General David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, has accused the government of Iran of meddling in Iraq. Mr. Petraeus claims that Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, one Hassan Kazemi-Qomi, is a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and now, as ambassador, has diplomatic immunity.
One is somewhat puzzled by Mr. Petraeus’s accusations. Has not the U.S. ‘meddled’ in Iraq’s affairs to a far greater extent than Iran may now be doing? Is not the invasion of that nation, the overthrow of its government and the violent, bloody occupation of it at the very least ‘meddling?’
The general also said that Iran was playing an ‘increasingly dangerous role’ in Iraq. Is it, one wonders, more dangerous than the role the U.S. has been playing in Iraq for over four years? If Iran is indeed supplying weaponry to the Shia militia as Mr. Petraeus states, will it be more than the U.S. government supplies to its 160,000 soldiers, who have thus far caused the deaths of at least 1,000,000 Iraqis?
At least as he made his accusations Mr. Petraeus did not provide any evidence to support them. He could have taken a page from President Bush’s playbook and simply invented some that fit. But he seemed more content with merely spouting words that would cause Congress to continue to ‘support the troops’ (read: keep them in mortal and unnecessary danger for a longer period of time) by raising the specter of a possible invasion of Iran.
Mr. Petraeus’ comments bring to mind thoughts of the U.S. bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Cambodia, it was alleged, was being used by the Viet Cong as a staging area for incursions into Vietnam. If one needs a reminder of how successful the bombing of Cambodia was in the Vietnam War, one need only recall the scenes of helicopters rescuing desperate U.S. citizens from the roof of the apartment building where senior CIA employees lived as South Vietnam ‘fell’ to the North, thus reuniting that country in defiance of decades of U.S. efforts to prevent it. One can think of the more than 50,000 U.S. soldiers killed during America’s tragic Vietnam misadventure, or the 2,000,000 Vietnamese killed. Perhaps the hostility that much of the world felt towards the United States during the Vietnam era prepared the U.S., in some small way, for the hatred many nations now feel toward it because of the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Mr. Bush’s war of choice in Iraq has killed nearly 4,000 U.S. soldiers, not nearly as many as Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford’s war killed in Vietnam, but his record of deaths of citizens of the victimized nation is impressive. It took those four earlier presidents many years to kill the number of citizens of the invaded nation as it has taken Mr. Bush to kill Iraqis in just four years. If the current war drags on as long as the Vietnam War did, Mr. Bush will far exceed the number of deaths for which Messrs Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford are responsible. Of course, with the current president saying it will be the decision of some future president to remove U.S. soldiers from Iraq, he will, in all likelihood, have a deadly accomplice, in addition to the war-promoting members of Congress.
And what of the deaths of U.S. soldiers? For some reason, politicians and the general media seem to feel that those are somehow more important than the deaths of Iraq’s citizens. Perhaps, unlike U.S. soldiers, Iraqi soldiers and civilians don’t have loved ones to grieve for them; children who will grow up as orphans; parents to bury them; siblings to mourn their loss. Perhaps Iraqis do not feel quite the same level of pain when they are being shot; perhaps they do not bleed in quite the same way that U.S. soldiers do. So while the death toll of Americans enrages the Bush Administration (one need not mention the fact that Mr. Bush initially put soldiers in harm’s way for no reason at all, and then invited Iraq’s people to further oppose them with his infamous ‘bring them on’ comment), a million Iraqi deaths, give or take a couple of hundred thousand, does not seem too important in the great scheme of things.
Which, of course, brings one to the inevitable bottom line. Perhaps former chairman of the Federal Reserve Board Alan Greenspan expressed it best in his recent memoir, ‘The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World.’ Said he: “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.”
Thousands of Americans; millions of Iraqis. Does it really matter when their ultimate sacrifice makes the world, and especially the United States, safe for importing Iraq’s oil? That they gave their lives so upper middle-class and well-to-do soccer moms can transport their children in their gas-guzzling SUVs?
The world has experienced the ‘war to end all wars,’ and the ‘war to make the world safe for democracy.’ People of many nations rallied around their flag to support those noble causes, often unaware that the catchy, patriotic-sounding slogans had little or nothing to do with the reason any particular war was waged. Now we have the ‘war to make the world safe for oil.’ Ah, the noble cause! The patriotic ring! Yes, says Mr. Bush; yes, says Congress, this is the struggle of the new millennium. This is what we send our best to die for, so their children too will be able to drive their SUVs to soccer games.
The Iraqi people, under the leadership of a cruel tyrant, were able to live in relative peace and safety, but their oil was not at the disposal of the world’s monitor of right and wrong, the United States. What choice, one might ask, did the U.S. have but to fabricate a reason for invading, overthrow the government, destabilize the world and in the process obtain this coveted and profitable natural resource?
The White House public relations spin was never quite as effective during the U.S.’s current imperial adventure as it had previously been, except within the all-important halls of Congress. American citizens opposing the war were dismissed as mindless liberals, ‘soft’ on terrorism and generally uninformed. That Congress proved to be ‘soft’ on facts, short-sighted and totally lacking in spine, is now evident. That most members of that august body remain blind to reality only further evidences their cowardice.
One would think that, after the disastrous, continuing Iraq debacle, Congress might have learned something, anything. Yet even the darling of the Democratic Party, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, recently supported legislation defining Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization. Should not the U.S. military be so designated?
This is the same Sen. Clinton who, one may recall, joined with most of her Congressional colleagues and authorized Mr. Bush’s needless, tragic and murderous invasion of Iraq. And Ms. Clinton, in her efforts to avoid being ‘soft’ on terrorism while opposing the Iraq war at the same time, has subsequently become a co-sponsor of Sen. Jim Webb’s (D- VA) proposed bill that would require Congressional approval before Mr. Bush sets his bloody footprint into Iraq.
Ms. Clinton seems to be in the unenviable position of being caught between two camps: the ‘fulfill-your-Congressional-responsibility and monitor-the-president’s-actions’ camp, and the ‘play-the-political-game-for-all-its-worth and hopefully-get-elected-president’ camp. Straddling that divide requires even a wider stance than Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) could manage in the busiest of men’s rooms.
But perhaps Ms. Clinton, like much of Congress, doesn’t mind being ‘soft’ on facts, when those facts do not seem to play well to middle-class (what’s left of it), so-called American values. Wave the bloody flag overhead and then salute the flag-draped coffin of dedicated soldiers, stand proud to be a leader of the self-proclaimed greatest country in the world, being sure to do so in front of television cameras, and watch the voters as the pull the lever by your name.
One’s determined optimism cannot last forever; with a Democratic Congress elected to end the war keeping busy prolonging it, the next election does not offer much hope. With that same Congress continuing to enable, like the co-dependent spouse of an alcoholic, the murderous rampages and civil rights violations of Mr. Bush, a sense of pessimism about the U.S.’s future can hardly be avoided. It takes an extreme level of naiveté, or perhaps a blindness caused by the glare from the profits of oil companies, to deny that history repeats itself, and that the world is reliving an ugly, deadly episode from America’s disgraceful past.
ROBERT FANTINA is author of ‘Desertion and the American Soldier: 1776–2006.‘