Then there were the Kurds pushing against the CPA for something barely short of an independent
“Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said yesterday that in the event of
And speaking of playing with fire, there was Ayatollah Sistani insistently striking matches and moving them ever closer to the last bit of foundation under America’s teetering version of Iraq: After all, the clear and present danger of Saddam’s Iraq, the 9/11 connection, the weapons of mass destruction arsenal have all evaporated and what’s left in our explanation arsenal is overthrowing a brutal dictator in the name of “democracy.”
I can imagine a little dialogue in
I mean who expected a bunch of Shiites in
There’s a bit of an irony here. We were bringing them “democracy,” but when some of them actually demanded the promised goods, we said, impossible, can’t be done in the time available, and insisted instead that the Shiites in particular settle for a process of choosing so obscure and indirect that it just might result in a government which we would feel comfortable turning “power” over to.
Unfortunately for the Bush men, Ayatollah Sistani has as of yet refused to give in on the matter of elections. As Dilip Hiro describes the situation in the Nation magazine (“Sectarianism in Iraq,”
“Although Bush dropped the earlier plan of having
This Shiite insistence, not the armed resistance of the Sunni minority, may prove the administration’s deepest problem. Juan Cole at his Informed Comment website describes the present increasingly incendiary situation this way:
“al-Hayat reported that Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani’s representative in Karbala, Shaikh Abdul Mahdi al-Karbala’i, warned that the coming days will witness demonstrations and strikes, and possibly confrontations with the occupation [Coalition] forces if they insist on ‘their colonialist plot and in designing the politics of this country in ways that serve their interests.’ Al-Karbala’i called everyone in his Friday sermon before hundreds of worshippers ‘to support the religious leadership,’ affirming that ‘the Shiite leadership in Najaf takes a great interest in the process of transferring sovereignty to the Iraqi people through general elections.’
“He added that it would ‘never henceforth allow the rights of the Iraqi people and the oppressed religious community [the Shiites] to be stolen from them, and would never compromise on their rights.’ He said that ‘The religious leadership is intent proceeding with this battle until the end. What is asked of you now is not to abandon [Grand Ayatollah Sistani] to himself, since leaving him in the lurch would expose us to the wrath of God and the curses of history.’ He asked the worshippers to ‘forget your disputes and to unite for the sake of the greater cause,’ pointing out that ‘apathy and negligence will lead to more long years of repression.’ He warned of enemies of the Shiites who were meeting behind closed doors to plot the political future of the Iraqi people.”
“Colonialist plot.” Uh-oh. This is serious stuff and it drove L. Paul Bremer, our viceroy in
Here from the same Washington Post piece, for instance:
“Sistani has refused to see any
A country with no experience of democracy. No wonder they’re demanding it! What about from a country with no desire to deliver real democracy?
Gee, Sistani’s thinking must be complicated indeed. Democracy is when the majority rules via free elections; the Shiites are a majority in
Here’s another passage from the same piece — and pretty typical of reporting from
Imagine that! There’s a good definition of democracy for you. An “Iraqi face” on our authority. No wonder we don’t really want an election. Here’s another version of the same sort of thing from Washington Post columnist David Ignatius on the bleakly amusing prospect of Bremer and the Bush administration turning to – of all places — the UN for help in convincing Sistani that “democracy” shouldn’t really mean “democracy,” not in Iraq anyway. Ignatius begins by suggesting that (“Bremer’s U.N. Lifeline,”
“Bremer’s problem is that
Ah, a “power grab.” I wonder, just out of curiosity, how Ignatius described the
“So things have come full circle in
Look at the language there. We “bypassed” the UN in our rush “into”
Talk about tortured language. You just wonder what reality these guys live in anyway?
This week Todd Gitlin, who’s launching a new column at the openDemocracy website, in his first piece had this comment on “democracy” — you know, that thing we’re so hot to export — as it’s practiced back in the good old US of A these days (The politics of anti-politics):
“The brontosaurian length of American election campaigns is not a tribute to our collective fascination with politics. To the contrary, such is the political lethargy of the world’s oldest democracy that the campaign must elongate itself if it is to have a chance of roping in even half of the electorate by the time the day finally comes for the people to make known their collective will.
“The roughly two-year-long campaign is evidence of a perverse American disdain for political life and government. What a peculiar thing! This grandiose nation-state with planetary (indeed, interplanetary) reach and colossal global consequence is governed by a government held in contempt by most of its citizens.
“In popular parlance, ‘politician’ is a curse-word. ‘Politics’ – as in ‘that’s just politics’ – is synonymous with pettiness, corruption, unreliability, and warped reasoning.”
Perhaps that’s why the Bush administration was in such a rush to get Halliburton and Bechtel into
What does the real world of
50,000 if all goes well — and it won’t — by the end of 2005. Just remind me of what it is we’re planning to turn over to the Iraqis someday?
Oh, and p.s.on our little wars and what can be seen of them, should anyone care to look — Paul Rogers, also of openDemocracy and always a clear-eyed analyst, reports the following on Afghanistan (A war on several fronts):
“It has been clear for some time that Taliban elements have been regrouping in preparation for a possible substantial campaign in summer 2004. Recent Taliban actions have been directed against aid workers and other non-military targets rather than US forces, with the intention of damaging the morale of the Afghan military, police and public servants. There was, however, some expectation that such violence would diminish during the winter as Taliban units prepared for their coming campaign.
“The latest spurt of violence suggests that even in the middle of winter, Taliban elements are able to undertake damaging attacks on a wide range of targets. At the very least this means that the
Their world and welcome to it
Now, let’s return to our vice president — the man who never saw a bird he didn’t want to shoot, an oil executive he didn’t want to send him on a trip somewhere, or a homeboy Supreme Court judge he didn’t want to hang with — and that speech he gave to the World Affairs Council in
Go read it yourself and then tell me that these guys weren’t just dying to get at
There was his warning about the next terrorist attack (“Instead of losing thousands of lives, we might lose tens or even hundreds of thousands of lives as the result of a single attack, or a [coordinated set] of attacks”); there was his reassurance that we’re fighting in Iraq lest Toledo be next (“We have, today, more than 125,000 Americans serving in Iraq. They are confronting terrorists every day in that country, so that we do not one day meet the same enemies on the streets of our own cities”); there was the use of the “war on terrorism” as a yardstick to measure everything from illegal immigrants (“The problem we have today is we have millions of illegal, undocumented workers in our midst. We do not know when they came. We do not know how long they stay. We do not know what they do while they’re here. We do not know when they leave. From the standpoint of homeland security and securing the nation’s borders, it is a major hole, if you will, in terms of our overall situation.”) to the value of
9/11, the vice-president insisted, wasn’t really a new
“There are certain moments in history when the gravest threats reveal themselves. And in those moments, the response of our government must be swift, and it must be right. September 11th has been aptly compared to
Note not only the invocation of the creation of a new infrastructure of war and national security under Truman, but the mention of those “eight successors.” I mean, folks, here’s Dick Cheney’s reality — and you’re not going to find much about it in our papers or on the prime-time news: In the gospel according to Cheney, we’ve entered what former CIA director and distinct kook James Woolsey has called “World War IV.” It’s just begun and, on the pattern of the Cold War, which qualifies as World War III, it’s going to last the next fifty years or so. This is a terrorizing vision from the man who, if Paul O’Neill is right, is just behind that chair in the Oval Office.
I leave you with this small comment from James Fallows, part of a piece in the Jan. 2004 Atlantic on all the prewar planning on postwar Iraq that the administration managed to ignore or sideline (Blind into Baghdad):
“This is the place to note that in several months of interviews I never once heard someone say ‘We took this step because the President indicated …’ or ‘The President really wanted …’ Instead I heard ‘Rumsfeld wanted,’ ‘Powell thought,’ ‘The Vice President pushed,’ ‘Bremer asked,’ and so on. One need only compare this with any discussion of foreign policy in Reagan’s or
[This article first appeared on Tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news, and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, long time editor in publishing and author of The End of Victory Culture and The Last Days of Publishing.]