Years of Bullets, Years of Lead

Over the course of Italy’s search to understand its lengthy encounter with domestic terrorism, people began to characterize the period of its florescence and decline as Italy’s “anni di piombo,” its years of the bullet. In English, however, we have the opportunity to accept the direct translation, while adding a second sense of our own. “Piombo” is lead, the element.

These past five years have been the “years of bullets” for peoples subject to successive American wars in the Middle East, and the “years of lead” at home. Bush and his regime have put great lead sinkers in our pockets, and we are drowning in a pool of death, moral and political decay, and debt.

Let us take account of what we have done since 9/11, on this, its fifth “anniversary.” There is something about anniversaries that summons up a reckoning. Then there arises compulsion to cut time into periods. What has happened? When and why did it happen? Where are we now?

What Has Happened?

Between 42,000 and 46,000 Iraq civilians have died since the 2003 invasion, according to recent estimates.

2,260 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq, and 19,945 have been wounded. These figures are more precise.

440 non-Afghani soldiers, including 333 U.S. soldiers, have died in Afghanistan from many nations since the beginning of post-9/11 hostilities. The number of U.S. wounded in Afghanistan is 892.

No one is sure any more how many Afghani civilians have died since the post-9/11 war began, interest having dropped off after the 2003 Iraqi war.

2072 wiretap authorizations for foreign intelligence and terrorism surveillance out of 2072 applications were granted in 2005, double the number authorized a decade ago. Since 1993, only 5 applications have been refused. No one knows if this figure represents the total number of taps, given the veil of secrecy drawn over the anti-terror campaign.

The Bush regime has been tracking the phone calls of 350,000 people, both foreign nationals and citizen, that have been culled out of millions of telecommunication intercepts. It has now asked Congress for a law that will allow his government to do legally what it has been doing illegally since 9/11.

25 foreign abductions and renditions, slang for torture, have been documented since 9/11. Amnesty International believes that the final number of abductees will be in the hundreds.

The Congressional Research Office estimates that the cost of the war will have reached $320 billion by now. NBC says the war is costing $200 million a day. Joseph Stiglitz estimates it will cost $2 trillion when all is said and done.

Again, on Afghanistan, no one is keeping close tabs of late, but the war had cost as of September, 2005, $88 billion.

When and Why Did It Happen?

A hard one.

Some say, for very good reason, that it all began when Franklin Roosevelt on his way back from Yalta forged a secret understanding with the Saudi government to provide them with protection in exchange for their oil.

For Osama bin Laden, it was watching Beirut crumble under heavy bombing in 1982.

The first Iraq War in 1991 pretty much put the United States on its way to the present situation.

Bush on September 7 in Georgia says it all began when bin Laden issued a fatwa against the U.S. in 1996.

The 9/11 attack authorized American escalation.

Where Are We Now?

A harder question still. But it feels as if we have passed the mid-point of the play. Duncan and Banquo are dead, the last act has begun, and the prophecies pronounced. Bush’s Malcolm still lives, but Birnam Wood is yet far shy of Dunsinane. Our Macbeth still has blood in his eye: “The war on terrorism more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century. And we’re only in its opening stages,” he said on September 7.

He seems like Macbeth to believe that more death still will save his position:

Time, thou anticipatest my dread exploits:
The flighty purpose never is o’ertook
Unless the deed go with it; from this moment
The very firstlings of my heart shall be
The firstlings of my hand. And even now,
To crown my thoughts with acts, be it thought and done:
The castle of Macduff I will surprise;
Seize upon Fife; give to the edge o’ the sword
His wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls
That trace him in his line. No boasting like a fool;
This deed I’ll do before this purpose cool…

Like Macbeth, there will be no pretty ending for our murderous, usurper king.

For us, occasionally vociferous, but mostly silent, even somnolent, the problem is graver. Weighed down by the heavy burdens of guilt, war crimes, disgrace, and economic ruin that threaten to sink us for good, we must stop thinking about 9/11 and start thinking about what went wrong and what we must do to make it right.