If anything underscores the tragic absurdity of
the armed effort to "export
democracy," it's the comic opera that played out the other day in Baghdad.
I realize that's an ambiguous statement, because there's lots to choose from
in that arena, but, no, I don't mean our hapless president's encounter
with a shoe-throwing Iraqi reporter.
On a much deeper and more substantive level, the news of the recent coup
attempt – or was
it a political setup? – illustrates the tragedy and futility of the Iraq
war. Last week's announcement that 24 officers of the Iraqi army – the army
that we have spent billions recruiting, arming, and training – had been arrested
on charges of planning a coup were supposedly buttressed by allegations that
the detainees had links to al-Awda
("the Return"), a shadowy guerrilla group that seeks to reconstitute
the old Ba'ath Party apparatus.
This, at least, was the initial announcement, made by a government spokesman,
but then Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki got into the act, denying
that there had been a coup attempt and praising the still-jailed senior officers
– including top Interior Ministry officials, senior level military personnel,
including a general or two, and a couple of high-ranking traffic cops – as having
patriotic spirit." Why they were arrested, exactly, and under what
charges is becoming increasingly murky: what isn't in dispute, however, is that
they were detained by a military unit under the personal control of none
other than… Maliki, the very one who hails them as "patriots."
Is that why, as of Sunday, some of them were still
in jail? Well then, where else would one expect to find Iraqi patriots,
these days, except in an Iraq jail or in exile? Just ask
What kind of a "democracy" is it where high-ranking military officials
are routinely arrested, without any credible explanation? The kind that over
4,000 Americans have given their lives for.
In the meantime, relatives and fans of the shoe-throwing journalist, who has
become a national hero, have staged
a sit-in in a park adjacent to the Green Zone, and their numbers are growing.
Army tanks and helicopters surrounded the 400 protesters and demanded they disband,
but authorities were apparently persuaded that Iraq didn't need its own Tiananmen
Square massacre, so the protest continues. Indeed, al-Zeidi has become a
figure for an Iraq split along a deep sectarian divide, with Sunnis from
Samarra reportedly joining
the predominantly Shi'ite supporters of the shoe-thrower. At last report, the
two groups were sitting side by side eating lamb and vegetables, with the soldiers
guarding them joining in.
Could this be the start of something big for Iraq? Possibly so – that is, if
the now famous al-Zeidi
doesn't meet up with an unfortunate "accident" in jail. He is said
to have offered the prime minister an apology and begged for mercy, although
his relatives hotly deny
this. However, it seems to me that if he has anything to apologize about,
it's for failing to hit his target despite two well-aimed tries.
The crew that brought
us this war and the subsequent
occupation deserve to go
down in history as far worse than mere incompetents: we hear
much about how the top Bush administration officials who ordered
subordinates to engage in torture, up to and including the
president and vice
president, have to be brought to justice, and that's all
well and good. But what about the pack
of lies they told us to justify a war that is nothing
short of the worst strategic disaster in American military history? Why
don't they begin investigating who lied,
who forged "evidence"
of Iraqi "weapons of mass destruction,"
and who deliberately
did an end
run around the mainstream intelligence agencies and fabricated an elaborate
mythology, none of which turned out to be based on anything other than the
imaginative powers of Ahmed
Chalabi and his neocon enablers
in the Pentagon?
These hearings are long overdue, but I doubt they'll ever be held, for a number
of reasons. One, this war resulted from bipartisan
in a campaign to pull the wool over the eyes of the American people. Democrats,
as much as congressional Republicans and the Bush administration, engaged in
a cooperative effort to unleash the dogs of war. Not only that, but it was the
Clinton administration, you'll remember,
that originated and pushed for passage of the Iraq Liberation Act, which formally
set the process
in motion and sent us down the road to war.
Second, the Obama administration is scheduled
to launch a "surge" of its own, in Afghanistan, which will very
likely spill over into neighboring Pakistan.
Hearings debunking the rationale for the last war are bound to reflect unfavorably
on the current war effort, and thus will likely be scotched before they can
even be proposed.