Haditha, Fallujah, Samarra, and Abu Ghraib are likely destined
to become, at least in the Muslim world, iconic symbols for America's
bloody adventure in Iraq. This will not so much represent the
deliberate selecting of horrors to remember and feature, for America's
entire crusade has been a horror, but the impulse to have tough
summary images of complex events.
Iraq for two main reasons. First, it wished to sweep what it regarded
as a chronic problem, Hussein's Iraq, off its foreign-affairs
plate. Second, it wanted to remove Israel's most implacable opponent.
I would add
the personal element, without emphasizing it too much, yet aware
that it is important in the backrooms of history, of a man obsessed
by a fairly extreme love-hate relationship with his more distinguished
father, although some readers may be unaware of the times George
Bush had to be stopped from going to fisticuffs with his father
or of the flip way he introduced himself years ago to Queen Elizabeth
as the family's black sheep. Iraq did seem to offer the magical
opportunity to do what his father had avoided doing and, for once
in his life, achieving something big on his own, a psychological
force not to be completely discounted.
was not about oil. It related to oil in that continued future
oil revenues promised to keep Hussein going a long time. It also
related to oil in that Bush's people aimed to place those resources
into hands friendlier to American policy, a straightforward extension
of America's general approach to imperial rule: use locals but
only the locals friendly to American purposes.
a narrow group that has enjoyed great influence over Bush, expected,
or so they claimed, other desirable side-effects. One was striking
fear into the heart of an autocratically-ruled Middle East where
resources flowed in opposition to the American policy fixation
with Israel. This came to be reflected literally in the rather
Hitler-like concept of Shock and Awe.
has to believe, for some
of the neo-cons are bright people
who merely lack judgment
and humanity, that the
democracy business was
a pleasant fairy story because
there is no historical record
of the United States, and especially
its right wing, being a genuine
promoter or defender of democracy.
Neither is there an historical
record anywhere of bombing
and strafing people into democracy.
also proposed that an invasion could spark enthusiasm, in some
undefined manner, for democratic government through the region.
The desirability of this, at least for neo-cons, is predicated
upon the belief that democratic government would in future be
more friendly to American policy, a very naïve belief indeed.
One has to
believe, for some of the neo-cons are bright people who merely
lack judgment and humanity, that the democracy business was a
pleasant fairy story because there is no historical record of
the United States, and especially its right wing, being a genuine
promoter or defender of democracy. Neither is there an historical
record anywhere of bombing and strafing people into democracy.
The only vaguely realistic interpretation of this notion I can
imagine is that democracies can on average be more easily bribed
and manipulated, activities in which the CIA engages regularly.
defenders of democracy behaving as they have in Iraq only succeed
in calling into question over much of the developing world, the
human-rights values of countries embracing that form of government.
When the United States makes its depressingly pompous statements
about democracy in the world, it is playing on the near-universal
belief that democratic government is associated with positive,
humanistic values. But history tells us that that is not necessarily
true, and America has only once again demonstrated the fact.
It is now
clear, to all but an ever-diminishing circle of Bush devotees
and former drinking buddies, that the crusade has been a total
failure. Yes, Hussein is gone, but America has achieved the bizarre
result of having ordinary Iraqis telling reporters they would
be better off were he back.
are right. A once prosperous and advancing country, one certain
to have become a democracy in not too many more years along the
natural path by which all growing countries eventually become
democracies, has been torn apart and set back a very long time.
Only a new
strongman is likely to hold Iraq together, a conclusion, I'm willing
to bet, Bush's people have already reached in secret. But where
is that strongman and how do you gracefully insert and support
him with all the blubbering about democracy? Otherwise, Iraq is
likely to split into three smaller states, full of resentments
and eager to compete for foreign military assistance and power.
In other words, America has achieved instability over the foreseeable
future, something that is hardly in anyone's interest, and certainly
is far greater and more pitiless than most Americans even suspect.
A colossal fortune has been spent by Bush and his spineless Congress,
and yet much of Iraq still has no dependable water, electricity,
or jobs. You simply cannot build any kind of society whatever
on that basis.
And the United
States cannot continue to spend funds at the level it has spent
them for four years, much of the shrink-wrapped pallets of freshly-printed
hundred-dollar bills secretly flown-in having gone to corruption,
bribery, insane private armies, and subsidizing the fortunes of
American firms like Halliburton. This grotesque spending came
on top of a balance of payments and general government-deficit
spending that seem out of control. The excesses of the American
economy have put great strain on the dollar, even raising the
serious issue of its future as the world's reserve currency.
- that pliable word
used to describe those with whom
you disagree, whose views and
interests you utterly ignore,
and who are driven to desperate
measures because they are
at the mercy of superior
military power - -has never
had a better recruiting impetus
than America's well-publicized
brutality and insensitivity
in the occupation. Nor has it ever
had a better, more realistic
and effective training ground
than America's Iraq.
in the region has been strengthened by the invasion, a matter
presumably of considerable concern to Washington, and Shia Muslims,
who dominate great swathes of the region and who also are not
particularly friendly towards Washington, have been invigorated
and strengthened by America's massive strategic blunder.
- that pliable word used to describe those with whom you disagree,
whose views and interests you utterly ignore, and who are driven
to desperate measures because they are at the mercy of superior
military power - -has never had a better recruiting impetus than
America's well-publicized brutality and insensitivity in the occupation.
Nor has it ever had a better, more realistic and effective training
ground than America's Iraq.
by doing in Iraq and Afghanistan are gaining priceless experience
to share with others, experience one could never have imagined
coming from bin Laden's small, isolated cluster of tents in the
bullying hubris rising to new heights under the influence of Bush
and his phantom conquests, came to think as perhaps never before
that it was free to do whatever it liked. Then, in its pre-planned
invasion of Lebanon, feebly excused by the kidnapping of two soldiers
who were themselves likely on a questionable mission inside Lebanon,
Israel ran into Hezbollah, a Hezbollah strengthened by the example
and experience of those in Iraq and Afghanistan.
view of Israel as an unstoppable military force evaporated. Not
that Hezbollah came anywhere near to matching Israel's sophisticated
weapons or its American intelligence assistance or its capacity
to inflict horrific damage quickly, but Hezbollah demonstrated
the kind of resistance we associate with Russia's armies stopping
always wanted part of Southern Lebanon as part of its national
territory, and its leaders are on record to that effect, always
exploiting the idea of Katysha rockets hitting Northern Israel,
most people being unaware that these small rockets are primitive
and ineffective unless fired in the huge barrages for which they
were designed and that Hezbollah only fires them when Israel violates
the Lebanese border, something it has done regularly and secretly
savage attack on Lebanon - leaving behind 1,500 dead, thousands
of homeless and mangled, and a blanket of hideous cluster-bomblets
for Lebanon's children and farmers to discover in future - proved
as complete a failure as America's crusade in Iraq when viewed
on Israel's own terms. I like to think the revulsion of the world's
people and especially the stunned reaction within Israel have
brought something of a psychological and political turnaround
to the region, at least the beginnings of a turnaround.
is weary of Israel's relentless refusal to spend anything but
words on peace. A sequence of bloody regional failures - Afghanistan,
Iraq, and Southern Lebanon - just might set the stage for a new
ordering of priorities and policies. Bush's ignorant pride has
been damaged, as has been Israel's, and everyone must look to
And in the
United States, the not-to-spoken truth that Israel's grinding
injustices and America's tireless efforts to defend them had a
great deal to do with 9/11 and many violent events after it may
just be sinking in. Important and fair-minded people have written
published on the excessive, corrupting influence of Israel on
for the first time in years, has shown interest in talking to
Syria and Iran, countries with vital interests in the area, long
ignored. Perhaps, it finally means the beginning of the end for
the destructive idea of Greater Israel, the beginning of some
degree of justice and hope for a people, the Palestinians, long
without either. Perhaps it means genuine effort towards peace,
rather than the tiresome, ongoing fraud of a "peace process."
but not too optimistic. Ignorance, prejudice, the great industry
of war, and jingoism are mighty powerful foes.
John Chuckman lives in Canada. You can read his articles on his