Redefining Progress in Iraq

Just in time to sabotage Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s signature issue, President George Bush is happily proclaiming progress in Iraq. Mr. Bush has always counted on the voters to have a short memory, and he apparently sees no reason to alter that view now. His statements rely on it.

For example, this week he made this announcement: “Violence is down to its lowest level since the spring of 2004, and we’re now in our third consecutive month with reduced violence levels holding steady.”

One might be tempted to ask the president about the levels of violence prior to the U.S. invasion. Certainly, an enterprising reporter from one of the few newspapers or magazines whose owners do not benefit from Mr. Bush’s policies that are disastrous for the average citizen might broach that query. Violence is down, compared to the last few years, but it is still astronomically higher than the time period before 130,000 U.S. soldiers invaded.

He also made this statement: “A significant reason for this sustained progress is the success of the surge.” One must remember that the addition of 30,000 troops to terrorize the citizens of Iraq was not an escalation, but a surge. Be that as it may, it seems to have been sufficient to kill sufficient numbers of Iraqis to reduce the amount of open opposition to the occupying army. This, apparently, is Mr. Bush’s definition of success.

A day earlier, a major offensive was begun in Diyala. Said Mr.  Bush: “This operation is Iraqi-led; our forces are playing a supporting role.” Thus, with U.S. military support, the Iraqis are fighting the Iraqis. Does Mr. Bush not know what a civil war is? Perhaps it doesn’t matter as long as the U.S. gets the oil.

A news article states that the province of Diyala “…has been one of the hardest areas to control since the U.S.-led war began in March 2003.” So in the bloody chess game that the U.S. plays, and that its opponent never wanted any part of, getting Diyala to admit to checkmate has been challenging.

Perhaps we might take a good hard look at the ‘progress’ in Iraq. There was no more violence in Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion than is experienced by any other third world dictatorship. The U.S. war overthrew the government and put nothing in its place; destroyed the infrastructure, thus depriving millions of innocent people of the basic services they previously took for granted; killed over 1,000,000 people; displaced millions more and still could not ‘control’ the populace. So it became necessary for Mr. Bush to add 30,000 more terrorists, and still there is difficulty in breaking the will of the Iraqi people. Finally, says, Mr. Bush, enough of those uppity Iraqis, most of whom, in his estimation at least, seem to be terrorists, are dead that the U.S. can force its will on that broken nation.

But, Mr. Bush warns darkly, all is not yet right with the world. “We remain a nation at war. Al Qaeda is on the run in Iraq – but the terrorists remain dangerous, and they are determined to strike our country and our allies again.”

The U.S. government’s own careful studies show that Al Qaeda had no significant presence in Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion. Its presence there now is questionable, since the group known as Al Qaeda in Iraq apparently has only the most minimal ties to the group that is allegedly responsible for the attacks on the U.S. of September 11, 2001. One wonders when Mr. Bush will feel that the nearly 4,000 American deaths that occurred on that day will be adequately compensated for: more U.S. soldiers have now died in Iraq than U.S. citizens died on September 11, and more Iraqis, by a factor of 25, have died than Americans died on that day. But Mr. Bush’s rabid desire to invade Iraq seems to have had little to do with September 11; the world now knows, and has for some time, what many only suspected prior to the invasion. Oil, and not U.S. security, is what the U.S. has sacrificed so much blood for.

Mr. Bush is right on one point: the terrorists remain dangerous, but it is not Iraqis, Iranians, or anyone but the Americans who are the dangerous terrorists. Ask any Iraqi parent who has buried the maimed, bloody body of his or her child; question the wife, mother, sister or daughter who has watched in horror as their innocent father, son, brother or husband was dragged from their home in the dead of the night, and taken to undisclosed locations. Some of those families have never seen their loved ones again.

While foreign terrorists were able to hijack three jetliners nearly seven years ago, their potential for destruction pales compared to what the U.S. is able to destroy, and what it has destroyed. Baghdad suffered the unspeakable terror of Mr. Bush’s ‘Shock and Awe’ campaign, which lasted for weeks. The U.S. horror was over within a matter of hours. Yet the beast had been wounded, and while it had always been dangerous, the sight of its own blood fed its insatiable appetite for empire and oil. Iraq would do nicely as a victim: a nation impoverished by years of U.S.-supported U.N. sanctions, sitting on more oil that even Mr. Bush could dream of, and with no military that could in any way match the size and technology of the U.S. Throw in a few lies connecting Iraq to 9/11; add a spineless, stupid U.S. congress, and war was inevitable.

Mr. Bush and his fawning yes-men and women did not give much thought to Iraqi culture; they did not recognize that anyone other than U.S. citizens have any pride in their nation.  It did not occur to them that Iraqis would do all in their power to repel their U.S. invaders. The Bush war-mongers did not consider the rivalries between Kurds, Shias and Sunnis and the fragile peace that existed. The fact that the Iraqi people did not strew flowers beneath the feat of the occupying invaders was dismissed by Mr. Bush. Every Iraqi patriot, willing to sacrifice his or her life for Iraq, was called an ‘insurgent.’ This derogatory term masked for some the fact that these heroes were freedom fighters, seeking to rid their nation of an imperial, occupying army that cared nothing for them, but only sought to allow its leaders to steal its oil.

So this is Mr. Bush’s idea of progress. The blatant and bloody annexation of a once-sovereign nation means, to Mr. Bush, that the U.S. is ‘winning.’ If so, it is winning the most immoral, unjust, unnecessary war of at least the last 100 years. One struggles to find a war that matches it in terms of violating U.N. regulations and the Geneva Conventions. One cannot imagine that history will look back on this dark chapter of an already long-benighted U.S. with any degree of allowance.

Yet what does that matter to Mr. Bush? When empire and oil are the highest gods, why care about what is said at any other altar?

Perhaps the most tragic aspect of this war, and Mr. Bush’s proclamations about it, is that it is simply business as usual for the United States. And to add to the tragedy is the fact that there does not appear any prospect for real change on the horizon.

ROBERT FANTINA is author of ‘Desertion and the American Soldier: 1776–2006.






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Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).

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