Our children are being sacrificed on the altar of corporate greed in Iraq. As the purported rationale for the war has metamorphosed from protecting ourselves from weapons of mass destruction and the specter of a ''mushroom shaped cloud,'' to regime change, to fighting terrorists, to spreading democracy at the point of a gun, two constants remain. The children of the poor, the working class, and the lower half of what is left of the shrinking middle class return to us in coffins, or limbless, or brain damaged, and emotionally scarred. The children of the power elite, for whom they fight the war, secure in their corporate boardrooms or on their yachts, reap unconscionable profits as the nation''s treasure and blood is being stuffed down the rat-hole that is the Iraq war.

The children of the privileged, who fashioned this war, had their mentalities honed in prep schools and elite colleges from which the neo-conservative theories on which the Iraq war is based were conceived. From the elitist liberal arts portions of the halls of academe, through think tanks like the Project for the New American Century, and in clandestine gatherings of select individuals such as the National Energy Policy Development Group and the Defense Policy Board, policies were established. Their hegemonic designs, both internationally by force and domestically by sleight of hand and psychological manipulation, were put into place by the political establishment, and, in Iraq, carried out by the military.

The image one can derive from the media of a Stalinesque brute of a vice-president lumbering about the White House, pulling the strings of a chowder-headed puppet of a president at the behest of a corporate elite is, undoubtedly, a simplistic caricature of reality. But, the facts, as they emerge, are scary enough.

The myth of the neo-conservative belief in a free market global economy is belied by the facts of billions of dollars in no-bid contracts going to selected corporations for work in Iraq and oligopolies controlling markets and fashioning policy in their, rather than the peoples,'' interests. Halliburton, Parsons, Flour, Washington Group International, and Bechtel are among the corporations making billions off the war. Pentagon no-bid contractors like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman represent part of the 1 percent of defense contractors who won 80 percent of all defense contracting dollars from 1998 through 2003. And, now, the Iraqi cabinet has created the legal framework for turning over the country''s oil wealth to American corporations. If the law is passed by the Iraqi parliament, individual regions of the country will be able to contract with foreign companies who will control oil production and policy. It has become crystal clear why, of all the brutal dictators in the world, our government chose Saddam Hussein as the one to topple. He was vulnerable and sitting on top of one of the world''s largest oil reserves.

The people who blundered us into the morass that is the Iraq war come from a narrow spectrum of our society. Viewing the world through the constricted prism of their ethnocentric reality, the cultural complexities of Iraq eluded them. Secure in the values they were taught, and consider universal, transcendent, and enduring, their arrogance is palpable. However, their ignorance is dangerous for, though they are powerful, they are culturally myopic and naïve, failing to understand that the values they wish to impose on others are despised by the majority of humanity.

They have had more success in convincing those who do their bidding in our society to accept their social assumptions. Through control of the flow of information and subterfuge, they have convinced people who are warehoused and forgotten after their return from fighting in Iraq that participating in the war is a patriotic endeavor.

At its base the war in Iraq is economic in nature. The benefits derived from the effort accrue to the privileged few. The rest of us will be paying for generations to come.

David E. Washburn, author of Multicultural Education in the United States among other works, is a Honolulu based writer. Reach him at