JOHN KIRIAKOU: A Victimizers’ Memorial

Another war memorial is being planned for the National Mall in Washington. This one is for the 9/11 era and it is being chaired by none other than George W. Bush.

Jan, 11, 2012: Protester outside the White House during a 96-hour cell vigil timed to end as the Guantanamo Bay detention center reached its 10th year. (Justin Norman, Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

By John Kiriakou
Special to Consortium News

Washington, D.C., will soon welcome another major memorial on the National Mall.  This one will be adjacent to the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam War Memorial.  What is it?  It’s the Global War on Terror Memorial (GWOT.)  

This is despite a moratorium on new memorials on the National Mall.  It’s despite the fact that the so-called Global War on Terror is still ongoing.  And it’s despite a federal law saying that 10 years must pass from the end of a conflict until the beginning of construction of a monument to it.  

Perhaps most importantly, this new memorial will offer literally nothing in memory of the hundreds of thousands — perhaps millions — of innocent people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Syria, the Sahel and elsewhere who were killed by U.S. forces, bombs and drones in that “war on terror.”

The Global War on Terror Memorial has not yet been designed.  A “Help Design History” survey on its website invites members of the public to provide input through multiple-choice questions. 

Question No. 7: “When someone stands before the GWOT Memorial, what do you hope they feel?” The only possible responses are “honor,” “ healing,” “empowerment,” “unity,” “understanding,” “patriotism” and “peace.”  

There’s no option for anger over the deaths of innocent people.  There’s no option for fury over the creation of multiple torture programs.  There’s no opportunity to question the $6 trillion that the government spent on this “war” or the estimated $2 trillion in estimated future expenses related to veteran health care.  The website does say, however, that it hopes the memorial will convey a “debt of gratitude for the sacrifice that GWOT service members made.”

The memorial’s leadership also is important in understanding the direction that it’s taking in ignoring the victims of the war on terror and in honoring the victimizers.  The organization’s chairman is none other than President George W. Bush.  The “executive team” and board of advisers includes an array of retired generals and colonels, hedge fund managers, oil executives and two conflict widows.  

It promotes partnerships with a wide variety of veterans’ organizations, but there’s no indication of its funding sources, other than some seed money that the Trump administration enacted into law, and a page on the website asking for $20, $50 or $100.  

There’s no doubt, of course, that by the end of the process, it will be fully funded.  And I wouldn’t be surprised to see discrete “thanks” to the likes of Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, General Dynamics and other weapons makers. 

I’m not surprised that a war memorial is planned for the 9/11 era.  It was inevitable.  There are monuments and memorials all over the National Mall, some of which are for conflicts that nobody even knows about anymore.  I get it.  And I get that each generation wants to commemorate a sugary sweet version of its military service.  But why not be realistic here?  Why not be honest about the war on terror.  In many cases it was a war OF terror.  Why not use the opportunity to educate the public and perhaps to work so that history doesn’t repeat itself?

Monument to the victims of torture in Recife, Brazil. (marcusrg, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0)

If I thought there was any remote chance that somebody at the Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation might listen to me, I would ask that the memorial commemorate the victims of the C.I.A. and Pentagon torture programs, at secret prisons around the world, at Guantanamo, and at Abu Graib.  

I would ask that they commemorate the innocent victims of the C.I.A. rendition program, where people were kidnapped, snatched off the street or from their homes, and rendered to other countries to face torture. 

Many of those people were utterly innocent. Just ask Maher Arar or Khaled al-Masri. Just ask the dozens — perhaps hundreds — of people who were taken to secret C.I.A. prisons around the world.  They were simply “disappeared” in the name of fighting terrorism.  Some were never seen again.  Just ask the families of Afghan or Iraqi victims of the U.S. invasions of their countries or the victims of U.S. drone attacks.  Entire families were wiped out without so much as an apology.  Where is their memorial?

As I said earlier, I’m a realist.  There’s going to be a memorial on the National Mall.  I just hope it’s not too late to ensure that the truth is told about the war on terror.  Future generations have a right to know.

John Kiriakou is a former C.I.A. counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act — a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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12 comments for “JOHN KIRIAKOU: A Victimizers’ Memorial

  1. Onlooker
    October 14, 2023 at 12:15

    I hope that the date of the memorial’s inauguration will be publicized widely well in advance, so that relatives of some of the victims can plan their participation…

  2. john
    October 13, 2023 at 15:42

    Flaming Wheelbarrow of Cash
    War on Terror Memorial. H/t TheOnion


  3. October 13, 2023 at 09:10

    And people will take children to see the damn thing and instruct them, always and forever, that it’s those in other countries who deserve to die and we’re the ones who are supposed to make that happen. I do believe the empire is crumbling and I fervently hope evolves into something–anything–that makes us human.

  4. cjonsson
    October 12, 2023 at 17:09

    George W Bush wouldn’t allow the videos of the war dead be shown on TV. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were completely sanitized from the public.
    Wars waged on lies to enrich corporations should not be glorified. It is truly an insult to the public to have war crimes go down in history as a major accomplishment.
    If not for Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning Jeffrey Sterling and other whistleblowers, the extent to which we were lied to would not have been known. Those 3 heroes were incarcerated and tortured for reporting crimes committed by our government. Julian Assange is still in prison after 12 years.
    President Barack Obama campaigned on vowing to hold the perpetrators of war crimes accountable. After 8 years Obama did nothing but move forward, leaving war criminals and corrupt bankers in his wake.
    If someone filed a petition against building a War Memorial to Terror I would gladly sign it.


  5. Letha
    October 12, 2023 at 16:47

    Maybe king George will plant those weapons of mass destruction as part of his memorial, oh forgot they are being used by his partners biden, blinkin, nuland and congress to kill and murder palenstinans for a fascist Zionism government that has consumed both the us and israel
    The big lie should be the name of the monument, many died for the lie of American imperialism for oil and many shared in its creation of terror and the axis of evil that is being built by its creators.

  6. Selina Sweet
    October 12, 2023 at 12:14

    Maybe it really is time to break up the USA following the small is beautiful paradym. Maybe democracy only survives in a society capable of governance based on compassionate realism. The hopelessness and powerlessness and total absence of imagined antidotes among those commenting here as in other similar forums has the aura of death. The ever present, relentless battering of soul, the collective and individual soul, by the essences of unregulated capitalism and empire, brutish competition aimed solely for money and power dominance, is a diseased and disease making force, a terminal cancer. It’s the territory that Jesus refused to co-create with the Devil in affirming the necessity of soul, and all its manifestations of deep feeling for La Vida above materialism and simply ego gratifications of money and power. Such a powerful mythic reality is being shoved into our lives attesting to the powerful act of ego restraint in service of the greater life – that is, really what happens when disconnection to the deep life occurs. Ego dances with Id and rips apart the superego. Conscience.

  7. DCrez
    October 12, 2023 at 09:56

    Not surprisingly the website and survey allow no room for anything other than glorifying the criminal Global War of Terrorism.

  8. Lois Gagnon
    October 12, 2023 at 08:48

    Don’t hold your breath for the truth to be told with this memorial John. This country is drowning in its glorification of violence as the answer to any resistance those whom we exploit express. We don’t learn from our so called mistakes, we double down on them to avoid having to face the serious damage clinging to our false mythology has done to innocent people. The rest of the world will have to force the issue.

  9. TP Graf
    October 12, 2023 at 07:34

    I think the one thing we can assume is, Chairman Bush and all involved with him will do all possible to bury the collective history we all need to remember. It will honor us as victim and not condemn us as victimizer.

  10. firstpersoninfinite
    October 12, 2023 at 00:29

    Keep waiting, John Kiriakou. And thank you for the service you gave this country and the price you paid for doing so, although I am sorry you had to pay that price. Your cynicism is correct in that it must happen now, at this exact moment, that a monument is erected to celebrate the War on Terror. There will be no monument to the War of Terrible Foreign Policy Fuk-ups, or An Apology for a Season of Unmitigated Hubris, Domestically and Internationally. We are entering the age in which leaders will shortly be named gods. It will be a beautiful time for 10% of the population, as long as you aren’t outside the cities and don’t take your mouth off the teat streaming endless riches from the provinces. Everyone ever in power in our government, but especially those from the last 40 years, will all be declared Angels of Empire. The scattered grifters once called POTUS will be declared gods to us all, but especially in those countries we will sacrifice to the War to Avert Monetary Failure. Former Secretaries of State will be archangels. Propaganda will become an art form of immense importance, unlike today when it is only made by people signing a paycheck for their almost illiterate screeds. This is the way it always goes in spiraling Empires – they can only spiral into eternity, after all. Every failure will be mythologized, and every victim of that failure will be forgotten. It happened more quickly than any of us could have imagined, but alas, only steel and glass and repetitive motion awaits us. Parliamentary forms are already emptied of any meaning, and money alone has become the lexicon of rational thought. We’re inured already to the fertile soil of our future, so we may as well celebrate the coming sterility producing busts for tyrants and memorials for murderers. Like Rome, we can only hope there will be the requisite 400 or so years left to us before the barbarians we hire to protect us tear down our gates, or simply walk through our open gates. However, with the power to end human existence spread across the earth into eager enclaves of irrationality, all our memorials may simply become mute.

  11. Olivio DeOliveira
    October 11, 2023 at 22:03

    The proper name would be the Global War Of Terror

  12. Anon
    October 11, 2023 at 20:40

    (IMO) To request pathological personalities (of professional GWOT career success) to suddenly develop conscience (or even replicate same)… uhhh… I’m a bit too stunned to continue…

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