Mainstream, Vol XLV, No 41
Iraq and the End of the American Century
Friday 5 October 2007, by
As the fifth year of the US occupation of Iraq ebbs away, the farce on the ground deepens. A crisis, indeed, but more than a crisis: the number of US military troops dead approaching nearly 4000 and some 30,000 wounded; tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians dead, some four million displaced, with two million in exile abroad; mass ethnic cleansing of neighbourhoods; lack of water and electricity; the country on the verge of splitting apart along sectarian lines; the US military bribing Sunni Sheikhs in Anbar Province in an effort to stabilise the situation in a small part of the country, window dressing for the September 2007 report in the US Congress by General David Petraeus. Iraq is a country destroyed. But America is not leaving the prize that so much has been invested in. The goal is to remove some troops, eventually, and pull the rest back to secure US military bases.
THE point has been made over and over. The tragedy of this war. The folly of the American rulers, certainly, but on the other hand, the hard and infallible logic of the neo-conservatives in Washington, understanding clearly that the conquest of Iraq and control of energy is the key to global control in the twentyfirst century.
Indeed, they understood it well, putting their design in place with cold and infallible logic. In a just world, the United States would be subject to hundreds of billions of dollars in war reparations for international war crimes, the illegal attack upon a sovereign nation, mass killings, “shock and awe”, and destruction, “collateral damage”, another word for killing and wounding innocent people. Yet the whole violent episode is clearly within the context of American foreign policy since World War II. Why should the architects of the current chaos feel any remorse? Indeed, they are only faithfully carrying out the “noble” agenda set out directly after the Second World War to ensure global control, US imperialism on a worldwide scale.
We know the instruments have long been in place, designed by the cold warriors, George F. Kennan, US Ambassador to Moscow in the l950s and architect of “containment”; Allen Dulles, an early Director of the Central Intelligence Agency; his brother John Foster Dulles at the State Department. Every US President from Harry Truman straight through to George W. Bush have lied to the American people about covert operations and foreign wars as their sons and daughters were sent off to kill others and sometimes die for the American empire. Almost every crime imaginable has been carried out around the world under deep cover of the American CIA. Covert actions have been signed off by Presidents, almost weekly, in a long and bloody chain which continues. Today much of this activity has simply been privatised to US security firms like Blackwater USA which the Iraqi Government is now trying to expel from Iraq.
So while most certainly the war was illegal and criminal, this is not news, or even relevant in the context of the US record. “National security” has always trumped legality. The war was pre-planned way before the Twin Tower attacks of 9/11/2001, the hard intelligence in the hands of US officials dismissed or ignored. Millions of dollars was paid by the CIA for fabricated and false stories from Iraqi exiles, such as Ahmet Chalabi and Ayad Allawi, while those most knowledgeable about the region were ignored along with the lessons of history. Members of the UN Security Council were bribed in an attempt to get an authorisation for attack. The people of the US and the world were lied to and manipulated, while evidence of the weapons inspectors was ignored. The fix was in from the beginning with a US Government hell-bent upon war. The neo-conservatives would break new ground as the time-tested imperative of racist “kicking ass” by colonial masters was taken to a new level. The bottom line is that the entire operation was naked imperialism under the ideological cover of a “war on terror”. Secret prisons were set up around the world and people at home stripped of hard-earned civil liberties.
This was not a new phenomenon, not essentially different from the earlier Cold War itself. The US set up secret prisons as early as the l950s. Korea, Vietnam, and CIA operations around the world in hundreds of covert operations, from Iran, Guatemala, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Panama, the Congo, to the Bay of Pigs operation in Cuba, and hundreds of others now buried in dusty records. A bitter history which has burned deep scars in our brains. Carried out for “liberty”, these operations were not, but rather for empire. All of this sworn by a long stream of US Presidents to be a noble enterprise, and believed to be, by the great majority of the American people to the extent of their vast ignorance about global affairs.
So why should those in the White House today apologise? They are simply following in this long and honoured American tradition, inherited from the last Cold War, and indeed from other colonising imperialists, the French, the British, and other old European powers. They know that they were not placed in power by the dollars of corporate America to listen to the voices of the American people from the grassroots. Walter Lippmann instructed the American ruling class well against the impending disaster the democratisation of US foreign policy would bring in the l930s. Rather, they were put into power, even if the Republicans illegally stole the election in 2000, to serve the needs of empire, which they have done so well. It’s just that in the event, the potholes along the way have been a little more rough than expected. Not a little because global wars for empire are no longer acceptable in global public opinion.
Not to be deterred, the brave leader at the helm of the American empire keeps his eyes firmly on the prize. He is determined, as we are so often reminded. Nothing can stop him from bringing “freedom” to Iraq. “We will prevail.”
AND so, in the week of September 10, we witnessed the charade in Washington, taking us back to the Vietnam War. The General and his ambassador on Capital Hill, freshly back from the front. It was a Bush-Cheney-Rice-Rumsfeld-Gates productionin collusion with Halliburton and dozens of other American corporate enterprises with contracts in Iraq. The Iraqi exiles have now enriched themselves beyond their wildest hopes, with tax dollars of working Americans and stolen oil funds. The seasoned war-weary Senators and representatives and the bright eyed steely and dangerous true believers, faithful neo-conservatives of the Congress, assembled in Washington. The Iraq enterprise today is on the rocks. Whether dissidents or the faithful, however, almost all in the Congress seek to steer the ship of state secure to empire. If they talk of a change of course, the port they seek is nevertheless the same. That of power and empire. There was the McNamara-like technician, General David Petraeus, Commander of the US forces in Iraq, looking competent, doing his job, deploying a strategic campaign to show with his dozen or so charts that the escalation in Iraq (now dubbed a surge) is working. We were back to Vietnam with the “best and the brightest”, and once again the body counts and charts and all the props, that were not supposed to happen in this “cake walk”. The hearing was held in the same room in the Cannon House Office Building where US military officials testified about the My Lai massacre in Vietnam in l971. And there were the war protesters, the Code-Pink women, indeed the only voices from the grassroots, being dragged out by the police when they tried to speak. They were warned sternly by Congressman Ike Skelton, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, that “they would be prosecuted”. The American ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, looked trim and official struggling to put the best face on the fiasco. There was Chairman Skelton asking the American ambassador why the occupation was so slow in whipping the Iraqi Government into place, getting the “benchmarks”, a new word for dictates from the occupying American force, met. The ambassador eventually acknowledged that the Iraq Government is dysfunctional. We see the general recommending that the troops be cut back to the pre-surge level by next summer, just in time for the 2008 elections. The fraudulent claim that the war is leaping from success to success is being pawned off upon the American people and the world, the foolishness of which no sensible person could miss. In the end, as with Vietnam, the truth has come out, for those who wish to see the shambles that it is. Will Americans buy this yet another bill of goods? Could any textbook better illustrate the true working of American “democracy”? Another war has failed. There was sharp questioning from the lawmakers for sure, but the war must go on in the name of enterprise and capital. “The business of America” is still business.
This charade, which one might see as comic theatre, were it not so deadly, has all been brought about because the truth is that the American Century is over. Unfortunately, the news has not yet reached Washington, let alone Kansas and Texas. They just don’t make colonial subjects like they used to. There is way too much political consciousness around the world to suit the likes of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. The people revolt when their country is occupied. You can’t just gas the local people out of existence, with poison chemicals, as Churchill suggested when the British were stuck in the same boat as the Americans with their occupation of Iraq back in the l920s. Nowadays, the light seems to be seeping even into the political black holes of America after four years of lies from Washington have crumbled.
And so when the grassroots revolted in November 2006 and tossed a bunch of the pro-war bums out of Congress, the President took note. He looked rather embarrassed at the press conference, following the election. Defence Secretary Rumsfeld was replaced by Gates, as the President admitted the result was a rout for his party. Bush clearly heard the democratic voices from America’s hinterland, and being the democrat that he is, took immediate action. He understood what the people wanted and realised that they were serious and so must be crushed… the proper response for one so concerned as Bush for spreading democracy around the world… to others that is. The proposition of democracy in America was something else altogether. People had demanded the troops out. He would send 30,000 more. People demanded an end to the war. He would make sure it would go on till his last day in office and beyond. People demanded spending for social needs in America, and a cut-back for the war. Bush would ask the Congress for hundreds of billions of dollars more for Iraq. When the newly elected representatives moved to end funding for the war, Bush depended upon his party to block the demands of the people. When the people demanded deadlines for withdrawal, and the Congress voted for them, the President vetoed the bill.
From his secret command post in Washington, Vice-President Dick Cheney pulled the strings and issued commands. Blind religious faith, ceaseless lies and half-truths, prevailed in the face of impending disaster. All the fatal elements that destroyed President Lyndon Johnson in Vietnam have now been seen again. Iraq is now Vietnam, just as George Bush explained, except for one thing he failed to mention. Iraq has oil. Vietnam did not. Indeed, both struggles are at the heart of the American drive for empire. But, as the General and the ambassador never cease reminding us, it is going to be a “long struggle”. Indeed, the US is not about to leave Iraq. The end will come some fifty years from now or on the day when the last drop of oil is pumped by the American companies controlling the Iraqi oilfields. Americans and Iraqis must go on dying.
THIS war is driven by crazed men from their positions of power on behalf of empire and corporate capital in the United States. America, as the exposed superpower in decline, has become the most dangerous country on earth, the nation that is most feared around the world, not because it is so powerful, but because its policies and policy-makers are power crazed and truly dangerous people. They see themselves as infallibly rational, however. This is the historical cliff to which the American people, mostly good but naïve about the world, have been stampeded in ignorance and fear. But a nation cannot enjoy security, the people cannot be safe, by endangering the whole world. The reckless American policy in Iraq threatens the wider region and indeed the entire world. Today the US is too dangerous for the world. But of course it always has been since it became a superpower.
The root of American imperialism is the belief, perpetrated in the Cold War ideological framework, that the United States has a God-given right to rule the whole world. This springs from the racist Wilsonian belief in American superiority and the right to force the “American way of life” upon the entire world. George W. Bush is always talking about evil ideologies. I wish that sometime he would take a look in the mirror. This American chauvinism is the real evil ideology, the blind prejudice that today endangers us all more than ever and robs a wide swath of the world’s people of their freedom. It is not a pleasant truth for Americans that their penchant for “kicking ass” around the world is the root of terrorism, but it must be told. The rest of the world knows the “war on terror” is just another excuse for empire, even if the Americans do not.