I have to wonder, are we commemorating and honoring the memory of those who lost their lives on that date (as has always been the point of December 7th ceremonies) or are we commemorating the dropping of two atomic bombs on the island of Japan (the two most horrific terrorist acts ever committed in the history of humanity)? Or are supporters of George W. Bush seeking to subconsciously draw parallels between December 7th and 9/11 yet again as a means of hoping to reignite the public's enthusiasm for his "War on Terror?"
In addition to the questionable commemoration of the Pearl Harbor tragedy, U.S. President George W. Bush spoke earlier today, remarking that the American incursion into Iraq has already guaranteed both the world and the region are left a safer and freer place.
Consequently, I felt motivated to provide the following response, incorporating quotations from some of the greatest thinkers in the history of the human race and providing a kind of in-the-moment historical analysis of Bush's incursions into Afghanistan and Iraq from what I would like to portray as a neutral or non-aligned point of view.
“In taking revenge, a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing it over, he is superior.” Francis Bacon wrote that enlightened thought in what Obi Wan Kenobi might describe as a more elegant and civilized age. “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves,” comes from Confucius. Mahatma Gandhi once asked, “What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?”
However, “I’m a war President,” is what George W. Bush offered to the gallery with a gleam in his eye. “I’m the decider,” he proclaimed without being able to hide his you-can’t-stop-me-now smirk. Sadly, no one recalled Cicero, who said, “Endless money forms the sinews of war.”
In the wake of 9/11, the Bush Administration incrementally, yet systematically, embarked the world on an evangelical mission of crusade-like proportions designed to interpose further international proliferation of the contemporary, industrialized world’s consumerist, neo-Puritan culture, thus facilitating and buttressing an economic globalization which favors no nation, but promotes the interests of America’s largest and most widespread multinational corporations. Next, the Administration immediately and systematically interposed the repression of liberty over its own population. In the process, they exhibited a complete disregard for the Christian values one would expect them to hold dear, such as: compassion, generosity, consideration, respect, charity, brotherhood, forgiveness and love.
The initial responses to 9/11 incorporated: 1) demonizing the perpetrators, 2) inculcating a pervasive state of fear, and 3) nationalizing a determination to protect “our way of life.” To accomplish these ends, the neocons, in concert with the media, manipulated the images of 9/11 to foster a national climate favoring revenge, and dominated American televisions with near constant bombardment of those images, buttressed by the jingoistic rhetoric of fear, hate and retribution issued by neocon supporting radio, television and evangelical personalities. A persistent threat level was also interposed on the public’s sense of security.
Edmund Burke observed, “No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.” Knowing this, the Bush Administration advanced their Machiavellian manipulation of the collective American psyche by warping the minds of the citizenry and traumatizing the body politic into epidemic proportions of undiagnosed and untreated Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The neocons rightly surmised that through the implementation of these tactics, they would face little or no opposition in pursuing policies consistent with their global designs.
Afghanistan was invaded. The media, the Democrats, and the electorate all failed to challenge the duplicity in Bush’s stated aim of bringing down the Taliban because they harbored and abetted Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, vis-à-vis Bush’s disavowal for any interest in and/or plans or efforts designed to facilitate “nation building.” That lack of concern for the after effects of an invasion guaranteed Afghanistan would be left out in the cold: having to create a new government, rebuild after hostilities ceased, educate the population, feed and care for the public and provide medical assistance where ever necessary, and modernize without any assistance from the U.S., who would cause all the destruction. Nonetheless, the United States’ public and politicians, oxymoronically, believed that plan was the correct choice, primarily because it seemed the least expensive.
To promote their agenda, the neocons whipped the electorate and Congress into a sufficient frenzy for being spurred into action like a horse Bush rode into battle a la George Washington, Teddy Roosevelt or John Wayne. How can anyone forget the image of Bush emerging from a fighter jet, claiming victory in Iraq, while wearing fighter pilot’s attire?
It didn’t take long before the American military forces corralled bin Laden along with what was, essentially, the entire network of significant Al Qaeda operatives, in the mountainous region of Tora Bora along Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan. With nearly unanimous international support to get the man perceived nearly worldwide as public enemy #1, Bush turned his back on a potentially potent, historic and heroic moment. He diverted the troops from their objective at Tora Bora to the western border near Iran and towards the south to Kandahar.
In this maneuver, Bush left intact the bogeyman (bin Laden) and his organization (Al Qaeda), allowing Bush to perpetuate the propaganda for his policies of fear and hate which assisted Bush in consolidating his increasing popularity and power. This strategy left U.S. troops on Iran’s eastern border posing an immediate threat. I’m sure neocons believed then, and probably still do believe, Afghanistan would make a nice staging ground for a rear attack on a second Iranian front if and when they invade Iran from Iraq.
Bush ordered U.S. troops to the west and south of Afghanistan, ostensibly to prevent any possible infiltration by Iranian operatives and prevent Al Qaeda personnel from obtaining refuge in Iran, as well as to quell the remaining Taliban resistance. How bin Laden and his entourage could travel hundreds of miles, much of which is desert terrain, without being discovered by U.S. spy satellites, aircraft reconnaissance and/or helicopter patrols was never subjected to rational, public scrutiny by anyone (including the so-called media experts), nor was why bin Laden, a Sunni, would engage in an alliance with Iran, a Shiite theocracy, who are mortal enemies as we have seen throughout the civil war in Iraq since the U.S. occupation, nor is why the U.S. can’t find bin Laden now, though he is presumed hiding along with escaped Taliban not far from Tora Bora just across the border in Pakistan – the U.S. supposed ally in its “War on Terror.”
Unfortunately for neocon interests, Bush chose his regional ally poorly. General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's former leader (he remained in power through the following events: he usurped control of the Pakistan government in October of 1999 as a result of a military coup, when in 2008 elections were held, his party lost but the military dictator was retained in the presidency of his nation, initially, because of a coalition he and other parties agreed to create and which reaffirmed him in the presidency, yet in the summer of 2008, members of the coalition government began considering requiring him to relinquish control of the reins of government and step down from office, which he did in August of 2008) of the so-called legitimate government in Pakistan, along with some of the more extreme factions in the military he led, has more philosophical, intellectual and emotional ties to the Taliban and Al Qaeda through shared beliefs through Sunni Islamic fundamentalism than to the U.S. and democratic principles.
The pairing of Pakistan with the U.S. presents a sham of a partnership. The Taliban has been allowed to regroup, rearm, and assert a new, aggressive strategy of hit and run attacks in Afghanistan. It is hard to believe that Al Qaeda could be located outside of Pakistan, but Musharraf, while he remained the head of the government, constantly maintained the group wasn’t in his country. Meanwhile, the U.S. negotiated a return to Pakistan for Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated shortly thereafter. Ms. Bhutto was preparing to run against Musharraf, whose unpopularity led him to declare martial law even before Bhutto’s return. Thanks to U.S. intervention in the election process, Musharraf eradicated his most critical opponent before he, ironically, lost his bid for power due to the inclusion in the election of a previously little known supporter of Ms. Bhutto.
With U.S. and NATO forces frustrated by their inability to quell the rising Taliban resistance, Bush offered to send U.S. troops into Pakistan for joint seek and destroy missions. Bush didn’t seem to realize that if U.S. or NATO troops set foot on Pakistani soil, the Al Qaeda and Taliban response will only be to increase the already spiking violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan beyond the increased levels since the election, further destabilizing the region and putting Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal at risk for falling into the hands of the very Islamic fundamentalists they are now fighting to keep from getting control over those weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). Yes folks, America's incursion may cause the exact event Bush tells us these wars are fought to prevent! More recently, American and NATO forces have conducted bombing raids within Pakistan’s borders, against the wishes of Pakistan’s government. These bombing raids are alleged to have killed a few important Al Qaeda operatives. However, they have also killed many apparent civilians in the conflict (even children). [Since Obama took the mantle of U.S. President, he has stated his goal is to draw down the American troop presence in Iraq, but he intends to move the war back to Afghanistan and on the border with Pakistan. The net effect has resulted in a variety of bombing raids within Pakistani territories and which have resulted in the deaths of many non-combatant citizens. The Taliban has ratcheted up its pressure on the Pakistani government to oppose U.S. bombing and missile raids in Pakistan through the introduction of violence within Pakistan which could, in time, threaten to destabilize the new government coalition. * This information was added to the original after publication on Shoreline Driftwood in order to keep abreast of current events. – D.C.]
The response to this new American/NATO military strategy has been an escalation of terrorists’ suicide bombings within Pakistan. At the same time, someone or some organization seems to be attempting to spark war between Pakistan and India. The Mumbai tragedy, however, did not fan the flames hotly enough to yield such a horrific calamity as cooler heads from the West calmed the potential for military action. Any Pakistan-India conflict would fit well in Al Qaeda's general overall objective. Al Qaeda seeks to bring down all the governments in the region and replace them with Islamic fundamentalist regimes devoted to the Sunni Muslim branch and which would adhere to bin Laden’s intent to force the U.S., and all westerners for that matter, from the entire region. The Bush Administration in concert with the British told the world that the Mumbai tragedy did not appear to have ties to Al Qaeda. Still, the terrorists who caused the bombings all seem to have come from Pakistan.
Let’s return the discussion to the original American invasion of Afghanistan. In the southern and western areas of Afghanistan, U.S. troops could have received orders to put the WMD white phosphorous which the U.S. has stockpiled to a reasonable use and lay waste to the poppy fields (which Americans have been told fund the Taliban and Al Qaeda). Apparently, the neocon agenda never incorporated such an operation into their plans. To this day, those poppy fields yield a continuing source of ever-increasing (by record levels each year since 2005) funding for the amorphous terrorist network which Bush pledged (and to which John McCain subscribed his concurrence) America to continue to fight in a perpetual war. Of course it will be a perpetual war as long as the neocons fail to carry their prized War on Drugs to a place where it really needs to be waged and cut off Al Qaeda’s alleged major source of funding. But then, if they cut off Al Qaeda’s major source of funding, they would soon lose their excuses to continue to prosecute the wars in the Near East as their so-called enemies would lose the wherewithal to fight.
It appears the Bush Administration preferred engaging in illegal searches, seizures and invasions of privacy upon its own citizens in order to uncover petty users and insignificant, so-called “marijuana mules” (any of whom can be imprisoned for up to five years) who run the delivery errands for major marijuana traffickers as opposed to eradicating the most major source of opiate narcotic trafficking and production in the world. The neocons must have found greater satisfaction in rummaging through American citizens’ bank records in unconstitutional searches than they might have gained by getting at the real source of Al Qaeda funding. Meanwhile, the Afghani poppy crops grow larger year after year. Rather than fighting Bush’s War on Terror in Afghanistan, U.S. troops were assigned the task of guarding the oil pipeline which runs from the Black Sea to the Indian Ocean.
Meanwhile, Congress put its seal of approval on the Patriot Act (which I prefer to call the Unpatriotic Act). This law curbed some of the very freedoms the Bush Administration informed us the War on Terror was designed to preserve. The new law abridged Constitutional guarantees which prohibit wiretapping and search and seizure where no probable cause gives rise to the issuance of a warrant. It also curbed the rights afforded all criminal defendants: a) to the assistance of an attorney, b) to a speedy trial, and c) to confront their accusers. These drastic changes to the Constitution were not even enacted properly by treating them as a Constitutional amendment. Admittedly, the bill received greater than the mandatory two-third majority in both houses of Congress. However, the Unpatriotic Act was never formally ratified by the states, a requirement for a Constitutional amendment to be enacted into law. Amendments are also subjected to greater scrutiny prior to their enactment than was the Unpatriotic Act.
A climate of suspicion was brought to our culture with the Act’s passage. Law enforcement agents yanked people out of their homes and interred them without recourse. Some members of the general public perpetrated hate crimes against others merely because they appeared to be of Arab descent, or their name sounded Arabic or Islamic. Other hate crimes damaged or destroyed mosques. Anyone who decried the erosion of our fundamental liberties was branded as unpatriotic, a potential sympathizer, and perhaps a traitor. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s warning, “When a whole nation is roaring patriotism at the top of its voice, I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and purity of its heart,” never sounded truer.
The government assured Americans the special powers granted by the Unpatriotic Act were temporary and would only be invoked in antiterrorist investigations. This, remember, is the same government which promised the Federal Income Tax laws were a temporary measure, solely to fund the military during WWI. Like the federal income tax, the invasive tactics allowed by the Unpatriotic Act are still being used and in all kinds of cases, ironically, including drug cases here at home, even though the Unpatriotic Act was not supposed to be invoked in the investigation of any non-terrorism related cases.
The Congress elected in November of 2006 allowed the Patriot Act to lapse in 2007 when that Congress did not renew the Act. However, the terms of that Act allow all investigations begun before the Act lapsed to be continued for up to one additional year. Your elected representatives could have chosen to repeal the Act, thus putting a halt to those illegal invasions and illegal investigations, but they chose a more cowardly way out, by just letting it lapse. Then, in the early summer of 2008, that same Congress passed a new FISA Act, and in so doing, granted wide powers for the continued, surreptitious surveillance on Americans and alleged terrorists alike.
Meanwhile, those poppy fields continue to produce in Afghanistan. Every citizen, and especially every voter, would be wise to remember John Adams’ exhortation, “Liberty, once lost, is lost forever,” as they consider in the future whether to cast their ballots for any lawmaker who voted for the Patriot Act in 2001, as well as every lawmaker who failed to repeal it in 2002, 2004 and 2006.
The Bush Administration failed to complete their stated goals in Afghanistan when they allowed Osama and Al Qaeda to slip through their dragnet. The Afghanis desperately needed (and still need) modernization, infrastructure, educational institutions and a new government which is of the people, not Hamid Karzai’s puppet government installed in December of 2001. Again, standing at an historical crossroad, and with an opportunity to win the hearts and minds of billions of people everywhere by offering the Afghanis a humanitarian aid package, Bush chose to ignore his moral and Christian responsibilities. Instead, he funneled his energies into an old family feud with Saddam Hussein.
The Bush Administration called Saddam’s hand in the high stakes poker game which was the ongoing investigation by the IAEA into Iraq’s alleged WMD programs and alleged stockpiles of WMDs. The rhetoric of hate and fear, which worked so well to galvanize public support for a military campaign against Osama and Al Qaeda, again inflamed popular sentiment into action against this latest purported threat to “our way of life.” Phony claims concerning the existence of Iraqi WMDs imparted a sense of urgency.
Before we move on, let’s take a trip through the light fantastic which is the history leading up to neocon claims regarding alleged Iraqi WMD programs and stockpiles. Let’s have a look into that old feud between the Bush family, its extended members (neocon theorists and aggrandizing politicians like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld) and Saddam.
During the 1980s, Saddam Hussein and his totalitarian but secular government were considered by the U.S. as an ally of sorts whose presence and military strength, sitting on Iran’s border, provided a buffer and constraining threat to Iran’s designs for spreading the influence of Iran’s fundamental Islamic revolution throughout the region. One requires a bit of an historical background to understand the shifting machinations of U.S. policies vis-à-vis Iraq and Iran.
In post-WWII geopolitical stresses, prior to 1979 and Khomeini’s revolution, Iran was ruled by the Shah, who was an American puppet, loyal to the West who put him back in power. Iraq was an ally of the Soviet Union. Both the U.S. and Soviet Union considered the oil fields in the Middle East and Near East of significant importance, so they engaged in a competition for influence in the region. When the Shah was deposed, the American interests suffered dearly. Consequently, as the Soviets became bogged down in their conflict with Afghani rebels (led by the Taliban and Osama bin Laden, who were, to varying degrees, supported, armed and funded by the U.S. through the CIA and DOD), the American strategy became divide and conquer in the region, and the U.S. determined to make the regional players do the fighting. This, of course, was the result of America’s clandestine espionage activity and the foolish theory that the enemy of our enemy is our friend.
Soviet influence in Iraq ebbed during the 1980s as the Soviet Union’s economic and military aid commensurately ebbed. The U.S. exploited an opportunity to inveigle its influence upon Saddam with money, weapons, and an arsenal of WMDs. Iran and Iraq fought a war from 1980 to 1988 which was partly the result of a rebirth of ancient hostilities between Arabs and Persians, and Sunnis and Shiites, as well as Saddam’s desire to increase Iraqi access to the Persian Gulf. The U.S. interests which had assisted and armed Iraq and Saddam were caught off guard when Saddam invaded Iran. The U.S. goal was not to allow Iraq to invade and take over Iran. All the U.S. interests had sought was a standoff, like a mini version of the Cold War between Capitalism and Communism, making Iraq and Iran a buffer to each other, and thwarting each nation’s strategic desires for regional growth in power and influence.
George H. W. Bush had been the Director of Central Intelligence for almost a year leading up to Jimmy Carter’s Inauguration (1-30-76 to 1-20-77). He was also Ronald Reagan’s Vice President from 1981 to 1989 before he won the Presidential election of 1988 and became President in 1989. The use of chemical weapons by Saddam’s Iraqi forces on Iranian troops created an international furor, and likely left the first Bush President feeling as if he and his cohorts had been played like a fiddle by Saddam. Those WMDs were not supposed to have been used! Later, Saddam used more of those weapons on his own citizens. Consequently, H.W. pounced on his first opportunity to slap Saddam around – which was the first Gulf War when Iraq moved into Kuwait, planning to seize Kuwaiti oil fields and gain additional access to the Persian Gulf.
George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld decided they’d finish the job in 2002. Cheney had been White House Chief of Staff under Ford and Secretary of Defense under Reagan while Rumsfeld was Chief of Staff prior to Cheney in Ford’s Administration and then moved to Secretary of Defense under Ford when Cheney took over his old post. Rumsfeld was also Reagan’s Special Envoy to the Middle East for several months from late ’83 to early ’84. In that position, he was the most senior official acting as liaison to Iraq during the Iraq-Iran War. He helped influence the decision to aid Saddam against Iran when the tide of battle turned to favor Iran and there appeared a chance Iran would completely overrun Iraq.
Rumsfeld and Saddam entered into agreements for potential areas of mutual interest – Iraq would be a buffer between Syria and Iran, assist in impeding the spread of the Islamic fundamentalist revolution, and Iraq would receive an oil pipeline which would run through Jordan (as well as arms, munitions, modern weaponry and WMDs). However, the later use of the chemical weapons left Rumsfeld feeling like he had been used, too. Consequently, George W. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld took their cabal into office in 2001 with plans already on the drawing board for a retributive invasion of Iraq.
Mark Twain noted, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting its shoes on.” In the contemporary Age of Technology, a lie can spread throughout the world and be taken for fact before the truth has been awakened by its alarm clock.
George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld convinced Americans that Saddam and Iraq presented an, “… immanent threat to our national security.” Inciting still more hatred, the Bush Administration falsely claimed that Saddam bore links to bin Laden, Al Qaeda and 9/11. Many people in the U.S. still believe those claims even though they were disproved by the 9/11 Commission. Fueling fear, Bush and his cadre suggested Saddam would arm Al Qaeda with WMDs still under his control. The specter of a mushroom cloud loomed over New York City.
No one pointed out that if Bush had completed the job at Tora Bora, there would have been no Al Qaeda to arm. Not the public, not the media, and certainly none of the Democrats interjected the rationale that an invasion of Iraq would be far more costly, both in lives and dollars, than a determined pursuit of the real enemy in Tora Bora would have been when Bush had bin Laden cornered. Bush reframed his failure to complete the job against Osama into a worldwide hunt for all terrorists, in part, because of those costs.
Even the lack of logic in the Bush Administration’s argument for war with Iraq was ignored. The neocons promoted the concept that bin Laden and Al Qaeda were on the run and marginalized. They explained that Osama was no longer a threat. Consequently, the cost in dollars and lives necessary to pursue him would be misspent.
To accept the change in targets from Osama to Saddam, Americans had to accept all of the following. First, Saddam had WMDs. Second, Saddam was willing to give his most important and valuable military assets to Osama. Third, Saddam could do what the U.S. could not do by finding Osama in order to get those WMDs into the hands of Al Qaeda, and do this without allowing the U.S. to use any such transfer as a means of finding Osama and Al Qaeda, and thereby having an opportunity to coordinate a missile attack, knockout punch upon Al Qaeda’s location. Finally, this supposedly marginalized Al Qaeda which was “on the run” and “posed little threat” both could and would put the weapons to use.
In the rush to war, logic, informed debate, planning for all contingencies and sanity were sacrificed for expediency. Theodore Roosevelt warned, “No man is justified in doing evil on the ground of expediency.” Rushing to war without proper debate, without sound intelligence to support the cause, and without adequate planning for all eventualities which might arise, especially without ascertaining the validity of the claims made against the nation to be invaded, sounds like the kind of “evil on the ground of expediency” Roosevelt might have been warning against. Nonetheless, inebriated (in the same way German citizens were by Hitler’s early victories) by the appearance of a rapid victory in Afghanistan, the American body politic initiated the Machiavellian course of “might makes right” and sanctioned Shock and Awe.
Confucius taught, “The cautious seldom err.” Americans’ lack of caution created many errors. Just one example is evidenced in the dearth of debate necessary to any vital democracy on such a momentous decision as initiating an unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation. France, Germany and Russia all warned the international community that Iraq possessed no WMDs. Joseph Wilson tried to inform the Bush Administration that Saddam never attempted to acquire uranium in Niger. Colin Powell presented some intelligence reports to the U.N. which we now know were incorrect, but which did prove Groucho Marx was right when he said, “Military intelligence is to intelligence what military music is to music.”
The Bush Administration lost any claim to moral righteousness when every stated reason for the invasion of Iraq was discovered to lack validity. Consequently, another Machiavellian principle was advanced: “The ends justify the means.” The argument proffered the position that: 1) Saddam was a madman who had perpetrated various atrocities; 2) he usurped all liberty to which the Iraqi people had an inalienable right to expect; hence, 3) removing Saddam from power was a just result. It seems the U.S. occupation of Iraq has had even worse results on Iraqi freedom, economy, lifestyle, degree of personal safety, and the lifespan of Iraqi citizens than did Saddam’s rule. Even Saddam’s madness did not result in the deaths of as many innocent Iraqi bystanders as the U.S. invasion and occupation has caused, not to even mention the displacement of millions more.
If one takes off the blinders of subjective point of view, one easily recognizes the actions of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda can be seen in the identical terms as the neocon rationale for invading Iraq: Al Qaeda saw the long history of American clandestine political and diplomatic regional interference along with its supply of arms in the region together with western corporate designs as “an imminent threat to their way of life” and felt justified in attacking the main body of the aggrandizing globalization machine, the World Trade Center, and what Osama and his followers perceived as the muscle for the organization, namely, the U.S. military, its symbol being the Pentagon.
Americans, and most people of conscience outside of the U.S., agreed that no one has permission to act violently on anyone else peremptorily as bin Laden did (though not in those terms or with quite that clear of a moral and ethical understanding). Yet, the Bush Administration ignored that rationale when they invaded both Afghanistan and Iraq, which were just a variation of what Al Qaeda did to the U.S. In this way, the U.S. aggressions on the Taliban and Saddam fail the would-it-be-ok-if-you-did-this-to-me test. Even if one wishes to assert revenge as a reasonable reaction to violence perpetrated upon one (and I do not agree that revenge has any place in a truly moral system, especially not in international relations), one must admit that argument never gave the Bush Administration the right to do more than find and bring to justice bin Laden, his network, and the individuals involved.
The American occupation of Iraq has yielded a stream of American perpetrated atrocities, committed in what Gandhi would call a “blasphemy” upon the “holy name of liberty.”
The first evidence of an American atrocity hardly receives mention: the tens of thousands (at the very least, though some put the numbers in the hundreds of thousands or possibly millions, in either event, the numbers continue to mount daily) of innocent Iraqi bystanders whose lives were and are sacrificed to neocon ambition. ORB, a British polling agency which has conducted several surveys in Iraq, stated in results released that the Iraqi civilian death total since the invasion began in 2003 amounts to 1.2 million. [“Poll: Civilian death toll in Iraq may top 1 million”, Tina Susman, Los Angeles Times Staff Reporter, Los Angeles Times, September 14, 2007.] How many hundreds of thousands to millions more innocent, civilian Iraqis have been wounded, orphaned or rendered homeless? Every Iraqi has suffered economically since the occupation. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld denigrated the memory of this great waste of human life by calling their unwilling sacrifice “collateral damage.” This is how to win the hearts and minds of the Islamic world? If the civilian death toll has reached 1.2 million as the British estimates tell us, the war amounts to genocide!
This is not the first example of a neocon agendas’ conversion into a proxy war potentially inducing genocide of a foreign population. The policy of “Vietnamization” of the War in Vietnam introduced by Richard M. Nixon was also a policy which would have induced genocide of the Vietnamese people if it had been carried out effectively.
Nixon, the military industrial complex and early neocon thinkers apparently hoped a slow withdrawal of troops which incorporated turning the battles (and the attendant fighting and dying) over to Vietnamese troops to be trained, supplied and advised by the American military, would remove the objections of the American public to continued prosecution of the war. This was a strategy designed more to defeat the antiwar protest movement at home than the North Vietnamese Communists.
However, when one realizes that continued prosecution of the war at that time had been vested with greater ardor among Americans than South Vietnamese, and that Nixon’s plan was to replace Americans troops with Vietnamese fighters, the natural deduction which arises is that the American fueled war would have turned into genocide of the Vietnamese people. Nixon set up a strategy which would yield only Vietnamese killing other Vietnamese, who would, unwittingly, be dying in a war advancing American global economic and political interests, none of which coincided with real Vietnamese needs or desires.
The same is true of the strategies laid out by the Bush Administration and which were supported by John McCain. Neocon designs on Iraqi oil and solidifying a permanent military presence next door to Iran and Syria faced stubborn opposition from a new antiwar protest movement. So, neocons saw the “Iraqification” of this war as their means to securing their goals and defeating the rising opposition to the war by American citizens.
Bush decried any suggestion of American troop withdrawals from Iraq because his falsely promulgated propaganda wheedlingly instilled a popular belief that a U.S. withdrawal would only yield an Iraqi vs. Iraqi genocide. The reality of the Bush strategy was that it would yield the same result. There are two differences: 1) Bush’s plan would guarantee the continued genocide of the Iraqi people, a withdrawal of U.S. troops might, but also might not, yield the same result, and 2) any possible Iraqi genocide arising from Bush’s plan would be the result of forcing the Iraqis to continue the military aims of American neocon ambition, while an American withdrawal would remove American influence, allowing Iraqis to decide their own fates in their own ways.
Such a possible genocide in those circumstances (and I do not believe an Iraqi genocide would be the result of an American withdrawal) would at least be the result of Iraqis pursuing their own futures on their own terms – much in the same way that the American Civil War allowed Americans to solve their own differences in their own way. Would Americans have taken it kindly if France or Britain had interfered in our Civil War and determined for us what the outcome ought to be according to their geopolitical and economic interests? I don’t think so, but if they had, slavery would probably still be legal!
The atrocity of such a huge, civilian death, casualty and displacement toll as the British estimate has occurred in Iraq is compounded by the devastation of the culture and “way of life” of the Iraqi people, not to mention the revelations of torture and degradation at Abu Ghraib. Additional evidence supports the likelihood of a clandestine network of U.S. torture prisons (perhaps still in existence) in various sites around the world, perhaps most especially in Eastern Europe at the time. The American military scorched the land with white phosphorous (the name for the latest technological advancement in napalm) to pacify Fallujah. Many noncombatants suffered the effects of white phosphorous. This is clear because many inhabitants of Fallujah not imprisoned as enemy combatants by the U.S. bear scars of burned flesh. If they had any remote connection to enemy combatants, those scarred people would have been interred by the U.S. military.
The American military has been forced to investigate a variety of civilian deaths and rapes which local Iraqi villagers describe in My Lai-like details. Modest punishments have been meted out for crimes like murder and rape. Later the convictions have been overturned, as in the case of Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, the only officer convicted in connection with the Abu Ghraib scandal, whose conviction was dismissed by the U.S. Army in exchange for an administrative reprimand. This was announced on January 10, 2008, and hardly even reported in the news. That leaves only Corporal Charles Granier, Jr. still serving a sentence for the crimes against humanity and the Iraqi people perpetrated at Abu Ghraib. The U.S. government, as a means of preventing any culpability from climbing the chain of command, whitewashed the incident (which, as we know, was mirrored by the same kind of policies and procedures which were extended to the clandestine network in Eastern Europe and persisted to Bush’s final day in office in Guantanamo) as a few bad apples gone amok. I’d agree, I’d just say those bad apples were in Washington, D.C., and they ran amok as they ordered the troops into compromising situations.
Meanwhile, the “liberty” which came with the “democracy” the U.S. brought to Iraq is being administered by the Shi’a in the south in a manner reminiscent of the Taliban in Afghanistan, while the violence in the north and west forced the imposition of what essentially amounted to being a perpetual state of martial law, with no money, no jobs and next to no public utilities and water. Here lies the proof in the wisdom of Franklin Roosevelt’s statement, “In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.” What FDR meant is: people who are not ready to demand and take their freedom from those oppressing them are not yet ready to wield it, appreciate it, or maintain it in the future; however, people who do demand it and wrest freedom from the clutches of oppressors are ready to properly administer freedom and can be expected to fight to protect and maintain their freedom.
But it isn’t freedom the neocons really want to bring to the region. They pay lip service to the cause of freedom when all they really want is to bring McDonalds and iPods and government controlled cable TV and internet. It’s about opening markets, acquiring access to natural resources and finding additional numbers of poor who will work for American multinational corporations at rates below America’s poverty line (and which will only serve to reduce American citizen’s future employment figures). American corporations could then use this untapped, cheap labor to increase profits while the new work force would be expected then to purchase the over-priced and highly unnecessary merchandise at the same time as America steals their oil.
The Bush Administration never had any qualms about destroying a whole culture. It was the Texas cowboy in Bush which urged him to carry on in the tradition of taming the Old West with his policies in the Near East. The message came through loud and clear, get with the program third world nations, westernize now or the U.S. will bomb you into submitting to American economic designs and then ship you off to a new kind of reservation, clandestine torture prisons.
The neocons offered as Bush’s successor in the Republican Party another westerner, a shoot from the hip and ask questions later kind of guy, John McCain, who promised to perpetuate the strategy of world domination through military and economic fronts as he indicated the war would have lasted throughout his first term if he had been elected when he claimed victory would not be won until 2013. He also offered indications he would have been willing to expand the regional conflicts into Iran and Syria. I suspect Lebanon should have feared McCain’s enunciation of neocon regional policies as well. Luckily for us all, the American public finally turned their backs on McCain and the neocon agenda in the election of 2008.
Hand-in-hand with feeding the public’s cry for revenge and protecting their “way of life,” the neocons’ ambition for access to a steady stream of super-light crude, the best and rarest, was secured with the continued U.S. occupation of Iraq through Bush’s Presidency. As Jean-Paul Sartre said, “When the rich make war, it’s the poor who die.” I’d add, while the rich get richer.
Since 2006, we saw the neocon agenda turn its eyes on Iran. Well, have you ever played the board game Risk? You can’t take two countries and leave one right in between them if you want to successfully hold the territory. This is especially true for the U.S. vis-à-vis the real world nation, Iran. It separates Afghanistan and Iraq and is controlled by a government which opposes additional American expansion in their region. Out of self-survival considerations, Iran most naturally holds that view. Who wouldn’t? They’re next, aren’t they? Both John McCain and Hilary Clinton suggested so in some of their 2008 campaign speeches.
America must cease the endless cycle of violence, or Iraq and Afghanistan will become its West Bank and Gaza Strip. Voters should require candidates elected in ‘08 and beyond to promise: 1) to end the allocation of funds for the American military presence in Iraq; 2) to repeal the Unpatriotic Act; and 3) since it was America’s war of choice which wrought destruction on every aspect of Iraqi life, the American moral responsibility requires the U.S. provide economic aid to Iraq for its reconstruction instead of demanding that the profits from Iraqi oil be used. Furthermore, the newly elected representatives and Administration should promise to engage in genuine negotiations with Iran on our differences and promise not to rush to war again without a full, public and honest debate.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “I am a firm believer in the American people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.”
As a nation and as a culture, the U.S. ought to lift the yokes of fear, hate and revenge from its collective psyche. Americans should aspire to act in accordance with their highest ideals, not their basest and most petty instincts. If Americans force the repeal of the Unpatriotic Act and the new FISA Act as well as force the closure of all torture prisons and end America’s flirtation with torture, they will heed the counsel of William Shakespeare who said, “Pity is the virtue of the law, and none but tyrants use it cruelly.”
If a President tries to frighten you by saying an amorphous, evil force wants to destroy your way of life, remember the insight of Arnold Toynbee, “Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder.” That is the lesson of history, taught by a great historian.
It is time for the American representative government to actually become representative again, to reflect not only the real wishes of its public but also the real morality of the American people and “just say no” to more money for death, destruction, torture, illegal wiretaps, unwarranted searches, seizures, arrests, and illegal invasions.
One day, maybe someone can further the hopes enunciated by President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in his Inaugural Address when he said, “My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.” Yes, America must vow to pursue the freedom of humanity in partnership with the entire world, not unilaterally with suspect motives at best and nefarious intent at worst.