by Gilles d'Aymery
"He entered the territory of lies without a passport for return."
—Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter
(Swans - August 27, 2007) LUCKY BREAK IN IRAQ: I never thought that we would be so happy because someone broke his leg, but in a literally twisted sort of way, this is just what happened. Our nephew Chris Baughman, who has been deployed with the Marines on the ground in Haditha, sustained a spiral fracture to his fibula while sparring with fellow Marines as they were killing time during a power outage. (So, it's not just the Iraqis whose power goes out...). He is in Germany recovering from surgery before flying back to his base in Hawaii. Big sigh of relief, for now. His battalion is due home in October and should be re-assigned next spring.
UNLUCKY BREAK IN IRAQ, at least from an Iraqi point of view: According to Nir Rosen, a journalist who's spent much time in the Middle East (he's just back from Lebanon), between five and six million Iraqis have become refugees -- almost 3 million outside the country and almost 3 million inside -- and up to one million Iraqis have been killed since we invaded and occupied their country. Question to George Clooney and the humanitarian folks at savedarfur.org: Don't you good people believe that you should launch a movement to save Iraq? What about a saveiraq.org?
THESE GOOD SAMARITANS would respond by suggesting that there is not much that can be done in Iraq. (It's the Iraqis' fault, after all. We gave 'em a chance by liberating 'em from a brutal dictator and they've squandered our good will.) But, they'd ask, just because we can't do much about Iraq, is it reason enough not to do our utmost to save Darfur? It's a moral, ethical, and humanitarian calling. Then, they'd turn around and put you on the defensive, asking: Are you suggesting we do nothing about the Darfur genocide? Err, it's not a genocide, I'd venture back. What, what, they'd bark; even Mr. Bush calls it a genocide. Are you some kind of radical?
THIS IS AN OLD TECHNIQUE that has been so effective over the ages. Even an anarcho-leftist intellectual used it in regard to Iraq. "The world is better off without Saddam Hussein," the good professor has often asserted, parroting the Bush administration. Calling him on his patently foolhardy statement, he used the same rhetorical device, asking in return, with a sense of indignation, are YOU saying that the world is not better off without Saddam Hussein, inferring that then YOU must be defending Saddam Hussein... The same professor also played that trick on me in regard to Slobodan Milosevic in earlier times. It's an old tool of the trade. It allows you to be "harshly" critical of the US government, whichever administration is at the helm, and all the same support the policies implemented by that government, while dismissing dissenting views as extreme. I hear it helps sell books, or in Clooney's case, be a compassionate movie star. Always useful to be on the side of the powers-that-be.
NO, NO, DEAR DARFURIANS, you are uncontestingly entitled to alleviate all the miseries in the world, but why don't you focus your attention on Congo where there's been much more killing and displaced people than in Sudan? If you can't do saveiraq.org, why don't you do savecongo.org? Why? Has it any relation with the black gold under the sandish hell of Darfur? Hmm, good question. Inquisitive people will want to contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BLACK GOLD IN IRAQ TOO: The punditocracy keeps quibbling, when they are not salivating over the 2008 election bone or the road to Iran, about the reason we are in Iraq. It's about WMDs. No, it's about terrorists, Sorry, it's about democracy (though have you noted the recent calls from lawmakers to get rid of the Malaki government, a democratically-elected puppet that has not delivered?). Perhaps it's about freedom, or it's about liberty -- a god-given right says the Prez. Whichever the rationale may be it's also qualified with "and for our national interests," or "and for our strategic interests," those sacrosanct interests that are never fully identified but clearly understood. Leave it to Anthony H. Cordesman, a consummate insider who holds the Arleigh Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and, to provide a succinct characterization:
America has vital long-term strategic interests in the Middle East. The gulf has well over 60 percent of the world's proven conventional oil reserves and nearly 40 percent of its natural gas. The global economy, and part of every job in America, is dependent on trying to preserve the stability of the region and the flow of energy exports. (Source: "Weapons of Mass Preservation," Op-Ed Contribution, The NY Times, August 16, 2007.)
CAN'T BE CLEARER than that. Part of every job in America is dependent on oil. Readers may recall the rationale James Baker, then secretary of state under Bush 41, offered in November 1990 for Desert Storm: "If you want to sum it up in one word, it's jobs." He wanted the "average American citizen" (his words) to understand that going after Saddam meant jobs -- "jobs, jobs, jobs." A rationale that Mr. Bush Sr. promptly repackaged in the usual mythical American phraseology: "We are Americans, part of something larger than ourselves." This fight was about "the universal aspirations of mankind -- peace and security, freedom and the rule of law." A decade later, same old same old, Bush Jr. would repeat the spectacle -- for the same interests and with a very similar rhetoric, only slightly more messianic. And you should recall Mr. Clinton's foray in Yugoslavia, and how he explained that the Kosovo War was about the economy, though of course, it was packaged as a rescue of innocent victims.
A PROPHETIC DICK: The Blogosphere went crazy after the appearance of a short video of Dick Cheney stating in April 1994 that to depose Saddam Hussein in 1991 would have potentially caused a quagmire. Mr. Cheney brushed these comments off by repeating yet once more that, "everything changed with 9/11." Indeed everything has been changing, especially at home as Jan Baughman grimly explains, but his 1994 reasoning was dead on target. Actually, in a speech he delivered at a Soref Symposium at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on April 29, 1991, Mr. Cheney said:
There have been significant discussions since the war ended about the proposition of whether or not we went far enough. Should we, perhaps, have gone in to Baghdad? Should we have gotten involved to a greater extent than we did? Did we leave the job in some respects unfinished? I think the answer is a resounding "no."
I think that the proposition of going to Baghdad is also fallacious. I think if we were going to remove Saddam Hussein we would have had to go all the way to Baghdad, we would have to commit a lot of force because I do not believe he would wait in the Presidential Palace for us to arrive. I think we'd have had to hunt him down. And once we'd done that and we'd gotten rid of Saddam Hussein and his government, then we'd have had to put another government in its place.
What kind of government? Should it be a Sunni government or Shi'i government or a Kurdish government or Ba'athist regime? Or maybe we want to bring in some of the Islamic fundamentalists? How long would we have had to stay in Baghdad to keep that government in place? What would happen to the government once U.S. forces withdrew? How many casualties should the United States accept in that effort to try to create clarity and stability in a situation that is inherently unstable?
I think it is vitally important for a President to know when to use military force. I think it is also very important for him to know when not to commit U.S. military force. And it's my view that the President got it right both times, that it would have been a mistake for us to get bogged down in the quagmire inside Iraq.
FURTHERMORE, in regard to the size of the force required to achieve the mission, he also said:
There has been a great deal of talk and speculation since the war itself as to why we prevailed from a military standpoint. A couple of points need to be made; one reason we prevailed, of course, was the decision by the President last October to double the size of the force. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, it's useful to look back and to remember that at the time he decided to land the 7th Corps out of Germany and another Army division from Kansas and another Marine division, as well as the six aircraft carrier battle groups, there was a lot of criticism that that was unwise, that it was far too large a commitment of force, that we should give sanctions a chance, and so forth.
It triggered a spate of hearings on Capitol Hill and a lot of analyses around the country, and a fair amount of criticism. But I am personally persuaded that there are thousands of Americans home with their families today, and more on the way home who would not be coming home at all, if it hadn't been for the President's decision to double the force when he did last November to make certain that we could prevail in the shortest possible time and at the lowest possible cost.
One of the lessons of this operation, I think, is the willingness of the American people to support a resort to force when it's appropriate, when you have a clear-cut objective; that the nation, contrary to some of the expectations early on, responded overwhelmingly to the decision to commit forces. I am convinced that calling up a quarter of a million reservists played a very significant role in all of that as well; that it served not only to give us the capability we needed to undertake the deployment, but also triggered support all around the country, because every community, every state, and millions of families were affected by that decision to commit the forces, and they understood immediately what was at stake.
IT IS SAFE TO SAY that some things have not changed since 9/11: We did not have enough forces on the ground to achieve the 2003 mission. Still do not. Iraq is indeed a quagmire, and we are once again stuck in a war without end. Then, when the public mood turns against that folly, Bush Jr. and tricky Dick the Second turn to old hacks like Bradley Blakeman (former deputy assistant to Mr. Bush) and Ari Fleischer (former White House press secretary) and ask them a little favor: Turn public opinion around and put some heat on the lawmakers that are sitting on the fence. No prob, sires. Freedom's Watch, a 501(c)4 organization based in Washington D.C., is quickly set up and launches a $15 million ad campaign on radio and television in 20 states between now and mid-September -- money is not an issue for the booboisie. Their goal, says Blakeman, "is to make clear that when America goes to war, victory is the only outcome. That's what the troops are saying in these advertisements and what Freedom's Watch believes. We do not agree with those groups pressuring our lawmakers to abandon victory." These guys are so desperate that they are using the troops, particularly wounded and maimed soldiers, as political pawns to further their agenda. Sickening to the point of nausea...
When shall we muster the collective wisdom to exit this "territory of lies"? Our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers, our nephews and nieces, are dying and being maimed, and Iraq, which never ever attacked the U.S., is being pulverized for "jobs, jobs, jobs," the obscene enrichment of the elites, and the impoverishment of the many. When? After we attack Iran?
. . . . .
Ç'est la vie...
And so it goes...
La vie, friends, is a cheap commodity, but worth maintaining when one can.the life line won't hurt you much, but it'll make a heck of a difference for Swans.