Iraq at the End of the Year



Yippee, “we got `em!” The Dow will soar! Forget the anxious two years since George W. Bush assumed his throne! That’s history!


The dismissal of history does not help anyone understand the present or plan for the future.


Almost ten months after Bush invaded Iraq, seven months after his “mission accomplished” speech-photo op on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, and one month and many deaths after his Thanksgiving plastic turkey pose in Baghdad, the President faces serious problems. According to the military newspaper, Stars and Stripes, half the soldiers “questioned described their units’ moral as low and their training as insufficient and said they did not plan to reenlist.” In an article by Dana Milbank (December 12, Washington Post) “the cheering soldiers who met him [Bush] were pre-screened and others showing up for a turkey dinner were turned away,” because they had not been “pre-selected” by their officers.

Milbank quotes Sgt. Loren Russell, who imagined “their dismay when they walked 15 minutes to the Bob Hope Dining Facility, only to find that they were turned away from their evening meal because they were in the wrong unit. . . . They understand Bush ate there and that upgraded security was required. But why were only certain units turned away?”

Capturing the big, bad witch and grabbing a turkey photo op presents a flimsy façade for Bush’s failure to define policies that will prevent Iraq from turning into a Vietnam style scenario. Each week, US troops get picked off — killed or wounded — by guerrillas, not directed by Saddam, who then merge into the general population.

Bush, like most alcoholics even those who stopped drinking rarely admit to causing messes. They assume others will clean up after them. History, their own, their nation and its worldly relations, becomes a pit of undesirable memories for some addicts. Better to look to the 2004 elections for lessons!


Three decades ago, Congress defunded the Vietnam War, having learned the painful lesson of “exporting our order” by force through surrogate exiles. The US-chosen Vietnamese President, Ngo Dinh Diem, or Bush’s choice for the Iraqi governing council, Ahmad Chalabi, Diem’s reincarnation, will not cut the proverbial mustard.

Chalabi, an Iraqi exile who spent much of his adult life in the West telling the powerful what they wanted to hear, finally resides in Baghdad, awaiting under heavy security — his anointment as next leader of Iraq. He should recall how by 1963 Washington had soured on Diem and had a hand in his assassination when he refused to follow orders. The understudy always stands in the wings, the one willing to accommodate. By 1967, Washington had replaced Diem with Nguyen Van Thieu, who willingly cooperated in the defoliation of his own country and the slaughter of some 2 plus million countrymen and women.

The Vietnam War came replete with moralistic and a-historical babble about “bringing democracy” to the region; in action, this missionary rhetoric evolved into backing whatever corrupt tough guy willing to follow murderous US orders.

Vietnam and Iraq both emerged from colonial rule. Today, Iraqis have a national identity, albeit the religious and ethnic groups may struggle internally for power. The Bushies, however, fearful of US combat deaths staining their election campaign, consider re-Ottomizing Iraq into regions.

What has history to do with the 2004 elections? In the 20th Century alone, wrote Simon Jenkins (December 8 Sydney Times), US and British meddling in Iraqi affairs “have made a mess of this nation. They owe it the least blood-spattered path they can fashion to whatever the future has in store.”

A few incidents illustrate the perfidy and duplicity of the democracy missionaries. T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) convinced Arab leaders that if by helping England defeat Turkey during World War I, Westminster would provide them with an independent Arab state. The 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement, however, replaced the Ottomans alright, but with European bosses. The revolution that Lawrence had helped inspire, however, continued as Arabs and Kurds reacted to the imperial betrayal. European democracies responded with brute force. In 1925, for instance, the British Air Force dropped poison gas on Sulaimaniya, a Kurdish village in Iraq. In 1919, Winston Churchill had already approved of using such weapons of mass destruction against resisting Kurds and Afghans.

“I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas,” Churchill had. “I am strongly in favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes… It is not necessary to use the most deadly gasses; gasses can be used which cause great inconvenience and would spread lively terror…” (quoted in Noam Chomsky’s World Orders Old and New, 1994).

US leaders also availed themselves of the new European arrangement to collect for their entrance into World War I. They got almost one quarter of Iraqi oil. Indeed, Iraq got none of its oil until its 1958 revolution against colonial power. By that time, the United States had staged a CIA coup in Iran (1953) and fashioned the Baghdad Pact (1955), with their regional allies (clients) — Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Iraq, and England, the junior partner. Washington fashioned military alliances — CENTO-Central Treaty Organization, to stop liberation movements in the Middle East and south Asia; NATO, SEATO and ANZUS — to stop revolution or liberation in the third world. The British had installed King Faisal in Iraq to protect their oil and the Americans retained the corrupt monarch until 1958 when an Iraqi military revolt turned into a revolution replete with the nationalization of oil.

But Americans don’t concede their “property” easily. By 1972, Washington began to supply military support rightist Kurds intent on toppling the revolutionary government. The CIA also mounted a counterrevolutionary plan in 1974, but when the ruling, nationalist Ba’ath Party attacked and murdered members of Iraq’s Communist Party and Communist influenced trade unions, Washington applauded.

The U.S. provided military help to Iraq in its 1980s war against Iran, although in his Memoirs Henry Kissinger maintained that Washington wanted both countries decimated. Indeed, a secret national security group sold missiles to Iran in the 1980s to fund a counterrevolution in Nicaragua.

The 1991 Gulf War and the ensuing anti-Saddam sanctions, made possible in large part by the implosion of the USSR, carried US-Iraqi hostility into the present.


Those with memories and understanding of the “limits” of imperial power have begun to look for a dignified exit. One apparent convert to the “get-out-quick” line, US administrator in Baghdad, Paul Bremer, concluded that the fanatics who promoted the war and promised that Iraqi would love us as occupiers, have little grasp of reality. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice also appears to have accepted the Bremer line.

At the Pentagon, however, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, still cling to their “bringing democracy to Iraq” dream — before taking it to Iran and Syria.

Imperial conservative and liberal columnists like William Safire and Thomas Friedman of the NY Times have fed the Administration’s propaganda calls for winning Iraqi “hearts and minds.” The worried with good reason 82nd Airborne and 4th Infantry soldiers in Iraq “win” these organs by shooting Iraqis in cars, walking on the street or anywhere else they sense a threat. By November, Bremer flew to Washington, reporting that he did not foresee a rapid transition to elections and that a July withdrawal under acceptable pretexts would best serve the President’s re-election campaign. But the US-guided governing council has not proven viable. Instead of the promise of a better life under US occupation, chaos and disorder reign inside their halls as in the streets.

Even the missionary Friedman expressed his doubts in the December 14 NY Times. “I fear we have a president who is setting the broad guidelines, above a squabbling bureaucracy and a divided alliance – and no one is cracking heads. You can’t succeed in a place as difficult as Iraq without a workable plan to produce a broad-based government and without a unified team at home and abroad to execute it.”


The fanatics sing “ding dong the witch is dead,” celebrating Saddam’s capture; the “realists” return to Saddam’s governance model. Some talk of dismembering Iraq à la the Ottoman Empire regions, which will not receive the blessings of either the “international community” or the Arab world; or find a new Saddam-like strongman to hold it together. The longer the occupation drags on, the more Iraq will stand as a symbol for the injustice felt by tens of millions of Arabs and Muslims.

Inside Iraq, leaders of the majority Shias, who squirmed under the Sunni-led order, see their opportunity to institute an Islamic state, not an Ayatollah-Iranian model, but close enough to frighten Americans.

But immediate fear derives from the occupation itself. The unemployed, the resentful, the vengeance seekers, alongside new leaders in the underground Ba’ath party have forged a resistance to US occupation, just as the occupiers have “privatized” Iraq: another road to chaos. Bremer seeks a strongman among the exiled politicians who feud and maneuver for control in post US Baghdad.

Bush proclaimed with certainty that Saddam will not regain power. He should have added that resisting Iraqis will continue to wage war against the occupiers. But why bum people out before the New Year.

SAUL LANDAU is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. He teaches at Cal Poly Pomona University. For Landau’s writing in Spanish visit: www.rprogreso.com. His new book, PRE-EMPTIVE EMPIRE: A GUIDE TO BUSH S KINGDOM, has just been published by Pluto Press. He can be reached at: landau@counterpunch.org


SAUL LANDAU’s A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch / AK Press.

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