by Philip Greenspan
(Swans - June 20, 2005) The fact that prescription drugs produce side effects is well known. The benefits of drugs should be offset somewhat by their risks, though periodically the side effects of FDA-approved drugs are so serious that they are taken off the market. Such is the case of the blockbuster anti-inflammatory drugs VIOXX and Bextra, which were recently found to have adverse cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and gastrointestinal effects. Some psychiatric medications like Prozac have side effects that have caused suicide, attempted suicide, self-mutilation, and multiple murders (though it remains widely prescribed). Reports in prestigious medical journals have concluded that yearly adverse drug reactions cause over one hundred thousand to die and over two million to either suffer permanent damage or require hospitalization.
While we relate side effects most commonly to medications, side effects occur in almost every activity undertaken. The automobile is an excellent example of the multiple side effects both beneficial and detrimental. Its commercial success required the intervention of government -- financial assistance to produce paved roads and highways, legislation and policing to regulate traffic. Existing industries -- oil, steel, glass, rubber, cement, construction -- expanded and new industries -- automobile, tire, auto equipment, etc. -- were created. A substantial proportion of the population relies on the automobile for its income. On the negative side, it produces accidents that kill about fifty thousand and injures millions yearly. It produces environmental damage to plants, animals, and modifies the weather.
The consequences of major wars produce unexpected side effects that may overshadow the belligerents' initial objectives. Achieving those objectives involves many intertwined details that are not seriously considered by the hoodwinked citizenry until their effects become starkly apparent. In all wars, truth, the first casualty, is censored; civil liberties are curtailed; the sanctity of life of non-privileged youths who do the fighting is ignored; budgetary constraints limit or bar desirable social programs, while monumental indebtedness is incurred to meet whatever costs are required for military operations.
Unexpected consequences occur in major wars. Within the last hundred years the antagonists have experienced some of the following surprises. World War I was fought to augment an empire or preserve the status quo. It did not end with only winners and losers. It removed the monarchies and empires of the German, Russian, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires from the world scene and created new nations and boundaries not initially anticipated by the belligerents. It brought a socialist state into being. It ended with anarchy in Europe that threatened the remaining capitalist systems and required counter-revolutionary militancy. The death toll and extreme costs drastically weakened the European victors as well. World War II left colonial powers like England and France so weak that their colonies were able to overthrow their masters. The Vietnam War caused outbreaks on the US home front by environmentalists, women, blacks, Native Americans, and war veterans. Gulf War I created a new illness, Gulf War Syndrome which, like a plague, has struck over half of US troops engaged in that war. The difficulties the USSR encountered by intervening in Afghanistan sealed the fate of that tottering empire.
Bush and his neocon crew seized the White House with a preconceived agenda for war. By adroitly exploiting the fears engendered by 9/11 they obtained carte blanche to implement their war plans. Experienced and knowledgeable voices in the military, intelligence, and State departments raised objections but the Bushites remained undeterred in their planned objectives. Reasonable and logical discourse was scorned. They created their own reality -- yes, they created reality -- a reality that the loyal and patriotic media peddled to the public. Those in government who did not fall in line soon learned a high price would be paid for honesty that conflicted with their reality. But the real world's reality has bit back to eclipse their created reality and they must now contend with a slew of problems. Created reality will only buy time temporarily as each problem emerges from the shadows.
Newton's third law of motion states that "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." I believe that social activities are governed by a similar law. The consequences of such a law are exemplified by the reactions against the occupations that the US military is encountering in Iraq and Afghanistan. The war crimes that are perpetrated are being countered by an unexpected ferocity that has tied down the military forces and has slowed the timetable for the next act of Bush's war on terror. The turmoil in Afghanistan and Iraq hindered the neocons from modeling those regimes according to their wishes. It was their intent to foist a puppet regime on the Iraqis so that the U.S. could appropriate the valuable assets of Iraq at pennies for the dollar. Those rebellious Iraqis prevented that scenario from being implemented. Neither choice one, Ahmad Chalabi, nor choice two, Ayad Allawi, could be imposed on the Iraqis. To prevent even more hostility the neocons compromised for a flawed and rigged election. It was a far cry from their desired "reality."
By knocking off Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. gained bases in two countries that border Iran, a country the U.S. included in the "axis of evil" paradigm. Logically, Iran should be the next victim of the war against terror. But by effecting regime change in both those countries they removed the two governments that were most hostile to Iran: the Taliban, a fanatical Wahabi fundamentalist Islamic group, and Saddam Hussein, who attacked and fought Iran for almost eight years. When Iran's foreign minister visited top Iraqi leaders he was greeted warmly, spotted many familiar faces in government offices that had spent years in exile in Iran, and obtained an admission that Iraq was the aggressor of their war. Both of the replaced regimes are friendly with their Iranian neighbor.
No event, the deaths of Hussein's sons, his capture, nor the election has slowed the ceaseless insurgency (aka, in saner quarters, as resistance). Over 1,700 GIs have been killed and thousands have been wounded. As a result there are drops in the numbers of enlistments and reenlistments so that the already overburdened military is being depleted of its (wo)manpower. In addition, the AWOLs, desertions, and claims for Conscientious Objector status are increasing.
Extremely cruel police counter measures will not prevent but will just postpone the natural reactions to an occupation. The animosities build up more and more pressure, similar to the steam in a pressure cooker, which eventually causes a major eruption when the pressure exceeds the restraining force. Over the years in numerous countries the citizenry became so frustrated and furious that police power was unable to restrain them and unacceptable regimes were toppled. Right now it's Bolivia.
Bolivia is the most recent of the political swings taking place in the US's back yard, Latin America. A sphere of influence that has been kept in check since it was proclaimed by the Monroe Doctrine in its early years of the nation. The occasional miscreant was usually brought back on line rather quickly, but over and over, in country after country, (Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Peru, and Uruguay) nations apparently are getting away with defying big brother and his puppets. Other nations seem more independent. The Organization of American States (OAS), an organization that has been dominated by the U.S., chose as their new secretary general the candidate that the U.S. was most opposed to. The U.S. has been unable to get just one South American country to sponsor an OAS resolution condemning Hugo Chavez's Venezuelan government.
Yes, poor Haiti was singled out for punishment. It was the easiest to set up as an example. Outside forces carried the ball against a country with no armed forces. Big brother, spouting its usual BS humanitarian line, claimed they came in to restore order. That example did not seem to impress, frighten, or deter the other countries.
Public confidence in the administration's leadership keeps falling. A recent Gallup poll finds nearly 6 in 10 Americans want troops to be withdrawn from Iraq. Fifty-six percent say the Iraq war was not worth fighting. A Washington Post/ABC poll reports that three-quarters of their respondents say the US casualty rate in Iraq is unacceptable; two-thirds believe the US military is bogged down. Bush's optimistic interpretation of events is no longer finding an audience.
These problems have compounded with the passage of time. Is it unreasonable to assume that these predicaments will compound even further unless major changes take place? Pulling out, the obvious and most sensible course, does not exist in the neocons' "reality creation" imagination. What could possibly save their day? Could they pull a rabbit out of the hat? Would another terrorist attack do the trick? Would the public smell a rat? Would they be blamed for letting it happen again? Or will the public be conned once more? The full spectrum of the Iraq War side effects has yet to be revealed...