by Paul William Roberts
Editor's Note: Our Senior Writer, Paul William Roberts, gives us a rollicking tour of the Bush-induced Gotterdamerung in Iraq. Roberts, whose book, A War Against Truth, is one of the very best accounts of the mad march to aggression, was in Iraq during the earliest days of the invasion, as "Shock and Awe" gave way to shakedown and atrocity. If you want to grasp the realities about the Middle East, about the Iraq war, ask someone who knows. Paul William Roberts knows.
A friend of mine in Baghdad wrote to me a few days ago about a conversation heâ€™d had with an elderly lady from West Virginia who was seated next to him on an airplane between Los Angeles and Washington earlier this year. The subject under discussion was how Iraqis generally view the American invasion and occupation of Iraq, and my friend was trying to find an analogy that would work for a sweet eighty-five-year-old grandmother who had never traveled anywhere beyond the USA in her life. He came up with this:
Imagine you are visiting with one of your daughters who is married to a man who is a bit of a brute. He beats the kids occasionally and has knocked her about from time to time as well. You donâ€™t like it, she doesnâ€™t like it, the kids donâ€™t like it, but at the end of the day heâ€™s Dad, he works hard, he provides, and no oneâ€™s going to break up the family after all this time â€“ besides, the monsterâ€™s mellowing with age and hasnâ€™t hit anyone very hard in a long while.
So there you all are, watching TV one night, the kids doing their homework or playing downstairs, your daughter preparing dinner in the kitchen, the son-in-law having his beer and reading the sports pageâ€¦.When all of a sudden, the front door is smashed open, there are loud explosions all around the house, and five men come crashing in through the windows on ropes, as another five pour through the broken door firing guns.
One of the kids is killed, another staggers around covered in blood screaming, a third lies groaning somewhere nearby, then flames erupt from the kitchen as your daughter runs out, her body on fire, and you feel something smash into your knee breaking the leg. Before anyone can work out whatâ€™s happening, thereâ€™s another terrifying explosion above and the house rocks from side to side as the roof caves in and the whole structure collapses around you in rubble and dust. As you wipe the gravel and concrete from your face, you see that some of the intruders have handcuffed the son-in-law and are dragging him away at gunpoint. One of these gunmen then comes over and identifies himself as a representative of the Chinese Childrenâ€™s Aid Society of Beijing, saying they would have come sooner but they had trouble getting visas.
They were here now, though, and your family was at last free of the brute and you could finally relax. Another gunman sweeps a bit of rubble to one side with a broom and apologizes for the mess, giving you the business card of a local contractor who also happens to be a friend of his brother and specializes in fixing houses reduced to rubble for a reasonable price. The men then say in a chorus, Have a nice day! They throw the brute into a van and are off leaving you sitting there alone in the dark with raindrops starting to pitter-patter on your head. How do you think you would you feel about all this?
â€œWell, I wouldnâ€™t be happy,â€ the old lady apparently replied.
â€œAnd thatâ€™s pretty much how we feel,â€ said my friend.
The spin-doctors sure are busy
in Washington these days, and their focus is Iraq, Iraq, and Iraq again.
Not because the country has been transformed from a police state ruled
by fear into a fearful state ruled by no one, but because the mid-term
elections are coming up and the Republicans are going to lose their
rubber-stamp majority control of the US Congress unless George W. Bush
really does have a friend in Jesus. But poor George doesnâ€™t
seem to have any friends at all, suddenly, does he? As heâ€™s rolled
out for yet another White House press conference, where the reporters
look like an audience watching some miserably talentless borscht-belt
stand-up act, his face is increasingly a parody of a man watching the
shit hit the fan.
On MSNBC, Keith Olbermann delivered a blistering attack on the President for signing the Military Commissions Act into law and thus effectively abolishing habeas corpus, the legal lynchpin of Liberty that allegedly protects citizens who can afford a lawyer from completely arbitrary arrest. Most Americans, of course, wonâ€™t notice any difference, unless they look like Arabs.
A day earlier,
in an editorial, the New York Times, as part of its ongoing attempt
to look like a real newspaper to historians researching this period
in the distant future, said Iraq could become "the worst foreign
policy debacle in American history". Cut out â€˜debacleâ€™ and
â€˜Americanâ€™, pasting them back earlier as a subheading if you want,
and youâ€™re closer to the truth â€“ something the paper of record is rarely accused of being.
In Canada, the National Post,
normally so rabidly pro-American that its owners would have been shot
for treason in an earlier age, ran a column by one of its editors, Jonathan
Kay, sincerely apologizing for being so wrong about Iraq. Kay, who had
frequently sniped from the safety of his column at critics of the war,
including myself, cited the hellish conditions in which Iraqis now dwelt,
and even conceded the civilian death-toll had to be far higher than
Bushâ€™s 30,000 --- if not quite as high as 600,000 â€“ concluding with
â€œmea culpaâ€. To his credit, Kay made little attempt to sugar the
pill, but is this because he was biting the bullet, or because the American
Enterprise Institute has issued its troops the order to implement Plan
All over the media, there are so many molting hawks around these days that those of us allergic to feathers are breaking out in hives. Remember, these are the same merchants of misinformation who, three years ago, sang you hymns of praise about the wonders of modern military technology as they thundered into Baghdad, unsure themselves if they were reporting this war or fighting it. For an accurate assessment of the Fox News audience ratings now, all you need do is check the polls to see how many Americans still believe the US is winning the war in Iraq. Itâ€™s down to 20% this week, half of whom probably donâ€™t know who won the Civil War either.
Over in the Green Zone, oasis of Central Hell, Paul Wolfowitzâ€™s faithful Afghan hound, Zalmay Khalilzad, now the American Ambassador (though to what and where he isnâ€™t sure) clambered out of his bomb-proof kennel briefly for a joint press conference with the performing quisling-du-jour, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who can barely control a quarter of Baghdad, let alone all of Iraq. Stressing what was at stake, without stressing what was really at stake â€“ the rubber-stamp Congress, neoconservatism, corporate profits, American pride and credibility as planetary potentate -- Mr Khalilzad called Iraq "the defining challenge of our era" which would "profoundly shape... the future of the world." Well, we know that because you said it ten years ago, when Ãœberfuhrer Wolfowitz and the other neoconmen were trying to shove it down Bill Clintonâ€™s throat, while he was busy trying to shove something else down almost anyoneâ€™s throat. Perhaps if Khalilzad ventured beyond Fort Rumsfeldâ€™s concrete cocoon heâ€™d notice the future of the world doesnâ€™t look so good, if the current condition of Iraq is its shape, and itâ€™s painfully clear to six billion of us that America obviously wasnâ€™t up to the defining challenge of our era. Itâ€™s just as well the Age of Irony gave way to the Age of Bullshit, otherwise someone might make more of the fact that the most powerful and well-financed military force in history has so far never won a war.
Why break a perfect record now? Rather than cut and run, the British and American imperial task forces cut and stayed, and itâ€™s evident now that they really donâ€™t know how to leave. Operation Together Forward II, the failed attempt to pacify Baghdad during Ramadan, clearly awaits another sequel, while in Basra, the British armyâ€™s Operation Sinbad --- an effort to retake the hearts and minds that Brit soldiers otherwise toil so hard to lose â€“ seems as pointless as the retaking of Amara from Mahdist militias, who had seized it earlier in the month.
Looking more like a psycho schoolboy than ever, the neolabâ€™s chief technician, Tony Blair -- for whom denial actually is a river in Egypt -- appeared to have gone even further down the Road Less Traveled than his boss in Washington has yet been pushed. Blair seems to think Iraq and his job are the same thing, refusing to discuss a deadline for the pullout of either.
Somebody around tireless Tony must remember Suez, and Field-Marshall Montgomery â€“ hero of WW IIâ€™s North Africa campaign â€“ asking Prime Minister Sir Antony Eden what his objective was in invading the canal zone. Eden replied, â€œTo knock Nasser off his perchâ€¦â€. Then what? said Montgomery. Silence.
It is a major neocon tenet, according to Wolf Oâ€™Wits at least, that the style of government affects national character. And thank God it does, otherwise some eager lieutenant in the Pentagon would point out that when a distraction from the humiliating retreat in Vietnam was sorely needed, Kissinger bombed Laos. Or that Reaganâ€™s 1984 bombardment of the Shouf mountains provided great cover for the â€œredeploymentâ€ of US forces in Beirut â€“ which occurred a couple of days after he had promised America would never cut and run. Or that the previous George Bush had incited a Shia uprising in Iraq to cover the fact that there actually was no Gulf War, although there had been â€œa massacreâ€, as Gen. Colin Powell then termed it. The Shia waited 12 years for those US forces Bush had promised would be in like Flynn to back them up, but unfortunately Saddam himself couldnâ€™t wait this long, mowing down tens of thousands in the open desert with the very helicopter gun-ships Rummy had sold him back in 1988.
When Arabs think of all the promises kept that were made to them by Western governments over the past century, the first that surely springs to mind isâ€¦erâ€¦wellâ€¦ George the Firstâ€™s pledge to â€œreduce Iraq to a pre-industrial stateâ€¦â€. And the second must beâ€¦umâ€¦ahâ€¦erâ€¦
And so the spin goes on. Asked why he hadnâ€™t fired Rumsfeld yet â€“ as anyone else would have done in his position â€“ Boy George further confirmed suspicions that English is not his first language by first praising the Rummerâ€™s administrative flair (as if the question had been, â€œIs Rummy fit to run the Harlem Wal-Mart?â€), and then inviting everyone to blame him if they had a problem with the war, not Rumsfeld (as if the question were, â€œWhat would Wyatt Earp have done in your shoes?â€). George, hello! Everyoneâ€™s already blaming you, buddy: the press corps are just trying to be kind because you look like you need a break. Or a beer.
George is bushed, his face doesnâ€™t work at all any more; heâ€™s pale, wan â€“ he ainâ€™t himself. He must think wistfully about all those good olâ€™ boys who voted for him â€˜cos he seemed like a guy â€œyou could have a beer withâ€ â€“ no matter that he isnâ€™t a guy you can have a beer with, unless youâ€™re willing to swill the stuff with a zero alcohol by volume content, and even then heâ€™d have to call his AA support team. But George doesnâ€™t look as if he treasures his sobriety as much as he did when standing on the poop deck, or wherever he was, wearing a codpiece bigger than Rummyâ€™s head, and saying, 'The US and our allies have prevailed. Now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country'. Iraq, he meant. Was that only three years ago? It seems like 23, doesnâ€™t it?
Never easy to keep on-message, poor George is now hard to keep, period. The Republicans canâ€™t decide whether they should renovate him or pull him down. They have to build another one anyway, but is it credible to hang him out to dry so soon? Should he seem to have a plan for Iraq? Should he actually have a plan? What happens when rats leave a sinking ship? Are they okay? How do they leave it anyway? On another ship? Or are they airlifted off? Whatâ€™s wrong with leaving a sinking ship? Doesnâ€™t it make sense to leave it? Is it only the rats that leave? Doesnâ€™t that make the rats the smart ones? Rats really get a bad rap, donâ€™t they? Hey, boys: Can we get some spin for rats? Yeah, â€˜Natureâ€™s Sanitary Engineersâ€™ --- I love it!
Nuri al-Maliki must be asking himself if anyone will tell him when the ship is due to sink, so he can pack his little case in time and go home to England without having to walk there backwards brandishing his Kalashnikov. He should read the pamphlet on How Great American Military Victories Are Achieved, no doubt available from his own office. There, under How To Tell Victory From Defeat, he will find:
The principal difference between a humiliating retreat and a great victory lies in thorough control of the media. Remember, only the enemy will know what actually occurred â€“ so make sure no smart-ass reporter asks them for their opinions, and of course restrict their access to all media in languages anyone speaks.
One must be careful not to create any impression of failure. A country that has been brought freedom and democracy by US troops yet has failed to embrace these gifts has only itself to blame. Thus emphasis must be placed on the uselessness and ingratitude of the natives for any chaos and destruction that remains when our brave soldiers leave.
Since Americans are big-hearted generous people, they are reluctant to tar an entire nation with the same brush for long, so it is more effective to select a particular individual as the target for long-term blame. Usually,this individual will be the leader we have been trying in vain to support. But it is not wise to denounce his venality and incompetence for too long, since this could be construed as a reflection on us --- after all, we did choose him for the job. Far better, then, to emphasize his treacherousness and cunning â€“ qualities easily concealed as drive and intelligence â€“ and ideally reveal his role in a plot or scandal of some sort to further blacken his reputation so that no one will mind when the enemy torture and execute him.
If unsure whether to stay the course of liberating a country or leave it, you should immediately consult the booklet called Classic American Foreign Policy Paradigms: a Primer, available wherever fine American imperialism is sold and celebrated. Under section A, Installation and Operation of a Strongman, you will find copious information about our best-loved, most tried and tested overseas policy of all. As President Richard Milhous Nixon used to say, â€œWhen in doubt, get the Strongman out.â€
And remember: â€œCovert ops isnâ€™t missionary work,â€ â€“ Dr. Henry Kissinger.
All those with a good view over Constitution Park, and indeed pragmatists and positive thinkers all over Washington who would like one, are now muttering about the need for this good old American standby, â€œa Strongman.â€ George the bushed has said â€“ and meant it sincerely â€“ that his patience with Malikiâ€™s government â€œis not endless.â€ In fact, it will apparently run out early next year. So before then Nuri will have to be a busy little quisling indeed to secure cooperation (at the very least a promise to keep the bloodbath from overflowing) from the two dozen militias over which he has no control at all and in whose brutal hands Iraqâ€™s future rests. As he well knows, these militias are just the result of Iraqâ€™s hapless, terrified millions, in all their ethnicities and denominations, attempting to give themselves a little of the security that America was legally obliged but failed to provide itself. Their cooperation with this or any other US stooge is not going to happen, thus, as US National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley also admitted in this confessional week, the â€œviolence is going to go on for a long time.â€
Although some journalists imagine they heard Bush set a deadline for withdrawal of US troops â€“ 12 to 18 months â€“ he said nothing that couldnâ€™t wriggle from beneath a boot and vanish into the sand. Even when they do withdraw, they will not have left any more than Fort Rumsfeld. Read Some Doâ€™s and Donâ€™tâ€™s in US Occupation of Foreign Lands, section 3 A:
The central guiding principle in US occupation policy lies in asking one simple question: Does the country make a good base? If it does, you know all you need to know, because the cardinal rule tells us:AMERICA NEVER QUITS A GOOD BASE. Thatâ€™s right, folks: it ainâ€™t never happened yet!
From the day they entered Baghdad â€“ and this is why we hardly ever saw them â€“ the US Army was busy looting office furniture and supplies to ferry out to the numerous ex-Iraqi military bases hidden deep in the desert and always out-of-bounds to ordinary citizens. Saddam couldnâ€™t have constructed a state more conducive to US invasion -- oppressed population, fortified presidential zone in secure area of capital, numerous conveniently-located desert bases, huge underclass guaranteed to cause a smokescreen of trouble for as long as its needed, monster as president, with psychopathic asshole son and heir no one will support as insurance against future invasion failing if the first one does -- and some Iraqis still believe this was the mission the CIA had hired him for all along.
One regularly encountered caravans of khaki trucks miles long winding their slow and deafeningly noisy way out through the shimmering dunes, and most Iraqis knew instantly where they were headed, and what it implied. It was Rumsfeldâ€™s original plan â€“ if you can call it that â€“ to have a quick victory and hand over a decapitated Iraqi army to Shia authorities imported on the coattails of the US invasion, then appear to come home, while actually leaving 30-40 thousand US troops to watch the store (or gas station) from those invisible desert bases. This minimalist plan unraveled, as Rumsfeld would say, rather quickly when the imported Shia authorities turned out to have no authority at all in Iraq.
Did anyone wonder if taking advice and information only from exiled Shia Iraqis was such a good idea? Obviously not. Indeed, consulting exiles of any stripe about invading a country they clearly had good reason to leave, and of which they thus probably have a vested interest in changing the regime, doesnâ€™t strike me as a very sound principle in general. Only one thing is certain: the Rumster didnâ€™t dream up this catastrophe himself -- it merely fit in nicely with the plans he had to enrich corporations he had recently run.
â€œBlame me,â€ says Spurious George. Okayâ€¦
But who has the heart to do
it? Heâ€™s become such a pathetic, frazzled little creature, I almost
feel sorry for him. Almost. When Richard M. Nixon stood spluttering
his apology to the nation heâ€™d lied to (about not much, though, letâ€™s
face it), his pirateâ€™s jowls wobbling, his paranoid Beagleâ€™s eyes
darting about woefully, I never thought Iâ€™d see another US president
look more wretched or pitiful. Compared with poor George, though, Nixon
looks like Abe Lincoln (compared with George the First, heâ€™s Young
Washington at the cherry treeâ€™s stump).
You wouldnâ€™t hire this guy to run a vacuum cleaner over your carpet, let alone run roughshod over your country. We know he stole the election, but did the Republicans really even elect him as their finest available candidate? No one now admits to voting for him, of course, but you have to wonder what those votes must have cost, or what they served up for cocktails that night. Or if this dyslexic dipshit cowboy from West Texas (via Connecticut) actually was the best they could come up with?
In which case, prepare to believe the only choice there is for Most Powerful Leader in the World lies between Hillary Rodham Clinton and John McCain. Actually, itâ€™s an alternative, not a choice -- and itâ€™s not even that, since Johnny obviously spent too long in that POW camp (the eyes, the eyes!). So, Hillary, the jobâ€™s yours, if you want itâ€¦
If nothing else, it will be fun to watch Bill create the template for First Laddie, and it will silence the shrill bleating of our sisters who still imagine only men can make such a cock-up of the planet. Besides, Hillaryâ€™s kinda sexy, no? Well, sheâ€™s the first First Lady Iâ€™ve ever found myself having carnal thoughts about. Come to think about it, Chelseaâ€™s the first First Daughter to obtain that sincere tribute too. Billâ€™s not my type.
I hope Hillary realizes that the mess in the Middle East is part of the job description, because by the time poor George is back chasing armadillos in West Texas, and the Republicans have come up with a feasible explanation and suitably groveling apology for him, they will get back to doing what they do best: blaming someone else for their greedy blunders. After a year of tweaking and spinning, Hillary, 60% of your fellow amnesiacs will think the entire fiasco was your idea. 15% will probably think Reagan won the war, so the numbers arenâ€™t going to be that good by the mid-terms, which will be exactly when the rats will probably try reboarding the ship.
So, letâ€™s try helping Hillary out here.
In order to get Project America back on course â€“ if itâ€™s possible â€“ the crew have got to stop thinking like Brits, whose default mode for foreign policy is going to be marooned in the shoals of pompous meddling imperialism until Pakistanis run the country. Globalism doesnâ€™t mean America runs the world, letâ€™s get that straight. Yet a global government is coming, whether we like it or not, so it will be more prudent to magnanimously assist its advent rather than bitterly resist the inevitable.
A big part of the mental preparation for this will be getting it through our heads that no one wants Britain or America telling them how to behave, let alone tearing into their country with guns blazing to forcibly make them behave. Most of all, though, no one wants their behaviour used as an excuse to loot their natural resources, enslave their people for labour and medical experiments, or otherwise exploit what may not look like much to us, but to them is home. It used to be possible to get away with this sort of crap, but now it isnâ€™t. Itâ€™s over. Plus, we have to give back some of what we stole, if only to avoid having all of it taken back by force -- and letâ€™s hope that force is merely international law.
The planet is not a business, so big business has no business running it. The sooner we get a handle on this idea the sooner we will be able to salvage the environment we live in, which isnâ€™t going to be an enterprise making anyone a dime, and is going to be one where corporate profits will plunge. But surely no one would want to grow rich knowing they were impoverishing the future, would they? Just as no one surely would want to enrich themselves while consigning their fellow human beings to sickness and hunger, or would they?
The United States is indigenously a mirror of what it also is globally. Five percent of the population control 95% of the wealth, and the country, which represents a few percent of the world, has about half of the wealth, and similarly generates figures of grotesque excess for consumption and waste, including industrial pollution. If you read about such a situation in a sci-fi novel, Americans would be the evil, greedy overlords who get overthrown by the gentle sylph-people in the end. Face it, this is the stark truth. The numbers donâ€™t lie and no one contests them. It may well be that enterprise, industriousness and organization are virtues that should be rewarded, but that is not going to make the dark overlords any more likeable, since these virtues are only possible through the exploitation, manipulation and terrorizing of others, so they will never seem virtuous to anyone else, and there is no ultimate authority to decide conclusively that they are really virtuous. Virtues always tend to benefit those who decide they are virtues in the first place, and always tend to be regarded with suspicion by those who see no benefit in them at their end of the deal.
Life is very simple when oneâ€™s sole concern is the next balance sheet. Decisions are easy to make when theyâ€™re between making a profit and not making one. But life in its entirety is not simple. It is complex, and of the few laws that do seem to be universally obeyed -- by nature, that is, from galaxy to molecule â€“ the most prominent is this: every action elicits an opposite and equal reaction. In other words, what you do is what is done to you, or what you do comes back to you, or what goes around comes around. You donâ€™t have to believe that the law of karma is a reality: you can see it operating all around you. Itâ€™s a fact, and as such has no interest in anyoneâ€™s opinion of it, any more than the sun cares whether or not you believe it will seem to rise tomorrow as it did today.
There are very few facts about this existence of ours, so we ought to treasure the few there are. It does not take much imagination to see that a full acceptance of the fact of karma would dramatically change human behaviour. And if your religion tells you otherwise, it is clearly not so wise a religion as it doubtless claims to be.
Having established these lofty goals for President Hillary, letâ€™s give her something a bit more attainable too, shall we?
A good start to the aversion therapy needed to stop thinking like a Brit might be to point out that all the chatter after the Suez catastrophe was about the folly, the foolishness of the venture, just as all the current yack about Iraq laments the warâ€™s stupidity and lack of planning. This is where the imperial default mode can most clearly be seen in both responses. For these military adventures were primarily wrong, and only incidentally stupid, the way breaking into someoneâ€™s house to steal and kill is primarily wrong. No one really wants to hear a felonâ€™s views about how the B&E could have been pulled off more efficiently and effectively. To air them shamelessly is obscene, inappropriate and offensive to the victims. We donâ€™t tolerate people discussing how Hitler might have achieved his genocide more effectively, do we?
America now stands in the dock of the court of world opinion -- which will one day be much more than a metaphor -- and the judges only want to hear genuine contrition and remorse, not the details of Plan B. Hillary will have to weep very convincingly.
As for a Strongman, there is one available who would be perfect for the job â€“ in fact his credentials are impeccable â€“ but someone will have to unlock his jail cell before he can apply for the position.
There is, however, a somewhat better solution to providing the opportunity for â€œredeploymentâ€ of US forces in Iraq under an aura of dignity, if not precisely victory. You can called it whatever you like, but a retreat is still a retreat. Leaders of the Sunni resistance have apparently tabled an offer that will not make anyone happy, but will make most of the people in the region less unhappy than they would be with any other solution.
Put us back in charge, say the Sunni, and we guarantee to keep the country western-leaning, keep the oil deals in place, keep the Iranians out, and keep ourselves from killing all the Shia, whom we promise henceforth to treat equitably as full citizens of Iraqâ€™s democracy, a shining example to the Arab world. No one in Kerbala or Teheran is going to like this, of course, but the Saudis, Jordanians, Israelis, Syrians and Turks are going to breath a great sigh of relief to find anything implemented that prevents a Shia theocracy opening for business on their doorsteps. And there is wiggle room for Washington to call it a mission accomplished -- if they have to.
The Sunnis also have a little-discussed yet very persuasive additional bargaining chip. Syria is supplying them with new hi-tech Russian rifles equipped with digital telescopic sighting devices that allow trained snipers to pick off coalition soldiers regardless of body armour from distances so great that any defense against them or detection of the assassins is impossible. They do not have many rifles or trained snipers yet, but they will be getting more, and Syriaâ€™s only condition for supplying them is that the targets not be Muslims. Every day for some weeks now, two or three US soldiers have been shipped out in body bags with high-velocity bullet wounds to the neck or face. Sunni leaders have stated grimly yet realistically that these numbers will only increase -- along with all the other more low-tech horrors now wearyingly familiar to life as usual in hell.
These men, it must also be
remembered, are mainly ex-Republican Guard commanders, and their fighters
are the highly-trained elite core of Saddamâ€™s old army, not some undisciplined
rabble. Just as the Romans liked to portray zealot forces during the
Jewish Wars as if they were roaming bands of disorganized brigands,
the Americans have never wanted it known that their â€œSunni insurgencyâ€
is really a legitimate and ongoing war of resistance by members of Iraqâ€™s
former army, who are merely keeping the oath they once swore to defend
their country. Knowing this explains why the resistance is so organized,
sustained, well-trained and formidable, just as knowing the zealots
were actually a highly-trained, disciplined and brilliantly commanded
army explains how they managed at one point to drive out all Roman legions
from Palestine and raise the Jewish flag over Jerusalem again. But in
the world of electric communications, the victor may no longer be able
to remain the one who gets to write the history. Things change.
From deals that were done by US commanders with Iraqi generals like Ahmed Hussein to betray Saddam and avoid a Stalingrad at the gates of Baghdad, Washington has long known that the actual plan for Saddamâ€™s defense of Iraq consisted of a guerrilla war to be fought during the occupation, not any Mother of All Battles that would have achieved nothing except a battlefield of martyrs and a paragraph in the histories of military disaster. For this purpose, secret caches of weapons, explosives and ammunition had been concealed all over the Sunni Triangle, the locations known only to a handful of generals. The pretence of an â€œinsurgencyâ€ has only served to keep those poor grunts, the sons and daughters of American poverty, from the hideous urban ghettoes, hopeless tenements and deserted factories along the shores of the Great Lakes, and from the tarpaper shacks and moonshine stills in the rolling hills of Tennessee, from knowing the â€œviolence is going to go on for a long timeâ€.
The â€œthree months maximumâ€ that Rummy promised them has now turned into three long years, during which thousands never got that free education most had joined up solely to obtain and improve their hope of a better future than Mom and Pop could provide. They left Iraq instead with just a pine box, a cheap cotton US flag, and a white stone grave marker to show for their sacrifice to the cause of spreading democracy.
The rest may even be poorer,
though, having lost all respect for their nationâ€™s leaders, their
institutions, and in some cases themselves. They were lied to, exploited,
subjected to a nightmare no one on earth could prepare himself to handle
with reason and sanity. Some, whether out of animal fear or raging unmanageable
anger, committed deeds they have come know are beyond any forgiveness,
and impervious to repair. Hollywood never shows us what happens to someone
who knowingly takes the life of an innocent fellow being -- a child,
a woman, an old man â€“ without any justification or mitigating reason.
It changes them profoundly in that deep core of the self we used to
call the soul.
Whether it is eternal damnation they know they will face, or whether it is a knowledge of what it really means to destroy something so precious and unique it can never be replaced and the world will always mourn its absence, doesnâ€™t really matter. They know they have done the most terrible thing it is possible to do in life, and they are fully aware that the universeâ€™s immutable need for balance, for order to be restored, has now bound them to a karmic wheel of fire that will never again allow them to know peace or joy until that same awful deed is done to them. Ask anyone who has killed without cause how it really feels, because no Battleground America video game is going to let you know.
From the ill-trained grunts, to the dehumanized killing machines that emerge from conveyer belts at the US Marinesâ€™ brainwashing plants, these are Americaâ€™s war victims too, and their presence -- when they do finally come home -- will most certainly be felt, as the stories they have to tell begin to filter out into the tens of millions who have never tasted a slice of Americaâ€™s Dream-Pie, who live no better than Roman slaves, and will never even seeManhattan or Beverly Hills, let alone live there.
A nation where it is basically a crime to be old and sick and poor, where education is a privilege of the rich, where human sexuality in all its rich diversity is considered sinful or is even punishable by Federal law, where equality under the law itself is a transparent myth, rich men never sit on death row, and where wars are waged continually at the behest of political leaders who are also beneficiary shareholders in corporations connected with a privatized war industry, whose profits exceed the sum total of those from all other business enterprises combined -- this, I suggest, is a nation that has no claim on the title â€˜civilizedâ€™. This is a feudal tyranny.
â€œBlame me,â€ says George the Second.
Nah â€“ it would be like having Mike Tyson beat the crap out of Forrest Gump once a week on prime time. George has a victim-complex already. Heâ€™d get into it. Heâ€™d hit the hooch again and disappear on a bender, to end up in those profile-full-face police photos with black eyes and lank disheveled hair. Remember, heâ€™s going to be the first ex-president who will not get to keep a Secret Service detail for protection at the taxpayers expense. I wonder who knew that would make a brilliant budget cut? Letâ€™s just watch him blame himself, eh? There are far better people for us to blame.
Announcing her candidacy, Hillary ought to strongly recommend in the same speech acceptance of the Sunni deal (unless a better one has emerged), then point her finger at the three men who really have got some explaining to do, and whose recent silence and absence is becoming so obvious that itâ€™s getting to resemble a higher form of presence: Paul Dundes Wolfowitz, Donald Henry Rumsfeld, and Richard Bruce â€œDickâ€ Cheney. Anyone seen them recently?
Paul Wolfowitz, just like his earlier counterpart Robert McNamarra, whom we largely have to thank for the Vietnam Vexation, went off to run the World Bank â€“ that we know. It was a job for which â€“ if the bank really did what itâ€™s officially said to do -- Bono had better credentials than Wolfo. However, Banco Mondo is really just a global wing and conduit for Bluddbarth, Smashem & Grabbe Inc. ( motto: â€œYou knock â€˜em down, we build â€˜em up again -- and guess who gets the tab?â€), that self-replicating splatter of companies, subsidiaries, beneficiary trusts, holding companies, off-shore tax-dodges, anonymous Swiss money bins, and numerous other conspiracies of industry, law and banking that both Dick and his pal Rummy, along with a bestiary of other immoral crooks, leave in their wake like rabbit shit in the woods of Maryland. Every one of these nefarious enterprises makes its obscene profits from peddling death in many forms, and a good number offer services the army used to provide for itself, such as food and other supplies, logistics, and even combat troops.
In all fairness, though, Wolfo isnâ€™t such a bad guy. He has a heart of gold, your honour, and just fell in with the wrong crowd, who used his scholarly naivety and ravenous political ambition to lure him down the road to hell -- a few miles of which is actually paved solely by Wolfoâ€™s good intentions and named in his honour. But he did first propose invading Iraq back in 1978 -- of that thereâ€™s no denying.
It was actually quite a clever idea then, however, since young Wolfo had worked out that Iraq was the only country capable of fighting a proxy war for the evil Soviet Union, which would finally allow them access to a warm water port, the lack of which had left the Soviet navy in a similarly embarrassing position to the Polish navy, as well as a shot at control of the worldâ€™s oil supply. If such a thing occurred, Wolfo had discerned in his contingency studies (read â€˜studies of catastrophes that might happenâ€™), NATO would find its war machine screeching to a sudden halt when the oil supply was cut off. This was true â€“ or rather could have been true â€“ and Wolfo was considered a genius for discovering it. If you can be said to have discovered something that might happen but hasnâ€™t yet. Still, it was a good reason to entertain the idea of knocking Saddam off his perch. Although very few members of any Washington administration thought so for 25 years, during which the project came to obsess Wolfo to the point of irrationality.
Around the time this brainwave struck, he also became chummy with Rummy. Together they hatched a dubious scheme known as Team B that entailed going through all the CIAâ€™s data on the Soviet Union and reinterpreting it in a more frightening light.
Not that anyone bothered to inform the citizens of America of it, but the CIA had seen signs the Soviet Union was falling apart at the seams since the early seventies. The very fabric of commie society was tearing apart for numerous reasons, but principally because the US had done an excellent job of undermining its economy in any way available. The evil empire was heading towards bankruptcy, said the CIA, and the end was inevitable.
Rummy and Wolfoâ€™s motives for the Team B operation, therefore, can only have been to find reasons to prolong the Cold War â€“ possibly for ten years longer than necessary. Why on earth would they wish to do that?
Rummyâ€™s motives are easy to spot: those ten years saw a staggering increase in military spending, totaling some $600 billion, a good deal of which went into the coffers of Bluddbarth, Smashem & Grabbe. Very few in Washington thought Team Bâ€™s methodology had much basis in reality at all, though. For example, Wolfo announced the Soviets had developed a non-acoustic form of radar that could well make the entire US navy obsolete (picture that tab!). Upon what was the astounding discovery based, though? Well, it was based on the fact that the Yanks had not been detecting any Soviet radar scanning their shipping lanes. There was nothing whatsoever to suggest a new form of radar had been invented, except Wolfoâ€™s assertion that the absence of acoustic radar scanning was incontrovertible proof the commies had come up with something else.
What the Soviets had actually come up against was their own lack of any naval history worth more than a footnote, and their complete lack of funds to do much about creating one now. Wolfo also claimed the devils were hiding new kinds of intercontinental ballistic missiles under the Ural Mountains, a point he knew full well could not be proved or disproved. But Wolfoâ€™s own motives in prolonging the Cold War seem to have been so he could keep peddling his invade Iraq scheme, which had no justification whatsoever if the Soviets no longer posed a threat, did it?
Either way, the taxpayers got an epic fleecing before the diabolical Red Threat -- unparalleled in wickedness, unmatched in vast arsenals of deadly weapons, all of them aimed at your house, Joe! -- suddenly vanished into a puddle of Stolichnaya, just like the Wicked Witch of the West. Splat, poof -- gone!
That $600 billion would have bought a lot of free health care and education, wouldnâ€™t it? But this is not the kind of enterprise that made America great. The cost benefit analyses of these businesses, health and education, make the Rumsfelds and Cheneys of this world run out yodeling into the street with mirth. Itâ€™s a mug's game. Guns anâ€™ ammo are where the big boys play. Yes-siree! thereâ€™s no business like Woe Business: itâ€™s so straightforward. You can only use a cruise missile once, then you have to buy another one (range about $ 100,000 to $ 1 million per, depending on the bang you want for your buck). Night One of Shock & Aweâ€™s son et lumiere extravaganza to entertain the citizens of Baghdad, and present a symbolic image of the kind of might they were up against, cost, ooh, aah, tens of billions of dollars to stage --- no one is going to admit the exact amount, but Lockheed-Martinâ€™s annual take alone is around $35 billion â€“ and detonated more high explosives than were used by both sides during all of WW II. The hundreds of billions presented to US taxpayers as the cost of the war, the price of liberty, or of being Godâ€™s Chosen Security Guards, whatever unadulterated bullshit the crooks on the hill think will fly, is not really the drain of cash by pipeline into a bottomless pit near Baghdad that itâ€™s made to seem. Most of it goes into the pocket of someone likeâ€¦well, like Dick Cheney.
So, Hillary, first you suggest Wolfo ought to be summoned before a team of experts and interrogated for weeks on his motives for pushing the Iraq invasion scheme, no matter what justification he had to adopt for it, and on the reasons why his research and planning for this war could have been the work of a modestly intelligent baboon or gibbon, and would certainly have fit on the reverse of any coat-check ticket or business card. Leave it at that, since the answers will demand the immediate appearance of Bruce â€œDickâ€ Cheney to start explaining things stretching back into the mists of time.
It begins with the palace coup he pulled off with his sidekick Rummy during the forgotten presidency of Bob Hope (although he used the alias Gerald Ford). While Gerry was off golfing, Dick and Don contrived to box him in and terminate everyone who stood between them and full-spectrum domination of the government -- including Henry Kissinger and Nelson Rockefeller -- which left Dick, at 14, or however old he was back then, with the second most powerful job in the White House, and Don, who was 12, as the youngest ever Defense Secretary in US history. Now, a century later, heâ€™s the oldest Defense Secretary in history -- as well as the most unpopular man on earth (after poor George, naturally). The ladies still think heâ€™s sexy, though, but then they thought Claus von Bulow was a hunk too after his murder trial. The intervening years saw this double-act, the Dick and Don Show, perform various versions of the same coup both in and out of office, moving on the war business with the same ruthless rapacity as they did on any political plum that served their avaricious purposes. Even Kissinger said Rummy frightened him.
Unlike Wolfo, Dick doesnâ€™t have a heart of gold. In fact he doesnâ€™t have a heart at all now, and runs on batteries. I will just throw Hillary the starter question for him, though, then the rest is up to her -- should she choose to accept this mission.
Dick, the Inquistor should ask, tell us about that study you commissioned from Kellogg, Brown, Root when you had George the First as front man and Rummyâ€™s job at the Pentagon.
Dick asked KBR -- not a nasty breakfast cereal, but an even nastier subsidiary of the giant crime syndicate, Halliburton â€“ to do him a study looking into whether or not privatizing the military was a good idea. Asking a private company in the war industry this is like asking a shark if it wants fat children with nose bleeds dropped into the ocean every ten minutes. The study probably came back an hour later.
After Iran-Contra and other crimes against humanity and the taxpayersâ€™ gullibility, Dick realized the scheme heâ€™d roped Wolfo into concocting for him to move the Pentagon into world domination wasnâ€™t going to fly. Poppy Bush would be flushed down the partisan toilet, and Dick didnâ€™t fancy his chances bullying big Bill Clinton. So he cleared his desk, shredded his files, and looked through the want ads for a real job. His net wealth at this point was around $1 million. Nothing, right?
By sheer coincidence, it seems, Halliburton were then looking for a CEO, and, again astoundingly, Dick was hired on the spot. Imagine his surprise when he found that study heâ€™d commissioned from KBR! Heâ€™d forgotten all about it, probably. But now he got to work, using the studyâ€™s findings to persuade his pals back in the Pentagon that Halliburton -- and the dozens of subsidiaries it owned or would start up on an ad hoc basis if the others didnâ€™t supply an item, service, or need -- should be hired to do absolutely everything the military used to do itself and that the public wouldnâ€™t notice so easily.
I doubt if anyone knows exactly
how many contracts Dick hauled from the Pentagon by tractor-trailer,
but over the next four years his personal net wealth definitely grew.
In fact it grew to $70-odd million. Explain that, Dick. Explain how
this doesnâ€™t amount to something rather fishy -- like a shark chomping
on chubby kids.
I won't get into the question of whether or not private contractors, who are not answerable to the US Congress or public for their actions, really ought to be hired to conduct wars at all. Nor will I question the wisdom of paying mercenaries $1,000 a day to fight next to grunts earning $50 to dodge the same bullets. I wonâ€™t get into Halliburtonâ€™s outrageously fraudulent billing practices either, nor the fact that instead of supplying purified drinking water to US soldiers -- as it had been handsomely paid to do -- Halliburton pumped water from the Tigris river, which I wouldnâ€™t even paddle in, and few fish seem able to drink, serving this amoebic swill to the troops instead. The Pentagon has already said theyâ€™ll never hire Halliburton again, so they will ship over the crate of other crimes Dick ought to explain. And the army will deal with Rummy -- ideally with one of those closed military tribunals heâ€™s so keen on. Pity we wonâ€™t see the bollocking though.
The Dick and Don show could surely have no greater finale, no more fitting final act than the one broadcast live every night from their cage in Guantanamo Bayâ€™s Pentagon Plaza Beach Resort & Country Club. Thank you folks, weâ€™ll be here all week until 2020, or Dickâ€™s batteries run downâ€¦.
The twinges of conscience from molting hawks are nice, no question about that, but the people of Iraq need Dick and Don Do Penance. After a week like this one, I need to see some real medieval punishments handed out to these bastards too. Take away their two-thousand-dollar suits, their silk neckties, their bespoke monogrammed shirts, their gleaming custom-crafted wingtips, and their weekly housecalls from the barber and manicurist, then letâ€™s see what a few months in orange monkey-suits does for them. By then they will look more like the disgrace to our species, the thieves, war criminals and scumbags they really are. No torture, no firing squads, no stooping to their level (those days are gone). Just regular visits from and chats with the relatives of all the hundreds and thousands of men and women, in Iraq and the USA, whose irreplaceable lives were snuffed out, whose unique light was extinguished, and directly because these two men were greedy for wealth and power. The trips will be funded from their confiscated assets --- the houses, the cash, the fiduciary trusts, the numbered Swiss accounts, the safety deposit boxes in Turks and Caicos banks, the lot, every last cent, and from the assets of their families that can be tied to them.
Let them learn to feel what wretches feel, out there in the wind and the rain, in the dust of barren marketplaces, and in the blackened ruins of bombed-out cities, where the tap water is foul with sewage, and the nights are dark as death, redolent of burning rubber and the sickly-sweet perfume from rotting corpses. Let them tell us all what this is like, and how very, very sorry they are for engineering this inferno at the very gates of Eden.
Accepting that all of this is the unvarnished truth, and that our dim, unaccomplished, violent species stands on the very edge of an abyss called extinction, which it may just be possible to avoid if we wake up now and finally act as one for our joint future on the only planetary home we have -- this, I suggest, will be â€œthe defining challenge of our eraâ€, for which Iraq may well be our final warning of things to come.
Itâ€™s not dark yet, as the prophet says, but itâ€™s gettinâ€™ thereâ€¦