WAR...What is it Good For?
Well the attack has escalated (I won't say started, Iraq has been being bombed for the past 12 years) and I suppose somebody should say something. Already the accounts and pictures of "liberated" Iraqi civilians charred, dismembered, and mutilated, by American and British 2000-pound, "precision bombs" have been seeping out around the world - that is everywhere except here - these accounts and pictures are "unconfirmed reports" in America, even as the Red Cross brings in parts of Iraqi civilians by the truck load. A head here, an arm there, a hip, an upper torso, a hand, whatever remains they can scrape together. I won't say this attack was inevitable, because nothing that is a product of human decisions is inevitable, but the way things currently are in the world it was close. Just look at the situation not just here in America, but around the world. The citizens of the planet are overwhelmingly against the war, even in the countries that are part of the so-called "coalition of the willing". And despite the relentless propaganda assault on the psyches of the American public by the American mass media, anti-war sentiment is at levels not seen since Vietnam and so are the crowd sizes at many anti-war demonstrations. But despite the huge numbers against the war the Bush administration and their peers in a couple of other nations have stated that they will not yield to public opinion.
In Britain, Tony Blair's puppy like devotion to backing an American led attack on Iraq was met with a partial revolt within his own "Labor Party", massive public opposition, and what could be the end of his viability as a political candidate.
In Australia, the participation of just 2,000 Australian troops has been met with frequent anti-war demonstrations leading the government and police to step up their efforts to repress descent and intimidate protesters. As an illustration, an estimated 600 police were mobilized to enforce a ban by Australian Premier Bob Carr on a recent march in Sydney by the "Book not Bombs" organization - a coalition of mainly high school antiwar groups, that despite the ban managed to assemble around 500 mostly students in an area near the town's city hall where they were surrounded by police.
In Spain, the scale of opposition to war has forced the "People's Party" government on to the defensive. Spain's President Jose Maria Aznar has not dared to back his pro-Bush stance before the war by openly sending combat troops. Even the sending of 900 troops for "humanitarian work" has provoked the fury of the Spanish anti-war camp. We should be weary of public opinion polls considering how they are often subject to manipulation and the biases of the poll taker, however a recently published Spanish opinion poll taken by the state's own official pollsters, showed 91% opposition to the war. Furthermore recent Spanish polls of voting intention show that, over two months, the People's party has gone from running neck-and-neck with the anti-war socialists to trailing them by six points. Mr. Aznar's one-time political mentor, Felix Pastor, a former party president who still sits on its ruling committee, recently broke ranks to accuse Aznar of destroying the years of hard work put in to creating a center-right political party.
In Poland, the publics overwhelming opposition to the war has forced the leadership to downplay the participation of up to 200 Polish troops, including 65 members of Poland's GROM commando unit. Poland's defense minister recently scolded President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for publicly describing the actions of Polish commandos in Iraq after they helped secure an oil field, saying the U.S. leaders shouldn't use the troops "for propaganda" and warning that Poland doesn't want information about their activities discussed.
Meanwhile in Italy, despite massive public opposition exemplified by anti-war demonstrations featuring crowds as large as a million people, the government has continued its policy of low-key semi-support for the assault on Iraq. Italian Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi had promised that Italy would not be used as a launching pad for attacks on Iraq and publicly stated that international institutions must be respected, while at the same time offering its military bases and air space for US military use but not in direct attacks - whatever the hell that means.
And in …well uh, those are pretty much the only members of the "coalition of the willing" (should be read as "coalition of the coerced") worth mentioning. You might also want to note that the "coalition" doesn't say exactly what they're "willing" to do. Hardly any of the 40-50 nations the U.S. and U.K. are alleging are assisting them are actually offering any combat troops. For many being part of this "coalition" is as simple as allowing use of their airspace, allowing soldiers and/or supplies to pass through their waterways and territory, or offering "moral support". Furthermore, it certainly doesn't help that the identities of some of the members of the "coalition" remain unclear and others, like Latvia, Estonia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Solomon Islands, Palau - just don't seem very significant.
The question that begs to be asked then, especially in the countries that are actively participating, is if the overwhelming majority of the people of these countries are against the war, then why have their governments not taken positions reflecting this sentiment? And why is it that when you really get down to it, small groups of wealthy and privileged men make decisions that seriously affect the lives of millions if not billions of people around the world, yet are often unaccountable to these same people? Well, the answers to those questions is an article, more likely a book, all by itself. But I will say this much, all nations claiming to be "democracies" are experimenting with the concept with varying degrees of success. Alone, the right to vote does not make a nation democratic and there certainly can be no democracy without relative social equality. Is the "right to vote" for either of two right leaning political parties (i.e., Democrat and Republican) an actual choice? In addition to other factors, true democracy requires access to information to make informed decisions, exposure to a full spectrum of ideas, direct representation or responsive political representatives, and an environment free from political intimidation. In a true democracy multi-billionaire people and corporations cannot dominate and control the political discourse by allowing the populace to be exposed to little more than opinions they support and half-truths designed to justify their power and position. Can anyone seriously argue that I or any other non-wealthy individual has the same right to "free speech" as a multi-billionaire that owns several newspapers and media outlets. In a true democracy Corporations and wealthy individuals do not fund and control the political platforms of all viable candidates. In a true democracy the State does not institutionalize the teaching of fantasy, fairytale, and fiction to bolster irrational feelings of allegiance to the State's leaders, instead of encouraging adherence to a set of basic human principles. In a true democracy all adults are allowed to vote and your vote actually counts. Votes are not thrown away, disappeared, miscast, or nullified for erroneous reasons leaving a partisan high or Supreme Court to select the leadership of a nation. But I guess some things are to be expected, thus far in modern history, these types of practices are the fundamentals of statecraft.
Despite the technological and scientific advances, it appears man’s progress has been limited in a number of other areas. Overall things have not changed as much as people would like to believe. Men still conspire to rule and dominate the known world. Irrational fears, prejudice, selfishness, hate, greed, and anthropomorphic god concepts still rule the day. It’s just that now our weapons are more deadly and we have less respect for the planet’s natural environment. Perhaps some of these negative traits are simply ingrained at the most base level of our being or maybe it is that humanity’s vices have been made “profitable”. Whatever the case, too many among us are still, very much, barbarians living by the simple rule of the jungle – might makes right. The only difference being that they have traded in their animal skins and clubs for suits and laptops. Unfortunately, many times it is these barbarians who “lead” the masses. But hey, at least the leadership of the Catholic Church came out against a wrong this time (the attack on Iraq), instead of blessing slave ships as they’ve done in the past.
Ironically, despite all the tough rhetoric of the ignoble men who “lead” us, in general they have behaved as cowards, or more accurately “chicken hawks” in their personal lives. I’m not sure about everywhere else but this is definitely the case in the U.S., especially in recent years. These men are "chicken hawks", both literally and figuratively, because not only have countless high-ranking leaders avoided serving in the military, they now prey on the young. Most of the men who are driving current U.S. foreign policy, including Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, George Bush, Paul Wolfowitz, Richarld Perle, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Elliott Abrams, et al. never served in the armed forces, and if they did it was certainly not in a capacity that where they might see actual combat. When they had the chance to risk their lives to enforce the imperialistic edicts of earlier presidencies many came up with all kinds of bizarre excuses and illnesses, or “served” in capacities that assured they would never see combat. The New Hampshire Gazette has been compiling a database of some of the more prominent political figures and their reasons for avoiding participation in conflicts. According to the database Dick Cheney “had other priorities”; George W. Bush signed up for the National Guard and apparently went A.W.O.L.; other sources say Rumsfeld allegedly flew jets for the Navy between the Korean and Vietnam wars but apparently not in a combat capacity; Lewis "Scooter" Libby was at Yale University and Columbia Law School; and Elliott Abrams (of Iran-Contra fame and now a member of the National Security Council in charge of “democratizing” the Middle East), Richard Perle, and Paul Wolfowitz all avoided military service through some mixture of “medical problems” and/or pursuit of graduate and law degrees. As far as many of the other persons who pushed hardest for an attack on Iraq, from elected officials to blowhard, right-wing, radio talk show host and media pundits, it’s not always clear where they were. But it is clear where they were NOT! They were not in the armed forces and they definitely were not in Vietnam – fuckin’ studio gangsters! And it certainly doesn’t help that, out of the 535 members of Congress, only Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota, has a child or grandchild currently in the armed services.
As usual, the poor and
working class have been duped into fighting the wars of the rich. And although
they may be in the driver’s seat don’t get it twisted – this is not just a
“Right-Wing Republican” conflict. As a party the Democrats voted to give
George W. Bush a “blank check” to wage war without having to return to
Congress. The vast majority of the Democratic Party backs the Iraq assault,
particularly some of the most prominent Democrats who have hopes of representing
that party as presidential candidates. For the most part their objections, if
any, have been over strategy, timing, and controlling fallout from an invasion.
Almost none of them have put up a principled opposition to the plans of the Bush
Junta, whether it be unilateral “preemptive” attacks abroad, or the other
front of their war, unilateral preemptive attacks on working people in America through layoffs, cutting funding for public services,
military expenditure increases, and tax cuts for the wealthy. Understand, in
general the leadership of the Democrats and the Republicans are birthed from the
same egg, of pampered, privileged, self-righteous individuals who only are
interested in the needs and desires of working people in so far as it secures
their votes and does not challenge current power and wealth relations. If there
were still any questions the havoc being wreaked upon Baghdad should make the
need for a split from both parties, and to build an independent party - based on
the opposition to rule by the few for the accumulation of private profit (a.k.a.
Capitalism) – absolutely clear (we’ll talk more about that another day).
As I scoured through the
newspaper accounts of soldiers on their way home after being wounded in Iraq,
one theme kept surfacing. That theme was “surprise”, at how fiercely the
Iraqi people despite being completely overmatched militarily had resisted
invading American, British, and Australian forces, even in anti-Saddam
strongholds. I can just hear them on the flight home,
“I don’t understand it …we came to Iraq to liberate those little
sand niggers and they turned on us …I guess they don’t know what’s good
for them”. Apparently their commanding officers had sold them thoroughly on
the lie that they were there to liberate Iraqis. And really is that any
surprise? How hard is it to mislead 18 and 19 year olds - not that all of the
soldiers are 18 or 19 - but they almost all entered the military at young ages
probably knowing very little if anything about life, the world, or international
politics. Although they may be decent kids, I have a hard time imagining them or
my over 18, under 21, nephews or nieces having to make life and death decisions
with heavy artillery at their disposal. Upon
entering “the service” these young adults are “isolated”, in a sense,
from their families and indoctrinated directly or indirectly with a number of
noble sounding, false ideas about what their purpose is as a soldier, and the absolute
necessity to follow orders (many times we call this kind of thing a cult, but I
Once in battle they find
that, individually, their goal is simply to preserve the lives of themselves and
their friends. If recent history is any guide many of these physically,
emotionally, and mentally wounded men, women, and children, will eventually find
themselves discarded by the nation that sent them to shed their blood and that
of others under false pretext. Many return to the U.S. still believing the
“liberation” fable. In a nutshell the soldiers participation is usually
based on some degree of their own ignorance. Shortly after the escalation of
attacks on Iraq I was watching a “news program” on one of the major American
networks. During the program one of the soldiers was highlighted because he was
scribbling “9-1-1” on rocket and missile warheads. When asked if he had a
message to Saddam, he muttered something about how he had family or friends who
died in the September 11th attacks. This is of course remarkable,
since NOT EVEN the Bush administration has claimed that Iraq or Saddam Hussein
is responsible for the September 11th attacks, but I guess even if
you never say something, as long as you mention two things in the same context
often enough, people will draw their own conclusions. Besides what difference
does it make to him – “they all look alike and talk funny anyway” –
Others rationalize the
Iraqi resistance by telling themselves that the Iraqis have been forced to fight
by threats from Saddam Hussein’s regime, as if Hussein’s regime is currently
in any position to be leveling and enforcing individual threats against the vast
majority of it’s citizens. Note to soldiers: did any of you receive
notification, by email, phone call, Morse code, fax, carrier pigeon, etc that
Iraq wanted to be “liberated” by Americans, the British, Australians or
anybody else in the Anglo-gang. And
secondly, since when have invaders and occupiers been in the habit of invading
or occupying anywhere for the sake of “liberating” the inhabitants. Has such
an event ever occurred in recorded human history, ancient or modern? You will be
hard pressed to find an example. I don’t know about you but it sounds similar
to that story about “saving souls” and “civilizing” that Europeans used
to tell to rationalize slavery and genocide against black and brown people.
Invaders/occupiers may want to “liberate” the invaded/occupied from having
to worry about control of their territory and resources, or even “liberate”
their “souls” from their physical bodies, but “Operation Iraqi Freedom”?
Give me a break, people should break out laughing every time they hear that
The whole idea of a
foreign imposed Democracy in Iraq is laughable. According to the “CIA fact
book” on Iraq, in terms of religion the population is 97% Muslim, and
ethnically 75-80% Arab, with the Kurdish ethnic minority making up another
15-20%. Turkey, which borders Iraq to the North, has already made it clear that
they are willing to use force to prevent Iraq’s significant Kurdish population
from establishing an autonomous Kurdish state in the region, which when added to
a number of other factors rules out Kurdish rule. Of Iraq’s 97% Muslim
population 60-65% percent are identified as Shi’a Muslims, which likely ties
their political and religious sympathies to Iran, whom the Bush administration
has designated as part of the “axis of evil” and who very well may be
Washington’s next attack target – so as far as the U.S. is concerned
that rules out Shi’a leadership. That leaves the 32-37% of Iraq identified as
Sunni Muslims, the grouping Saddam Hussein would fall under. It’s likely
however, that any “leadership” that would come from the ranks of the Sunni
population under current circumstances would have to rule in a brutal strongman
fashion akin to Hussein’s regime. Now I bet some of you are thinking, “well
what about a coalition government?” Putting aside all the difficulties of
foreigners creating a coalition government in Iraq, there is one stubborn fact
that cannot be put aside. The U.S. and Britain have been starving and bombing
Iraq for more than a decade! In light of this recent history, any government
that comes to power through even remotely democratic means would likely be
expressly anti-American/British. The U.S. and Britain have not embarked on this
imperialistic and genocidal path, to in the end install an
anti-American/anti-British dictator in Iraq, so if the U.S. and Britain are able
to install any leadership in Iraq, after this mess of an invasion, it will not
be an expression of the will of the Iraqi people. At this point Iraq’s soon to
be conquerors, are just trying to figure out the best way to “put lipstick on
a pig” – everybody should be able to recognize a robbery in broad daylight.
This type of reasoning is of course lost on most soldiers, and most Americans
for that matter.
It should have been
obvious before, but especially now, that this was never about Hussein. Despite
all the dramatic “ultimatums” and posturing the cabal in Washington, who
control the world’s deadliest arsenal, have been planning to attack Iraq for a
long time and made their decision a long time ago. The only question was whether
the U.N. Security Council would go along with it and help legitimize their
barbarism, which they haven’t completely done thus far. The U.S./Britain got
almost everything they wanted with the U.N.’s passage of resolution 1441,
besides an express authorization for an attack. Deep down they probably hoped
Hussein would reject the resolution, which would have gave them a reason for
their invasion. In the end, allowing the inspectors back into Iraq became
another case of Lucy moving the football from Charlie Brown. Almost daily the
criteria for the U.S./Britain charging Iraq with a “material breach” of the
resolution became more flimsy as Bush & Co. made it clear successful
inspections were the last thing they were interested in. Saddam Hussein could
have done the Moonwalk into the "Harlemshake" followed by the "Pepperseed" to a 15
minute, extended remix, version of Sean Paul’s “Gimme the light” and Iraq
was still getting invaded. Hussein could have done a back somersault through a
flaming hoop, and landed on the edges of two upright pennies and Iraq was still
getting invaded. And Hussein and his whole family could have left Iraq in the 48
hours Bush spoke of in his “ultimatum” and Iraq would still have been
invaded, or did you miss the part when the
administration said that they were coming in EVEN IF Saddam and Co. left?
It’s understandable, you were probably too busy paying attention to the
“ultimatum” countdown clock MSNBC had put in the bottom corner of the TV
If allowed to proceed
without challenge, this assault on Iraq may well be the opening step on a path
to a Third World War. Whatever the case, it was too coveted by the American
ruling class, particularly the most right wing elements, to allow what Saddam
Hussein’s regime did or didn’t do to prevent it from coming about. At the
core of it is of course oil and to some degree profits, but an even stronger
motivation is the desire to stave of the death of a diseased Capitalism and a
desire to establish hegemony over the globe through control of oil and therefore
the global economy through the "almighty dollar" (I will revisit this topic soon – keep your eyes peeled).
Opposition to the current assault and those that lie ahead may not be for the
faint of heart or those with shaky politics. If you went from being against the
war before it started, to only being able to utter confusing slogans like
“support the troops” today, you may be in for some rocky times ahead. If you
were opposed to the assault before it began then it should be doubly wrong NOW
that soldiers have been committed to it. The onset of war should strengthen the
resolve and determination of those opposed to it, not make them curl up in a
ball and wrap themselves in some false sense of “patriotism”. There is only
one kind of “support for the troops”, I’m interested in and that’s the
support offered by withdrawing them from an unjust, immoral, and unnecessary
conflict, and the prevention of future ones. I wouldn’t cheerlead for my
friends if they were committing a morally and ethically unjustified crime, and I
won’t hold pom-poms for the military now. We’re quickly running short on
time, take a stand, don’t be scurred!
R.I.P. – Edwin
Starr: 1942 -2003
Released: April 7th, 2002
Against Empire by Michael Parenti
Weapons in Space by Karl Grossman
Inventing Reality: The Politics of the News Media by Michael Parenti
David Armstrong, "Dick Cheney's Song of America: Drafting a plan for global dominance," pp. 76-83, Harper's Magazine, October 2002 (Vol. 305, No. 1829).
The views and opinions expressed herein by the author do not necessarily represent the opinions or position of Playahata.com.