This is the way the world ends,
not with a bang but a whimper.
-T. S. Eliot
So President of the United States George W. Bush “diverted” a flight to Australia to a desert base in Anbar Province, Iraq (Sure he did.). Anbar Province is now being effectively run not by US occupation forces, but by the armed Iraqi nationalist forces that fought the US to a standstill there — with the cooperation of the same US forces. This is being spun as a successful “counter-insurgency” campaign.
Many who opposed the war in Iraq, and the many more who just disliked the Bush administration, certainly had different expectations of what forms the end of that war might take. And this is certainly the beginning of some kind of end. That is not a call to complacency. Fight against this warlike lives depend on it. They still do. I just feel compelled to counter-spin it.
With El Presidente on this “surprise” trip, as it happened, were the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense. Meeting them on this remote base between Baghdad and the Syrian border was none other than Bagwan Petraeus, the current Vivekananda of counter-insurgency doctrine and the latest in a long line of Generals who will be dragged into historical ignominy by this Commander-in-Chief.
The Ba’athists of Anbar seem to bear no grudges, even for the genocidal revenge that was visted on Fallujah. This bespeaks a political sophistication (or Realpolitik, choose your term) that is miles ahead of the power curve in Washington DC. Only lately, it seems, as the mad mandarins of The Project for a New American Century chirp with bellicosity at Persia, has it occurred to the administration that the raison d’etre of US policy in the region since 1979 — containing the surprise independence of Iran — has been judo-flipped into an Iranian Era, in the same moment that the privatized Islamist militias of the Afghanistan operation (also cranked up courtesy of the CIA circa 1979) have metastasized into a popular movement that threatens the US-obedient rulers of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and Pakistan.
The generalissimos of the New Crusade didn’t consult enough scripture.
And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell — and great was its fall.
Now the whole US National Command Authority is sitting together with former enemies surrounded by the sands of Anbar.
Someone is cutting deals.
Someone else is preparing to spin a victory, just as they are spinning the surrender of Anbar as the success story of the invasion and occupation.
In his public statements yesterday, Bush opened the window out of which he(or more properly, his Party … he can soon settle back into golf, cocaine, and bass-fishing) will jump.
If the Generals “tell me that if the kind of success we are now seeing here continues, it will be possible to maintain the same level of security with fewer American forces. I urge members of both parties in Congress to listen to what they have to say. Congress shouldn,t jump to conclusions until the general and the ambassador report.
Got it, George.
Here is a picture of the meeting at Al Asad Air Base (credited to Jason Reed: Reuters). Looks like a real drive-by, doesn’t it?
The opposition to the war has not only decimated Republican power, it has driven the Democrat establishment into a retrograde operation against its own leftwing. The war is political plutonium. And the outcome — even as Sadr challenges the pro-Iranian SCIRI and reaches out to Sunni nationalists, as the aspirations of the Kurds provoke the Turkish Army, as Pervez Musharraf watches his own security forces fracture and shift against him, as the Russians court Central Asia with the promise of a Gas OPEC, as the Sino-Russian SCO threatens to undo the strategic outcomes of the Cold War, and as the fictional-value crisis triggered by the sub-prime nosedive creates alarming tremors under the global economy — will be that Iran is now and will remain a significant political actor on the world stage. This is inevitable, even with the occasional ill-considered shennaigans of President Ahmadenijad.
This meeting in Anbar is part of a last-minute bid to prevent the inevitable be exploring a realignment with what the administration has convinced itself are the “Sunnis,” one of three categories in its simple-minded social taxonomy of Iraq.
Many believe that the administration will resort to strikes against Iran, but I have said, from the time this particular chicken-little rumor started, that I don’t believe it will happen.
Before the Iraq occupation, the adminstration could harbor delusions about Iraq, about liberation parades across the Al-A’imma Bridge and cocktail parties at the Oil Ministry. Their information came from crackpot academics (Feith, Perle, Wolfowitz, et al) and an Iraqi confidence-artist(Chalabi).
But the recklessness of that decision cannot be mapped onto the current administration. Regardless of their staggering apologetics from the podia, this administration has a lengthening list of political casualties on the one hand, and four-and-a-half years of bitter experience in actually-existing Iraq now. The interpreters of that experience are the Generals.
In those quiet enclosed spaces where they dare speak the truth, there is one truth that none of the Generals can withhold. An attack against Iran would spark a general uprising in Iraq that would extend from Baghdad to Basra; and the US would find its already tenuous position in Iraq untenable. The only thing that might be worse than an American attack on Ian would be one launched by the Israelis, who are rightly identified by Iraqis as an American forward base in the region.
The outcome would not be the destruction of Iranian influence. In the wake of a certain and final US defeat in Iraq, such an attack would be the guarantor of Iranian ascendancy in the context of a catastrophic standoff with China and Russia, the former of which has the capacity to shatter the US economy by selling down Dollars and the latter of which can absorb that sell-down in conversion to rubles in the growing fossil energy economy of Russia.
How this war will end has never been a decision that can or would be made by the leadership of either American political party, any more than the defeat in Vietnam was the result of politicians and protesters. The occupied people made the decision. It was not revoked in Vietnam. It will not be revoked in Iraq.
The puzzle that will preoccupy both parties now, since neither knows who will inherit this dilemma, is how to salvage what is left of waning American imperial power. You won’t be able to slide shim-stock between Rudy or Hillary on this question… and neither of them will have the power to stand before the historical macrotrend of US power dissolution.
The first that acknowledges and learns to deal with the fact of Iranian ascendancy will be the one that will suffer least… but that’s about it. In less than a decade, we will see Russia, China, and Iran at the head of a re-set Central Asian chessboard, and they will contend with a descendant American empire.
The end of all empires is inevitable. The Great City always exhausts the rural soils and eats the seed-corn, and its debilitated, dependent rulers will always be usurped by “the barbarians” who were formerly bent before the Great City’s plunder. As Dr. King — once himself called one a barbarian — said, “the arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.”
History will record that a decisive misstep in the crash of the American Empire was taken on March 19, 2003. September 3, 2007 will be a historical place-holder for a kind of death-gasp of empire … former guerrillas sitting the Prez down as an equal across the table at Al Asad.
We haven’t reckoned the body count yet, because it is still rising. That’s the sinful part.
It’s over. Admit it. Get over it. Get out.
Bring them home now.
STAN GOFF is the author of “Hideous Dream: A Soldier’s Memoir of the US Invasion of Haiti” (Soft Skull Press, 2000), “Full Spectrum Disorder” (Soft Skull Press, 2003) and “Sex & War” which will be released approximately December, 2005. He is retired from the United States Army. His blog is at www.stangoff.com.
Goff can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org