The American Empire will come to an end as a direct
result of its own hubristic warmongering around the globe; that much is certain.
It only remains to be seen when, where, and through what agency will the knockout
blow be delivered.
President Bush's second inaugural
speech, which called for toppling tyrants everywhere, is diametrically opposed
to the more conservative platform he ran on in 2000, which called for a
"more humble" foreign policy. Now, his new secretary of state
and dedicated yes-woman, Condoleezza Rice, is enthusiastically talking
up a "bold agenda" for unrestrained freedom proliferation, thus
accomplishing the triumphant transformation of the State Department from what
it had been under her predecessor, the hardheaded realist and not always dishonest
The Great Purge and the Satisfaction of Imperial Bloodlust
However, Powell has fled and with him many others
from the diplomatic and intelligence communities, disenchanted and disempowered
and victims of the president's new purge – one meant to consolidate power in
the hands of those few officials who unquestioningly and uncritically fulfill
his will in perpetuity. Even if he did not have an enormous army, overflowing
coffers, and a vast landmass under his suzerainty – all of which he has – Bush
would be deserving of the title "emperor" for this proclivity alone.
Indeed, right up there with Bush's Roman belief in his own unfailing divinity is his medieval understanding of a president as someone who is to be contradicted or questioned only on pains of termination. Where Bush helpfully displays a modicum of modern culture here is, of course, in being satisfied with dismissing rather than beheading any naysayers and doubters in his midst.
Now, four years since his first inaugural speech, power-drunk and worshipping
at the altar of the grand church of neoconservatism,
Bush has made his bellicose predecessors in the Clinton administration seem
positively tame in comparison. Indeed, in contrast with the latter's numerous
foreign misadventures – several of which, most glaringly Kosovo,
have had destructive consequences that
remain unresolved – his own empire-building endeavors have been executed
on a global scale, messy and brutish and waist-deep in the blood of other peoples.
From Bush's own words, the next nation to face the block is Iran.
State Deceptions and War
However, from whatever party the administration
happens to be, one clear shared tactic emerges: that of spinning lies in order
to justify an intervention. In the case of the Balkans, the paradigm of humanitarian
intervention invariably involved fabricating humanitarian atrocities and exaggerating
journalist Scott Taylor, who has reported often over the years from both
Kosovo and Iraq, recently reminded us of how the myths of concentration camps
and "100,000 Kosovar dead" was used to galvanize world opinion against
the Serbs – just as, four years later in a different place and within a different
paradigm, George W. Bush and the neocons mobilized the American population through
recourse to WMD that didn't exist and a Saddam-Osama terrorist link that had
However, if the road to Baghdad went through Belgrade, as Taylor puts it, then what of Iran? Will someone hit upon an exit strategy for Iraq before the neocons can build an exit ramp to Tehran?
Enter the Martyrs
As the Bushies harden
their stance on Iran over the Islamic republic's alleged nuclear ambitions,
a concomitant belligerence and frustration
is also building in Tehran. AFP
recently quoted a newspaper there, Kayhan, which relayed a threat
from Gen. Mohammad Bagher Zolghadr, deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guard:
"Iran is the biggest military power in the region [with] 10 million volunteers
for martyrdom operations ... to turn Iran into a terrible nightmare for the
While we don't know to what extent such a high turnout would be likely, there is no doubt that the general will be vindicated, in the eventuality of an American attack. As soon as the invasion begins, and with it the inevitable civilian carnage, the Iranians (far more welcoming toward martyrdom than their Iraqi neighbors, by the way) will resist.
The neocon brain trust, of course, disagrees, believing that all those teeming
millions now chafing under the rule of those dour old mullahs will immediately
join the American side once the bombs start falling and the government loses
its ability to wage a conventional defense. It will be just like when we toppled
Saddam and all those 25 million Iraqis became grateful, law-abiding Jeffersonian
democrats. Yeah … just like it.
The neocon miscalculation, of course, lies in confusing reality with their
own abstract and grandiose notions of the inherent greatness of the system and
solutions they propose for the world's ills. They appear incapable of understanding
that war will hinder
rather than create democracy, and that when, for example, one sees his entire
family massacred by an incoming U.S. missile, revenge tends to trump gratitude.
The Bush Achievement: A Terrorist Free-for-All, Forever
Since The New Yorker's Seymour Hersh
waves with his latest expose
– about the marginalization of the CIA and the Pentagon's penetration of Iran
with super-secret commando units on target-locating missions – it has become
increasingly clear that the Bush administration may just be crazy enough to
"[W]e will not welcome war," declared General Zolghadr, "but
if the United States commits an error, we will give them such a lesson that
they will never recover."
There were people who never thought Bush would be crazy enough to invade Iraq. Then again, there were also those – even among the ones defending the place – who thought he would never launch a full-scale invasion of Afghanistan. Thus considering his track record, and the fact that the man clearly believes he has a divine mandate to bring freedom to the entire world, is it too outlandish to believe that Bush might in fact be serious?
If Dubya does indeed decide to "larn them" 10 million martyrs, the
end of empire will be nigh, and the economic
ramifications will not be limited to the U.S. alone. In the end, Bush's
great achievement will not have been the installation of democracy, but rather
the creation of the world's single biggest terrorist-transfer zone, a vast,
borderless land of anarchy stretching from the Syrian border all the way to
Pakistan – with U.S. troops trapped within. Anarchistan: it has a certain ring
to it, no?