We’ve entered a new era of history. The troops and tanks rumbling toward Baghdad take with them the ashes and dust of international law, diplomacy, human rights, civil liberties, democratic self-governance, and much else. But, as Arlo Guthrie famously said about his convictions for littering and creating a nuisance during America’s last major imperial disaster, “That’s not what I came here to talk about.”
The verdict of history will have to await developments in the fog and chaos of this criminal war. A war sought and pursued by the Bush gang in Washington for oil and power, in the name of liberation and disarmament. It is now just a week after the opening salvos of “shock and awe.” This is the time period of journalism, not yet history. But obvious contradictions and shortcomings of US military strategy are already becoming glaringly clear, even through the pillow talk of “embedded” US corporate media. What we hear from such sources is essentially propaganda, not journalism. The confusion reflected in roller coaster public opinion polls comes from this lack of reliable information, from the constant refusal to ask any hard questions about historical context that would lead to real understanding, and from the apparent confusion of the “flexible” war plan itself.
Rumsfeld and his underlings seem to have based their entire strategy on either a magic bullet hitting Saddam Hussein, or on the psychological impacts of the initial bombing runs, without regard to the brutal realities of war. Perhaps that’s because, having successfully avoided any personal sacrifices in their rise to the top, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld & Co. don’t understand war.
Generals are reputed to always be effective in “fighting the last war.” The Iraqis mostly cut and ran in Gulf War I. Today their country is prostrate, practically starving, and their weapons even more out of date. US military power reigns supreme. How dare they fight back? We were told that it would be a relatively quick and easy war, and we are still being told that victory is assured. But life (and death) is strange. No matter what the short-term issues in any particular case, you have to use power wisely or you can get yourself in trouble quick. That’s when you call the guerilla forces attacking your supply lines “terrorists,” to cover up the gross inadequacies of your own ideas and actions.
Is there a Bush administration playbook (since football analogies for war are all the rage these days) on these things? The government “spin” on the ground war sounds just like the way they avoided any investigation into their incompetent failures to deal with the known threat of al-Quaida before September 11.
And fuck the football analogies. These are our brothers and sisters risking their lives and dying. This is no game. The judgment and decisions of US war leaders should produce tactics and strategies designed to minimize casualties. They have apparently failed to do so. This conduct of the massacre of modern war by selfish political and economic criteria is only the latest obscenity in the Bush junta’s so-called “war on terrorism.”
First they failed to put enough troops in the field to ensure victory with minimal losses through the application of overwhelming force, as dictated by the Powell doctrine. Then they sent the ground troops rolling hundreds of miles into the desert, without adequate protection against the Iraqi forces on their flanks threatening their supply lines. Now April is expected to be the worst month for sandstorms. They ordered the troops into the environmental catastrophe of burning oil wells, the kind of hazards that resulted in approximately one out of five veterans of Gulf War I being granted benefits for Gulf War syndrome (and many others have made such claims and been denied). In the teeth of these tactical dilemmas, they boldly promise a campaign of “shock, awe, and flexibility,” as if war was simply an exercise in mass marketing, based on the lure of great sex. And they piously call on Americans to “support the troops” in their mad project.
These political leaders and their imperial aggression are the ones who are really and seriously failing to “support the troops.”
If I can look at a map on the internet and see how US troops are now unreasonably exposed to danger, spread out for hundreds of miles from Umm Quasr to Baghdad, then Iraqi military commanders can do it. US/UK military forces didn’t begin to destroy their communications facilities until a week into the ground war, and did not use air power effectively against the enemy forces before sending ground troops into the battle.
Maybe it’s because they want to use Iraqi oil and communication facilities and other infrastructure, even Iraqi military forces, to pacify the country and market its oil. Maybe the troops were sent into Iraq earlier than planned, because the Iraqis were burning their oil wells, thus threatening the real objective of this whole rancid operation. Maybe the US chickenhawk command is simply drunk and over-confident with their own power. They don’t care if their poor tactical choices cost more lives, whether the lives of US service men and women, or those of Iraqi civilians caught in the middle of Stalingrad/Jenin-style house-to-house warfare. There should be an especially hot place in hell for such hypocrites, who exhort us to “support the troops” while they bugger and sacrifice young working class Americans from the relative safety of Washington and Quatar.
There is no certainty in war. Even given this government’s apparent willingness to get large numbers of young American soldiers unnecessarily killed, the People of Iraq will probably die at rates of hundreds or thousands to every one US casualty. And that’s not counting Iran, North Korea, Syria, or whichever country is next up on the US “regime change” agenda. For now the life-threatening risk to everyone involved on the ground, on all sides of this totally unnecessary war of US aggression, dominates everything. But in the long run the chickenhawk architects of this desert slaughter will not escape the verdict of history. See you at Nuremberg, Mr. Bush.
TOM STEPHENS is a lawyer from Detroit. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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