FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The United States and the Bogeyman

by GREG WEIHER

Do you remember that great deck of playing cards that the Bush Administration came up with at the end of “major combat operations” in Iraq? You know, the one with the pictures of the 52 most loathsome Iraqi evildoers? Well, here we are only about six months later, and it turns out we’ve been really successful in rounding those guys up. We don’t have the big fella yet, but we’ve got about three quarters of the rest of them, and we’re told the others are too busy running to stir up much trouble.

So what difference has it made?

Sure, the New York Times comes out with a splashy article on the front page every time we reel one of these guys in, but aside from that, it doesn’t seem to have much impact. The helicopters keep falling and the non-governmental organizations like the U.N. and the Red Cross keep closing up their offices in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Remember when they got Uday and Qusay? That one was on all of the evening news shows and above the fold on the front pages of all the major newspapers. They even trucked out the bloated, mutilated, stinking-of-real-death bodies for all the world to see. It was a big deal then, but looking back on it now, it seems to have just disappeared in the mists of time, as they say. You’re hard pressed to understand what it was supposed to accomplish. Did it make Iraqis more secure? Did it stop the attacks on American troops? Did it weaken Al Qaeda? It obviously didn’t add to our intelligence about the resistance or the whereabouts of Saddam–for that, you would have had to wait them out rather than pumping them full of lead. (By the way, why didn’t they just wait them out?)

Most of us can remember being afraid of something when we were small–the monster that lived in the dark beneath our beds, or the bogeyman. And most of us eventually came to know that the bogeyman didn’t really exist. If he did, we came to understand, life would probably be a lot simpler. We could just run enough amps through him to melt the polar ice cap, like they did with It: the Creature from Beyond Space, and live happily ever after.

Instead, at about the time we realized there were no bogeymen, we also realized that there were very real things to be afraid of–being old and alone, working all your life at a job that was stupid and dehumanizing, and even bigger things like war and poverty. Unlike the bogeyman, these really frightening and complex things didn’t go away when the sun came up.

American foreign policy seems to be founded on the bogeyman fallacy. All we have to do is get rid of the evildoers–Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Fedayeen, Yasser Arafat–and everything will be OK. It’s not the modern history of the Middle East, during which the great powers redrew national boundaries and toppled popular regimes to suit their own economic and political purposes, that’s causing our problems–it’s Saddam Hussein. It’s not the barbaric treatment of the Palestinians, glossed over so that we could assuage our consciences about the holocaust, or the grinding hopelessness of everyday life in the occupied territories that destabilize the region–it’s Yasser Arafat. It’s not the decade of sanctions, the bumbling stupidity of our occupation, and our knee-jerk dependence upon indiscriminate firepower that causes Iraqis to hate and kill American soldiers–it’s those sore losers, the Saddam loyalists.

The Israelis understand our bogeyman complex and they use it to manipulate us. A couple of years ago, they started floating the argument that Yasser Arafat had to go. The real impediment to peace, they insisted, was that you couldn’t negotiate with Arafat. He refused to control the various militias, liberation fronts, and armed factions that carried out attacks on Israelis. He said one thing in Arabic for home consumption, and something else in English for world opinion. He waffled. He was dishonest. He was ugly, dumpy, and he needed a shave.

The next thing you know, the United States was singing the same chorus. President Bush insisted that no progress could be made on the roadmap to peace as long as Yasser Arafat held the reins of the Palestinian authority, and the U.S refused to deal with him. Bush preached to the Palestinians, letting them know they needed a real democratic leader (though of the two, Arafat actually was the popularly elected one).

This, of course, was music to Israeli ears. As long as they could focus attention on the unphotogenic Arafat, no one paid attention to the structural issues of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. As the U.S. dithered with Mahmoud Abbas, the Israelis continued building settlements, constructing the separation wall, and carrying out targeted assassinations.

So the Bushies keep harping about what a bad man Saddam Hussein is and what a bad man Osama Bin Laden is. But the worst thing that could ever happen to Bush and the prevari-cons would be to actually catch Saddam and Osama–because once those guys were out of circulation, and nothing at all changed in the Middle East, they’d have to start talking about policies instead of personalities. Unless, of course, they could find a couple of new bogeymen.

GREG WEIHER teaches political science at the University of Houston. His book, The Fractured Metropolis, was recognized as an outstanding book on human rights by the Gustavus Meyers Center, and an edited volume, Rural Poverty: Special Causes and Policy Reforms, was chosen by Choice Magazine as an outstanding academic book. He has published other commentary on the invasion of Iraq and American foreign policy in the Houston Chronicle and on the OpEdNews website. He can be reached at: gweiher@uh.edu

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 20, 2017
Bruce E. Levine
Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback
Melvin Goodman
“Wag the Dog,” Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?
David Smith-Ferri
Resistance and Resolve in Russia: Memorial HRC
Kenneth Surin
Global India?
Norman Pollack
Fascistization Crashing Down: Driving the Cleaver into Social Welfare
Patrick Cockburn
Trump v. the Media: a Fight to the Death
Susan Babbitt
Shooting Arrows at Heaven: Why is There Debate About Battle Imagery in Health?
Matt Peppe
New York Times Openly Promotes Formal Apartheid Regime By Israel
David Swanson
Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
Michael Brenner
The Narcissism of Donald Trump
Martin Billheimer
Capital of Pain
Thomas Knapp
Florida’s Shenanigans Make a Great Case for (Re-)Separation of Ballot and State
Jordan Flaherty
Best Films of 2016: Black Excellence Versus White Mediocrity
Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Destruction of Mosul
Norman Pollack
Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse
Steve Horn
What Do a Louisiana Pipeline Explosion and Dakota Access Pipeline Have in Common? Phillips 66
Brian Saady
Why Corporations are Too Big to Jail in the Drug War
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Peaceful Protest to Armed Uprising
Luke Meyer
The Case of Tony: Inside a Lifer Hearing
Binoy Kampmark
Adolf, The Donald and History
Robert Koehler
The Great American Awakening
Murray Dobbin
Canadians at Odds With Their Government on Israel
Fariborz Saremi
A Whole New World?
Joyce Nelson
Japan’s Abe, Trump & Illegal Leaks
Christopher Brauchli
Trump 1, Tillerson 0
Yves Engler
Is This Hate Speech?
Dan Bacher
Trump Administration Exempts Three CA Oil Fields From Water Protection Rule at Jerry Brown’s Request
Richard Klin
Solid Gold
Melissa Garriga
Anti-Abortion and Anti-Fascist Movements: More in Common Than Meets the Eye
Thomas Knapp
The Absurd Consequences of a “Right to Privacy”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail