Skip to main content

Why are the billionaires always laughing?

Because they know the corporate media will never call bullshit on their bullshit.

Why are the billionaires laughing?

It’s easy to laugh when the corporate press treats you as a glorious success instead of the epitome of a broken social order. They laugh because they know the corporate media prefers to fawn over them rather than hold them to account.

Today, we ask you to support our nonprofit journalism because we are not impressed by billionaires flying into space, their corporations despoiling our health and planet, or their vast fortunes safely concealed in tax havens across the globe. We are not laughing.

We are hard at work digging out the truth. Please support this independent journalism today by donating to our critical Fall Campaign. We cannot do it without you. Thank you. -- Craig Brown, Co-founder

Support Our Work -- Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Every donation—large or small—helps us bring you the news that matters.

A U.S. Army Soldier from the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team kicks in the door of a building during a cordon and search in Buhriz, Iraq, March 14, 2007. (Photo: Staff Sgt. Stacy L. Pearsall/U.S. Air Force/Flickr)

A U.S. Army Soldier from the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team kicks in the door of a building during a cordon and search in Buhriz, Iraq, March 14, 2007. (Photo: Staff Sgt. Stacy L. Pearsall/U.S. Air Force/Flickr)

My Son Was Killed in Iraq 14 Years Ago—Who's Responsible?

The Islamic Republic? George W. Bush? Both answers feel like evasions.

Who should I hold responsible for the death of my son, killed in action while serving in Iraq 14 years ago this month?

However reluctantly, I am obliged to conclude that ultimate responsibility for my son's death rests with we the people.

A Washington-based law firm, Sparacino, has stepped up to offer a straightforward answer to that question: I should blame Iran. My wife and I recently received a letter from the firm inviting us to join a lawsuit against the Islamic Republic that will "empower us to attempt to seize Iranian assets on your behalf should any opportunities emerge."

Sparacino's case "seeks to hold Iran responsible for its material support for anti-American terrorists in Iraq from 2004 through the present." Other Gold Star families—the firm claims to represent "hundreds of them"—will share in any potential windfall.

We gave this cynical proposition all the consideration it merits: We tossed it into the trash. Even so, the question implicit in this vile proposal to cash in on the deaths of American service members and exploit the grief of those they left behind nagged at me: Who is responsible for my son's death?

Fingering Iran amounts to little more than an evasion. Viewed in retrospect, the Iranian government's response to the 2003 U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq strikes me as rational, understandable, and arguably even justifiable.

After all, although Iran was uninvolved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the George W. Bush administration wasted no time in tagging it as a part of an "axis of evil," targeted for destruction pursuant to a just-announced global war on terrorism. While Iraq ranked first on America's hit list, no one believed that the war on terrorism would end once US forces toppled Saddam Hussein. "Liberating" Iraq was merely a first step. Iran was primed to come next on Washington's "Freedom Agenda."

Were there any doubt regarding American intentions, the Bush Doctrine of preventive war removed them. Within a year of 9/11, unilateral preemption had become the explicit centerpiece of U.S. national security policy. The doctrine allowed for no ambiguity: The United States asserted the prerogative of identifying regimes that it deemed intolerable and then eliminating them—no need to ask others for approval or permission. Iran was unlikely to stand idly by in hopes of good behavior exempting it from Washington's extraordinary claim of authority.

I sometimes wonder how the United States would react to hostile forces—Russian perhaps, or Chinese—invading Canada. If Canadian "terrorists" rose up to resist foreign occupation, I like to think that Americans would offer arms, aid, and advice, motivated in part by self-interest but also inspired by a sense of solidarity. After all, we did as much for Afghans resisting Soviet occupation in the 1980s. Wouldn't we do as much or more for our neighbors to the north?

So Iranian assistance to Iraqis intent on evicting foreign occupiers—us—hardly qualifies as surprising. Were positions reversed, we would surely do the same. At least, I hope we would.

So where does responsibility for my son's death rest? The question lingers.

I resist the temptation to blame Bush. By all accounts well-intentioned—his post-presidential artistic efforts speak to an essential decency and perhaps even to regret—Bush was clearly out of his depth after September 2001, when the roof fell in on his administration. Nor do I blame the various warmongers, armchair militarists, and hawkish pundits who willingly enlisted as cheerleaders for bloodletting and mayhem. Their sin was not malice but cluelessness—chanting for war while ignorant of its risks and oblivious to its costs, which, of course, they themselves would not pay.

However reluctantly, I am obliged to conclude that ultimate responsibility for my son's death rests with we the people. After all, the architects of the "forever wars"—the sequence of ill-advised, mismanaged, in some instances illegal, and arguably immoral interventions that began with the invasion of Iraq—acted with our explicit or tacit concurrence.

Even today, the electorate shows little inclination to rethink the core assumptions informing basic U.S. national security policy. Supporting the troops means suppressing second thoughts, asking few questions, and shoveling more money to the Pentagon.

If the Sparacino lawsuit is contemptible—as I believe it is—how should we characterize the unwillingness of the American people to confront head-on the causes and consequences of our recent wars? For members of my family, my son's death was a tragedy. But our nation's collective inattention to the follies that paved the way to his death and that of so many others is something far worse. It's shameful.


© 2021 Boston Globe
Andrew Bacevich

Andrew Bacevich

Andrew J. Bacevich, a professor of history and international relations at Boston University,  is the author of "America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History" (2017). He is also editor of the book, "The Short American Century" (2012), and author of several others, including:  "Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country" (2014, American Empire Project); "Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War" (2011),  "The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War" (2013), "The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism" (2009, American Empire Project), and "The Long War: A New History of U.S. National Security Policy Since World War II" (2009).

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Schumer Endorses 'Inspiring Community Leader' India Walton as Buffalo's Next Mayor

The U.S. Senate majority leader's move comes as some key New York Democrats refuse to back the democratic socialist.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Who Will You Throw Overboard?' Manchin Targeted for Trying to Sink Democratic Agenda

West Virginians gathered at the senator's yacht to demand that he stop blocking the "popular and needed" Build Back Better package.

Jessica Corbett ·


'We Shouldn't Do It at All': Manchin Admits He's the Enemy of Democrats' Ambitions

The right-wing West Virginia Democrat and fossil fuel investor has previously confessed his intent to quash his own party's sweeping $3.5 trillion Build Back Better package.

Brett Wilkins ·


After Getting 'Stealth Bailout' During Pandemic, US Corporations Try to Kill Proposed Tax Hikes

"When it's time to finally put workers first, big businesses are spending millions to maintain their advantage and preserve the status quo," said Kyle Herrig of Accountable.US.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Disgraceful': Just 9 Republicans Join With Dems to Hold Steve Bannon in Criminal Contempt

The vote "reveals just how far the Republican Party has fallen" since Trump took control as GOP's de facto leader, said one pro-democracy advocate.

Jon Queally ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo