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Excerpt from A Language Older Than Words

General Norman Schwarzkopf (p. 164)

From chapter "Heroes"

Yesterday I received my monthly electric bill from the Washington Water Power Company. The envelope also contained a flyer for an event entitled Stars: A Celebration of Heroes that the utility will be putting on to benefit local charities. The headliner for the evening is General H. Norman Schwarzkopf.

The flyer doesn’t mention that in 1992, an international war crimes tribunal found Schwarzkopf and his fellow defendants guilty of nineteen counts of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity for their roles in what is inaccurately known as the Persian Gulf War, a “war” in which 148 United States soldiers died (many from so-called friendly fire) and between 250,000 and 500,000 Iraqis, mostly civilians, lost their lives as well. Schwarzkopf was in charge of the American assault. In this war, American troops used plows mounted on tanks to bury Iraqi soldiers alive in their trenches: after one wave of bulldozers incapacitated the defenders, another filled the trenches with sand. In at least one verified incident, American soldiers slaughtered thousands of unarmed Iraqi soldiers walking toward American positions, hands raised in an attempt to surrender; the Americans used anti-tank missiles to blow apart ostensible prisoners. Two days after the cease-fire was declared, Schwarzkopf approved the combined arms slaughter of Iraq’s Republican Guard Hammurabi Division as it retreated from the front (“Say hello to Allah,” an American said as his laser-guided Hellfire missile destroyed an Iraqi vehicle). In clear violation of international law, American forces used napalm, fuel-air explosives (which release a cloud of highly volatile vapors that mix with air and detonate, creating overpressures of up to 1000 pounds per square inch. “Those near the ignition point are obliterated,” notes a CIA report blandly), and cluster bombs (some of which, called “Bouncing Bettys,” rebound off the ground to explode at stomach level, and others of which spew almost 500,000 high-velocity fragments—”specially formulated metal shrapnel to maximize damage to both man and machine”—per acre, and which were overwhelmingly used against taxis, buses, trucks, and Volkswagen Beetles; less than ten percent of the destroyed vehicles in one section of what has been called the “Highway of Death” were associated with the military. Most were, as one GI described, “like a little Toyota pickup truck that was loaded down with the furniture and the suitcases and rugs and the pet cat and that type of thing.”). The United States Air Force intentionally bombed a baby milk powder factory, a vegetable oils factory, a sugar factory, the country’s biggest frozen meat storage and distribution center (three times in one day), grain silos across the country, twenty-eight civilian hospitals, 52 community mental health centers, a major hypodermic syringe factory, 676 schools (including eight universities), many marketplaces and apartment buildings, and civilian highway traffic (Najib Toubasi, to provide one example out of tens of thousands, was driving a bus filled with 57 civilians when it was struck by two bombs: “People were running away and the planes followed them and strafed them with machine guns. . . . I was wounded in my right leg. I was holding on to a woman with my right hand and a child in my left hand. We were running across the desert. The woman got hit, and the child was screaming, `I don’t want to die! I don’t want to die!”‘). Many of these attacks took place after the cease-fire was declared. Americans intentionally bombed the Amariyah civilian bomb shelter, twice. The first bomb opened a hole in the shelter’s roof, which enabled the second bomb to be dropped cleanly through the hole to blast its way to the bottom of the shelter, where it killed all but seventeen of the 1500 mostly women and children hiding there-“Nearly all the bodies were charred into blackness; in some cases the heat had been so great that entire limbs were burned off.”

I will not be attending the event billed “An Evening to Honor the Heroes Among Us.”