Iraq War Memories are Made of Lies

“Sweet, sweet, the mem’ries you gave to me”, warbled Dean Martin in — oh dear me — 1955 (although the song stuck around for years, and pleasant background schmaltz it was, too). But memories tend to be short and some are far from sweet. As the White House prepares for next year’s presidential election the American people and billions of us elsewhere are in danger of failing to remember the lies we were told about “Iraq’s reconstituted nuclear program”; “mushroom clouds”; “Iraq will be able to pay for its own development”; “500 tons of chemical agents”; “the Iraqi people will welcome us”; “we do not need more troops”; and similar tripe uttered by Bush, Cheney, Perle, Rice, Wolfowitz, Powell and Rumsfeld, to name only the most prominent liars.

Before we look at some memories that should be kept fresh, please let me explain why I, as a foreigner, comment frequently on Bush’s Washington. (I’ve had some pointed emails about this.) It is not because America, qua America, is an evil place. Indeed the US is a wonderful, amazing, vibrant, successful nation whose energy and people are difficult not to admire. (Offer a green card and two hundred thousand dollars to every Islamic extremist in exchange for a promise to cool it and they would have to be fought off from the consulates. I’m only half-joking.) Rather it is because Bush interferes so much in the affairs of all of us out here. His policies and their implementation have an enormous and sometimes catastrophic impact on our simple lives. Getting down to the basics and descending to the level of non-American ordinary people like me who are affected by the Bush plans for the world, let me describe our local circumstances.

To the south of the five acres my wife and I own in the well-named Bay of Plenty in the North Island of New Zealand there is a flower nursery, and to the west and north a citrus plantation. Further along the way there is a cattle farmer who recently planted maize in addition to grazing his forty head. To the east is another farmer with about 20 cattle and 80 sheep. And we have two acres of lemon trees ourselves. All are modest enterprises from which most of the produce is exported. And remember there is not a cent of subsidy provided to any primary producer in New Zealand. We have one of the most open trade systems in the world. Not for us the billions of dollars and euros lavished on greedy US and European agribusinesses that make such vast profits and are cushioned from taxes (and bribe politicians with campaign donations of taxpayers’ money). So our flowers, fruit, beef and lamb go out undefended to a highly competitive marketplace. Profits are small, but producers can make a reasonable living. (In our area most small farmers and/or their wives have part-time or even full-time jobs in town.) However, we have one big problem, name of Bush.

The law of the land is that no ship that is nuclear-powered or carrying nuclear weapons is permitted to dock in a New Zealand port. Now, it isn’t as if there have been many requests for such vessels to drop anchor in GodZone (as we modestly call ourselves). In fact it is difficult to recollect the last time any such request was made. But Washington insists this is an ‘unfriendly’ national law that “causes problems”. So Bush has declared that when he endorses a free trade agreement with Australia he is not going to permit a comparable free trade accord with New Zealand because we are not bowing the knee to him, unlike little Johnnie Howard, the prime minister of Australia, and his Yankee Doodle poodles. (Howard boasted he was ‘Deputy Sheriff’ to Bush in the region, but Bush contradicted this and said he was “The Sheriff”. What an accolade, to be sure. Little wonder the Asia-Pacific nations admire Washington and Canberra so much.)

Exclusion from Australia’s free trade with the US will mean hardship for Russell (citrus), Graham (flowers — he provided blooms for the Oscar ceremonies this year), Harry (beef and maize), and Gary (beef and lamb). And our 400 lemon trees might as well be bulldozed down, just as US troops do in Iraq to citrus groves of farmers who do not tell them the names of guerrillas who attack them, which would, of course, lead to instant murder of the farmers by the guerrillas. But our guerrilla is Bush, because he is encouraging Australian producers to destroy us by giving them preferential economic treatment. New Zealand is hardly an economic or any sort of threat to the US, but this decision by Bush will have an enormously adverse impact on the entire population (which Bush, absurdly, says he “respects”). He cares not that New Zealand has troops doing his bidding in Iraq at this very moment ; he demands total, utter, complete, non-negotiable subjugation, just as he did the other day from a group of senators he summoned to his office for orders. (Which reminds me of the story of the autocratic Duke of Wellington who, after years of having orders obeyed unquestioned, was appointed prime minister of Britain and met some elected legislators. “D’ye know!” he later exclaimed to a friend, “I told them what to do and the damn’ fellas wanted to discuss it!”)

There is no need to alter the law of New Zealand about nuclear ships. For Pete’s sake, how often does the Pentagon want to send one to Wellington or Auckland? Is it going to make the smallest difference to the foreign or military policies (they seem to be different) of the United States if a tiny country of 4 million people decides that as a symbol of disapproval of nuclear weapons it doesn’t want to have nuclears in its harbours? Will it affect the ‘War on Terror’? Will it for a moment cause the Bush juggernaut of militarism to even hesitate in its elephantine (in fact dinosaurian) advance? Of course not. But this doesn’t matter, because the Bush doctrine is Do What We Say Or We Will Humiliate And Crush You (providing you are small enough and can’t hit back). This is spiteful, paranoid, and poisonous.

This is why I and other foreigners consider we are entitled to comment about Bush and the misanthropic weirdoes around him in Washington. His pitiless determination to economically cripple even the most minor and completely unthreatening nation that dares disagree with his inflexible doctrine of domination is reason enough for us out here, the Minority of Billions, to raise our voices against the new emperor who seeks to subjugate the world. We see Bush as Shakespeare’s Macbeth, surrounded by latter-day witches with their drip-feed of venom disguised by opaque mumbo-jumbo. Macbeth surged from paranoia to murderous dementia, and we fear the regime of Bush is embarked on the same course.

So back to the memories, for they are made of lies and affect us all. They are bitter memories of deceit, because Bush was warned eloquently and elegantly by “old Europe” (as witch, second class, Rumsfeld calls it) that his attack on Iraq would have a dreadful outcome. Better, said President Chirac, to wait, to let the UN inspectors do their work with the threat of a big stick in the background. Just as President de Gaulle warned Presidents Kennedy and Johnson about impending disaster in Vietnam, so the latter-day Cassandras, gifted to foretell the future but doomed to be disbelieved, politely told Bush his foray would not only be illegal but calamitous. Hatred of America, they said, would be but one result. Unheeding of this and other wise counsel, Bush and his minions pressed on with their lunatic attack, and lied to the world, then and later, about their reasons. (The latest arrant twisting of truth is presentation of the ‘Terrorism Medal’ to soldiers in Iraq, in an attempt to continue linking 9/11 with Saddam Hussein in the minds of the American people.)

One person who forever will have memories of the war is a boy, or, rather, three-quarters of a boy, called Ali Abbas who was orphaned in a US attack that blew off his arms. He has been fitted with artificial limbs and is grateful for that but said last week “They’re very nice but they will never replace my real arms . . . I don’t understand why adults do it. I would never wish a war upon anyone. I would like to have it that children never have to fear war.” (This was a widely reported interview of considerable human interest in Europe, but there wasn’t much in the US about it.) Ali’s sentiment sounds reasonable, for wouldn’t we all “prefer never to have to fear war”? Well, no, not quite all of us, because there are some wild-eyed, pseudo-intellectual barbarians in Washington who thrive in reputation, influence and self-esteem by advocating violence. We must remember them, for they were the originators and purveyors of the mammoth lies about Iraq in their search for world domination.

The memories of Cheney, Rice, Bush, Wolfowitz, Perle and Rumsfeld are not of war as such (for they have never seen war); nor are they of crippled children. Their memories are of glitzy video games of flashing crashing smashing missiles and fiery explosive pillars of cloud that show the remorseless superiority of their military machine. In similar fashion to stomping tiny, inoffensive New Zealand because he cannot bear to be thwarted in the slightest degree, Bush and the demented zealots who joined him to create and run the new empire are determined to crush individuals, groups and nations who dare defy the imperial will. If this can involve flash crash and smash, so much the better. It will impress and humble the surviving natives more effectively : just like ‘Shock and Awe’, that classic terrorist principle.

We all remember 9/11, of course; that day on which every reasonable human being sympathised with the US in its hours of danger and horror. There was hardly a country in the world whose peoples did not grieve with America. Sure, there were some loonies who danced in the streets in Cairo and Jakarta, for example, just as there were loonies in America who rejoiced when bombs and cruise missiles blew up such as Ali Abbas and killed his entire family. (What does the Caped Crusader Boykin have to say about maiming Iraqi kids?)

Proclivity for savagery knows no boundaries, and even compassion has few. But global commiseration and solidarity with Washington were at first gradually, then with accelerating and startling rapidity, expunged by arrogant assumption on the part of Bush and his zealots that the atrocities of 9/11 could be used — manipulated — to extend the power and majesty of the imperial dream. We all have memories of New York’s finest and New York’s bravest, but perforce they have been overtaken by stark realisation that their gallantry has been prostituted in the cause of empire and a second term for the Emperor.

The world was on the side of George Bush in these tense but touchingly unifying September days. But not much longer, because in his arrogance he chose to ignore its sympathy, experience and advice. Like a charlatan quack hawking cure-alls for boils and blisters he refused to acknowledge the existence, practicability and desirability of sensible remedies, and convinced himself (or was convinced by fellow-Crusaders) that war on Iraq was the solution for all his ills. His apparent inclination for confrontation became a pigheaded obsession. “You are with us or against us” was a not a rallying cry to advance freedom but a declaration of rigid intolerance. The State of the Union Address was a chauvinistic and xenophobic appeal to prejudice and bigotry. The Patriot Act is reminiscent of the worst period of the House Un-American Activities Committee of evil memory — just at the time, indeed, when Dino Martin recorded “Memories are made of this”.

Martin Luther King declared “I have a Dream” of equality that was created from memories of persecution of his people. Ali Abbas has a dream of peace created by memories of a missile that wiped out his family. George Bush has a dream of aggressive domination created by memories of nothing atall. The Bush adherents, that grim and devious band of malevolent ruffians who surround him, are conjuring up the next episode of shock and awe.

We should not forget them, because they convinced 75 percent of Americans that Saddam Hussein was linked to the September 11 attacks, that he had weapons of mass destruction ready for use, and that the occupation of Iraq could be funded by its oil. All three beliefs were spread by the Bush coterie. All were majestically wrong. Some memories, and all those of the official reasons for the Iraqi war, are made of lies.

BRIAN CLOUGHLEY writes about defense issues for CounterPunch, the Nation (Pakistan), the Daily Times of Pakistan and other international publications. His writings are collected on his website:

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Brian Cloughley writes about foreign policy and military affairs. He lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.