at home for the U.S. military presence in Iraq is dropping dramatically
as our troubles
mount on the battlefield. 56% of Americans now say Iraq
was "worth going to war over," while 42% disagree – a long
way down from 73% to 23% in April. The reasons are illuminating.
Quizzed as to what motivated their reversal, 24% of respondents
to a Gallup poll said because it looks like the administration
lied about weapons of mass destruction. An equal number say
the invasion resolved nothing and was a "waste of human lives."
11% volunteered the opinion that we need to stop policing
the world. Having supposedly "won" the war, Americans are
finding the fruits of "victory" no sweeter than outright
sentiments are probably more widespread in the U.S. military
than anywhere else. You'll remember that prominent high-level
officers made no
secret of their opposition in the run-up to this war,
and their hard-headed pragmatism is
clearly echoed in the ranks. Last week, the Washington
Post cited the words
of a sergeant in the Fourth Infantry Division, north of Baghdad,
that ought to send a chill up the nonexistent spines of the
are we getting into here? The war is supposed to be over,
but every day we hear of another soldier getting killed. Is
it worth it? Saddam isn't in power anymore. The locals want
us to leave. Why are we still here?"
Viceroy Paul Bremer has this answer
are going to fight them and impose our will on them and we
will capture or... kill them until we have imposed law and
order on this country. We dominate the scene and we will continue
to impose our will on this country."
Bremer keeps this up, he isn't going to last much longer than
his predecessor, General Jay Garner,
who was nixed almost before
he even took office. According to Gallup, of those who
say it was worth it going to war, 27% averred it was
necessary to remove an evil dictator and 18% volunteered that
we needed to "free the Iraq people" and "stop oppression."
The blowhard Bremer is riding for a fall, but the same can
be said for the whole imperial project.
of war supporters were convinced because of the need to "protect
the nation" and "stop the threat to world peace" supposedly
embodied by Iraq. As the countdown to war proceeded, the arguments
used to justify the invasion were all of immediate import:
the President and his team pointed to an imminent military
threat. Bush explicitly conjured up
a rather fanciful vision of a fleet of WMD-laden drones
capable of reaching the continental U.S. As Senator Robert
threatening, death-dealing fleet of unmanned drones about
which we heard so much morphed into one prototype made of
plywood and string."
whoever fed Bush that whopper isn't out of a job, then one
has to wonder who's at the control panel in Washington. As
we approach another presidential election year, the integrity
of this administration is at stake, and faith in the existence
of Iraqi WMD is on the wane. CNN reports:
45 percent said they lacked confidence that Iraq's alleged
weapons of mass destruction would be found, up from 15 percent
in March. The poll also found little difference in the number
of those who believe the Bush administration deliberately
misled the public about Iraqi weapons 37 percent now, up
from 31 percent earlier in June. More than half said it would
matter a great deal if they were to become convinced that
they were misled."
is the potential here for a radical turnaround in public opinion,
and the War Party is running scared. They thought they would
have time to consolidate their position and even have the
opportunity to start moving in on their next
target. Instead, however, they have been thrown on the
defensive, with chief warlord Donald Rumsfeld now forced to
admit – not long after the presidential
proclamation of "victory" the fighting will continue
"for some time." Oh, but please don't use politically
incorrect terminology to describe the U.S. predicament: we
are not to refer to the simmering conflict in Iraq as a "guerrilla
war," scolds Rummy, and "quagmire" is completely out of the
are so many cartoons where press people are saying 'Is it
Vietnam yet?' hoping it is, and wondering if it is, and it
isn't. It's a different time, it's a different era, it's a
isn't Vietnam, this much is true, which means it could just
as likely be far worse than Vietnam. When we fought
the Viet Cong, Communism was already a dying religion. But
Islam is a different matter. As for "hoping it is" another
Vietnam, how typical of a government official to blame the
victims of his policies for the disastrous results.
are we getting into?"
and the War Party have no answer to the sergeant's question,
not an honest one at any rate. They lied by omission to the
American people by downplaying both the human and the economic
costs of our Pyrrhic victory. America's men and
women in uniform are the greatest victims of a reckless policy.
This is just the beginning, and military families sense it.
A recent headline in the Michigan Grand Rapids Press,
in Iraq is supposed to be over, but local moms know better,"
sums up their feelings. A military mom scoffs at Bush's "Top
Gun" performance aboard the Abraham Lincoln: "Mission
Accomplished" read the banner ostentatiously festooned
across the great ship, another big lie they now deny, but
doesn't feel that way to Sand Lake resident Karen Smith. She
hears the reports six British killed in a riot, a U.S.
soldier shot in the head at a suburban Baghdad sidewalk store,
another shot in the back on night patrol. And she wonders
how much longer her son, Army Sgt. Shane Smith, will be told
to stay, says Smith, 49.
think we need to leave. I think we need to do what we can
and get out of there. They are turning on us. We have got
to get out of there.'
a sentiment echoed in homes of many military families across
West Michigan, as doubts creep in about a mission with no
clear end in sight."
from ending the war, the occupation of Iraq is only the first
phase of a neoconservative
plan to "transform" the Middle East.
And we aren't going to have any grumbling in the ranks, not
if Rep. Peter Hoekstra, a Republican representing Ms. Smith
and her family, has anything to say about it. The Grand
Rapids Press quotes Hoekstra, R-Holland, scolding the
families of military personnel who dare complain:
have gotten used to lightning-quick wars and minimal casualties.
These folks did sign up for the U.S. armed forces and one
of the real possibilities is military combat."
so just shut up and die, buddy – that's what we're telling
our soldiers. That is the message this administration
having slashed veterans' benefits and opposed
giving soldiers on the front lines a break on their college
loan repayments is sending to the military community.
can bet your bottom dollar they'll be trying to collect on
that college loan long after Johnny comes marching home: maybe
mutilated, or otherwise permanently traumatized. Perhaps in
up, soldier – your fate is of no importance to the warmongering
clique that never served a day in the military and yet
presumes to nurture Napoleonic ambitions. They lied about
the reasons for this war, and you are paying the full price
of it. You and your families, who live on a begrudged pittance,
are but pawns on a chessboard and just as dispensable.
the last grand adventure run by the Best
and the Brightest, the federal government reneged
on a solemn pledge to pay all medical bills of soldiers in
combat. This time around, I wonder what new tricks they'll
try. I write this on July 1, the 30th anniversary
of the end of the draft, a day on which the President surrounded
himself with soldiers who had re-enlisted in the midst of
a seemingly endless war. It was in this setting that he announced
a new determination to ignore the growing chorus of criticism
have attacked coalition forces and they're trying to intimidate
Iraqi citizens. These groups believe they have found an opportunity
to harm America, to shake our resolve in the war on terror,
and to cause us to leave Iraq before freedom is fully established.
They are wrong and they will not succeed."
will face "ruin," he averred, just as surely as "the regime
they once served." But this attempt to characterize the organized
guerrilla activity as neo-Ba'athist "remnants" is offered
without much evidence. British
casualties due to hostile fire are roughly proportional
losses: both are occurring at a rate nothing short of
alarming. Yet the southern part of the country, where the
Brits hold sway, was never pro-Ba'athist. The pro-Iranian
Shi'a, who constitute the majority of Muslims in Iraq, represent
another kind of threat to the occupation.
is in deep denial if he refuses to acknowledge that we are
fighting what is bound to be a protracted conflict against
a heterogeneous, broad-based opposition not restricted to
the Sunni population in central Iraq. Whether we call it a
war against "guerrillas," or "terrorists," or "remnants,"
or whatever, dude, it is going to take far more troops
than perhaps even General Eric Shinseki imagined. It was,
you'll remember, the former Army chief of staff who warned
that several hundred thousand troops would be needed. Rumsfeld drove
him into retirement for his impertinence.
ceremony honoring 30 re-enlisted soldiers, chosen as backdrop
for announcing that the war will be prosecuted to the end,
was fraught with ironic significance. Now that Bremer is asking
for more troops to be sent, Shinseki is vindicated – but
where will all these centurions come from? It is 110 degrees
in the Iraqi desert, and volunteers for an indefinite stay
are likely to be in short supply.
public support for the non-war in Iraq dwindles, the duration
of the U.S. military mission is becoming a major political
question. Where is our exit strategy? That is the major question
that needs to be asked of every political candidate. We need
to find out how many of the Democrats are one of these "let's
rebuild Iraq" types who want to prettify an occupation as
some sort of good deed, just as long as we modestly assume
the fig-leaf of the UN. Many activists are impressed with
Howard Dean's bold opposition to the war plans of this administration,
but he needs to be asked under what circumstances the U.S.
should withdraw – and how soon.
invasion of Iraq is an accomplished fact, but what is not
yet accomplished is the goal of ensconcing us there for 5
to 10 years, as Senators
Richard Lugar and Joe Biden aver. Just back from a trip
to our newest overseas possession, they looked grim as they
reported that this administration had woefully underestimated
– or perhaps even deliberately downplayed – the difficulties
inherent in the occupation. They sighed, wistfully, at the
inevitability of it all and effectively washed their hands
of any responsibility.
the extended stay of U.S. troops in Iraq, on the grounds that
we have some sort of responsibility to ensure "order" and
"stability," is a recipe for disaster. Our military presence
is the cause of the chaos, not the cure: the social fabric,
always delicate, has been ripped asunder by the war, and the
application of more force cannot mend what has been broken:
it can only bruise the patient further.
have no trouble understanding this concept as it applies to
government action in the U.S., but for some reason insist
on applying a different principle to government action abroad.
cannot export our system around the world at gunpoint. Such
an endless, thankless task would exhaust our resources, both
human and financial, beyond the bounds of reason. Worse, empire-building
would corrupt us as a people, infecting our culture and subverting
our political institutions. The semi-permanent occupation
of Iraq is not a foregone conclusion: there is yet time to
turn back from this reckless course, and do a u-turn on the
road to empire.
supposedly "liberated" the Iraqis from a regime whose legendary
evil grows with each retelling of the familiar atrocity stories.
But what about us Americans, who, like poor Sisyphus, are
faced with a task that is not only endless but also thankless?
Who will "liberate" us?
IN THE MARGIN
in a recent issue of the New York Review of Books,
Clifford Geertz trenchantly
Schwartz, who has also run into political difficulties
in the capital, and stirred thereby a teacup-storm on the
right, is a strange and outlandish figure."
if to confirm Geertz’s diagnosis, Schwartz immediately came
out with another fulminating
screed, Part XVIII
of his long-running series trying to frame various individuals
as a part of a Vast Conspiracy involving terrorists and -
coincidentally -- all of his own worst enemies, chief among
them being, apparently, little old me.
remember that last time he constructed an elaborate fantasy in
which I was supposedly the inspiration behind an incident
that, according to him, had involved the threat of physical
violence against him by incensed Muslims. The sheer power
of my words, it seems, had the effect of inciting a crowd
somewhere in Long Island to contemplate delivering Schwartz
to the same
fate suffered by his
hero, Leon Trotsky. Oh yes, and I was also supposed to
be intimately involved with a terrorist group known as Jamat
al-Fuqra. This time,
an obscure anti-Indian group, and Ismail
Royer, an American citizen whom I have never met, and
who was recently arrested for allegedly supporting terrorist
activities. Here is Schwartrz’s idea of a Raimondo-Royer-Jamat
role of Raimondo in this maneuver remains extremely interesting.
Raimondo has inexhaustibly assailed me because, like Royer,
have taken an Islamic name, although unlike Royer, I have
never used it for deceptive purposes. Royer employed Raimondo’s
propaganda as a fig-leaf to cover his own attempt at intimidation."
does not even begin to describe the logic that attempts to
link me to a terroristic conspiracy on the grounds that Royer
had once sent him "a defamatory quote" from a "notorious Saddamizer
and admirer of Axis seditionists," namely me. "Strange and outlandish,"
Schwartz certainly is – and, in making a second career out
of smearing me, more than
just a little bit sinister.
has elevated his own crazed narcissism into a full-blown delusional
system, in which everything is a conspiracy against poor heroic
Schwartz, around whom the entire universe revolves. If you
can stand it, take a peek inside the Schwartzian mind,
as he rails against his enemies, heaps praise on himself,
and reveals himself to be a pompous, self-important fool.
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