additional American soldiers were killed in action. According to press reports, “uprisings” and “violence” are spreading throughout “formerly quiet areas” south of Baghdad, and U.S. invading forces continue to battle what Washington calls “insurgents” to the north and west of the city.
Also Monday, U.S. soldiers “found” and were “exposed” to a “roadside bomb” containing sarin, a nerve agent, but it remained “unclear” how many more such weapons remained under control of so-called insurgents and “terrorists [who] are free to roam around,” unhappy about British, Italian, U.S. and other military forces occupying Iraq.
And Monday, finally, the Fort Buchanan Mobilization Command announced that Company 268 would be mobilized for future deployment to an operations area of the war. This is the 10th unit mobilized by Fort Buchanan in the second phase of the “Iraqi Freedom Operation.” (Ten additional units had been previously mobilized during a so-called first phase.) (STAR, May 18)
Meanwhile, the reports of Iraqis tortured by the U.S. military at Abu Ghraib prison began to unfold this week as feared. Last weekend, The New Yorker magazine published a second article on the subject by Seymour Hersh, a distinguished journalist, claiming that human rights violations there are not the result of “the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists,” but of “a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation…”
According to Hersh, the operation, also known inside the intelligence community by the code name “Copper Green,” encouraged “physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners...” Reportedly, Rumsfeld authorized this highly secret special-access program (SAP) in advance “to kill or capture and, if possible, interrogate ‘high value’ targets” in the war on terror. The SAP, subject to the Defense Department’s most stringent level of security, was set up -according to Hersh- with an office in a secure area of the Pentagon.
Naturally, Rumsfeld, who was legally barred by law from mentioning such highly secret matters at last week’s open congressional hearing, now (again!) insisted, as he did then, that only a handful of overzealous military officers were responsible. But, as a senior C.I.A. official reportedly said about the Secretary’s testimony, “Some people think you can bullshit anyone.”
Aeschylus said, “In war, truth is the first casualty.” And the tragic developments in Iraq are compounded here in Puerto Rico. Not only because the justification for the U.S. invasion of Iraq -that it possessed weapons of mass destruction and was therefore an imminent danger to humanity- was a lie, but because, knowing this, the U.S. government continues to force Army Reserve and National Guard units integrated by Puerto Ricans to serve, even though we have no legal democratic way of preventing forced complicity in the torture-prone U.S. occupation of Iraq.
Back in the days of the Viet Nam war, colonial groveling led Puerto Rico’s Legislative Assembly to the shameful distinction of being the sole jurisdiction to formally support U.S. intervention in that conflict. Now, the incumbent governor and the Resident Commissioner who wants to succeed her have already behaved like fawning caricatures of submissiveness. The former by saying she is against the war, but in favor of Puerto Ricans soldiers there; the latter, by begging Fort Buchanan not to close and Homeland Security to fill the empty space left in his heart by the U.S. military’s departure from Vieques and Roosevelt Roads Naval base.
Right now, there is one alternative to this governmental indignity. Ironically, it is in the hands of the prestige-battered Legislative Assembly. Senator Fernando Martín, the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) minority leader has introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution 105 due to be considered and debated today. Senator Martín’s concurrent resolution, which does not require the governor’s signature, calls for the legislature: (1) to condemn and repudiate torture and other human rights violations of Iraqi prisoners by the armed forces and other agencies of the U.S. government, as well as the violence and intimidation of Iraqi civilians who oppose their nation’s military occupation; (2) to oppose the U.S. illegal and unjustified war against the people of Iraq; and (3) to demand the immediate return of military units integrated by Puerto Rican soldiers.
If the majority leaders of Puerto Rico’s Legislative Assembly wish to rescue a modicum of prestige, they must act out of self-respect and pass this Resolution. If their leadership lacks the moral courage to make their voice heard in favor of peace under international law, that leadership will have proven an historical farce.
As Cervantes wrote, “He who loses wealth loses much; he who loses a friend loses more; but he that loses his courage loses all.” Is there anything left, or have they lost it all?