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Bring the troops home now!
They died for oil and empire

April 30, 2004 | Page 1

PHOTOS OF the coffins of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq finally made their way into the national media last week--and the Bush administration went ballistic. No wonder. The neat rows of flag-covered caskets are visual proof of the growing cost of Bush's war.

The White House was so determined to keep these images hidden that it banned the media from Dover Air Force Base, where the coffins are unloaded. "The sensitivity and privacy of families of the fallen must be the first priority," says Bush spokesperson Trent Duffy.

What hypocrisy! Bush hasn't managed to express his sorrow at a single funeral for a soldier killed in Iraq. And he certainly wasn't worried about the "sensitivity" of families when he sent their children to fight in a war based on lies and deceit.

Jane Bright, whose 24-year-old son, Evan Ashcraft, was killed in Iraq last July, welcomed publication of the photos. "We need to stop hiding the deaths of our young," she said. "We need to be open about their deaths."

If the Bush administration gets its way, the number of dead--both Iraqis and Americans--will only keep growing. Despite rhetoric about seeking a peaceful solution, Pentagon officials began the week by massing troops outside the Iraqi cities of Falluja and Najaf. U.S. forces are poised to invade these strongholds of the Iraqi resistance in what is certain to be some of the most deadly violence since the war began.

"Anyone who believes that April has been the cruelest month of this Iraq war--111 Americans killed with the total dead now at 718, hundreds upon hundreds of Iraqi civilians killed--should gird themselves for the reality that the worst, the very worst, the unimaginably awful, is still yet to come," wrote left-wing journalist William Rivers Pitt. "Do the math. American forces attack Falluja, and become ensconced in a brutal street-to-street fight within the confines of that maze-like city. Three hundred thousand civilians will be caught in the crossfire, and the resulting carnage will enflame the Iraqi people to a degree not yet seen."

Vice President Dick Cheney underlined the determination of the Bush administration to crush its opponents in Iraq--no matter what the human cost--in chilling terms last weekend. "Such an enemy cannot be deterred, cannot be contained, cannot be appeased, or negotiated with," Cheney declared. "It can only be destroyed. And that is the business at hand."

It's a business that all of Washington--not just the fanatical hawks in the Bush administration--supports. Sens. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and Joseph Biden (D-Del.), both members of the Foreign Relations Committee, floated suggestions last week about bringing back a draft to ensure adequate troop levels--though they cloaked their call in concerns that poor and working-class youth not bear the burden of fighting the war.

Gen. John Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, began hinting that he will request another extension of tours of duty to keep troop strength at the current level of 135,000--and that he might want even more soldiers beyond that.

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry agrees with him. He wants to send more troops to Iraq than George Bush. Instead of opposing Bush's occupation for oil and empire, Kerry sees himself as offering a better way to fight it--even as the death toll grows higher.

The U.S. government has no business determining Iraq's future. Yet U.S. officials are handpicking an interim government for a June 30 "handover" of power--that in reality will leave Washington in full military control of Iraq.

The U.S. occupation--whether its power is exercised directly by American soldiers, or behind the scenes through stooges--will only breed greater resistance until Washington is driven out. We have to support the struggle of Iraqis to win their liberation--and demand that the U.S. bring the troops home now!

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