Idiot Winds of Empire

What to say about the Idiot-in-Chief’s big war speech last night?  “Not since Richard M. Nixon ordered American troops in Vietnam to invade Cambodia in 1970,” writes David Sanger in today’s New York Times, “has a president taken such a risk with an increasingly unpopular war” (Sanger, “Bush Adding 20,000 U.S. Troops; Sets Goal of Securing Baghdad,” NYT, 11 January 2007, A1, A19). 


Dumbya’s “surge” goes beyond the “surge” recommended by his intended parental supervisors at the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group (ISG).  The ISG Report embraced “a short-term redeployment or surge of American combat forces to Baghdad.” 


But last night Bush said nothing about “short-term.” He announced a longer-term increase in force levels and commitment. He’s talking about an escalation. He’s deepening the U.S. commitment to an imperial war opposed by most of the American (not to mention most of the Iraqi) people. 


That is rather interesting when we consider that the Messianic Militarist has repeatedly claimed that O.I.L. (Operation Iraqi Liberation) is about advancing a “democratic ideology” holding that government acts in accord with the “will of the people.”


The occupation is now such a transparent Fiasco that The Decider has to drop his claims of Iraqi “progress.” The Worst President Ever is reduced to scrunching up his beady little eyes and trying to frighten us with the terrible “consequences of [his] failure” in Iraq.  He waved the bloody flag of 9/11/2001, when “we saw what a refuge for extremists on the other side of the world could bring to the streets of our cities” (I wonder if Iraqis have the same reflection about 3/19/2003).  He warned about radical Islamists exploiting Iraqi “oil revenues” for nefarious purposes.


“ I broke it,” Bush said, “and you, my fellow Americans, need to keep on buying it with your blood and money for as long as it takes…or at least until I can get my sorry silver-spooned ass out of here.”  


There’s little if anything “new” in Bush’s “plan.” As columnist Steve Chapman notes in today’s Chicago Tribune (I am writing on Thursday, January 11), the speech’s “basic formula” of “clearing and holding urban areas to provide security” for (frankly) lame jobs plans and “democratic” development is “identical” to past U.S. campaigns in Iraq.  This is “for the obvious reason that Bush has little capacity to learn from his past mistakes.”  It’s just the same old warmed over bullshit all over again, reminding one anonymous administration official Chapman spoke to of the movie “Groundhog Day.” (Steve Chapman, “New Plan is Just Repeating History,” CT, 11 January 2007, sec 1, p. 13).


According to leading imperial strategist James Dobbins, it would now take 500,000 troops to “stabilize Iraq.” Bush “big push” would move U.S. troop levels to just one-third of that. And yet the “too little too late” “Surge” confirms Iraqi suspicions, Chapman notes, that the U.S is involved in “a permanent [oil, P.S.] occupation” (Chapman, “New Plan”). Chapman does not add that those “suspicions” are perfectly reasonable.


About two or three minutes into Bush’s address, I started taking notes.  I was picking up a lot of Orwellian absurdity. Here are some of my real-time speech reflections:


* repeated use of the terms “democracy” and “democratic” to describe administration goals and a broader invasion that are actually opposed by the majority of Americans and Iraqis and indeed by most of the world.


* He’s denouncing “terrorists” and “foreign fighters” and claiming to support “the territorial integrity” of Iraq as he continues to prosecute a state-terrorist war of occupation in which imperial “foreign fighters” (US and UK troops) violate the “territorial integrity” of Iraq.  He talks like we’ve annexed Iraq…like it U.S. territory, like we aren’t foreign invaders.


* Deepening the crime; deepening the terror; deepening the oil occupation…he’s  like an abuser who tells his victims he cares for them and respects them while he beats on them…violates them. 


* He denounces “extremists” but what are he and his team and supporters but an out-of-control bunch of radically reactionary, regressive and repressive extremists – not “conservatives” at all  – of Empire and Inequality at home and abroad?


* There’s one (indirect) reference to the main reason for the U.S. invasion of Iraq – super-strategic Iraq/ME oil – when he says that Islamic extremists could “use oil revenues to fund their ambitions.”  Well shucks, what does Uncle Sam want to do more than to control Iraq’s simply stupendous oil reserves in order to further his (officially noble and benevolent) Imperial Ambitions? (This is widely understood outside the U.S.).


* The Idiot almost claims to be proposing his “surge” to the American people when we know damn well that the escalation is already well underway (verified after the speech by ABC anchor Charles Gibson, who noted that “vanguard” U.S. forces are already on the move).


* The Idiot claims to be advancing “human rights” and “the rule of law” in deepening a monumentally (and elementarily) illegal invasion that has violated the Geneva conventions through mass torture practices he approved while conducting illegal wiretaps on U.S. citizens.


As a radically democratic left opponent of Empire and Inequality, I am by definition denied access to the narrow-spectrum corporate-imperial dialogue that dominates “mainstream” (corporate-state) media commentary regarding U.S. foreign policy. I found it interesting, in that context, to watch a highly animated roundtable discussion on Bush’s speech that took place late last night on the â€œPublic” Broadcasting System’s “Charlie Rose Show.”


Rose’s roster of morally and ideologically safe guests included Rahm Emmanuel (centrist Illinois congressman and Democratic Party campaign architect, who worked to keep peace and justice candidates off last November’s ballot); Richard Holbrooke (former Clinton envoy, UN ambassador, and leading humanitarian interventionist); Fareed Zakaria (centrist Newsweek columnist); Bill Kristol (yes Bill Kristol, the super-reactionary corporate-plutocratic and arch-imperialist Bush-fellationist and leading Neo”conservative” voice for and of the illegal occupation);   Robin Wright (Washington Post); Michael Duffy (Time); Daniel Ignatius (Washington Post); and the intelligent reporter and author Thomas Ricks (Washington Post and author of FIASCO).


Few if any of my notes and comments (above) would have been considered remotely discussion-worthy by this carefully chose crowd.  The only relevant point for them – the question insistently posed to them by Rose – was “will it work?”


Except for the pathetic Kristol, the consensus was that Bush’s plan won’t work, consistent with the lead Times editorial today, which concludes that “there is nothing ahead but even greater disaster in Iraq” (“The Real Disaster,” NYT, 11 January 2007, A26).


The panel’s reasons for “pessimism” (I use quotes because I don’t get upset about likely failures of imperial policy…I patriotically want Empire to fail) included:


* Too little (too few troops) too late.  


* The Iraq state and military is too weak.


* Maliki is too beholden to Shiite militias.


* The sectarian conflict is too intractable.


* The U.S. military is too exhausted and overstretched.


* The U.S. military doesn’t buy in to “the Surge” (leading war and military correspondent Ricks reported numerous e-mails from officers expressing unanimous opinion that Bush’s scheme is doomed to fail).


* Bush is mistakenly elevating military over political solutions.


* Bush is still carried away with too much “democratic idealism” (a point that Holbrooke emphasized). 


* Bush is playing with domestic fire by rejecting the ISG’s recommendation that he find and advance “bipartisan” policies regarding Iraq


This was educational, but it was disturbing to witness the panel’s consistent avoidance of the core absurdities. None of the participants could begin to acknowledge the fundamental contradiction between the underlying objective of the invasion – to secure deeper U.S. control of Iraqi oil – and the purported goal of democratizing and liberating Iraq and the Middle East. The completely disingenuous and cynical nature of administration claims to support “democracy” within and beyond Iraq – and for that matter at home (where one-person-one-vote is trumped by open corporate plutocracy) – was beyond the self-imposed parameters of permissible debate. Only Zakaria briefly dared to acknowledged that the U.S. has encouraged the ethnic-sectarian conflict (he would never go further to observe how that is about making the case for a permanent oil occupation). None of them could begin to acknowledge that the U.S. will be maintaining a permanent (oil) occupation even if Democrats are in control of the executive branch after 2008. 


The basic problem and crimes of America’s bipartisan Empire are unmentionable among such highly placed commentators, for whom the benevolence of U.S. intentions is doctrine.  For them the basic question is how to make Uncle Sam’s supposedly noble quest for global dominance â€œwork.”  


Inherently unwilling to acknowledge critical blood-and petroleum-soaked problems of Empire and Inequality, dominant media talking and scribbling heads are stuck on the M-word: Mistake.  According to Chapman today in the Tribune, “the administration…can’t admit that Iraq was an irredeemable error.”  Fine, but dominant corporate war and entertainment media can’t admit that the ongoing invasion of Iraq is an irredeemable but predictable crime of petro-capitalist Empire.  


This is one of many truths that cannot be spoken by the well-trained masters of the dominant media word.  The idiot winds of war and Empire can be heard howling through their power-worshipping minds, carrying them to future reporting and commentary on ever greater disasters at home and abroad.  




Paul Street ([email protected]) is a veteran radical historian, speaker, policy analyst and journalist in Iowa City, IA.  He is the author of Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, November 2004); Segregated Schools: Educational Apartheid in the Post-Civil Rights Era (New York, NY: Routledge, 2005); and Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis: A Living Black Chicago History (New York, 2007).


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