It was nice to see Congress show some backbone today in grilling the mendacious war criminal Condaleeza (Chevron) Rice and new Pentagon chief Robert Gates. Liberal Democratic Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) raised the issue of actually de-funding the war, something that Ted Kennedy (D-MA) talked about yesterday. Moderate Republican Senator Chuck Hagel (Nebraska) said that Bush’s “surge” promises to be the worst U.S. foreign policy action “since the Vietnam War.” Fighting populist Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) gave a decent speech denouncing Bush’s plan on the floor of the House; he wasn't alone. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) told Rice that people in the administration aren’t suffering and sacrificing for the terrible war they are prosecuting. The White House expects less privileged others to die and get maimed for their horrible policies, she said.
Let’s have more of this sort of confrontation and talk. It was good to see a little bit of heated, serious and honest civic debate – at least loosely aligned with actual public opinion (imagine) – grab headlines away from the president’s predictable effort to push his case surrounded by members of the armed services.
People who care about democratic culture ought to be very alarmed by now about the way Bush now regularly surrounds himself with favored “real Americans” in military uniform while announcing deadly policies opposed by the large majority of his merely civilian majority. Not good.
Thankfully, the Idiot-in-Chief is now facing increasing opposition from the active duty military, the majority of which (according to a December 2006 Army Times poll) now opposes his war.
But yes let’s have more of this sort of conflict and tough questioning. Let’s have serious congressional investigation of the deceptive case the White House made for its illegal war, of human rights abuses committed during the war, of corruption in the awarding of contracts and of …all the rest. Such investigations may become seedbeds for an overdue constitutional crises leading to impeachment and removal of Cheney and Bush.
But what should be done about Iraq as an alternative to Bush’s pathetic re-escalation and his imperial oil war? The creepy Republican New York Times columnist David Brooks is right when he says today that “if the Democrats don’t like the U.S. policy on Iraq over the next six months, they have themselves partly to blame…the Democrats have been fecund with criticisms of the war, but when it comes to alternative proposals, a common approach is Social Darwinism on stilts: We failed them, now they’re on their own” (“The Fog Over Iraq,” NYT, 11 January 2007, A27).
The standard conventional wisdom out there is that the question of “what to do about Iraq” is just enormously complex and involves agonizing choices between difficult options, all of which are “bad.” “There are no good options.” How many times have we heard that phrase in recent months?
I disagree that it’s too complex and that there are “no good options.”
Here is what a civilized United States – a U.S. that actually cared about democracy, human rights, international law, the people of the Middle East and the world etc. – would “do about Iraq.” It would stop talking about the occupation of Iraq as a “mistake” and starttalking abut accurately and honestly as a crime: a truly great transgression for which it must make reparations and be held legally and morally accountable. It would end its military invasion and occupation and work with international agencies and other states within and beyond the region to guarantee Iraqi security through a global peacekeeping force. It would dismantle all permanent U.S. military installations in Iraq. It would abolish all laws/rules opening the Iraqi economy to foreign and predominantly U.S multinational corporate exploitation. It would renounce all U.S. designs on Iraqi petroleum reserves. It would convert a massive portion of the sum it currently spends on militarily attacking Iraq to the provision of basic health, social, and infrastructural service and reconstruction in Iraq. It would work with Iraqis and international agencies to assist and enable the holding of genuinely free and fair Iraqi elections devoid of U.S. pressure.
It would pay massive reparations for the simply incredible damage it has inflicted on Iraq over many years and indeed decades, not just during the current open military assault. In determining the nature and scope of these reparations, it would inquire into and then responsbily attend to the needs and desires of the victims. It would work with international authorities to investigate, prosecute, try, and sentence the top guilty parties behind the invasion in accord with the well-known Nuremberg principles, the UN Charter, and numerous national and other international legal and policy instruments.
Those in my opinion are reasonable alternatives. You start by ceasing and desisting from illegal international aggression. You begin by calling off the assault. You move to meeting others needs and accepting responsibility. You offer your criminal “leadership” up for accountability. You acknowledge, apologize, and pay for what you have done – the hundreds of thousands you have killed and maimed, the water systems and food supplies and roads you have destroyed and polluted, the resources and opportunities you have stolen, the exodus you have forced, and the….[fill in the blank]. You contribute to healing as best you can. You ask for help from international others in and empower those others in proper accord.
This isn’t “cut and run” and viciously saying to the Iraqis (as many Democrats now seem to advocate) “now you are on your own. We tried to help you [right!] but it didn’t work and now you need to stand up on your own. See you – FYI we’ve redeployed some forces over the horizon to attack you once all Hell breaks loose again oh and by the way we’ve got some permanent bases here to keep a watch on all that oil and we expect you to give American oil firms the lion’s share of your petroleum Production Sharing Agreements. Sorry about the sonic booms and the continuing daily bombing.”
Doing the right (the left) thing along these lines is so obviously basic from an elementary perspective of civilized internationalism and yet it is frankly inconceivable to all but a select few if any of those congresspersons from the corporate-imperial Democratic Party. It’s almost impossible in the current U.S. political, institutional and ideological framework to even have a public conversation about these alternatives. At least it’s incredibly difficult to have such a dialogue beyond the lunatic fringe…the political skid row that passes for an organized left in the U.S. Even mentioning these sorts of alternatives (which make perfect sense to most of the morally and politically cognizant world) marks you as some sort of dangerously unbalanced “crank” in the United Orwellian States, where "war is peace" and "love is hate." Sad but true.
I just did a piece on Bush’s speech; I hope it will be on ZNet’s main page sometime in the next few days. If not I’ll put it up here. Here is the link to a piece I did on growing military opposition to Bush’s Iraq policies.
I hate to say this but if the civil society is going to continue to be so intractably narrow and authoritarian, then perhaps the crazy criminal war that the out-of-control Messianic Militarist (sadly beyond the reach of even James Baker's butterfly nets) is escalating can only be stopped by the military itself. Many leading military officials are less than pleased with the way that the civilian armchair fascists Cheney, Dumbya, Rumbo, and Rove, etc. have run the military into the ground. The petrocorporate Chickenhawk's war has been reviving terrible Vietnam memories in the officer corps. Maybe its time for an actual rebellion (less bitching and more order-refusing please) within the ranks of the armed forces. Whatever, let's continue to work to coordinate opposition in civil society with opposition inside the military.