FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Iraq’s Cambodian Jungle

by PIERRE TRISTAM

The standard line about Iraq right now is that the country is on the verge of civil war. That “simmering hatreds” are boiling to the surface. That “sectarianism” is to blame. All those regurgitated clichés of the Orientalist canon may well be true. But what convenient detractions from a three-year-old certainty rendered by the American invasion. What ideal way to shift the blame, indemnify the invader, and make this third anniversary of Iraq’s “liberation,” approaching at the speed of a panicked Bradley Fighting Vehicle, look like a job gone awry only because Iraqis couldn’t get along. Sure, the destruction of a revered Shiite mosque in Samarra, allegedly by Sunni militants, was not going to get a kinder reception than the destruction of the 16 th century Babri mosque in Ayodhya, in India, by Hindus, in December 1992. That barbaric eruption led to riots across India and Pakistan that left more than 1,000 people dead and renewed fears of a sectarian breakdown on the subcontinent, possibly even another reason for India and Pakistan to go at it a fourth time in six decades. The fears were exaggerated. The discovery that religion is south Asia’s radioactive variant was not. It’s that very variant the neo-cons ignored when they celebrated the invasion of Iraq as a turning point in Mideastern destiny.

It has been a turning point, with the wrong assumptions at gunpoint. The problem wasn’t Iraq’s WMDs or Iran’s nukes. It’s the region’s religious warheads. There’s no easier way to arm them with Western-fueled resentment, no quicker way to set them off than with the permanent reminder of an alien army of provocateurs, the same Anglo provocateurs whose boots not so long ago, in every grandfather’s memory, flattened the culture with colonialism and called it progress. Conversely, there are more credible, more Wilsonian ways to diffuse the warheads, beginning with Woodrow Wilson’s aversion to assuming mandates and protectorates over regions better left to sort out their issues on their own, but with available help when requested.

That’s the approach Francis Fukuyama, the ex-neocon, is now advocating in his belated berating of the neocon catastrophe in Iraq:

“[T]he United States does not get to decide when and where democracy comes about. By definition, outsiders can’t impose’ democracy on a country that doesn’t want it; demand for democracy and reform must be domestic. Democracy promotion is therefore a long-term and opportunistic process that has to await the gradual ripening of political and economic conditions to be effective.”

In other words, the so-called “liberal” approach advocated all along by those who don’t see bombs and democratic nation-building as quite compatible.

The strength of the West in relation to the East has never been in its impositions and colonialisms. That’s when it’s been at its weakest, at its most repugnant, morally and politically. Western strength has been derived, paradoxically, from restraint: by valuing example above force, persuasion above imposition. (World War I and II were not battles between East and West but primarily within the West.) That strength, at the moment, has been made null and void by the American occupation of Iraq–by Abu Ghraib, by Guantanamo, by the parody of democracy in Afghanistan and the emerging tragedy of democracy in Iraq, Iran and Palestine, where extremism is not only ascendant, but triumphant and unrivaled.

Iraq is not “on the verge” of civil war. It has been at war the moment Americans replaced one tyranny with a salad of tyrannies three years ago. Iran blamed the explosion in Samarra on Israel and the United States. Israel, of course, has nothing whatsoever to do with Iraq. But American responsibility for Samarra is as evident as American responsibility for the looting and chaos that followed the early days of the occupation”and of course the chaos and low-grade civil war that hasn’t stopped since. The powder keg was always there. It was to be a sign of American wiles and strategy”of foresight or ignorance”either to diffuse the keg or light the match. With Bush at the helm, the American occupation had no choice but to suck fire. That fuse is what the Anglo-American occupation force represents in Iraq. The Orientalist narrative of Muslim-on-Muslim violence happening as if in a vacuum all its own is the expedient way for Western conservatives to translate the latest events t! o their convenience. It’s also an opportunity. Here’s the Bush administration’s chance to claim that it’s done all it could. Sectarian battles aren’t its game ( South Carolina’s Republican primary fatwa against John McCain notwithstanding). Time to go. Time to let them sort it out. The going won’t be literal, to be sure: The administration isn’t oiling those permanent military bases for nothing, nor does it want to have an Arab Yalta tattooed on its retreating rear. No, this would be a stealth retreat from the turbulence of the Iraqi street to the safety of U.S. garrisons on the barbarians’ rims, something even John Murtha could applaud. No retreat, no surrender, but redeployment. At least for now.

But it’s the Cambodian get-away scheme all over again: Nixon bombs Cambodia back to the Neolithic from 1970 to 1973, killing somewhere in the six figures, destabilizing the country with Lon Nol’s complicity and setting the stage for the Khmer take-over and ensuing genocide. Nixon shrugs, acts blameless. It was a civil war, after all, and he had his own civil war on his hands, compliments of a couple of reporters from the Washington Post. With Kissinger as his Oz, Nixon spun Cambodia into just another American attempt at battling Communism in the name of freedom. The Khmers mucked it up. And by 1973, Kissinger was throwing in the towel, Nixon was facing impeachment, and the Khmers were biding their time until their final, if brief, victory in 1975 (until the Vietnamese finally ended their killing spree in 1978). A similar scenario is unfolding in Iraq. The United States has done nothing if not destabilize the country under the guise of building up democracy for the last th! ree years. Bombings and night raids tend not to do democracy’s bidding. Insurgents have picked up strength. On both sides. A Khmer-like genocide might not be in the offing, although with Lebanon and the Balkans in recent memory, and with Saddam’s tradition of facile massacres still humidifying the Mesopotamian air with the scent of unavenged blood, you never know: a genocide may well result still, giving the region’s Vietnam–Iran–an opportunity to intervene. The moment the United States invaded the way it did and occupied the nation as boorishly as it did, the outcome couldn’t have been any different than it is now. It isn’t the Arabs who are repeating history. It is the United States repeating its own, a few time zones to the east. Same continent. Same errors, same Nixonian hubris.

Naturally, Arabs–those “barbaric” Sunnis and Shiites–will get all the blame. But the vilest fanatics are in the White House, comfortably enabling destruction from their “situation room.” The only difference between them and the barbarians who blow up mosques is a matter of dress and language, and, of course, method.

The results are the same.

PIERRE TRISTAM is an editorial writer and columnist at the Daytona Beach, Fla., News-Journal, and editor of Candide’s Notebooks. Reach him at ptristam@att.net

 

February 09, 2016
Kathleen Wallace
Boys, Hell, and the Politics of Vagina Voting
Brian Foley
Interview With a Bernie Broad: We Need to Start Focusing on Positions and Stop Relying on Sexism
February 08, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Privatization: the Atlanticist Tactic to Attack Russia
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Water War Against the Poor: Flint and the Crimes of Capital
John V. Walsh
Did Hillary’s Machine Rig Iowa? The Highly Improbable Iowa Coin Tosses
Vincent Emanuele
The Curse and Failure of Identity Politics
Eliza A. Webb
Hillary Clinton’s Populist Charade
Uri Avnery
Optimism of the Will
Roy Eidelson Trudy Bond, Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner, Jean Maria Arrigo, Brad Olson, and Bryant Welch
Preserve Do-No-Harm for Military Psychologists: Coalition Responds to Department of Defense Letter to the APA
Patrick Cockburn
Oil Prices and ISIS Ruin Kurdish Dreams of Riches
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, the UN and Meanings of Arbitrary Detention
Shamus Cooke
The Labor Movement’s Pearl Harbor Moment
W. T. Whitney
Cuba, War and Ana Belen Montes
Jim Goodman
Congress Must Kill the Trans Pacific Partnership
Peter White
Meeting John Ross
Colin Todhunter
Organic Agriculture, Capitalism and the Parallel World of the Pro-GMO Evangelist
Ralph Nader
They’re Just Not Answering!
Cesar Chelala
Beware of the Harm on Eyes Digital Devices Can Cause
Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
Leonard Peltier
My 40 Years in Prison
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
Garry Leech
Terrifying Ted and His Ultra-Conservative Vision for America
Andrew Levine
Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem
William Blum
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
We Can’t Afford These Billionaires
Enrique C. Ochoa
Super Bowl 50: American Inequality on Display
Jonathan Cook
The Liberal Hounding of Julian Assange: From Alex Gibney to The Guardian
George Wuerthner
How the Bundy Gang Won
Mike Whitney
Peace Talks “Paused” After Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo 
Ted Rall
Hillary Clinton: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Gary Leupp
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Vijay Prashad
The Fault Line of Race in America
Eoin Higgins
Please Clap: the Jeb Bush Campaign Pre-Mortem
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Invisible Epidemic: Radiation and Rising Rates of Thyroid Cancer
Andre Vltchek
Europe is Built on Corpses and Plunder
Jack Smith
Obama Readies to Fight in Libya, Again
Robert Fantina
As Goes Iowa, So Goes the Nation?
John Grant
Israel Moves to Check Its Artists
Dean Baker
Market Turmoil, the Fed and the Presidential Election
John Wight
Who Was Cecil Rhodes?
David Macaray
Will There Ever Be Anyone Better Than Bernie Sanders?
Christopher Brauchli
Suffer Little Children: From Brazil to Flint
JP Sottile
Did Fox News Help the GOP Establishment Get Its Groove Back?
Binoy Kampmark
Legalizing Cruelties: the Australian High Court and Indefinite Offshore Detention
John Feffer
Wrestling With Iran
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail