Hillary Clinton blamed the Iraqi government for failure to make progress. “The American military has succeeded,” she declared to a stunned public. “They got rid of Saddam Hussein, they gave the Iraqis a chance for free and fair elections. It is the Iraqi government which has failed to make the tough decisions that are important for their own people,” she said, unable to finish her sentence because of a chorus of boos. (“Take Back America” conference, June 13, Washington, DC) The other leading candidates (Obama and Edwards) blamed Bush and stood strongly for rapid withdrawal of US troops
Hillary’s casting blame on the Iraqi government showed that she accepted Bush’s extreme twist on reality: that Iraq’s government possesses sovereignty (“supreme and unrestricted power”). In June, Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Baghdad and scolded Iraq’s government for not making more progress. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had done the same as did Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. They castigate the people they fashioned as US puppets. Imagine, a puppet master blaming its creation for disobedience, but refusing to cut the strings!
After Bush installed Iraq’s “Interim Government” in 2004, he arranged for elections. That begat media and political praise: “Bush has brought democracy to Iraq.” But laws of war dictate US, not Iraqi accountability. (Paragraph 366, U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 (1956): Local Governments Under Duress and Puppet Governments)
“The restrictions placed upon the authority of a belligerent government cannot be avoided by a system of using a puppet government, central or local, to carry out acts which would be unlawful if performed directly by the occupant. Acts induced or compelled by the occupant are nonetheless its acts.”
Responsibility for Iraqi police and army members operating as death squads belongs to Washington, not Baghdad–and Hillary knows it.
The Bushies throw blame at their puppet and anyone else they can think of. But their lies now haunt them–phony evidence of weapons of mass destruction and links between Saddam and al-Qaeda, which somehow presumed a threat to US security. Bush lied about “improvement” in Iraq, from “Mission Accomplished” in May 2003 to “we’re making progress in securing parts of Baghdad” in 2007. Most Members of Congress voted for Bush’s authority to make war even though they had the opportunity to inspect the very flimsy evidence behind Bush’s bellicosity. Indeed, Hillary still defends her vote with language that reminds one of her husband’s linguistic twirls trying to explain how he “didn’t have sex with that woman.”
Hillary’s tortured logic has her supporting the troops, anxious to bring them home — but not all of them–and having all Democrats united against Bush. But Hillary has not said: “the war was illegal, immoral and cannot be excused. I was wrong I am ashamed and I want to repent.”
Instead, she blames the puppet for the US failure to resolve the Iraqi bloodshed. Bush’s government in Iraq has less autonomy than the old Soviet bloc states or the Banana Republics of Central America. The US military commands, trains and arms Iraq’s repressive forces and decides what missions they can undertake. Some sovereign!
For Hillary to accuse this hapless creation should raise concerns not only about her morality, but her intelligence. We always assumed she was bright, but did she think she could pawn off this shabby pretext on her own voters?
Or, possibly, Hillary believed the ever truthful Condoleezza Rice (then National Security Adviser) who assured the world that the Iraqi leaders chosen by the Bush Administration “are not America’s puppets. This is a terrific list and really good government, and we’re very pleased with the names that emerged.” (White House Press Briefing June 24, 2004)
Her aides might have slipped her a copy of the report of The UN Assistance Mission in Iraq, (covering the period from the 1 January to 31 March 2007), which stated that “34,452 civilians were killed and more than 36,000 wounded in 2006.” Some non-official monitoring groups considered this estimate on the very low side. Ivana Vuco, a U.N. human rights officer, said government officials had made it clear during discussions that they believed releasing high casualty numbers would make it harder for the government to quell unrest.” (LA Times April 26, 2007, Tina Susman)
Lancet, the British medical journal, counts as many as 655,000+ total deaths (civilian and non-civilian) due to the war. (2006 Lancet survey of mortality, based on surveys and sampling methods up to July 2006. The figure includes death from increased lawlessness, degraded infrastructure, poorer healthcare.)
The UN report said some 3,000 people have been arrested in security sweeps since the Baghdad security plan began in mid-February. It criticized Iraq for failing to guarantee due process rights to the arrested. 37,000 people remain detained in Iraqi and US prisons, many without charge or trial. Some 200 academics were killed since 2003; 12,000 doctors have fled the country. 54% of Iraqis live on less than a US dollar a day and the unemployment rate is near 70%.
Iraq’s courts deliberate for a few minutes at trials involving life imprisonment or the death penalty. Iraq suffers from a “rapidly worsening humanitarian crisis,” the report concluded.
Who broke Iraq? Saddam Hussein or the US military praised by Hillary for toppling Saddam? The US military certainly has attained an impressive kill ratio. Aside from estimates of civilian casualties since March 2003, over 4 million have fled the country. Hillary’s verbal ass kissing of the military doesn’t correspond to its actions as dictated by Rumsfeld, Gates and the White House. After four years of war and occupation, the “Coalition forces” read US forces has not established peace, law, order, employment, basic services or any form of security. The UN Assistance Mission in Iraq summarized: “The challenge facing the Government of Iraq is not limited to addressing the level of violence in the country, but the longer term maintenance of stability and security in an environment characterized by impunity and a breakdown in law and order. In this context, the intimidation of a large segment of the Iraqi population, among them professional groups and law enforcement personnel, and political interference in the affairs of the judiciary, were rife and in need of urgent attention.” (BBC April 25, 2007)
The horror of the numbers becomes enhanced by the horror of non-learning. During the Vietnam War in the 1960s and early 1970s similar statements flowed from politicians’ mouths, placing blame on US puppet governments of South Vietnam for not making enough progress. When US forces finally withdrew in 1973, the South Vietnamese army outnumbered their northern adversary 3 to 2 and possessed immensely better equipment. The façade quickly fell apart as soon as battle erupted. The puppet army disintegrated.
In Iraq, the US military destroyed Iraq’s government and its national integrity. The US fabricated a government and now places responsibility on that miserable entity for failing to solve problems created by the United States.
The United States lost in Vietnam because it could not defeat a people fighting on their own soil, nor could the US sustain indefinitely ongoing casualties. When this concocted government failed in its elementary duties–as the Iraq government fails — whiners blamed its lack of will and institutionalized corruption. They then turned on the US media and accused it of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
In January 1968, official word in Washington had the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces defeated. In February, jpwever, this powerless enemy launched the Tet offensive. It took 500,000 US soldiers to stop the Viet Minh and Viet Cong from capturing the entire country. Indeed, after Tet, the United States suffered some 25,000 casualties.
In Vietnam, as in Iraq, the United States invaded another country and established its puppet, one incapable of capturing the allegiance of the majority. Why? Imperial control or exporting democracy? Eisenhower noted in his Memoirs. “I have never talked or corresponded with a person knowledgeable in Indo-Chinese affairs who did not agree that had elections been held as of the time of the fighting, possibly 80 per cent of the population would have voted for the communist Ho Chi Minh as their leader.”
In Iraq, US forces are far worse off than they were after they invaded Iraq. Yet Bush foresees US presence in Iraq for decades. Hillary agrees–leave some troops in bases already built across Iraq. She doesn’t apparently understand that their presence will incite jihadists everywhere. Hillary must had seen a declassified April 2006 National Intelligence Estimate called “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States.” It stated: “The Iraq conflict has become the ’cause celebre’ for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement.” “Go Hillary,” chants bin Laden.
The wily old fiend knows that the US elite want to control Iraq’s oil wealth and thus the military bases. He might indirectly help fund Hillary’s campaign.
SAUL LANDAU writes a regular column for CounterPunch and progresoweekly.com. His new Counterpunch Press book is A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD. His new film, WE DON’T PLAY GOLF HERE (on globalization in Mexico) is available through firstname.lastname@example.org