How stupid do they think we are? The administration has been on the road these past few days trying to package the war in Iraq as a success. Bush insists that the war is going well and that the US will stay on until final victory and eternal democracy. Dick Cheney told the world that the insurgency is merely a bunch of desperate folks acting in (what else?) desperation. Donald Rumsfeld told an audience that leaving Iraq now would be like returning Germany to the Nazis in 1945. This last statement is especially inane, if only because the Iraqi resistance is only trying to get its country back from the invaders, not trying to take over the world, as the Nazis were in the 1940s (and the US is now).
Bush acknowledges that people are wondering how he can be so optimistic when most of the world isn’t. After all, those are real bombs exploding in the streets and real bullets being fired. Those corpses are real, too. Just ask any Iraqi or American family who have had to bury one of their loved ones thanks to this bloody rampage. Those wounds you see at Walter Reed and every other medical institution that treats the war’s wounded are real, too. So are the ones you don’t see. Call them PTSD or whatever — they are real. Just ask the kid — Antoine Hodges — who had a gun held to his chest after fighting with another kid — Carlos Ugarte, Jr. — on the playground at their school in Queens, NY. Who was holding the gun? It wasn’t Carlos. It was his father. The father? He’s a veteran of the Iraq war. Makes me wonder how many kids he killed in Iraq. People aren’t making that shit up about killing civilians, no matter what the Pentagon tells you. Part of the strategy of counterinsurgency is to terrorize the population that supports it. That means killing women and children.
So what are we going to do about it? These guys at the top haven’t learned a damn thing. Just last week, they released their “new” National Security Strategy. You know what it said? Keep up the preemptive wars.
Venezuela is specifically mentioned in the 2006 National Security Strategy as a potential enemy because it is using its oil money in ways that Washington and its backers in the oil industry find reprehensible. The popularly elected government in Venezuela is accused of undermining democracy and destabilizing the region (p. 15), a claim that could only come from a mindset that initiated the Monroe Doctrine. Meanwhile, its neighbor Colombia — a country whose military is world-renowned for its human rights abuses, corruption, and connections to right-wing paramilitaries that operate a protection racket for international drug dealers — is portrayed as a heroic democracy (p. 15).
China gets special mention in this National Security Strategy. To be fair, China does have some pretty severe human rights problems that ought to be corrected, but that won’t happen by the US making war on them. Besides, the US has some pretty major human rights problems itself. Just in case you haven’t noticed, they’ve gotten a lot worse over the past five years, too. War is a good excuse for getting rid of pesky things that get in the way of greed and games of domination — you know, little things like human rights and civil liberties. Nowadays, politicians just say 9-11 or war on terror, and they think they can justify anything and everything. Like locking up people without charges and forever. Or killing women and children.
Besides the human rights thing, this new National Security Strategy document knocked China for “[e]xpanding trade, but acting as if they can somehow ‘lock up’ energy supplies around the world or seek to direct markets rather than opening them up” (p. 41) and “supporting resource-rich countries without regard to the misrule at home or misbehavior abroad of those regimes” (p. 42). Now, I don’t know about you, but these tactics sound pretty damn familiar to me. In fact, aren’t they exactly what the US does in its dealings? Isn’t that what capitalist globalization is all about? Isn’t “locking up” energy supplies a big reason why Washington wants to control Iraq, Iran, and the rest of the Middle East and Central Asia?
Of course, the National Security document and most of the three-year pronouncements from Washington on the success of the war in Iraq would not be complete without a lavish mention of the noble goal of exporting US democracy (the noun “democracy” gets repeated 52 times and the adjective “democratic” 43 times in the 49-page document). As anyone who has been paying attention knows, the exportation of this “democracy” product has been a Washington project for more than a century. In fact, it’s always one of the big reasons the Pentagon goes to war — or so we’re told. As a US citizen who grew up during the Cold War, constantly being told how wrong the Soviets were for wanting to export their way of life around the world (which isn’t exactly what they were doing, but that’s another story), I often wondered why it was so wrong for Moscow to do exactly what was so great when Washington did it. I mean, if it’s wrong for other countries to export their way of life to places that were doing fine on their own, then why is it okay for the US to export its way of life? It seems to me that if the people in some country wanted to set it up like the United States, then they wouldn’t need to be forced into such a project by the US military. But then again, I never got what was so special about the American way of life anyhow. I mean, it works for me, but I was born here. I must be missing something. Maybe Donald Rumsfeld can clue me in.
I don’t think the people of the United States are stupid enough to believe that the war in Iraq is going well. Indeed, a majority of them, unlike Bush & Co., don’t think it should continue indefinitely. I wonder, however, why so many of my fellow countrymen and women had ever thought that the Iraqis would want to be like us and need the US military to help them do so. And why, even after they have become disillusioned with the Iraq War, they seem to be willing to let Bush & Co. invoke the same scenario elsewhere:
- “Seven in 10 Americans would support international economic sanctions as a way to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons” (Claudia Deane, “Most Americans Back Sanctions on Iran,” Washington Post, 31 January 2006);
- “Today, 27% of Americans cite Iran as the country that represents the greatest danger to the United States. In October, just 9% pointed to Iran as the biggest danger to the U.S. . . . Nearly two-thirds (65%) believe that Iran’s nuclear program is a major threat to the U.S. . . . . Overwhelming numbers believe that if Iran were to develop nuclear weapons it would likely launch attacks on Israel (72%), and the U.S. or Europe (66%). There is even greater agreement that a nuclear-armed Iran would be likely to provide nuclear weapons to terrorists (82%). . . . A narrow majority (53%) worry that the U.S. will wait too long, but 34% say they worry the U.S. will act too quickly” (The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, “Iran a Growing Danger, Bush Gaining on Spy Issue,” 7 February 2006);
- “Fifty-nine percent thought Iran would use nuclear weapons against the United States, and 80 percent thought the Iranians would hand them over to terrorists to use against the United States” (“Poll: Americans Nervous about Iran,” CNN, 14 February 2006).
Thankfully, Americans aren’t quite sold on a war on Iran — “about 42 percent of Americans said they would support bombing Iran’s nuclear development sites, while 54 percent oppose it” (Deane, 31 January 2006) — yet. But you know where the sanctions, once initiated, will lead. Andrei Denisov, Russia’s UN ambassador, recently said: “Let’s just imagine that we adopt it [a two-week deadline for Tehran to stop enrichment activities and agree to more intrusive U.N. inspections that Washington and Brussels demand] and today we issued that statement — then what happens after two weeks? In such a pace, we’ll start bombing in June” (qtd. in Colum Lynch, “Top U.N. Members to Try to Break Stalemate on Iran,” Washington Post, 20 March 2006). The antiwar movement has gotta rethink its narrow focus on the Iraq War, or else we won’t be ready for the next one.
Ron Jacobs is author of The Way the Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground, just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch‘s new collection on music, art and sex: Serpents in the Garden. He can be reached at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.