December 06, 2006

Our Genocidal National Narcissism: We Are the Very, Very "Bad Guys"

Patrick Cockburn:
The cautious words of the Baker-Hamilton report stand in sharp contrast to the savagery and terror that dominate everyday life in Baghdad. Many of the terrible disasters it fears may occur in future are in fact already happening. It states that there is a risk of "a slide towards chaos", but with almost 4,000 Iraqis being killed every month, the chaos is already here.

"Ethnic cleansing could escalate," the report warns but, in reality, it does not have to for Iraq to fragment into three hostile homelands for Sunni, Shia and Kurds. Baghdad and central Iraq has already broken up into heavily armed and hostile Sunni and Shia townships.

Some 170 individuals spoke to the Iraqi Study Group, including Tony Blair, President George Bush, Iraqi leaders and numerous ambassadors and senior officials. But the conclusions of the report at times give the alarming impression that Republicans and Democrats on the panel never really understood Iraqi politics.

The report says: "The United States should work closely with Iraq's leaders to support the achievement of specific objectives - or milestones - on national reconciliation, security and governance." The problem here is that Iraq has already fallen apart as a political entity. Supposedly national institutions such as the police, army and government ministries have been divided up between Shia, Sunni and Kurds.


Myths systematically promulgated by US civil and military spokesmen at a thousand press briefings in Baghdad and Washington are quietly dumped by Mr Baker and his group. Again and again, the spokesmen emphasised the role of foreign fighters in the war in Iraq but the report cites US military officials as saying that al-Qa'ida in Iraq is responsible for only a small portion of the violence. It says there are only 1,300 foreign fighters in the country. It notes that the Mehdi Army of the nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr numbers at least 60,000 men.

There is a further blind spot in the report. The US is in part responsible for the weakness of the Iraqi government. It never wanted an Iraqi administration dominated by the Shia parties with possible sympathies with the regime in Tehran. Such an outcome was a political nightmare for Washington. The US helped create a political system in which each community can paralyse united action. It has also tried to split the Shia alliance which won the most votes in the two elections in 2005.
On that last point, that the U.S. itself "is in part responsible for the weakness of the Iraqi government," see this earlier post, "A Genuine Mission Impossible," which excerpts another Cockburn column.

And with regard to the issue that the members of the Iraq Study Group "never really understood Iraqi politics," I wrote the following only two months ago (and this essay also relied on Cockburn's enormously valuable reporting):
From the Philippines, through Vietnam, through Central America, through numerous other interventions (acknowledged and covert), through Iraq -- it's the same theme, repeated with endless variations. We never learn -- and we pride ourselves on the fact that we are not obliged to learn. We are unique and "exceptional." Everyone wants what only we have. It is our "right" to bring the rest of the world into line with our goals and desires, using military force as required.

And then we wonder why chaos, destruction and death follow in our wake.
I obviously have a very high opinion of Cockburn's writing and his invaluable perceptiveness. So it is with considerable surprise that I must disagree with the concluding paragraph of his latest piece:
In terms of domestic Iraqi politics, the most positive aspect of the report is that it exposes the hollowness of claims by the White House and Downing Street that victory in Iraq is still feasible and it is all a matter of staying the course.
I wish it were true that these "claims" (aka "lies") were "exposed" -- but it is not. I recently discussed the ultimate purpose of the Iraq Study Group's work and recommendations, which is primarily to protect the foreign policy status quo -- a status quo that encompasses both Republicans and Democrats. I will have considerably more on that soon. And I quoted Andrew Bacevich on this very point:
[The ISG's members'] purpose is twofold: first, to minimize Iraq's impact on the prevailing foreign policy consensus with its vast ambitions and penchant for armed intervention abroad; and second, to quell any inclination of ordinary citizens to intrude into matters from which they have long been excluded. The ISG is antidemocratic. Its implicit message to Americans is this: We'll handle things - now go back to holiday shopping.
In fact, all the ISG recommends is that we "stay the course" -- and the newly-empowered Washington Democrats have already made it clear they will do absolutely nothing to change our direction in any manner that actually might affect events. In the near future, I will offer further thoughts on that as well.

The most critical element of the status quo that remains unchallenged is our alleged "idealism," the notion that we act out of the best of motives and that we "meant well." Most Americans refuse to seriously consider the idea that Iraq represented no serious threat to us whatsoever, and that our leaders knew it. If you doubt that point at all, I recommend you read this wonderfully argued Jacob Hornberger column: "They Lied About the Reasons for Going to War." You should read the entire article; here are Hornberger's concluding paragraphs:
Defenders of the war might argue, "By relying on faulty intelligence, the president and vice president just made an honest mistake, and therefore, U.S. officials are not morally responsible for the massive death and destruction in Iraq." But that’s just not true: even if the WMD intelligence reports had been faulty, the circumstantial evidence overwhelmingly establishes that President Bush and Vice President Cheney and their associates were being dishonest with respect to the real reason they were sending the nation into war against Iraq. As Vice President Cheney pointed out, even if the president and vice president had known that the intelligence reports were false, they would have ordered an invasion anyway.

Is the WMD lie important? Yes, because it led an untold number of Americans to support a war and an occupation that have unleashed forces that have resulted in the deaths and maiming of hundreds of thousands, on both sides. Thus, while it is entirely possible that Bush and Cheney would have invaded Iraq anyway if the American people had known the truth about why they were invading, at least the war and occupation would not have received the moral sanction of a deceived people.
What this means is very simple, and the only possible conclusion is utterly damning: by invading and occupying Iraq, we engaged in a completely unjustified war of aggression. Our presence in Iraq constitutes nothing less than an unforgivable war crime. Critics of our viciously immoral war bemoan American casualties -- and those casualties are indeed tragic. But even most of those critics almost never mention the hundreds of thousands of dead and injured Iraqis -- or the fact that we have destroyed an entire nation beyond any hope of recovery in the foreseeable future. This narcissism is displayed almost as much by liberal and progressive bloggers as it is by the mindlessly robotic Bush and America defenders.

I freely admit that I find this national narcissism disgusting and sickening to an extent that far surpasses my ability to express it fully and accurately. It is absolutely nauseating. Underlying this narcissism, and an inextricable part of it, is a repellent streak of murderous racism in our national makeup -- and that, too, I will be writing about at greater length in the near future.

For the moment, I offer this prediction: five years from now, toward the end of the year 2011, there will still be approximately 50,000 American troops in Iraq. It will not matter in the least if a Democrat is elected President in 2008. The foreign policy consensus to which our governing elites subscribe knows no party lines: it is a Western and an American perspective.

That perspective is factually false, and it is morally detestable. And very, very few Americans even dare to question it.

AND: Still more on these topics, here.

(I apologize for my intermittent writing at present. But times are exceptionally difficult for me personally at the moment. Two good friends are very seriously ill. One friend has just been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer, and her husband has been hospitalized for over a week with a worsening heart condition, and he will soon probably have to go into a hospice. I'm trying to help out to whatever extent I can, which unfortunately is not a great deal. But this is turning out to be a very grim "holiday" season here. Nonetheless, there is a great deal I plan and want to write about, so I will do the best I can. Given the circumstances, posting will be unavoidably sporadic for the time being.)