As the old song said, “you got to know when to hold ’em; know when to fold ’em.”
The Bush junta either hasn’t heard the old Kenny Rogers tune, or they have chosen to ignore it. They have chosen to ignore a lot in the last couple of years–everything except their thirst for oil and empire, and their own overweening pride.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the arrogant intellectual mediocrity who has led a willing George W. Bush into this politico-military wilderness, has now passed on the command to his officers in Iraq: No patrol will exit the wire of any US military compound without the signature of a Division Chief of Staff or higher. Troops who just last month were exhausted by an operational tempo that was leading some into ambush, heat stroke, and suicide are now sitting idle for most of the day and wondering what they are doing there.
Operations were not making progress in “pacifying” Iraq. On the contrary, operations were further alienating and enraging the Iraqis with disrespect, bullying, and the constant shooting of civilians. Operations were also creating a steady stream of dead and maimed GIs back home that had become a political liability for the Bush administration.
This daily dose of trauma was combined with collapsing stories. There was no al-Qaeda connection. There was no Iraqi nuclear program. There are no weapons of mass destruction. Alas–just as many of us said well before the American people were manipulated through fear to support this war–Iraq is not now, nor has it ever been, a threat to the United States.
Even as the old lies slowly dissolve, the Bush administration is developing new ones, the most significant of which is the lie that the armed resistance to the US occupation is composed primarily of “remnants” or foreigners. To fight the Americans would be decidedly “un-liberated.” In fact, it is Iraqi resistance with widening popular support. Crowds cheer after successful attacks against Americans.
And as the US troops are pulled back behind the wire, to have their static positions placed under 24-7 surveillance, the Iraqi street and countryside is relinquished to the guerrillas, who can now bomb oil pipelines, water mains, Brown & Root profiteers, embassies and hotels. In military terms, the US has lost the strategic initiative in the war on Iraq.
Now we have to face two indigestible realities.
First, there will be no good outcome of this war. There will only be choices now between bad and worse. A crime has been committed and it can’t be taken back. In the face of a similar dilemma Vietnam, there was the incredulous question, “How do we just get out of Vietnam?” The answer–one that was ignored at terrible cost: “With ships and airplanes.”
Second, the Bush administration will not quit. They have proven their infinite capacity for self-delusion and impunity. That leaves the American public with a stark choice. Accept this junta’s continued vandalism against the world and against our own economy (We are now paying $5 billion a month for the two military failures of Iraq and Afghanistan, while Bush cuts taxes for the rich). Or throw them out. Not elect them out. Throw them out.
Just as we had to pull the whole nation through the constitutional crisis of Watergate to rid ourselves of the Nixon regime, we shall have to risk the political disruption of the same kind of crisis to purge this neo-con disease from the American body politic.
Popular mobilization against the war in Iraq, a mobilization to bring our troops home and leave Iraq to the Iraqis, is the only thing that will stiffen the spines of the elected officials of both parties, who were stampeded into this war by demagogy and their own indestructible opportunism, to call for the independent investigations we must have of the whole highway of lies that led us into this quagmire.
On October 25, hundreds of thousands of people will converge on Washington DC to say, “End the occupation. Bring the troops home now. Money for jobs and not for war.” I hate driving from Raleigh to DC. But I’ll be there. My son is one of those troops.
STAN GOFF is the author of “Hideous Dream: A Soldier’s Memoir of the US Invasion of Haiti” (Soft Skull Press, 2000) and of the upcoming book “Full Spectrum Disorder” (Soft Skull Press, 2003). He is a member of the BRING THEM HOME NOW! coordinating committee, a retired Special Forces master sergeant, and the father of an active duty soldier. Email for BRING THEM HOME NOW! is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Goff can be reached at: email@example.com