I was finally sitting in my sister’s house outside Baltimore after a two hour flight turned into twelve because of weather. Drinking beer with one of my brothers the talk turned from sports and kids to Iraq. He had originally supported Bush’s war but was glad when most troops left. Already aware of my intense hatred of the war and the protests I had helped organize and attend against it, he didn’t have to guess what my thoughts were regarding the current situation and the impending US response. He surprised me, however, with the angry diatribe he unloaded while he opened a couple more brews. Not only was he pissed off at Obama for even considering bombing, he was even angrier at Bush, Rumsfeld and the rest of that crew for starting the damn thing in the first place. Like most of his fellow Americans, though, all this anger does is make him feel disenfranchised and without any agency.
The next night I was at a Willie Nelson concert in Columbia. Standing in line to buy beer and friggin’ Iraq came up again. The general consensus was the same as at my sister’s house. Willie was preceded by Allison Kraus and Union Station, who played a mean set of bluegrass that had the place jumping, more or less. Willie was with one of the tightest bands I have ever seen him with and his set included a few of his classics, some Hank Williams tunes, a Tom T. Hall tune, closing with “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” and Hank Williams’ “I Saw the Light.” His perennial grin remained the entire show and waves of quality marijuana smoke wafted across the lawn where I was. No one really wanted to talk about Iraq, politicians, or any other such idiocy after that.
There are a few members of the next generation in my family who have recently joined the military. These young men know my feelings about the institution and its mission to defend the Empire, but their experience of life, the United States, and how to grow up has led them to politely ignore my opinions. Besides just the sheer pointlessness of Washington’s current military adventures and machinations, I don’t want to see these guys in combat. As anyone who has been there or knows someone who has, the experience rarely does much permanent good. Killing people is not something most folks want to do. The current suicide rate among Iraq and Afghanistan vets makes that clear. No amount of VA funding will change that. Neither will politically motivated congressional hearings regarding VA mismanagement. On that topic: What the hell did people expect? The VA has been cutting costs for decades since the 1970s while the Bush and Obama administrations have kept at least one war going for thirteen years. Sooner or later, a few thousand veterans were going to get screwed. The blame goes all around.
I don’t pretend to know what the hell is going on in Iraq, nor where ISIS came from. However, withdrawing those troops in 2010 is not the reason Iraq’s northern cities are being overrun by ISIS and angry armed Iraqi citizens. Those in the power elites trying to make that case refuse to accept that the US military does not bring peace or make things better. In fact, history tells us that the US military usually does the exact opposite. Killing only begets more killing and empowers those who kill the most efficiently and ruthlessly. Any war crimes committed by ISIS and its allies (no matter how gruesome) still pale beside the twenty-four year long war crime perpetrated by the United States against the Iraqi people. Throw in a couple hundred legislators, a few dozen war profiteers and a group of policymakers intent on making those war profiteers and the energy industry happy and we get endless war. There was always a US contingency to divide Iraq into regions based on religious beliefs and/or tribal allegiances, even if that was not the traditional manner in which Iraq was aligned. In fact, in 2007 Joe Biden pushed a plan through the Senate that that call(ed) for the division of Iraq into semi-autonomous regions that would be decided by the US client government inside Baghdad’s Green Zone. At the time, I wrote, “What’s most disturbing about this resolution is its hubris…. In a manner similar to the way Bill Clinton and company divided Yugoslavia at Dayton back in the 1990s, the Biden resolution is another effort at making a part of the world unwilling to bend to US control more controllable.” (Joe Biden’s Plan to Chop Up Iraq. Counterpunch, September 27, 2007).
While it is apparent that the Biden plan pretty much went nowhere, the current situation could end up doing something similar, only with a less certain outcome. Perhaps that is why Washington wants to be part of the bloodshed once again; it hopes to have a friendlier outcome than the last round of war provided. If it can kill enough ISIS militants, perhaps it believes it can fool the Iraqi insurgents into falling for its client regime in Baghdad one more time. No matter what, the apparent brutality of ISIS would easily be outdone with a couple days of bombing raids from some US base or carrier. It would also prove that the Pentagon and its civilian leaders have not learned a thing.
On the other hand, I hope the American people have.
Ron Jacobs is the author of the just released novel All the Sinners, Saints. He is also the author of The Way the Wind Blew: a History of the Weather Underground and Short Order Frame Up and The Co-Conspirator’s Tale. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His third novel All the Sinners Saints is a companion to the previous two and is due out in April 2013. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.