by Gilles d'Aymery
(Swans - August 29, 2005) With no disrespect for Frank Rich's acumen, the war in Iraq is far from over. "So long as I'm the President," Mr. Bush said on August 24, 2005 in Nampa, Idaho, "we will stay, we will fight, and we will win the war on terror." We are not leaving anytime soon. We plan to be in the Middle East, permanently, for a "noble cause" that is never laid out to the public. Cindy Sheehan, all the military families for peace, and the Iraq War veterans against the war look like David fighting a Goliath made of not just W., but the entire establishment; not just Republicans, but the Democrats as well, and the "liberal" institutions such as Mr. Rich's employer, the New York Times, or moveon.org, the front Democratic organization attempting to co-opt Mrs. Sheehan's message, which is straightforward: leave Iraq NOW; bring the troops home NOW. Now means not tomorrow or next year, or the year after, or whenever in the ethereal future; it means NOW! The prospect of David defeating Goliath in the current stage of affairs is rather bleak. Yet, only military families and past and present soldiers will stop this folly.
Mr. Bush went to Salt Lake City, Utah, on August 22, 2005, where he addressed the attendees of the Veterans of Foreign Wars' National Convention (and a national audience). Two days later, in Idaho, he replicated his scripted message in "honor of America's National Guard And Reserve." Mr. Rich should parse Bush's words carefully. W. was on stage for 30 minutes in Utah, and 43 minutes in Idaho, including many applauding interruptions. In each instance, about one quarter of the pet-talk was about the audience and the local (political) celebrities, as is customary in such settings. This left about 20 and 30 minutes, respectively, for W. to deliver his "message" -- an instructive one to say the least.
He managed to utter the words "terror," "terrorist(s)," and "terrorism" 33 times in Utah and 46 times in Idaho; he repeated the word "freedom" 26 times in Utah and 32 times in Idaho; "enemy" or "enemies" was heard 12 times in both settings; but he said "democracy," "democracies," or "democratic" -- the latest rationale for the war (bring democracy to Iraq and the Middle East) -- only 8 and 9 times, respectively, which is not particularly shocking. After all, the US military has been in Kuwait since 1991 and for a dozen years in Saudi Arabia...and the democratic process in those two countries is for all to see. The words "constitution" and "constitutional" did not fare better: 9 times in Utah -- four of which referred to the US Constitution -- and 5 times in Idaho, including one reference to our Constitutional convention. (A witty reader suggested some time ago that we give our Constitution to the Iraqis since we were not using it much anymore!)
No wonder Mrs. Sheehan keeps asking what this "noble cause" is all about.
Interestingly, one word did not pass through W.'s lips -- "oil." Not once, neither in Salt Lake City nor in Nampa. Terror, terrorism, terrorists: 79 times; freedom: 58 times; oil: zero, zilch, nada. In "Gas prices too high? Try Europe" (Aug. 26, 2005), Peter Ford of the Christian Science Monitor reports that according to the International Energy Agency, "European per capita consumption of gas and diesel stood at 286 liters a year in 2001 compared to 1,624 in the U.S." That's 75.56 and 429.06 US gallons, respectively...the "noble cause" that never gets mentioned by the governing elite and the punditocracy. How does one tell a grieving mother that her son died so that we can keep gulping our petroleum elixir and must control these natural resources in order to feed our insanely wasteful way of life?
Simple: Dear Cindy, your son died so that we can drive ourselves into oblivion, and, incidentally, enrich oil barons and the military-industrial complex. Casey died for our will to control the universe, whatever the cost in human lives and historical heritage, so that the American "experiment" may perdure. And we'll nuke Iran, or China, or any recalcitrant parties, eventually. We will. This is America.
Meanwhile, when Mr. Bush is off target -- talking about reducing the troops to coincide with the 2006 elections -- the New York Times is quick to point out "Bush's Loss of Faith" (Editorial, Aug. 24, 2005). "The only rational argument for continuing the American presence in Iraq" is "to protect the rights of Iraq's Sunni Arab minority and the rights of women," to prevent Islam to become "a main source of law," the "fracturing of Iraq into an all but independent, and oil-rich, Kurdish homeland in the north and an oil-rich Shiite theocracy in the south, while the oil-poor center [is] left to the disaffected Sunnis, the terrorists and the American troops."
Two years ago, the Sunnis were the members of the "axis of evil." Today, we want to defend their rights. The Iraqi women who enjoyed more rights than anywhere else in the Middle East have become the latest casualty of our decision to re-map the Middle East. As the U.S. is ever more dominated by Christian fundamentalists -- subtly manipulated by capital and corporate interests -- we take it upon ourselves to prevent Islam from becoming "a main source of law." Fundamentalism is only a one-way street; it's white, Western, and Judeo-Christian. No major news organization has come forward with a real, prompt disengagement from Iraq. No minor news organization has done so either.
None of the Democratic "strategic class," to use The Nation Ari Berman's expression, has come out in favor of US withdrawal from Iraq. Bill Clinton talks about staying the course, whatever mistakes may have been. His wife wants an additional 80,000 boots on the ground. Kerry will settle for 40,000. Joe Biden is gung-ho on the war, more hawkish than even Mr. Bush, as they all keep an eye on the 2006 mid-term elections. Go all the way down the pyramid of power, from Albright to Holbrooke and Rubin, from the "liberal" think tanks (Brookings, Carnegie, Progressive Policy Institute, Soros's Open Society Institute, etc.) to the "liberal" punditry that pontificate on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. They all buy into the war.
To co-opt the recalcitrants, the usual set of middle people will muddy the water. Sure, they'll say. We need to get out. Set a timetable. Be responsible. But Iraq could fall into chaos or civil war. Women's rights must be enshrined in the new constitution. We cannot leave just like that. We need time, and careful examination, and organization; and we need to do what's right for the Iraqi people (as though it was up to us to do what's right for them; we, who for two decades have been subjugating them...). Tom Hayden, or moveon.org, the message is on track...and it's scripted on staying the course.
We are not leaving Iraq. We'll split the country in three or more entities if necessary -- the smaller, the easier to control (cf. the Balkans). We'll have a lower footprint in time for the next US elections. We'll have permanent bases there. Both presidential contenders in 2008 will argue on the merits of how long we have to stay the course. This futile carnage will continue unabated.
Remember, the "American way of life is non negotiable." 429.06 US gallons per capita per year, and counting.
Cindy Sheehan's ordeal is a tall order.