real war is quite different from the one we are seeing on
television, as reported by journalists "embedded" so deeply
in the militarist mystique that they no longer bother to disguise
their role as cheerleaders. Their role is to shout "Hail Caesar!"
at the appropriate moment, and otherwise shut their mouths.
But sometimes a dissonant note is sounded, if only by accident,
one that imparts a sinister air to the whole sorry scene.
One such moment occurred on the Saturday edition of Chris
Matthews’ "Hardball," when he interviewed one Esra
Naamas, a representative of "Women for a Free Iraq."
Naamas, an Iraqi-American who met with the President and other
top government officials, hailed the invasion as a "liberation."
Matthews asked her how many Saddam loyalists remained in Iraq:
she said, nodding.
what should be done with all these people?"
his newfound enthusiasm for this war – and, perhaps, out of
a sense of fair play: Ms. Naamas is, after all, barely in
her twenties – Matthews gave her an easy out, as the interview
progressed, and asked her again:
she exclaimed, "these people have to be punished for what
an American, such passions are extreme, and more than a little
insane. Although Ms. Naamas came to the U.S. as a child, she
apparently has not lost that Middle Eastern ferocity that
is so frightening, and alien, to the American mind. These
passions visited us once before, on 9/11, and we will revisit
them in Iraq, where they will not be easily reined in. This
is the meaning of the fight yet
to come, as The Observer put it in a recent article:
the real war to take place in the wake of our initial "victory."
much as the more rabid neocons would like thousands of executions,
I doubt they’ll be impolitic enough to insist on it. Most
of the executions will have already taken place, during the
"bunker-buster" phase of the invasion. But Matthews’ question
is even more pertinent in that case: what will be the fate
of the ruling Ba’athist party members? The top leaders will
be thrown in the brig, and the "coalition" will throw away
the key. But what about the hundreds of thousands of lower
level BA’athist cadre who remain in Iraq?
are two views on this, and within the US government they break
down along bureaucratic lines as follows. There is the view
of the State Department, which favors retaining as many trained
Iraqi personnel as possible. Their plan is to basically keep
the present administrative structure in place to provide essential
services and act as an adjunct to the occupiers. These people,
after all, are skilled and knowledgeable: it is better to
have them on your side, the State Department types aver, than
carrying on a guerrilla struggle. The UN would be brought
in to manage humanitarian relief, and administer the country
until order is restored and elections are held. The costs,
too, would be shared, as well as the responsibilities and
the risks, and the US would have the opportunity to mend many
broken fences in the capitals of Europe and around the world.
they all lived happily ever after….
the other hand, there is the position of the Pentagon, or,
rather its civilian leadership, which models its vision of
postwar Iraq on the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Of course,
they don’t exactly say that: instead, they burble on
about the American occupation of Germany and Japan as two
examples of what can happen when democracy is exported at
naturally means nothing to them that the populations of both
these model nations overwhelmingly opposed the US invasion:
both are hotbeds of the "anti-Americanism" descried by the
War Party. Perhaps they need to be reoccupied– oh, wait, in
both cases the occupation never ended….)
any case, the German example is the relevant one, since in
Japan the US merely imposed a political mask on the immutable
face of Japanese society, even leaving the Emperor in place.
In Germany, however, a policy of "de-Nazification" was implemented
that is remarkably similar, and not only phonetically, to
"de-Baathification" as touted by Iraqi
exile Kanan Makiya in The New Republic. Makiya
is a key figure in what he describes as "the democratic wing"
of the Iraqi exile community, and he has a plan so Carthaginian
that he has the hearts of the neocons all aflutter.
Baath party, like the German Nazis, is to be banned – the
first act of the emerging Iraqi "democracy." The 2 million
Baath party members will not all be purged, of course, or
else the country would come to a grinding halt, not to mention
the amount of resentment that would generate. But, while Makiya’s
wrath isn’t as hot as Ms. Naamas’, the purge he envisions
is not restricted to the corridors of government ministries,
but is as potentially far-reaching as any carried out by a
primary structures of [Saddam Hussein’s] control are not housed
neatly in government ministries. In fact, outside of the departments
of interior, education, and defense, Saddam's ministries are
largely technocratic bureaucracies that are either harmless
or useless. The most insidious presence of the Baath Party
is in the schools, the universities, the trade unions, the
women's organizations, and the youth groups. It is reflected
in curricula and in the way teachers have been trained to
think; it is evident in the affairs of the mosques
especially the subordination of the appointment of clerics
to political considerations; it figures prominently in the
practices and mindsets of hundreds of thousands of police
officers and army personnel."
social revolution, imposed from the top down, is what Makiya
and his fellow exiles want to see. The universities, the media,
the unions, the social organizations: every sector of society
will be transformed by the conquest, and in very short order.
As in postwar Germany, Makiya would institute various "grades"
of de-Baathification, from "major offender" to "exonerated."
Former Baath party members would be barred from participating
in the "democratic" process, and, presumably, barred from
even voting. Those not imprisoned would become official non-persons,
in the old Soviet mode, though on what basis or by what standard
Makiya does not exactly say. According to him, however, an
entire science of victimology will have to be invented:
must be a legal definition of victimhood at the hands of the
Baath, and it must be broad enough to include members of the
Baath Party who were themselves victimized by the regime.
Such a definition might give ‘victim’ status and a basis
for compensation to anyone oppressed because of political
opposition to the regime or because of race, religion, or
ideology; and to anyone who as a result suffered loss of life,
limb or health, loss of liberty or property, or who experienced
professional or vocational damage."
who are not victims must, by definition, be victimizers, and
they will be cast into the outer darkness.
the victimological sweepstakes that will define postwar Iraq,
the traditional roles will be reversed: the Shia will lord
it over the Sunnis, and the exiles – with their influential
connections to the conquerors will come out on top. This
will breed new resentments, but the presence of American troops
will preserve the new elite’s status unto eternity – or so
absurdly overstated equation of Saddam with Hitler and the
Baath party with the Nazis is a useful device, as far as the
neoconservatives are concerned. Not only for getting us into
a war in the first place, but also for determining the shape
of the "peace" – which, if they have their way, will merely
be a war carried out by means other than "bunker-busters."
Morgenthau, FDR’s Treasury Secretary, proposed that postwar
Germany be reduced to an agricultural, pastoral society, with
its industry basically destroyed, so the plan for Iraq after
the American conquest is predicated on a similarly monolithic
vision of Iraqi industrial organization: based, not on agriculture,
but on oil production – and a constant infusion of US taxpayer
assault on Baghdad could come at any time, but the viceroys,
both American and British, are already gathered together in
Kuwait, ready and waiting to be summoned. As the Observer
two comes in the immediate aftermath of the conflict. Under
American and British military command, civil servants from
both countries will 'run' Iraq after what is described as
a 'regime collapse'. That administration will then lead to
phase three, the interim administration under Jay Garner,
the retired general in charge of reconstruction. Last night
it was reported that Garner was planning to move into Umm
Qasr, the Iraqi port, to start work on phase three."
"nothing is settled," the paper reports, and Garner is so
unnerved by the fierce intramural fight going on between "Wolfowitz
of Arabia" and Colin Powell’s boys that he has considered
resigning before assuming his post.
are many differences between the two competing visions of
postwar Iraq, and I have covered some of them here. But the
one disparity that stands out is that the Morganthau-type
plan put out by the neocons, and favored by the Pentagon,
assumes a permanent American troop presence. It is an implicitly
colonial model, that sees the US military as the de
facto ruler of a conquered province and Iraq as a forward
base for future military operations.
UN-Powell plan, on the other hand, assumes some endpoint to
an American military presence. It is an exit strategy,
major aspect of the Powellian view of warfare, that basically
amounts to asking the rest of the world to clean up the mess
we made, even though they opposed us making it in the first
place. This will be far less costly, and risky, for the US,
but politically it will be hard to pull off. If anyone can
do it, Powell can – if he ever gets the chance.
hardly seems likely, however. The news that James Woolsey,
former CIA director under Bill Clinton and a tireless advocate of "World
War IV" is on the list of administration favorites
to lead the "interim" Iraqi government is a not so subtle
hint as to which plan is favored by the White House.
our accelerated, totally-wired, up-to-the-minute, fully-"embedded"
hyper-reality, where immediacy is everything, the war will
have lasted but a few weeks, a month or so at the most. But
the real war is going to be the long occupation, during which
US troops will be sitting ducks for every Islamist nutball
in a region filled with them – and the War Party will be looking
for new lands to conquer. The danger could not be greater.
help us all.
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