January 21, 2007

Yes, I Want the United States to Lose

Send me to Guantanamo right now. I'm packed and ready to go.

It's time for the Patrick Henry response. One note of caution for what follows: if you care to understand the full argument in support of my views, you need to follow the links. If you don't want to, there's absolutely no reason you should, of course. But if you don't read at least some of the earlier entries, don't send me hate mail, okay? Alright, then.

I've had it with what appears to be the most popular latest smear being used by the warmongers -- although now that I think about it, this smear has been widely used ever since our latest war of aggression began. That smear, uttered by Limbaugh, every other rightwing hack you can name, and every defender of the ongoing slaughter in Iraq, runs along these lines, and is now hurled at anyone who dares to oppose the latest insanity, the troop "surge" in Iraq:
Why won't you even give it a chance? Don't you want us to win -- or do you actually want us to lose? Is that how much you hate Bush, and how much you hate America? Or don't you think the Iraqis deserve freedom? Do you think they're lesser human beings than we are? Are you really just a racist?
Hmm. That's a whole bunch of smears, isn't it?

Let's put the most important issue first. In the end, this is the only one that matters:

Iraq did not attack us.

Iraq did not constitute a serious threat to the United States.

Both points were unequivocally and indisputably clear before the first American soldier set foot in Iraq.

There is only one conclusion: this was a war of blatant aggression, launched against what our leaders knew to be a third- or fourth-rate power. It had nothing to do with national defense, and it has exponentially increased the threats to our country. Moreover, it is entirely clear that our leaders lied about their reasons for going to war.

"Victory," as Bush originally defined it, would be a "democratic" Iraq -- although not "democratic" to the extent that Iraqis might elect leaders we strongly disapproved of and/or who were not sufficiently pro-American -- an Iraq that was self-sustaining and capable of defending itself. This fantasy rests on the indefensible notion that "everyone wants what we want" -- which was one of the notions that led to the disaster of Vietnam, as well as to the disaster of Iraq. As Barbara Tuchman stated the point:
Americans were always talking about freedom from Communism, whereas the freedom that the mass of Vietnamese wanted was freedom from their exploiters, both French and indigenous. The assumption that humanity at large shared the democratic Western idea of freedom was an American delusion. "The freedom we cherish and defend in Europe," stated President Eisenhower on taking office, "is no different than the freedom that is imperiled in Asia." He was mistaken. Humanity may have common ground, but needs and aspirations vary according to circumstances.
And even if many Iraqis did want what we want, the notion of quickly transplanting anything even close to our form of governance still remains indefensible: it flies in the face of history, culture, and the recognition that the history and culture of any country is critically relevant to what is possible there. There is nothing remotely racist in this observation, which history has demonstrated countless times. It is simply a recognition that history and culture matter and that, in numerous critical ways, they are determinative. Our particular form of government arose in a specific place, at a specific time, in a particular historical context, and amid very particular circumstances. In addition, there was nothing preordained about the American Revolution and the founding of the United States. Had Britain acted differently in key ways, we might never have fought a war of independence.

But speaking of racism, who actually are the racists here? Not me (or Barbara Tuchman, I dare say) -- but perhaps the label might fit the American military commander who said:
"You have to understand the Arab mind," Capt. Todd Brown, a company commander with the Fourth Infantry Division, said as he stood outside the gates of Abu Hishma. "The only thing they understand is force — force, pride and saving face."
This reveals the operation of one of the key mechanisms involved: projection. The advocates of this disaster threw insults and smears at anyone who dared challenge their nonsensical, insupportable plans, insults and smears that were supported by precisely nothing. But when their immoral and criminal occupation doesn't lead to anything even beginning to approach their propaganda-induced fantasies, they themselves blame the Iraqis (and Arabs and Muslims generally) -- and reveal themselves to have been the racists all along.

Our governing elites pride themselves on the fact that they are not obliged to know anything at all about the countries where they decide to meddle, and the United States has been interfering in very major ways in the Middle East since the end of World War II. More generally, the West has been a constant presence in the Middle East since World War I, and periodically for centuries before that. And our "Sacred Ignorance" led to one entirely predictable result -- a result that many of us opposed to this monstrous war did in fact predict before the nauseatingly-named "Shock and Awe" campaign began. We were doomed to lose before even one American soldier entered Iraq -- because we didn't have the vaguest idea what we were doing. We are the "city on a hill." We are the "last best hope of mankind." Everyone wants to be just like us. We don't need to know anything about anyone else, or about any other country on earth. We did Iraq a favor by invading and occupying it -- just as we did a similar favor in the war with Mexico in the mid-nineteenth century:
Perhaps to dignify the nakedness of Polk's land lust, the American citizenry had got itself whipped into an idealistic frenzy, believing with an almost religious assurance that its republican form of government and its constitutional freedoms should extend to the benighted reaches of the continent then held by Mexico, which, with its feudal customs and Popish superstitions, stood squarely in the way of Progress. To conquer Mexico, in other words, would be to do it a favor.
In fact, Bush said precisely this last week, in his 60 Minutes interview:
PELLEY: Do you think you owe the Iraqi people an apology for not doing a better job?

BUSH: That we didn't do a better job or they didn't do a better job?

PELLEY: Well, that the United States did not do a better job in providing security after the invasion.

BUSH: Not at all. I am proud of the efforts we did. We liberated that country from a tyrant. I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude, and I believe most Iraqis express that. I mean, the people understand that we've endured great sacrifice to help them. That's the problem here in America. They wonder whether or not there is a gratitude level that's significant enough in Iraq.
Well, of course. Every decent American "wonder[s] whether or not there is a gratitude level that's significant enough in Iraq" -- immense gratitude for destroying their entire country, and murdering over half a million innocent citizens. I suppose that means I am definitely not a decent American.

So let's be completely clear, and restate it once more for emphasis. We invaded and occupied a country that hadn't attacked us, and that was no threat to us. Our government has murdered more than half a million innocent Iraqis -- and destroyed an entire nation. Our government has also murdered and maimed tens of thousands of Americans.

To be entirely accurate and to state what should not require identification, but which we must state given the extraordinarily corrupt atmosphere of our national debate, it's obviously not that I or anyone else "wants us to lose." The smear is entirely invalid at its foundation, because we never could "win." Our invasion was profoundly immoral from its very first moment. In any case, what I want doesn't matter a damn. Our catastrophic "mission" in Iraq was doomed before it began. We lost four years ago. It would require a miracle for us to achieve any sort of "success," and for us to "win." Miracles of that kind and on that scale do not occur in this world, nor have they ever occurred in history. Our leaders simply refuse to acknowledge that we've lost. So many more people will die and be horribly maimed.

But in the moral sense -- in the sense of destroying human life with no justification whatsoever -- we certainly deserve to lose. It would only be just, and it would be minimal justice at that. We have committed a monstrous, unforgivable war crime, indeed a countless number of war crimes. If you care at all about the sanctity of an individual human life, and if you still give a damn, that should matter to you. Nothing in the world is more important.

So, yes, in the sense I have described, I want us to lose. We already have. There is no forgiveness for what we have done. Do I want American soldiers to die? Of course not. I never wanted them to be sent to Iraq in the first place. If we had never begun this catastrophe, those who have died would be alive today -- as would over half a million Iraqis.

One might hope that we've learned something from our indecent and immoral acts, and that we will be more careful in our future actions. In a tragedy beyond measure, it is already entirely clear that we have learned absolutely nothing -- just as we learned nothing from Vietnam. All of the forces that led to more than a century of unending war are still in place. We have learned nothing.

Well. Someone had to say it. So I just did.

I'm ready for Guantanamo now. I'd like to say goodbye to some friends and spend time with my cats before I leave. You can pick me up in the morning.