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The Myths of Military Progress



Making occupation and calling it peace. Killing fewer and calling it progress. Rotating troops and calling it a withdrawal. Setting up new death squads and calling them allies. Lowering standards and calling it opening new opportunities.

All of the above phenomena seem to be part of the current campaign by Washington in Iraq. There are fewer GI deaths in the country now because they don’t leave the bases. Why? Because their latest allies-tribesmen paid in cold cash to kill for DC-are doing the killing and taking the hits. Indeed, some of the most fatal of those hits come from US air strikes that “mistakenly” bomb the men involved in killing the US bogeyman Al Queda in Mesopotamia, which may or may not be a phantom reality. Meanwhile, these tribesmen learn US military methods and locations while stockpiling US-supplied weaponry for some future war on their Shi’a opposites or perhaps even the same US forces they currently align themselves with.

The politicians here in the US, meanwhile, continue their cynical dealing in human life by refusing to insist on a genuine withdrawal timetable even as they steal billions from their country men and women to fight their wars and try to maintain the empire. False arguments erupt over withdrawal bills that aren’t withdrawal bills because the White House insists that it has complete control over the war and its conduct while the opposition in Congress writes legislation that has more holes than a hooker’s torn fishnets. Despite the impotence of the legislation, they fail to pass even that and end up giving the White house every penny it originally asked for. Wait until the election, says the opposition. Things will change then. If previous elections are any indication, the only thing that will change are the faces in the White House. Troops will remain in Iraq and the occupation/war will continue its haphazard road to control of the oilfields. Or, it will result in the defeat of Washington’s plans for the region, no matter which politician sits in the Oval Office.

“We’re going to fund the troops,” Levin, a Michigan Democrat, said today (11/25/07) on the “Fox News Sunday” program. “No one’s trying to undercut the military.” The subtext of this quote is simply this. No one is going to undercut the wars. After all, it is the military that fights the wars, is it not? It’s hard for students of history to believe, but there was a time in the history of this nation when the military was not the untouchable institution it has become. Indeed, there was a brief shining moment when it was purely a defensive force. Unfortunately, that time was not only brief, it was also quite long ago. There has been no time in US history, however, when the military has dominated the American polity like it has since the United States entered World War Two. This domination of the political sphere is why no politician who wants to stay in power will ever defund the Pentagon and the complex it has spawned. This situation exists not necessarily because the US public wants most of their tax monies going to corporations that build weapons or to maintain an imperial army. It exists because the propaganda wing of the aforementioned complex can and will destroy the career of any politician that attacks that complex. Consequently, the number of national politicians in the two major parties fundamentally opposed to the Pentagon’s sacrosanct position in US politics can be counted on one hand. Not only does fear guide these spineless men and women, but so do the dollars tossed their way by the very corporations that profit as members of the previously mentioned complex. Our silence, fed by fears that are by definition unreal allows them to get away with what can only be truthfully called murder.

Back to Iraq and Afghanistan. Violence in those countries ebbs and flows, reflecting a rhythm of death and destruction known only to the beast of war. Some children lose their parents while other parents lose their children to that beast. The dollars we pay in taxes every day feed the beast’s greed despite the outspoken desire of what seems to be the majority that they be used for peaceful purposes. Perhaps the structures we allow to rule can no longer spend that money for peace. Perhaps they are too corrupted by war and its profits. Perhaps their long service to the beast of war has rendered them not incapable of conceiving a world where peace does not mean domination and does not require war in a fruitless effort to secure said peace.

It is only natural that those who are subject to this domination would resist. That resistance takes up arms only because to do otherwise is suicide. Why should one commit suicide when they are being murdered? When this is the scenario, then armed resistance become self-defense and doing nothing is defeat. If this is so, the question is raised once again: are those tribesmen currently working with the occupier in Iraq and Afghanistan merely pretending to collaborate so as to strike the final blow to the occupier when the guard is down? Wasn’t this the strategy of anti-occupation forces of Muqtada al-Sadr (labeled Shi’a by the western press)? And aren’t those forces now in the gunsights of the US military?

Meanwhile, the government in Baghdad’s Green Zone is asking the US military to commit to a longterm agreement to stay in Iraq in substantial numbers. Besides the obvious fact that the Green Zone government really has no say in how long the US military occupies Iraq, the fact that those in power are asking the military to remain is an acknowledgement that their power does not come from the Iraqi people but from the military power of Washington. In fact, according to the November 26, 2007 Associated Press story discussing this “request” by the Green Zone government, the request was made because “Iraq’s government, (is) seeking protection against foreign threats and internal coups.” One can be certain that those internal coups most likely refer to Washington’s fear of a victorious insurgency. Tellingly, opposition to the “request” was voiced by the supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr, who opposes the US occupation in all its manifestations. The more things appear to change, the more they don’t. The casualties continue to mount, even when they are not part of the equation.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is published by Mainstay Press. He can be reached at:




Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at:

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