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Henry Rollins: George Bush's War Is Still With Us

Henry Rollins: George Bush's War Is Still With Us

[Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here on West Coast Sound every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the awesomely annotated playlist for his Saturday KCRW broadcast.]

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The ten year anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, initiated with the nauseating "Shock and Awe" light show, is now behind us. I am still dwelling on it. There were at least three things that happened around the time of the anniversary worth noting.

Number one, "The Last Letter: A Message to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney From a Dying Veteran", written by Tomas Young. Young, a soldier in the Army and the star of a documentary called Body of War, was in Iraq for only a few days, in 2004, when he was shot in the spine. The injury left him paralyzed from the chest down. After years of incredible pain and almost total immobility, he has decided, at thirty-three years old, to end his life. The letter is articulate and damning. I can't believe that either Bush or Cheney will read it, and if they do, that it would have any effect on them whatsoever.

A few years ago, Tomas came to one of my shows. We put him and his wheelchair on stage left so he could watch and be able to leave easily if he needed. We spent some time together before and after the show. He spoke with some difficulty but was able to get his words out. He is a good guy, and I am sad about the way things are wrapping up for him.

The other two things worth noting are the Hubris documentary on MSBC, and Showtime's documentary, The World According to Dick Cheney.

The former is brief but concise overview of the warpath to Baghdad, what twists and turns the Bush administration made in selling its case to the American people and the world. If you kept track of the events all those years ago, not a lot of this will be new to you, but it is very well laid out. The latter is just Dick Cheney talking about his American life and how he would do it all over again the same way. Like any psychopath, he has no regrets, no remorse.

With the ten year anniversary, all the old names came back to me with incredible familiarity: Rice, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Curveball (aka Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi), Chalabi, Plame, Wilson, Libby, Bremmer, Tenet, Powell to name but a few. There are many more, Addington, Yoo, Zinni, etc.

There were the high dollar scams perpetrated against the American people, the Iraqis and the countries who hurled soldiers into the needless bloodbath: the aluminum tubes suspected as part of a centrifuge for uranium manufacture that turned out not to be at all. The yellow cake supposedly bought from Niger that didn't exist. All those weapons of mass destruction that never materialized. There was the bad intel from "Curveball" that was taken as fact, even though no American intelligence person ever spoke to this man directly. As you probably know by now, this list goes on and on.

To perpetrate a crime of this magnitude, you need a lot of players and they have to be greatly incentivized to be able to see past the carnage they are willfully unleashing. Incredible amounts of money work well to facilitate.

It was as if Cheney, Wolfowitz and others had been planning this one since at least the Reagan administration. All they needed was the right president to green light the plans and they were good to go. With George W. Bush, they had their man. He was perfect: likeable, unworldly and as malleable as fresh clay. The "R" next to Bush's name wasn't for Republican; it was for rube.

In retrospect, all these years later, perhaps the most egregious part of this war crime is that there was no exit strategy. There was victory and being "greeted as liberators" only. It is clear that the Bush administration sent thousands of brave young men and women into harm's way with no contingency plan. It was below them, it insulted them perhaps to think that it wouldn't go exactly their way. By the time it was figured out that this was going to be a very long conflict, there was too much face to save and so America had to "stay the course." It got a lot of people killed and horribly injured. When you consider the human castoffs like Tomas Young, talking about the money spent on all this just makes it more obscene, so let's not.

I think it was in 2003 when the USO contacted me and asked if I would visit bases and meet soldiers. I said yes. Over the next several years, I went on seven USO tours. Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Iraq, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Turkey, Egypt, Djibouti, Japan, South Korea and Honduras. I saw a lot, learned a lot, met a lot of people and took a lot of flak.

In America, I made several visits to the Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval hospitals. In these small rooms, I visited with injured men and their families. A missing leg (especially below the knee) was equivalent to a scraped elbow, compared to what other men had sustained. I remember the pain in the mothers' faces.

I ended up with all kinds of items from these visits. American flags folded in triangles, certificates of gratitude from bases visited, ceremonial coins, chunks of shrapnel, patches and ironically, an auto-signed letter from Donald Rumsfeld, thanking me for my visits.

More lasting was the resulting correspondence from those I had met all over the world and from other soldiers who heard that I had made these trips. The letters were mostly friendly, confessional and sometimes sad. Sometimes the parent of a soldier who had been killed wrote to inform me of the passing and to thank me for talking to their son. I kept all of it.

Ten years on, there have been countless soldier suicides, families ruined and more than enough pain to go around. Bush, Cheney and their co-conspirators are alive and well, free to move as they please. No apologies, nothing. It sucks.

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