In his May 31, 2005 press conference President Bush attacked Amnesty International for their report on documented evidence of torture at US military prisons in Guantanamo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Bush claimed that such evidence was “absurd” since ex-prisoners were trained to “disassemble.” Apparently, his own constant dissembling had to be differentiated from those who his Administration had deliberately abused, in violation of international law, as “enemy combatants.”
In his address at Fort Bragg on June 28, 2005 Bush continued his penchant for dissembling since he managed once again to lie about the reasons for and repercussions of the Iraq War. By repeatedly linking that war to a “global war on terror” and the need “to defeat them abroad before they attack us (again) at home,” Bush conjured up the images of an evil, implacable monster with tentacles reaching around the globe. Although reminiscent of the anti-communist hysteria of the Cold War, Bush’s references to evil reveal religious overtones of the crusader. Vowing to “take the fight to the enemy,” the Commander-in-Chief also rationalized his illegal disaster in Iraq as another noble venture in spreading democracy and protecting US citizens.
Alluding to the horrific events of September 11, 2001 (but not to his criminal negligence for those events), Bush tried to mobilize the visceral responses of his strikingly silent military audience and limited tv viewers. No amount of emotional appeal, however, can hide the fact that the origins for pre-emptive war on Iraq preceded 9/11 by many years. The neo-con strategy for Iraq emerged in the establishment of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) in the spring of 1997. Arguing for overthrowing Saddam Hussein and expanding the military presence throughout the region, such soon-to-be Bush Administration office holders as Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, Stephen Camborne, and Zalmay Khalilzad, a former consultant for oil giant Unocal and the next ambassador for Iraq (moving from Afghanistan), PNAC members lobbied Congress while plotting their campaign for Iraq.
In enunciating what would become the Bush Doctrine in the immediate aftermath of the stolen election of 2000, the PNAC made clear that “Iraq’s destabilizing influence on the flow of oil” mattered much more than the fictitious weapons of mass destruction. But, of course, weapons of mass destruction could more easily be sold as spectacles of fear for creating some “legitimate” cover for an illegitimate war, a war we now know was sought after by the Bush Administration from its first days in office. While the Iraq War cannot be reduced to a war for oil, much of the Bush Doctrine pivots on a military strategy for control of oil flows. As argued by David Harvey in The New Imperialism:
“The Bush administration’s shift towards unilateralism, towards coercion rather than consent, towards a much more overtly imperial vision, and towards reliance upon its unchallengeable military power, indicates a high-risk approach to sustaining US domination, almost certainly through military command over global oil resources” (75).
Of course, as we now know, the planning for the long-term military campaign in Iraq was woefully inadequate and manipulative. Beyond the fixing of intelligence (as revealed in the Downing Street memo) and dismissal of military opponents of a “shock and awe” blitzkrieg victory, the Bush Administration arrogantly launched an unnecessary and vicious war that has lasted much longer than their initial unreal and ideologically-based estimates. From Rumsfeld’s declaration in February of 2003 that the war might be no longer than “six months,” he has been forced to acknowledge recently that the insurgency could go on as long as 12 years, hardly a “last throes” moment, as earlier trumpeted by Cheney. The continuing fantasies about progress in Iraq had led even Republican supporters of the war, such as Senator Chuck Hagel from Nebraska, to contend that the “White House is completely disconnected from reality. It’s like they’re making it up as they go along.”
This made-up world was definitely part of Bush’s agenda in his Fort Bragg speech as he touted the so-called positive changes in Iraq. Trying to downplay media images of violence in Iraq, Bush could never admit that the origin of the violence and continued insurgency is rooted in his Administration’s invasion and occupation of Iraq. As Patrick Cockburn, one of the most perceptive Western reporters in Iraq, recently wrote in CounterPunch: “Most of Iraq is today a bloody no-man’s land beset by ruthless insurgents, savage bandit gangs, trigger-happy US patrols and marauding government forces.” On top of this, the Pentagon will be expanding the number of prisons in Iraq to house the growing number of “security detainees” (now around 10,000) that are part of the gulag conditions fostered by Bush policies in Iraq and throughout the region.
Almost as hidden from view as these detainees are is the continuing war-profiteering by US corporations such as Halliburton and their subsidiary, Kellogg, Brown, and Root (KBR). With Cheney still receiving pension payments from Halliburton for his CEO time, there are now allegations of up to one billion dollars in over-costs and lost accounting by Halliburton and its subsidies. There are estimates of 40,000 KBR employees in Iraq and thousands of well-paid mercenaries from companies like Pentagon spin-offs Vinnell Corporation and DynCorp whose salaries are paid by US taxpayers. Voting overwhelmingly recently to fund these war profiteers with little to no oversight, Congress has been complicit in the squandering of billions of dollars and thousands of lives in this massive misadventure.
Nonetheless, there are now increasing voices in Congress, including some Republicans, to bring a halt to the on-going US operation in Iraq. While setting a timetable for withdrawal may bring legislative pressure on the Bush Administration, their plans for war and a permanent presence in Iraq will require extensive counter-recruitment efforts throughout the US and a real commitment to disassemble the new American empire. No amount of Dubya’s dissembling should dissuade or deter us from our tasks to change the direction of this country.
FRAN SHOR teaches historical and cultural studies at Wayne State University. He is the author of the forthcoming book, Bush-League Spectacles: Empire, Politics, and Culture in Bushwhacked America.