Closer to the Brink of Cosmic Disaster?


On February 27, 1968, CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite spoke the words I’ve used in the title of this piece during a commentary on the US war in Vietnam. This commentary came at the end of a month of fierce fighting between US troops and Vietnamese troops opposed to their presence in that country. This month opened with countrywide attacks that included an assault on the US Embassy in Saigon and a siege of US troops in the north of Vietnam’s southern half. Although military historians continue to debate whether the US or the North Vietnamese and NLF won this series of battles, politically inclined historians are almost unanimous in their consensus that the Vietnamese opposition won the political fight.

Are the battles in Falluja, Najaf and elsewhere the Iraq war’s TET offensive? Is the fighting and dying of the last week the beginning of the end for US troops in that country? Or are today’s politicians and generals just as arrogant and stupid as that bunch that saw the light at the end of the tunnel that was America’s war on Vietnam? If one recalls that January and February of thirty-six years ago, the situation for US plans and the troops deployed to fulfill those plans looked bad. In Washington, meanwhile, the spin was as rosy and belligerent as that emanating from there today. America’s resolve will not give and all that.

That’s what one expects from the White House and Pentagon. After all, they’ve got a lot riding on the success of their murderous policy. Like their jobs. What’s not expected, however, at least for a lot of the folks, who consider themselves Democrats and are against the war, is that John Kerry isn’t saying anything different. “We have to be successful in Iraq. I’ve said that many times,” Kerry is quoted on CNN. “But we have to be successful by pursuing a policy that makes sense, that brings all nations to the table to understand the stakes.” One assumes, given his insistence that US troops must remain in Iraq, that Kerry’s idea of success is quite similar to George Bush’s. In other words, the re-creation of Iraq as a US client state fully incorporated in the global capitalist system on terms decided by the United States.

I’m not convinced that that is ever going to happen. If it does, it won’t be by force of arms. Why a man like Kerry, who spent several years after his tour of duty in Vietnam organizing veterans into the antiwar movement, can’t seem to figure this out is indicative of his political persuasion. Like the neocons, Kerry and his allies are convinced that the United States has a right to impose its will on other countries and their peoples. Furthermore, he believes that if this can not be done via investment and other tricks of capital that are nothing more than buying off a certain strata of those countries’ populations, then the US has a right to send in its troops. With a political analysis like this, there is no way someone who truly opposes the war can be convinced that Kerry is an antiwar candidate.

The only position that makes sense for those who oppose the war is to demand the immediate withdrawal of all US and coalition forces from Iraq. To pretend that these troops are necessary to maintain order in the country is to deny the reality on the ground. There is no order in the country! Why? Because US troops are there. Furthermore, there won’t be any order after June 30th either. This magical date of when sovereignty is “handed over” to the US puppet regime in Baghdad will change nothing. Paul Wolfowitz is on record as saying as much. On April 2nd, he told the media “There’s not going to be any difference in our military posture on July 1st from what it is on June 30th, except that we will be there then at the invitation of a sovereign Iraqi government, which I am quite sure will want us to stay there until killers like the ones who perpetrated these atrocities in Falluja are brought under control.”

That so-called invitation Mr. Wolfowitz is referring to is much like the one a misanthrope sends to himself on his birthday. In other words, that invitation is being written by the White House, which is then sending it to itself. That sovereign government is going to be as independent as a parolee under house arrest. As soon as the US people (and the Iraqi resistance) make the continued presence of US troops in Iraq politically untenable and they are pulled out, that government will fall, as surely as the government in Saigon did eight years and five months after the TET offensive began.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is being republished by Verso.

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Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. He has a new book, titled Nowhere Land: Journeys Through a Broken Nation coming out in Spring 2024.   He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: