and awe" strategy breathlessly awaited by our
image-hungry media has somehow morphed into a war of
bluff and bluster. Instead of launching an all-out military
assault, the U.S. military strategy is, at least initially,
a political assault by the U.S. on the Iraqi leadership.
The first sign of military action was a missile strike
on a "target
of opportunity" thought to be Saddam Hussein.
Rumors flew that the CIA had a fix on the Iraqi leader,
and that was the reason for a barrage of missiles aimed
at an area just outside Baghdad. When the wily old tyrant
showed up on Iraqi television, denouncing "the
little Bush" and thumbing
his nose at his American tormentors, one almost
expected him to say:
"Nyah, nyah, you guys missed
the administration has pinned its initial hopes on a
rapid collapse of the Iraqi regime that it believes
its own propaganda about the eagerness of people the
world over to hail their American "liberators"
is all too apparent. The U.S military planners know
that, as we used to say in the 1960s, "the whole
world is watching," and the sight of a bloody house-to-house
battle is not something the War Party is looking forward
to. If it can be at all avoided, the administration
is willing to take its time in the hopes of having the
Iraqi prize fall into their lap, like an overripe apple.
U.S. troops are moving into southern
Iraq, and what they are counting on is a triumphant
entry into the city of Basra:
they are reportedly rushing
news media to the scene to witness the anticipated
cheering crowds who are supposed to greet them as "liberators."
(Perhaps they can clear
up the matter of whether the oil fields south of
the city are on fire.) Those pictures of Iraqis hailing
their American conquerors is all the ammunition the
War Party thinks it needs to silence its critics, at
least for the moment. I suppose any number of frightened
Iraqis could be made to cheer anything, especially the
prospect of a square meal and some measure of security.
Our real problems will begin, however, just as soon
as the cheering stops
will pose a
different scenario altogether. The initial phrase
of the "allied" military operation resembles
the U.S. invasion
of Panama, but the latter phases may remind
us more of Somalia. Street-fighting, house-to-house
combat with Republican Guard units holed up in the Iraqi
capital, won't be a pretty sight. It may, of course,
provide some psychological pleasure for people like
Boot the Wall Street Journal laptop bombardier
the lack of American casualties in the Afghan campaign
but the rest of us are bound to find these images
disturbing, to say the least.
war in Iraq is, so far, like a carefully staged morality
play, with special effects, from which we are all supposed
to learn the same lesson: the Empire is omnipotent.
Resistance is futile. Accept the inevitable or suffer
the consequences. This message is directed as much at
an international audience as at the Iraqis. Meanwhile,
the atmosphere is suffused with lies: Tariq
Aziz has defected. That wasn't
really Saddam who spoke after the attack, but a
double. The Dow Jones news agency reflecting
the inherent skepticism of the
News quotes unnamed U.S. officials as saying 'serious
cracks' have developed in Saddam's regime and secret
talks underway with some senior Iraqi military leaders,
including some leaders of Republican Guard, about possible
surrender. There's no confirmation and report could
be U.S. disinformation (a Times of London report
about 'mass' Iraqi defections yesterday seems to have
been exaggerated); but as long as such reports keep
coming out in absence of bad war news, it will be hard
to unwind long USD and equities positions."
"fog of war" is thick in the air, and it is
hard to tell reality from the official fantasies, which
is why the sudden appearance on our television screens
of a new Mohammed Atta, one Adnan
G. El Shukrijumah, seems awfully suspicious. Yet
another Saudi who trained
as a pilot in the U.S. and is depicted as affiliated
with Al Qaeda? And in South Florida, yet! It's just
a coincidence, of course, that the ghost of 9/11 is
being invoked on Day One of Gulf War II. Why, after
all, would the U.S. government be interested in scaring
people half out of their wits at this particular moment?
The War Party thrives on the confusion
of war: they get to parcel out information, and shape
the news, wielding a compliant media just as readily
as the terrible swift sword of their military machine.
Luckily, we have Antiwar.com to clear away the media
miasma and revive the
first casualty of war, which is truth.
the rush to grab the spoils of war has already begun,
with Turkey massing up
to 70,000 troops on the border with northern Iraq.
The Turks are fearful that the Kurds will seize this
opportunity to declare their independence. While the
Turkish action is being justified on the grounds that
they fear a "refugee problem," there are reportedly
no refugees trying to cross over into Turkey
from Kurd-controlled areas. But the real reason is apparent
enough. The oil
fields around Kirkuk are a prize that Ankara is
not going to let slip through its fingers without a
I predicted last week, U.S. soldiers could soon
find themselves interposed between Kurdish peshmergas
and the Turkish army. The U.S. is not prepared to fight
off the Turks, and has
agreed to a supposedly limited presence of their
troops in northern Iraq: the
Kurds, however, may have something
to say about that
Disgustingly, the American media seems
downright disappointed that the "shock and
awe" air show they had been promised has, so far,
to materialize, and the psychological war against
Iraq's ruling Baath party continues. Clearly, the administration
is reluctant to fire up the big guns, eager to avoid
casualties and determined to win the political battle
on the home front and the world stage.
This cannot continue indefinitely, however.
One way or another, the reality of this war, in all
its bloody ruthlessness, is going to be brought home
to the world, and the American people. When that happens,
the American antiwar movement will have the chance to
regain its bearings, and the tide of protest will rise
in this country, just as it did in the weeks prior.
At that point, massive rallies calling for an end to
the war, peaceful and legal, are an imperative:
massive protests are already sweeping
through Europe and the Middle
And don't hand me any guff about "supporting
the troops." Aside from the fact that everyone
supports them, involuntarily, with their tax dollars,
the only way to really support them is to bring them
home now. Iraq is a
giant Beirut, a ticking time-bomb the size of California
waiting to explode: supporting our troops means getting
them out of there a.s.a.p.
foreign policy analyst, Andrew
J. Bacevich, calls our mad war policy by its right
the Los Angeles Times:
"There is a word for this. It's
spared the classic Teutonic symptoms – among other
things, we prefer cheering the troops on from afar to
actually donning a uniform – Americans have succumbed
to a strain of that disease. The present war against
Iraq – justified in part by preposterous expectations
that, having delivered Iraqis from their oppressor,
the United States will bring liberal democracy to Iraq
and then all the Arab world – makes this unmistakable."
have been "seduced by images of war rendered antiseptically
precise," says Bacevich, and
"We have lost our bearings.
We have deluded ourselves into believing that the best
hope of safety and security lies in dispatching the
cadre of military professionals whom we proclaim to
be 'our best and brightest' on a mad undertaking to
transform the world – or, if need be, to conquer it. In
Iraq, President Bush has opened up yet another front
in his war against evil. Committed, we must win. But
the long march to Baghdad should give Americans pause:
Exactly where is this road leading us?"
is leading into an abyss. God save us from "victory."
A NOTE ON SCHEDULING
three columns per week schedule is now being increased
to five: columns will appear as events warrant, and
so all I can say is watch this space.
YES, I'VE SEEN IT
seen the attack on antiwar conservatives, and me
specifically, by the odious David "Axis of Evil"
Frum: can you believe that National Review
going to make it the cover story of their print edition?
Well, each to their own priorities, but I think you'll
agree that an analysis of the war thus far is more important
than refuting the ignorant smears of a fourth-rate hack
in a has-been magazine.
the other hand, if you're in a bloodthirsty mood and
who isn't, these days? you might want to take a look
at my answer, even though we're not going to be officially
posting it in this space until tomorrow. It's long,
unfortunately, because Frum's ability to lie is seemingly
limitless, and you might want to get a head start by
at least taking a peek, here.
HANG IN THERE
I want to say to each and every one of you who has taken the
trouble to write me: I read all my email – be they thoughtful
discourses on the causes of this war and the pros and cons
of civil disobedience, or raving diatribes from pro-war speed-freaks
who write IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. I can't answer even a fraction
of them, but rest assured that, at least in the case of the
former, I greatly appreciate your comments, suggestions, and
expressions of support. Our audience is growing: 50,000-plus
unique visitors a day is straining our technical resources,
so please be patient if you have any difficulty accessing
the site. (And let us know if you experience problems.) We're
bearing up the best we can, providing you with news as it
happens and up-to-the-minute analysis from a non-interventionist
point of view.
Take heart. The War Party may be riding
high now, but they are riding for a fall. The truth
about this rotten imperialist war will come out: it
is already coming out. And that is what we're all about.
So hang in there: better days are on the way.
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