The current debate in Congress over the war in Iraq has put the myth of victory and its opposite — surrender– back on the front pages. These are actually more than myths; they are genuine misrepresentations of what’s happening in Iraq — lies, in other words. It doesn’t really matter, though, because those who want this war to go on and on are now turning the debate into one where the issue is whether the war should go on forever or whether it should go on for as long as it takes to instill order. What the latter ultimately means is that the US presence in Iraq will go on forever. Unless, of course, the US chooses to end it with weaponry that most humans would not even contemplate.
With a very few exceptions, even those legislators who say they oppose the war are unwilling to set a firm date for the withdrawal of US forces. Instead, they are opting for a non-binding resolution that calls for a phased withdrawal whose conclusion depends on the situation in Iraq. A similar resolution in 1971 was passed by Congress regarding the war in Vietnam — four years before the war finally ended. Of those legislators who do support a firm date for withdrawal, most of them continue to vote monies to conduct the war, so, in essence, they are supporting the war even though they say they oppose it. If we look back at the last major US war that didn’t go its way — Vietnam — we’ll discover that it wasn’t until 1973 that the Congress finally voted to stop appropriating monies for that disaster. Indeed, if there hadn’t been years of public protest that at times bordered on open rebellion, it is very likely that those monies would never have been cut off. By the time this action was taken, in the guise of the Case-Church Amendment which forbade any further US military involvement in Southeast Asia, the peace treaty of January 1973 was already six months old. Warmongers don’t give up their wars easily.
If you need further proof, look no further than the June 22, 2006 edition of The Washington Post. Right there, on page A23, is an article describing a call by two former officials of the US Defense Department to destroy the supposed North Korean missile before it is launched. Yes, that’s correct. Two former officials of Clinton’s Defense Department, including his Secretary of Defense William J. Perry, publicly urged that the Bush administration use a cruise missile launched from a submarine and carrying a high-explosive warhead to destroy the facility where the missile is supposedly housed. According to Mr. Perry and his cohort Ashton Carter — a former assistant defense secretary under Clinton — there would be “no damage beyond the missile” site. Of course, this statement is utter nonsense. Any time one nation attacks another, there is damage beyond the initial target. In this case, any unprovoked attack by either Washington or Pyongyang would in all likelihood create a firestorm across the Korean peninsula and perhaps throughout Asia.
Back in 1993, Messrs. Perry and Carter almost brought war to the Koreas over Pyongyang’s nuclear program. If it hadn’t been for fast diplomacy and promises of light-water reactors — thanks to the doggedness of the government in Seoul and rational actions of Jimmy Carter and others — combined with emergency fuel and food aid to a famished North Korea, these two men would have been able to get the war they wanted. If those promises hadn’t been made, the bombers that Mr. Perry had ordered locked and loaded would have flown past the 38th parallel and dropped their ordnance. That move would have most likely unleashed a maelstrom from which the world may never have recovered. Now, in the wake of Pyongyang’s announcement that it may test a long-range missile, they want to finish that war they almost started. Let me repeat: warmongers don’t give up their wars easily.
The proliferation of war and the threat of war in today’s world can be traced back to one primary source: Washington’s pursuit of hegemony. Although that desire is not new in Washington, its methods are certainly ones that the world has not seen since the 1960s. The brashness and sense of entitlement one hears in the words coming out of today’s US power elite is reminiscent of the speeches their forebears made back when they were killing off the indigenous peoples of this land or when their armies were storming Cuba to liberate it from the Spanish only to rule it from Capitol Hill. Their approach to dominate the world and its markets, guided by what may turn out to be history’s most egocentric and consequently myopic vision, could end up spelling the beginning of the end of that very domination that has profited them so much.
Keep your fingers crossed.
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 <email@example.com>.