Don’t Forget Iraq. Especially Today.

I know, I know. It’s Christmas Eve, can’t I for once give it rest? Can’t I just get with the season, quaff some eggnog, squeeze and shake a few gifts, put on Alvin and the Chipmunks and completely forget about Iraq for a week or so?

No. I can’t. Especially today. Just as the families and friends of the 3897 Americans in uniform who have died in Iraq can’t forget. Just as the families and friends of the other 307 “coalition” soldiers can’t forget.  Just as the families and friends of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have died because of the invasion can’t forget. Just as the families of all those Iraqis, British, Americans and others who have been maimed for life can never forget.

I could forgive. And that would be cause to shut up this Christmas Eve. Could forgive if there had been no choice except to invade Iraq and occupy it. Could forgive even if invading Iraq had resulted from a bad choice, say, a misjudgment made under stress. But neither of these was the case.  

Instead, as we suspected even before the invasion began and have had repeatedly, relentlessly confirmed to us over the past five years, the sociopathic thugs who run this country employed September 11 as a bayonet to prod us into a war which their ideological compatriots had dreamed of years before they chose Mister Bush to be their front man. Years before Osama bin Laden gave them the excuse they needed to deliver their vision of what a Pax Americana should look like.

And what a vision it is. Conducting perpetual war, disdaining international cooperation, justifying torture, pissing on centuries of due process, terrorizing people and calling it the fight against terror, suppressing votes, killing journalists, spying on citizens, consorting with murderous dictators,  building a secret gulag, denying the invasion was mostly about oil, overflowing the pockets of cronies with taxpayer gold, treating the presidency like a kingship, rejecting science, renditioning suspects, and spreading lies so fast and thick that every household needs a front-loader operating 24/7 to keep from being buried alive.  

All the while calling the United States a beacon of hope and justice for the world.

Iraq is just a symptom, of course. And the neo-conservative neo-imperialists who laid out the bloody red carpet for that war and occupation are not the only politicians who believe in the pernicious myth of American exceptionalism. The empire didn’t start when Donald Rumsfeld told his deputies to get him “best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at same time. Not only UBL [Osama bin Laden].” Long before the U.S. started seeking military bases in Central Asia and expanding them in Qatar in preparation of the “cakewalk,” it had more 725 overseas bases in more than 30 countries. Including the one forcibly pried into a perpetual lease from Cuba more than a century ago and turned six years ago into a jurisdictionless no-man’s land free of the pesky restraints that try the patience of leaders with vision.

But Iraq is now, just as the neo-imps say about it in another context, our central struggle. Not until that maliciousness is ended and all of its various atrocities accounted for candidly and comprehensively, with punishment meted out accordingly, can we truly claim as Americans to have learned our lesson and consider ourselves prepared to debate in full honesty how to upend and remake U.S. foreign policy. It goes without saying that many leading Democrats will be resistant to persuasion over any such makeover, just as many are resistant to doing what needs doing to end the occupation of Iraq. As we saw last week, again.

It should be easier to forget Iraq right now, some pundits argue, because the violence has dwindled in the past few months. Indeed, only 16 Americans in uniform and one Briton have been killed so far this month. Violence against Iraqis is definitely down, too, although the specific numbers aren’t trustworthy. At the current rate, December 2007 could turn out to be the most peaceful month in Iraq since the invasion.

The Foxagandists and neo-imps argue that this is due to the surge and new counterinsurgency techniques, which is no doubt true as far as it goes. But the drop also comes from the Sunni alliance against al Qaeda in Iraq, from sectarian cleansing and from the effects of the walls of Baghdad.

Whether the reduced violence is a permanent state of affairs or just the relative calm before the next storm is anybody’s guess. “Iraq is moving in the direction of a failed state, with competing centers of power run by warlords and militias. The central government has no political control whatsoever beyond Baghdad, maybe not even beyond the Green Zone,” according to Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group.

Will the Sunni turn their attention back to the Americans and Iraqi security forces once they have stomped al Qaeda in Iraq? Will Moqtada al-Sadr’s truce continue to hold after he finishes his final exam to become an ayatollah? Will the Iraqi “national” government finally get it together?

Even if the occupation runs more or less along the same course as it is now, by next summer there will still be 130,000 Americans in uniform there, with who can be sure how many others working for firms like Blackwater Worldwide. The same number that were there in December 2006. At best, by this time next Christmas Eve, there will still be at least 100,000 American soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen in Iraq. Plus contractors and mercenaries. Still killing and dying and being maimed in a war of occupation that should never have begun in the first place.

So, no, on this Christmas Eve, I can’t forget Iraq. Because next Christmas Eve, I’ll still be being reminded of it by faces like these who have been killed this and past Decembers:

Army Corporal Tanner O’Leary, Cheyenne River Reservation, S.D.: 12/9/07

Army Major Gloria D. Davis, St. Louis, Missouri: 12/12/06

Unknown Iraqi mother and child: 2005

Lance Cpl. Samuel Tapia, San Benito, Texas: 12/18/05

1st Lt. Christopher W. Barnett, Baton Rouge, La.: 12/23/04

Staff Sgt. Richard A. Burdick, National City, Calif.,:12/10/03


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    • Edger on December 25, 2007 at 04:52

    srkp23, Oct 21, 2007: Iraq: All FUBAR and Refugees Have Nowhere to Go

    • Edger on December 25, 2007 at 04:57

  1. Keep reminding us of the things we need to change.

    • Edger on December 25, 2007 at 15:05

    “Christmas In Fallujah”

  2. you make (or, at least, imply 😉 a very important point: the problem goes much deeper than Iraq, or George Bush, or the Republican party. It’s institutional. But Iraq is currently the empire’s weakest point, and that’s where we should be focusing our energies.

    On which note, Juan Cole has put together a very useful list of the Top Ten Myths about Iraq of 2007, complete with a brief debunking of each one.

    Here’s what he says about the surge:

    “Although violence has been reduced in Iraq, much of the reduction did not take place because of US troop activity. Guerrilla attacks in al-Anbar Province were reduced from 400 a week to 100 a week between July, 2006 and July, 2007. But there was no significant US troop escalation in al-Anbar. Likewise, attacks on British troops in Basra have declined precipitously since they were moved out to the airport away from population centers. But this change had nothing to do with US troops.”

    • Edger on December 26, 2007 at 17:43

    This is a “problem” that has been going on for more than a century, and as Larry Everest said writing at ZNet shortly before the Emergency Supplemental funding the occupation was passed in May…

    …flows from the deepest needs and drives of [the] system: U.S. hegemony in the Middle East and global dominance is crucial for U.S. capitalism’s ongoing functioning and U.S. global power.

    So when Bush says, “Even if you thought it was a mistake to go into Iraq, it would be a far greater mistake to pull out now,” he’s expressing a fear — from an imperialist viewpoint – that a U.S. pullout would leave the empire weaker. And he is saying this in opposition to other forces in the U.S. ruling class who, also coming from an imperialist viewpoint, now think it’s a big mistake for the U.S. not to withdraw.

    This whole dynamic of riding the anti-war vote to power, then voting to fund an ongoing war while claiming to be ending it, reflect the conflicting necessities the Democrats face. As representatives of U.S. imperialism, they are committed to maintaining U.S. global dominance. Yet they fear the U.S. is sliding toward a strategic debacle of epic proportions and may already have lost the war in Iraq.

    Sheldon L. Richman wrote about this extensively, particularly in one article in 1991 when he was senior editor at the Cato Institute:

    “Ancient History”: U.S. Conduct in the Middle East Since World War II and the Folly Of Intervention

    If the chief natural resource of the Middle East were bananas, the region would not have attracted the attention of U.S. policymakers as it has for decades. Americans became interested in the oil riches of the region in the 1920s, and two U.S. companies, Standard Oil of California and Texaco, won the first concession to explore for oil in Saudi Arabia in the 1930s. They discovered oil there in 1938, just after Standard Oil of California found it in Bahrain. The same year Gulf Oil (along with its British partner Anglo-Persian Oil) found oil in Kuwait. During and after World War II, the region became a primary object of U.S. foreign policy. It was then that policymakers realized that the Middle East was “a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history.”

    Subsequently, as a result of cooperation between the U.S. government and several American oil companies, the United States replaced Great Britain as the chief Western power in the region.(5) In Iran and Saudi Arabia, American gains were British (and French) losses.(6) Originally, the dominant American oil interests had had limited access to Iraqi oil only (through the Iraq Petroleum Company, under the 1928 Red Line Agreement). In 1946, however, Standard Oil of New Jersey and Mobil Oil Corp., seeing the irresistible opportunities in Saudi Arabia, had the agreement voided.(7) When the awakening countries of the Middle East asserted control over their oil resources, the United States found ways to protect its access to the oil. Nearly everything the United States has done in the Middle East can be understood as contributing to the protection of its long-term access to Middle Eastern oil and, through that control, Washington’s claim to world leadership. The U.S. build-up of Israel and Iran as powerful gendarmeries beholden to the United States, and U.S. aid given to “moderate,” pro-Western Arab regimes, such as those in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Jordan, were intended to keep the region in friendly hands. That was always the meaning of the term “regional stability.”

    And now Iran, being no longer friendly for well known reasons, has become the next target of this century long attempt at world domination.

    It is not a problem that is going away quickly or easily, and even in pushing to end the occupation of Iraq – as large as that problem is – all we are doing is addressing a symptom of more systemic entrenched problems.

    • odillon on December 26, 2007 at 19:23

    some other major media publication or read on tv.

    It got to me to read this on the day after Christmas. I had not forgotten Iraq, although I find myself increasingly wanting to after living with the tragedy and wrongness of it daily for years.

    On Christmas I was talking to my dear niece about her boyfriend, newly re-deployed to somewhere near Soder City, Camp Loyalty they call it. She’s trying to keep a positive outlook about his safety so I hushed up. Her feelings are so tender. On my drive home later,I found myself calculating his probably odds of returning safely in 12 or 15 months, whatever it is. If 150 more die this next year, he would have a chance of returning alive at one in one thousand.

    My niece says that his assessment is that it is not much changed in a year. He said that the reports of improvement are not the reality of the awfulness. He hates it there and is very angry about the reports of how well it’s going.

    Thank you for your very clear voice on Iraq, MB.

    • kj on December 26, 2007 at 19:48

    from the next for the soldiers or civilians in Iraq, there is no reason for any of us to stay silent, either.

    Thank you for this, MB.  My husband lectured on about PNAC to his family, mainly for the benefit of his 16 year old nephew, who is being raised by dyed-in-the-wool conservatives.

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