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Iraq: A Point of Orientation

Iraq: A Point of Orientation

By Dennis Loo (6/14/14)

The situation in Iraq is rapidly evolving but the overriding point to keep in mind is this: the US' invasions under both Bushes and the continued occupations under Democrats, both Bill Clinton and Obama, have spawned the sectarian fighting and truly massive suffering in Iraq. Now Obama is trying to drum up support for escalating the US's war on the Iraqi people in response to the violence that the US's invasion and occupation have themselves caused.

As empires will do because it's in the nature of empires to do this, they are convinced that through sheer force and gigantic inputs of resources, they can impose their will on other countries, regions, and peoples. This is a blind spot that imperialists cannot avoid because it's an outgrowth of being an empire in the first place. Empires do not become empires through winning popularity contests but by proving themselves willing to commit atrocities on a grand scale as a means to try to squelch any opposition to them.

When Bush Jr. was planning to invade Iraq in 2003, the CIA itself warned the White House that toppling Hussein would unleash intense factional fighting. The Bush Regime, convinced that they did not have to pay attention to nuisances such as empirical facts, spurned this advice and purged the CIA's upper management ranks. Using their cooked up intelligence, they proceeded to invade Iraq, convinced that they would be greeted with garlands and that songs would be written about them as liberators. As a result of that invasion and occupation, more than a million Iraqis have died and more than 60,000 American soldiers have died by suicide.

Obama, running on a platform that highlighted his "opposition" to the Iraq War, upon becoming POTUS, proceeded to try to wind down the Iraq occupation and substitute so many boots on the ground and a losing quagmire with the Obama Doctrine of Hell(fire) Missiles from the Air. This is his "smarter" strategy of killing using unmanned drones. The escalated violence between Sunni and Shiite fighters is the Islamic fundamentalist response to his "smarter" strategy. In other words, a system that is defined by domination and exploitation (aka imperialism), cannot be carried out in a smarter way because by its very nature it must rely upon plunder and violence and can only survive through mangling the truth and people's lives. Neither side - not the imperialists nor the jihadists - deserve any support. They both deserve condemnation as enemies of the people.

As I wrote in my 2011 book, Globalization and the Demolition of Society:

Neoliberal regimes have no choice but to rely more and more heavily upon coercion and outright terror to ensure cooperation and to forestall disruption and upheaval, because the rewards for going along with the status quo are being undercut day by day for the vast majority of the world’s people; in addition, disruptions, both on the day-to-day individual and family levels and on the city/state/regional and global levels, are more the norm and not the exception. Coercion must be used more, but even coercion does not work in all instances, and in some cases sheer terror must be employed.

This is the underlying reason why Obama is doing what he is doing and why he is proving to be such a shocking disappointment to those who expected something very different from this charismatic and articulate black man.

Two Sides of the Same Coin

Both anti-state terrorism and state terrorism share essentially identical attitudes towards the people—people are political objects to be acted upon rather than subjects to whom we can appeal. They are best moved through the generous application of fear. Anti-state and state terrorism both evidence contempt and cynicism towards people. In that sense anti-state and state terrorism are both profoundly antidemocratic and anti-humane.

The US “War on Terror” is the obverse side of the coin from bin Laden’s jihad. Osama bin Laden on a number of occasions subtly signaled his pleasure with Bush and Cheney’s policies. Recruiting soldiers to his jihad was far easier with Bush and Cheney in charge than it would have been under a Kerry presidency presumably, according to bin Laden’s logic, because Kerry would not have been as clumsy. (Whether bin Laden was right about this difference is impossible to know since Kerry never took office. But the events in Pakistan after the Bush White House adopted Obama’s 0664 recommendation to strike at al-Qaeda and the Taliban without consulting the Pakistani government suggest that bin Laden overestimated the differences between a Democratic and Republican president.)

The US government’s “War on Terror” and al-Qaeda present a unity of opposites: each needs the other and profits from the existence of the other. On July 1, 2009, Michael Scheuer, who was head of the CIA’s Bin Laden tracking unit from 1996 to 1999, interviewed by Fox News’ Glenn Beck, stated: “The only chance we have as a country right now is for Osama bin Laden to deploy and detonate a major weapon in the United
States.” The only chance this country has is if it suffers a devastating terrorist attack. Remarkable. Or, as Nazi leader Hermann Goering put it in 1946, “The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders . . . tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.”

The corollaries of rights violations and illegal surveillance by the Bush and Obama White Houses in the US are the violations of the rules of war that constitute state terror abroad. As seen in Abu Ghraib and at GITMO and in their assault on Fallujah/4 (where they specifically suspended international rules of war by aiming phosphorous missiles at people and shooting at anyone who moved), and Hilla (which had the misfortune of being on a direct path to Baghdad), the US military today rules in substantial degree through generous uses of terror. In the case of Hilla, where the US used cluster bombs on densely populated civilian areas, the objective was to quickly crush any resistance to their drive to Baghdad because they did not think that American public opinion would tolerate a protracted war campaign. (This is a core part of the [Colin] Powell Doctrine that grew out of the Vietnam War experience). In Fallujah’s case, the point was to punish the people of Fallujah for their support of the insurgents. The use of drones upon Pakistan not only results in deaths to innocents, it is warfare waged on a nonbelligerent sovereign nation’s territory, violating a basic tenet of international law.

A state that uses terror reveals itself to be on particularly precarious footings because it must resort to means that exceed those normally employed by states to carry out their policies and/or retain their power. The so-called “War on Terror” cannot be won the way it is being waged. Indeed, current methods only guarantee the spread of anti-state terror and its growing virulence indefinitely. It is like fighting a fire by drowning it with barrels and barrels of gasoline. As the conflagration grows ever higher, the US government calls out: “We need more gasoline here!” (Pp. 200-202)

Obama's appeal for support from the US population for the commission of more crimes against the Iraqi people must be resisted. This situation only underscores in script writ large that this much ballyhooed and allegedly invincible empire has feet of clay.

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Elaine Brower 2

Elaine Brower of World Can't Wait speaking at the NYC Stop the War on Iran rally 2/4/12