Speaking recently at Camp Arifjan, some 80 kilometers south of Kuwait City, President Bush assured some 1,000 U.S. soldiers: “There is no doubt in my mind when history was [sic] written, the final page will say victory was won by the United States . . . and generations of Americans will live in peace.” A few days later, speaking to ABC’s Terry Moran, Bush seemed to acknowledge that people view him as a “warmonger,” but he immediately rebutted that view with his assertion: “I view myself as peacemaker.”
Predictably, this self-proclaimed peacemaker’s hermetically sealed mind conveniently ignored a fact that has smacked the rest of the world across the face: Bush’s illegal, immoral, unprovoked invasion (akin to Hitler’s invasion of Poland) has lasted some 1,762 days — or more than a full year longer than it took U.S. forces (with the indispensable assistance of the Soviet Union and Great Britain) to win World War II. Indeed, quite the peacemaker!
Bush’s prediction of victory is even more Orwellian. How can a needless war predicated upon lies about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and links to al Qaeda ever yield a victory? How can anyone claim victory when almost 4,000 American soldiers have been killed – and at least another 10,000 severely wounded — for a needless war?
Victory? How can a needless war yield victory when it precipitated widespread ethnic cleansing – of as many as 600,000 to 700,000 residents in Baghdad alone – caused the needless death of at least 250,000 (if not more than a million) Iraqi civilians and chased some 4.5 million Iraqis from their homes and neighborhoods?
Middle East scholar Juan Cole got it right when he observed: “I am often struck by how clueless the American public is to the vast destruction we have wrought on Iraq and its people, directly or indirectly. It strikes me as a bitter joke that four million are displaced, often facing hunger and disease, and rightwing periodicals and presidential candidates are talking about how the ‘surge’ has ‘turned things around.’”
Of course, Bush must claim the surge is working. He needs to continue his bluff until he can safely get out of Dodge. Yet, Americans should seize upon the suggestion of James Reston Jr., who urges an “extensive set of interviews with the ex-president.” “Let Bush profess to be another Harry S. Truman and argue that history will vindicate him. To watch him flounder with that weak argument in the face of serious scrutiny would be part of our collective catharsis.” [Reston, "Iraq, Anyone?" USA Today, Jan. 15, 2008]
Unfortunately the Republican presidential candidates, except for Ron Paul, have placed Bush’s Iraq war albatross around their necks, notwithstanding widespread public support for expeditiously terminating America’s involvement there.
Perhaps no candidate has embraced Bush’s surge as enthusiastically as John McCain. In fact, he doesn’t care whether American forces stay in Iraq for “a hundred years.” Like Bush, McCain was seduced by neoconservatives — according to columnist John Judis, McCain and neocon warmonger William Kristol “are exceptionally, exceptionally close” [New Republic, Oct. 16, 2006] – and, thus, exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein (he’s “on a crash course to construct a nuclear weapon”) while asserting that “regime change in Iraq” could result in a “demand for self-determination” throughout the Middle East [Judis].
Were that not bad enough, in May 2003, a cheerleading McCain proclaimed, “the war in Iraq succeeded beyond the most optimistic expectations” [Judis]. Mind you, this is the same man who now says the surge is working.
For perspective, simply consider the cautions thrown out by Anthony Cordesman, a renowned military analyst who gives some credit to the surge: (1) “Very real progress is anything but stable victory even in the area where the US and Iraqi surge has been most effective” and (2) “US ability to secure Sunni and Shi’ite zones, and some mixed areas, in Baghdad has not brought lasting stability and security to [the] city.” [Cordesman, "The Patterns in Violence and Casualties in Iraq 2007: The Need for Strategic Patience," Jan. 8, 2008, p. 9]
In fact, Iran’s cooperation, the six-month freeze on hostilities by Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army and the rise of anti-al Qaeda Sunni groups (which preceded the surge) are more responsible than the surge for bringing increased security to Iraq.
As retired U.S. Army Colonel Douglas MacGregor sees it, during the first six months of 2007, “the surge was simply providing more targets for insurgents to shoot at.” In May, 126 U.S. troops died, the second deadliest month for U.S. forces during the war.” Thus “[General] Petraeus seems to have concluded that it was essential to cut deals with the Sunni insurgents if he was going to succeed in reducing U.S. casualties.”
As a result some 80,000 former insurgents are now being paid $10 a day by the U.S. military. But, according to Col. MacGregor, “We are creating new militias out of Sunni insurgents. We’re calling them concerned citizens and guardians. These people are not our friends. They do not like us. They do not want us in the country.” All of which prompts Col. MacGregor to ask: “Are we not actually setting Iraq up for a worse civil war than the one we’ve already seen?” ["Retired Military Officials Disagree on Impact of Surge," NPR, Morning Edition, Jan. 8, 2008]
In the meantime, as Ali al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail have just reported, these “newly formed ‘Awakening’ forces set up by the U.S. military are bringing new conflict” to Iraq. Thus, they “have been widely criticized for corruption and brutal tactics. Many speak of them as ‘gangs,’ ‘criminals,’ ‘dogs of the Americans and ‘thieves.’” [Ali al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail, "Iraqis 'Awake' to a New Danger," Antiwar.com, Jan. 15, 2008]
Thus, like the quislings in the Green Zone that the Bush administration installed via so-called “democratic elections,” the Awakening forces are coming to be seen as mere “ropes for American dirty laundry.” [[Ali al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail, "Iraq Less Violent and Hellish Only in Numbers," antiwar.com, Jan. 12, 2008] Not just the dirty laundry of Bush’s sordid invasion and McCain’s myopic cheerleading, but also the dirty laundry of American Exceptionalism.
As Fred Anderson and Andrew Cayton conclude, in their exceptionally thoughtful book, The Dominion of War: Empire and Liberty in North America, 1500-2000, “Victory over Indians and Mexicans and what became, in a purely contingent way, a revolutionary war against human slavery affirmed the notion that the United States was something new under the sun, the very model of a society of independent individuals who accepted the responsibility to liberate other peoples so that they, too, could choose to embrace a superior way of life. Americans, in short, constructed their conquest of North America as a collective sacrifice in the service of human liberty. Their romantic linking of the cause of the United States with the cause of freedom led citizens of the world’s greatest imperial republic to understand any rejection of their nation as a rejection of liberty itself. They thus freed themselves from any obligation to understand other peoples and places on their own terms and in their own contexts.” [p. 423]
Want proof? Simply consider the focus group surveys conducted by the U.S. military in November 2007, which found that “Iraqis of all sectarian and ethnic groups believe that the U.S. military invasion is the primary root of the violent differences among them, and see the departure of “occupying forces” as the key to national reconciliation.” [Karen DeYoung, "All Iraqi Groups Blame U.S. Invasion for Discord, Study Shows," Washington Post, Dec. 19, 2007]
So much, then, for the dirty laundry – extolled by Bush, McCain, the neocons and other warmongers — of imposing liberty at gunpoint in Iraq.