In recent days, the perverse moral calculus that guides the masters of war in the White House has revealed itself with startling clarity–laid bare like the gurgling intestines of a three-year-old child whose skin has been flayed by a fragmentation bomb.
As the desolation–sorry, liberation–of Iraq continued apace, the Masters moved quickly and efficiently to secure the country’s oilfields, but they blithely and deliberately failed to secure the lives of innocent people left in bombed-out cities without any system of law or governance. Unlike oil rigs–which, after all, could be restored if something happened to them–the actual human beings destroyed in the chaos that followed the invaders’ high-tech blitzkrieg cannot be replaced–not even by no-bid, $7 billion reconstruction contracts to Dick Cheney’s Halliburton.
You’d think that conquerors who’d come to “liberate” a suffering people would have brought enough troops to actually secure the territory–and the lives and livelihoods of said suffering people–as they conquered it. Of course, this kind of thing is unglamorous work, not very telegenic; what’s more, you can’t just farm it out in fat contracts to your political cronies. So why bother? Who cares? What’s a little “untidiness”–as Don Rumsfeld called the slow, agonizing deaths of worthless “collateral damage” lying untreated in ransacked hospitals–when you’re remaking the world? As that other breaker of nations, Joe Stalin, used to say: “When wood is chopped, chips fly.”
Rumsfeld’s British counterpart, UK Defence Minister Geoff Hoon, went even further. While Rumsfeld did at least acknowledge that the shootings, lootings, ethnic strife, revenge killings, fatal checkpoint “accidents” and “regrettable” crossfire incidents were a bit “untidy,” Hoon–whose penchant for Bush-style exercise sessions has earned him the all-too-apt sobriquet “Buff” Hoon–actually declared in Parliament that the mothers of innocent children killed by cluster-bombs would one day be “grateful” for sacrificing the fruit of their wombs to the invaders. (We’re not making this up. You couldn’t make it up.)
The oil-securing conquerors also failed to safeguard Iraq’s storehouses of antiquity–irreplaceable treasures from the earliest days of civilization, which first arose on this land’s now-cratered, uranium-soaked soil. Here humanity first learned to write, to count, make medicine, form cities, create laws, map the stars. Here humanity first began its excruciatingly slow–and obviously incomplete–emergence from the dictatorship of instinct, the shackles of genetic programming, the blind, voracious animal need that still thrashes in the mud of our monkey brains.
Priceless artifacts that recorded this millennia-long struggle for emergence and transcendence were destroyed in the space of a few hours during the orgy of looting that swept Iraq in the conquerors’ wake. Although in Baghdad a few ordinary American soldiers tried to intervene at first, they were quickly ordered away by their superiors (sic) and forced to stand idle while mobs of destitute Shiites–brutalized by the former CIA asset Saddam Hussein, by punitive sanctions that devoured their society and strengthened the hand of their oppressor, and by days of indiscriminate bombing that blew their loved ones to bits–smashed the heritage of our human commonality.
But let’s be fair. The Oval One’s occupiers did manage to secure two important buildings in the midst of the rampage: the Interior Ministry, with all of Saddam’s juicy intelligence files–why let good torture go to waste?–and, of course, the Oil Ministry. In fact, the file-grab has already produced a shocking revelation: it seems that Moscow and Baghdad were sharing intelligence in a joint effort to combat Osama bin Laden–you know, the guy whose “close connection” to Saddam was the main reason that the terror-rattled (and deliberately deceived) American public finally supported Bush’s war of aggression.
Unfortunately for that rattled and deceived populace, the chaos in Iraq will only mean more repression in the Homeland. For it confirms the deepest fears of the Bushist ruling clique. They believe that the veneer of civilization is wafer-thin, that a single terrorist attack can crack it–thus the panicky discarding of civil liberties after Sept. 11. A few more such blows, they think, will shatter American society to pieces. So measures even more draconian will now be promulgated. Last week, the White House began moving to have the “emergency” powers of the notorious PATRIOT Act made permanent. Secret arrests, internment camps, centralization of personal data, classification of citizens into ranks of “security-worthiness,” unrestricted surveillance and more–all are in the works or even now being implemented.
That’s how little faith these so-called super-patriots really have in America. It is they, not the dissenters, who despise their own country, who believe it’s too weak and unworthy for freedom.
Of course, their concerns aren’t completely unfounded. For the breakdown we saw in Iraq is indeed an ever-present risk for vastly unequal societies, where the rich and powerful commit crimes with impunity while the poor and powerless fill the jails. Where rulers practice the most blatant deceit, lie and cheat their way into authority, propagate absurd myths about themselves, paint their common thuggery in the colors of patriotism and religion. Where, above all, they set the ultimate example of lawlessness for their people: launching wars against countries that haven’t attacked them, teaching that killing, corruption and ruin–not law, not communion, not transcendence–are the supreme expressions of civilization, the basis of human society.
It’s a dangerous lesson, especially for people shaken by disaster: war, repression–or terrorist attacks. That’s why the Bushist clique is worried. True, they are also physical cowards–dodging wars they were glad for others to fight–and weaklings as well, dependent on sugar daddies and crony contracts to make their way in the world. Such timorous specimens would naturally underestimate the resilience of American society.
Yet perhaps they have reason to worry. Perhaps what they see in Iraq’s desolation is not just the ruin of an evil regime they once gladly succored–but the kind of moral rot they are now engendering by their own example.
Perhaps we should all start worrying.
CHRIS FLOYD is a columnist for the Moscow Times and a regular contributor to CounterPunch. He can be reached at: email@example.com