So what gives? By William Bowles

12 March 2007

‘[We come not as] conquerors or enemies, but as liberators.’ — Lieutenant General Sir Stanley Maude, Commander in Chief of British forces in Iraq, after entering Baghdad in March 1917.

According to the best estimates, the dozen years of sanctions following Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait led to something like one million deaths in Iraq, including 500,000 children and since the invasion in 2003 a further 650,000 have died as a result of the illegal occupation.

It’s a staggering number of slaughtered people, all done in the name of ‘democracy building’ but it doesn’t stop here, we need to add the slaughtered of the former Yugoslavia and who knows how many massacred in Afghanistan as nobody’s bothering to count. But lest we forget, the invasion and occupation of Vietnam resulted in the slaughter of at least three million Vietnamese and the effects of Agent Orange and the other toxic chemicals dumped on Vietnam is still killing and maiming people to this day.

‘[The] absorption [of Iraq should be] veiled by constitutional fictions as a protectorate, a sphere of influence, a buffer state, and so on.’ — Lord Curzon, December 12, 1917.

Then we have the ‘liberated’ dead of Cambodia, Laos, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Lebanon, El Salvador, Haiti, Panama, Angola, Zaire, and a dozen or more additional countries that have ‘benefited’ from US ‘democracy’ to add to the total. Who knows what the exact total is, but it runs into millions of people who have been made democratic and dead and this figure is only the total number who have been ‘liberated’ since the 1960s.

The West and principally the US and the UK has been ‘civilising’ untold millions for decades, indeed for centuries, so the current mayhem should come as no surprise to us. But what should surprise and sicken us, is the fact that we in the so-called civilised world have largely stood by and allowed our governments to destroy entire countries and cultures and all allegedly in our name.

By and large, those of us who do oppose our barbarian governments’ mass murder tend to the blame the media for misleading us by delivering the governments’ message of ‘spreading democracy’ to all those ‘unfortunate’ enough not benefit from ‘our’ way of life. And it’s true, the media does an excellent hatchet job on reality by dismembering events into discrete chunks thus removing any relationship between cause and effect as well as ‘disappearing’ any inconvenient facts that would undermine the prevailing orthodoxy.

An excellent example of this process in action can be seen by the way the media presents the ‘sectarian’ violence in Iraq to us by removing entirely any reference to the fact that none of it would be happening if we hadn’t invaded and occupied the country in the first place. But of course logic has absolutely nothing to do with it, if that were so, we would be getting an entirely different picture of US and UK ‘largesse’ when it came to the delivery of ‘democracy’ to the scores of countries that have, over the decades, ‘benefited’ from the ‘civilising’ effect of poison gas, mass bombings of civilians, napalm, Agent Orange, depleted uranium, ‘bunker buster’ bombs, cluster munitions, Hellfire missiles, to mention just a few of the mechanisms employed to deliver ‘democracy’ to those allegedly less fortunate than ourselves.

Anthony Arnove’s new book ‘Iraq: the logic of withdrawal’ documents the real story in devastating and sickening detail. Any mainstream journalist worth his credit card debt who covers these situations, who could continue to do the job of his or her paymaster after reading it, doesn’t really deserve the title human being let alone journalist, but hey, we all gotta eat, even the employees of empire.

And it’s a miraculous process to behold, a magician couldn’t carry off the sleight of hand involved with more skill whereby our presence in Iraq is transformed from one of occupier and slaughterer of the innocents into innocent bystander, helpless when confronted by the ‘terrorist’. We are led to believe that all we want to do is bring peace and democracy to a country that in every respect has been transformed into a slaughter house by our presence and actions.

Occasionally however, the truth will out but it doesn’t make headlines nor does it have the slightest impact on media coverage.

‘An American-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein—and the replacement of the radical Baathist dictatorship with a new government more closely aligned with the United States … would put America more wholly in charge of the region than any power since the Ottomans, or maybe even the Romans,’

wrote David Frum, former Bush speech writer. Well that’s telling it like it is, but ‘slips’ like this occur quite regularly, the problem the media has is how to deal with them? Answer? Simply ignore them and move on. Ignorance is bliss or so they say.

Arnove’s book is full ‘little treasures’ like the one quoted above and the fact that the employees of empire actually make such statements tells us an awful lot about the mindset of the ‘civilised’ people who utter them. And it goes some way in explaining the almost total disconnect between ‘us’ and ‘them’ but not entirely, so what gives?

Once again, we have to turn to the relationship between our domestic populations and empire for do we not benefit in so many ways from the relationship, not all I agree but a significant percentage that enables the ruling elites to maintain the fiction of support even if by the default of inaction.

And why no action? In part it’s explained by the nature of the anti-war movement which is still heavily imbued with anti-communism and loathe to be identified with anything that smacks of socialism and all that that implies.

The one problematic aspect of Arnove’s book is the title; ‘Iraq – the logic of withdrawal’ because it hinges on the assumption that the invasion was a strategic mistake that was bound to fail, but is this true? It hasn’t been a failure for the big corporations who have made billions in profits from the invasion, nor has it been a strategic failure as it has opened up the possibility of further ‘adventures’ in the region including the possible invasion of Iran. It has also strengthened the hand of conservative forces in the region.

I’m bound to ask the question therefore whether the rise of reactionary Islam doesn’t suit the purposes of the US perfectly? We should remember that after the fall of the Shah in 1979 and the possibility of a progressive ie, anti-imperialist government taking power in Iran, that the initial response of the US government was to back the Mullahs led by Khomeini, whose power was threatened by the Left which had led the overthrow of the Shah.

The Iranian religious establishment, with the backing of the West, and in particular the US and the UK, launched a horrific attack on progressive forces torturing, imprisoning and murdering thousands of mainly young people. This is a particularly important event in contemporary history that has been entirely ‘disappeared including by the left.

It also suits the current leadership in Iran to have an external enemy, the question is, will it backfire? As Arnove points out in relation to a possible invasion or air attack on Iran in spite of the apparent lunacy of such a move is the fact that:

‘…any bet at this point that relied on the intelligence, rationality, or humanity of U.S. Policy-makers would be an unwise one.’

Thus ‘logic’ in this case depends on who is doing the calculations. From an imperial perspective there is absolutely nothing logical about a withdrawal, especially as the vision of a compliant comprador government in Iraq fades into the distance.

Most critical is the need to maintain control of the region and its resources, whether by force of arms or through puppets, a point that Arnove makes over and over again, so how the imperial objectives square with the idea of the ‘logic of withdrawal’ is not at all clear.

It is perhaps a vain hope but the only solution is for the citizens of both the US and the UK to resist by all the means at our disposal the urge to extend the grip of global capital, something that can only be done by developing a truly progressive alternative to the current insanity. But without a coherent voice to lead such a movement, something that for example the ‘Stop the War Coalition’ here in the UK entirely lacks, it’s not clear how such an opposition can be built.

Yet there are signs albeit lone voices who are at last questioning the fundamental contradiction of capitalism but it’s coming not from the anti-war movement but from the environmental or ‘Green’ movement. Again, the same problems confront the ‘Greens’ as does the anti-war movement, namely the reluctance to call for the complete abolition of capitalism and its replacement with a sustainable and human-based socialism.

‘Iraq the logic of withdrawal’ by Anthony Arnove, revised edition, published 2007 by Metropolitan Books, NY.,


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