George Bush’s recent admission that our occupation of Iraq will extend beyond his presidency passed with hardly a ripple in American public opinion. Uh oh.
The greatest fear leading to the outrage that fans the flames of terrorist tactics in the Middle East and around the world is that America’s real aim in Iraq is to try and control the region through permanent military bases. Such outposts of garrisoned troops stationed at permanent airstrips now number in the hundreds, and ours is an empire based on military might and high-tech war machines.
In the complete absence of reassurances by Mr. Bush of eventual withdrawal of our troops from Iraq, what are those in the region to think? What does his silence on this issue say to Arab moderates? Other than what has been said by Islamic radicals; that the ultimate goal of the US occupation is to control Iraqi oil fields and subjugate its people to semi-colonial rule?
Hardly anything is more important in the discussion of international terrorism and the present Mideast strife than the question of permanent US bases in the region.
Think about it. Would we accept an Islamic military outpost in our territory? Of course we would not. Why do we think Muslims are any different?
The recent imbroglio over the Dubai port deal is but one example of our duplicity and hypocricy. We fully expect to be understood in our denial of their bid to control our most important seaports, while we turn a deaf ear and blind eye to their outraged perception that we are establishing military bases in their lands that will remain forever.
Besides, it won’t work. Not only do such perceptions feed the fires of nationalistic fervor and anti-Americanism, it gives succor and support to the radical elements within the Islamic populations. It also sweeps the floor from underneath the moderate progressives in the region who would try and bring reason, democratic institutions and moderation to governments; our stated goal.
So, where are the pronouncements from Mr. Bush and company that we definitely plan on leaving; that our long-term goal is other than hegemony — control? Where are the reassurances that our plan is to leave a sovereign and autonomous Iraq and Afghanistan? Where are the words acknowledging their right to self determination, free of US imperialism? Where are the words that would quell the raging hatred and burning fears of those in the region?
Or, is it as many in the world suspect; our ultimate goal is to establish permanent bases to try and control the region through perpetual threat of violence for any who would dare to confront us, or challenge our power?
Such sinister speculation is not as ominous as it sounds given the history of the past fifty years. In fact, it would seem par for the course. Our tracks betray us. What other nation on earth has such an expansive network of military bases scattered around the globe?
Our continued and seemingly perpetual presence in Saudi Arabia supporting the "no fly" zone in Iraq was the ultimate recruiting poster for Osama Bin Laden.
Sure, Saddam Hussein was a terrible despot, but many argue that our tactics after the Gulf War only strengthened his hold on the Iraqi population. The embargo imposed at our behest killed an estimated one hundred thousand Iraqi’s, most of them children, elderly and frail. And in the end, all Iraqi’s were dependent on Baathist Party handouts to simply eat.
Such seemingly brutal, counterproductive and short-sighted tactics by the West are what has driven so much of the hatred that now confronts us, and did so on 9-11.
Until we face these realities and indeed "change course;" working on the diplomatic front while curbing our own apparent greed, we face a perpetual state of warfare between East and West. No matter how we label it, or how strongly we work to demonize others, some of the culpability for the mess we are now in lies at our own doorstep.
When things go really badly, only a neurotic places all the blame on the other side of the ledger.
Dr. JOHN BOMAR, a veteran of the Vietnam War, is a Catholic Lay Minister in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org