There is a myth circulating amongst antiwar people. That myth is elucidated quite succinctly in an editorial in the April 21, 2004 edition of the San Francisco Bay Guardian. According to this piece, “the Bush administration has gotten the United States into a quagmire from which there is no clear or credible escape.”
Firstly, this statement begs the question: who’s to say what’s credible? Are we asking the Iraqis if there is no credible way out of Iraq or is it other western governments that are being asked that question? Secondly, (and quite obviously) there is an escape. Just get the hell out! Many people in the world don’t see any problem with this position. Indeed, it is only those who oppose the war yet for some reason seem to think that the US now has some kind of obligation to repair what it destroyed who align themselves with the Bay Guardian’s statement. In case these folks haven’t noticed, it’s the US forces that are the enemy and it is the US forces that are doing most of the killing and causing most of the dying.
It seems that the only real reasons one would insist on not returning Iraq back to its people would be that one either believes that the Iraqis are ignorant and incapable of governing themselves, or because they agree with the Bush administration and only want to see a government in Iraq that does the US bidding. Any gobbledygook these folks might speak about the need for security and stability in the country before US and other troops pull out is merely an excuse to ensure that US interests prevail. After all, there isn’t any security in Iraq with the US presence. Why? Because the US is the reason for the instability and insecurity. They invaded and destroyed and now they are killing and destroying. You can’t impose security on a people who don’t want you to. Any calm US troops impose is as illusory as the truth is to Donald Rumsfeld.
Considering this, however, what might a solution be to the Iraq situation be, if no one in the seats of power is brave enough to demand an immediate pullout? Maybe the Bay Guardian has an idea about this. Maybe something novel and truly creative? Let’s take a look: “The only real hope is to replace the U.S. occupation force with an inter-national peacekeeping crew, under the jurisdiction of the United Nations.” I guess not. Not only is this proposal just a case of replacing one occupation force with another, it is also unworkable. In fact, the Bay Guardian’s editors acknowledge as much. The UN, write the weekly’s editors, “don’t want to clean up Bush’s mess.” No kidding.
So, what might be a solution to this quandary? Hold tight, readers, because you’re not going to believe the Bay Guardian’s solution: vote for Kerry! After all, say these men and women, if Kerry is elected, he could plead with the rest of the Security Council to send their men and women over to Iraq and kill and die for Washington. Now, I know the weed in San Francisco is good and the microbrews rock, too, but how much of these mood modifiers are these people imbibing?
This is not a solution. It’s a potential recipe for worldwide war. If one accepts this position as a solution, they are truly seeing the war from a lens fogged by imperial illusions. Even if one opposes the war, it’s an imperial illusion if you think the Iraqis need to be taught governance. It’s an imperial illusion if you think that only westerners can create stability, unless your only definition of stability is the one that provides stability for the system of global capital. Which, by the way, is the stability Messrs. Bush, Kerry, Rumsfeld, and Myers are talking about. It’s an imperial illusion if you think the Bush administration went to war to help the Iraqi people. They didn’t. They went to war to help maintain US dominance in the oil market and US/Israeli dominance in the Middle East.
The antiwar movement has to be more than a campaign mechanism for Anybody-But-Bush. In order for that to happen, it must let go of any illusions it has about the US purpose in Iraq. Furthermore, it must let go of the idea that the US or the UN can make things better for the Iraqi people. Instead, it should support the legitimate right of the Iraqi people to get rid of any occupation forces and encourage the flowering of a truly democratic and civil society in that country. This means that there may be some ugly scenes coming out of Iraq after US forces are withdrawn, but (in case you haven’t noticed) there are some pretty ugly scenes coming out of there right now and most of them involve the actions of those US forces. Iraqis do deserve peace and freedom, but they need to build it in their own way, not according to the designs of those currently more powerful than them. If some future Iraqi government asks on its own for help from the UN, then the UN should respond in kind, but that body should not take over where the US left off. There is nothing honorable in that.
RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is being republished by Verso.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org