Today, the utter and total failure of the American colonizing project in Iraq is clear to all. The brutal and sadistic treatment of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers, the Fallujah massacre, intensified and growing armed resistance among both Sunnis and Shias, and the utter failure to rebuild Iraqi infrastructure have given us ample proof of this. But the crimes and atrocities of the occupation are neither "unprecedented" or "shocking" as the liberal pundits would have us believe. In fact, even a year ago - long before the arrogant Donald Rumsfeld was reduced to parading through the infamous Abu Ghraib prison-complex in an Israeli-made armored car to try to save his career - it was clear that the US would only "instill" barbarism and chaos. That argument was laid out exactly a year ago in the form of The Longer View: Conondrums of A Civilizing Mission, and we reprint it below.
(First Published on May 14, 2003, at CounterPunch
The Longer View: Conundrums of
a Civilizing Mission
Or are they too spellbound by their narrowly conceived selfish interests,
too blinded by their hatred of progress, grown so senile in these latter
days of the capitalist age, as to commit suicide out of fear of death?
--Paul Baran, The Longer View
Part One: A Diagnosis
Iraq has been set aflame.
For the past twenty years, the soil of this nation of twenty-four million was sprinkled with the kerosene of American benevolence. The citadel of civilization first donated to the people of Iraq the gift of Saddam Hussein, financing and arming him with chemical and biological weapons for a decade; then it utterly decimated the nation's civilian infrastructure in war and stood by silently while the still-reigning despot crushed ethnic revolts in the aftermath; later it held millions of women and children hostage to a most cruel set of devastating post-war economic sanctions, killing at least 500,000 young sons and daughters of this Arab nation. These are America's previous contributions to Iraq, the last liters of kerosene-coated kindness to be spilled before setting Iraq ablaze in a final act of generosity-a campaign of Shock and Awe, of military invasion and colonial rule.
But in the embers and ashes of war, in the smoke which rises from the rubble of the plundered and pillaged, in the stench that haunts the corpses of the burned and bombed, the ominous voice of death and destruction now whispers only one word: liberation. Indeed, the mantra of liberation has been heralded by the leading luminaries of the war campaign; by the great humanitarian Donald Rumsfeld, who spoke of the care and concern poured into each American cruise missile destined for Iraq, by the nuanced philosopher George W. Bush, who describes his wars as crusades and neatly apportions the world into good and evil, and by the short-term emperor of Iraq, General Jay Garner, who heaped lavish praise upon Israel for its restraint in mowing down only a few hundred dispossessed Palestinians in two months time.
The cynical and opportunistic invocation of Iraq's suffering as a pretext for waging war of 'liberation' upon it has produced the desired effect on some of the war's doubters. As America puts its final touches on the military masterpiece dubbed 'Operation Iraqi Freedom', many now marvel at the achievement, dropping all pretenses to opposing the war and citing the gods of Inevitability and Pragmatism. Large sections of the American Left lie impotent, gripped by the paralysis of theoretical poverty.
Many had embraced slogans surrendering ground to the Right, with variations on 'Support Our Troops' a rather dubious sentiment when 'our troops' were unleashing cluster bombs on cities and spraying machine gun fire on civilians. Others appealed in vain to the United Nations, that discarded carcass torn apart by an openly aggressive administration unconcerned with false formalities. Still others hoped for a more determined resistance by Iraq's army to dampen American enthusiasm for conquest, but that wish was left smoldering in the wreckage of Iraqi armor as its officers fled, capitulated, and collaborated with the invasion force. None of these sentiments, at any rate, could halt the American advance towards Baghdad, nor could they offer any explanatory power once the images of US tanks in the capital, cheering Iraqis, and falling statues of Saddam poured onto television screens as rapidly as wine flowed into the cups of ebullient hawks.
The victory celebration of the Right is, in fact, altogether premature-but few on the American Left seem to grasp the full implications of the present period. For wide sections of the Left the order of the day now appears to be mourning and grieving for Iraq and preparing the appropriate epitaphs: the war was unjustified because, after all, no one can seem to find the much-coveted weapons of mass destruction-but the whole production is now 'over' anyway. The neoconservative agenda is met with contempt, derision-and, now that it is underway-even fear among anti-war activists, but apart from warnings of destabilization and terrorism the full dimensions and consequences of the doctrine itself have gone unexamined. Above all, the general sense in some quarters of the anti-war Left in particular is that 'we have lost' and 'they have won'.
It must be stated from the outset that such sentiments illustrate a serious misreading of the scope and scale of the administration's overall program-a consequence of ceding too much space to the Right, failing to draw attention to the inextricable ties between war and capitalism, between past and present, for fear of offending the powers that be and angering the 'moderates'.
In this context it must also be said-with that degree of bluntness required to sharpen our understanding-that the 'moderate' position is bankrupt. A position which scurries away in horror from such dreadfully impolite terms as 'imperialism' and 'Zionism', which fawns at every opportunity to assure the concerned parties that we too support the overall 'war on terror', we too can wave American flags at rallies like true 'patriots', we too support occupation so long as it is 'multilateral', renders any so-called commitments to peace and justice utterly hollow, as funeral rites for our futures to be intoned at appropriately solemn processions led by the proper authorities of certain 'Left' circles-already shedding their mourning veils for more militant apparel to fulfill the heroic task of condemning cornered Cuba at the apex of American empire.
This woeful method of 'opposition' traps the movement within the preconceived parameters of pro-war discourse, and, in connection, ties it to the pro-war paranoia to which it comes to accommodate itself and is ultimately seduced by. Concrete political analysis is swept aside in a flurry of framed interrogations about 'patriotism', 'pro-Saddamism', 'anti-Americanism', and 'anti-Semitism'. A movement that fails to challenge the ideological noose thrown around its neck is bound to be hanged. In order to effectively combat and expose the claim of 'liberation' it is necessary to go outside the imposed boundaries of mainstream discourse, to 'offend' and 'anger'-to 'shock and awe'-the appointed authors of cheap lies providing the rationale for re-colonizing the Middle East.
The military conquest of Iraq has removed Saddam Hussein and the Ba'ath party from the heights of power it once commanded, and has allowed for the most direct and forceful projection of American power in the region to date. To interpret this development as the beginning of liberation for Iraq in particular and the Arabs in general is to make a mockery of history. For it so happens that even the briefest glance of the historical record reveals the foreign policy of the United States government as one not smothered in goodwill but soaked in foreign blood.
Consider the period of war between Iraq and Iran following the 1979 Islamic Revolution: operating on the principle espoused by Henry Kissinger that, one, "it's best to let them kill each other off," and two, "oil is too valuable a commodity to be left in the hands of the Arabs," the US government, through special envoy Donald Rumsfeld, normalized relations with Saddam Hussein in preparation for a massive exportation of arms and equipment.1 For the next ten years, a total of twenty-four private US corporations supplied Saddam with a total of over $1.5 billion dollars of chemical, biological and conventional weapons, including Sarin, Tabun, and VX gas.2 No one was shedding tears in Washington when these weapons were used with devastating effect against Kurds in the 1988 Halabja massacre which left thousands dead; one victim recently interviewed by Western media said, ""I don't trust Britain or America at all," adding, "they have said nothing about our plight due to the gases for 15 years. They even supported Saddam then."3
Consider also the period following Gulf War I, when America imposed a severe set of sanctions on Iraq, depriving it of even basic civilian and medical necessities on the basis that they might hold military value. The list of banned goods included chemotherapy drugs, blood bags, painkillers, pencils, analgesics, and chlorine. The sanctions reinforced the power of Saddam in Iraq as they targeted and decimated the civilian population. Two UN heads who oversaw the Iraqi oil-for-food program-and who resigned in succession out of disgust-estimated that about 500,000 children under five were killed as a direct result of the sanctions regime in ten years, with one million dead overall; both of them termed it "genocide".4 America took a more sanguine view of its policy: asked if troubled by the death of 500,000 Iraqi children in 1996, the Secretary of State announced that "the price was worth it."
What the thousands of families who were forced to bury their children prematurely learned-and what some 'liberals' have forgotten-is that American imperialism is predicated not upon the diffusion of 'democratic values' but the pursuit of crushing power. Few understood this better than the planners who set the framework for maintaining American hegemony at the end of World War II, among them George Kennan of the State Department, who wrote in 1948 that "we have about 50% of the world's wealth, but only 6.3% of its population…Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity....we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming…we should cease to talk about vague and...unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts."5
Victims of such "straight power concepts" can be found on every continent, be they in Chile, Greece, Indonesia, Congo, or Vietnam; wherever nationalist demands for self-determination and economic independence from the wrathful reach of American capital gained strength, they were met with swift repression through direct military force or brutal right-wing proxy regimes. Today's preachers of 'liberation' in the Middle East are members of the same sanctimonious Church whose members held no qualms about training death squads, funding secret police, and dropping napalm when it suited the god of capital during-and still after-the Cold War era. And in the singing choir of this holy abode of American imperialism, one also notices no shortage of repressive pawns and puppets comprising the regimes of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, who maintain their power thanks to the generosity of American financial aid.
What is the sole function of these ossified apparatuses, but to crush, beat, and torture the opposition of the 'Arab street' which seethes in anger at American policies in the region?
Now that the military conquest of Iraq has been torn from its illusory context of imperial benevolence and placed against the proper historical backdrop of American support for repressive elites whose task is to quell Third World resistance, the scene becomes far clearer. For the destruction of Saddam's army and arrival of American armor in Iraq is not a first step of liberation, but merely an introduction of new methods to fulfill and expand upon old purposes. The Ba'athists, who were brought to power in 1968 with the assistance of American intelligence (which also kindly supplied them a list of thousands of suspected Communists and Kurds to be summarily executed) became disposable by virtue of disobedience; the heresy of the regime was not that it was brutal and bloody-indeed, from the US point of view, these were among its assets-but that, after 1990, it acted against American interests. Thus the imperial minister, having now swept away its unruly minions, seeks to take on the role of robbing the Iraqi people firsthand.
Perhaps this assessment sounds too harsh, too unforgiving-too 'radical'. Here it is useful to turn attention to the words of the American war planners themselves. The military planners of Shock and Awe: Rapid Dominance leave no room for confusion: "The intent here is to impose a regime of Shock and Awe through delivery of instant, nearly incomprehensible levels of massive destruction directed at influencing society writ large," for the weapons of war are to be employed "against society and its values" and "directed at the public will of the adversary." The only remaining question, the planners go on, is if it is possible "to destroy quickly the will to resist within acceptable and probably unachievably low levels of societal destruction."6
This program dovetails nicely with the neoconservative doctrine of 'total war', in which, according to its espousers, "the sparing of civilians cannot be [the] first priority," for "total war pits nation against nation, and even culture against culture." The reason for this is clear enough: total war is one that "not only destroys the enemy's military forces, but also brings the enemy society to an extremely personal point of decision, so that they are willing to accept a reversal of the cultural trends that spawned the war in the first place." Ultimately, we are informed, the goal of 'total war' is "to permanently force your will onto another people group."7
Let the Left take heed: here lies exposed the hatred, racism, and arrogance of American imperialism shorn of all its sentimental and pseudo-moralistic trappings; hind legs poised, fangs bristling, claws bared, there can be no doubt as to the nature of this particular beast. The task of soothing the populace with fairy tales about the 'honest intentions' behind this colonial venture may well be left to the servile satrapies of the propaganda and power structures, but already at this relatively early stage we can discern the broad outlines of the 'total war' strategy from unfolding events in Iraq.
Part Two: The First Signs of Liberation
Let us begin our examination at the precise point at which American democracy directly touched the citizens of Iraq-that is, when American bombs began liberating Iraqis from their limbs and lives. For this purpose a brief sampling of evidence should suffice. March 31st: AFP reports that in Janabiyah, "Bloodied school books and children's shoes lie amidst animal carcasses on the road leading to the Ismails' farm" leaving 20 civilians dead, 11 of them children. One survivor recalls that "five children were turned into human torches;" another says, missile debris in hand, "That is Bush's democracy. They want us to welcome them with flowers. Look what they've done to our families." April 4th: Canadian Press cites Red Cross doctors in Hillah telling of "an incredible number of casualties with very, very serious wounds," and of "a truck [that] was delivering dozens of totally dismembered dead bodies of women and children." 400 people had been taken to the local hospital in two days. April 12th: The Independent tells the story of a 12 year-old in Baghdad whose father and pregnant mother was killed by bombing and whose arms had to be amputated, and of an 11 year-old who "has lost his left arm, half his face is hidden by bandages and he may lose one of his eyes." His father asks: "What is the justification in bombing ordinary people?" Rumsfeld was not on hand to answer.
April 15th: Knight Ridder newswire reports "five unexploded American-made cluster bomblets" in a Baghdad neighborhood complete with "fallen walls, collapsed roofs and smashed cars riddled with bullet holes." Locals fumed, "Look what they have done to us…Everyone here now wants to kill Americans." Nearby four civilians were killed and witnesses told of a 10 year-old boy shot and 13 other civilians killed at the mosque; the local sheikh offers a tour of the bullet-riddled mosque, commenting, "This is now inside our hearts and will never leave…we hate the Americans." April 17th: Humans Rights Watch demands an inquiry for the US "using [of] cluster bombs in populated areas of Baghdad." April 18th: Washington Post reports from Najaf: "Ali Khadim Subhi walked today along a row of 10 coffins allocated to the corpses who were once his family," all killed in an air raid. At the local cemetery, "over the past week, each of the six workers was washing 45 bodies a day. Other spoke of hundreds, even thousands, being buried from dawn to dusk." Mourning and grieving, a brother of one Shiite man killed declared, "We don't want the Americans. We don't want their freedom. The Americans killed him."
It is not clear precisely how many Iraqi civilians were sacrificed at the altar of American imperialism over the course of the war. We can nevertheless comfort ourselves with the reassuring fact that no one in Washington is interested in "doing body counts" of the Iraqis, military or civilian. Such tasks are beneath the honor of empire. But this is not all: for it would be very naïve to assume that the project of 'total war' reached an end with the closing of major military operations-the task of striking fear into the heart of the backward Arab has in fact only begun.
For once the debris of the old regime was swept aside by American military might, the new occupiers of Iraq first presided over a mass looting and plundering campaign conducted across the capital and other major cities, one which they made no attempt to prevent. Mobs, unimpeded by idle US soldiers stationed nearby, looted and ransacked public government offices, private homes, and even hospitals, forcing medical personnel to arm themselves and erect barricades. The scene in some areas was desperate: within 48 hours of liberation, "men with Kalashnikovs dragged drivers from their cars at gunpoint, babies were killed by cluster bombs, and hospitals," overflowing with "badly rotted" and "stinking corpses" -courtesy of American tank shells and cluster bombs-were "transformed into visions of hell."8 At one makeshift mortuary an Iraqi disturbed at apparent American indifference asked, "Why are they allowing robbing, why are they allowing people to set fire to buildings?" Faculty at Nasariya's Technical Institute who tried to defend the school from looters recalled that patrolling US forces not only refused to help but in fact openly encouraged the looters: "I saw with my own eyes…The Americans waved bye-bye and the looters were clapping…when one man came out with an air condition an American said to him, 'Good, very good.'"9
The most humiliating scene, however, was at the Ministry of Antiquities, where Iraq's museums were gutted and ransacked by unchecked looters. American promises to protect Iraq's valuable antiquities went unfulfilled, allowing professional art thieves to run off with prized artifacts. A museum director told the press, "This is what the Americans wanted. They wanted Iraq to lose its history."10 Thus one of the first achievements of America's civilizing mission was the destruction of priceless valuables reflecting thousands of years of Mesopotamian civilization: a priceless example of the neoconservative concept of 'creative destruction' at work.
This project has its natural limits, of course: the Iraqi oil ministry, "still under heavy guard" by American forces, Reuters informs us, "is the only government building that survived looting that swept the capital."11 The Iraqi people can also rest assured that even though they have no functioning government, America and Israel have already begun plans to resurrect an oil pipeline from Mosul to the Israeli port of Haifa, fulfilling what a senior ex-CIA official said "has long been a dream of a powerful section of the people now driving this administration."12 The priorities of the new occupier reflected in incidents such as these do not, of course, call into question that unassailable mountain of 'Western values', which Iraqi heathens will learn to look up to with proper reverence and awe in due time.
But until that time arrives, it is necessary to put the natives in their proper place: after military bombardment and national humiliation, the third phase of the civilizing mission is necessarily one of containment. As early as April 11th, with Baghdad's government buildings set ablaze and residents blockading streets to drive off looters, US troops manning checkpoints opened fire on a car, killing four civilians and wounded a five-year-old girl.13 On April 15th, US troops shot and killed ten Iraqis in Mosul where, like 20,000 Iraqis in Nasiriyah on the same day, people chanted, "No to America, No to Saddam" and children threw stones at soldiers.14 On April 19th, tens of thousands across the country took to the streets to protest the American occupation, with banners reading "Leave our country" and "No to America"; all three major denominations in Baghdad -Christian, Sunni Muslim, and Shiite Muslim-failed to follow the administration's script, threatening resistance to any long-term presence of US troops.15
By April 23rd, the overwhelmingly poor Shiites in the city of Baghdad "converged like to rivers flowing from opposite directions" to protest the American detention of a cleric; when a Chalabi follower emerged to inform the crowd-now faced with Bradley machine guns-that the cleric had been freed, the people soon began denouncing Chalabi as well.16 And by April 25th, a critical situation had developed in Kut, as half the city's American-assigned police officers quit after "local people warned them that only traitors collaborated with America." The police station itself was burned to the ground, while US troops began to arm themselves with anti-rioting equipment. In the preceding two days in the city, a crowd of hundreds blockaded a US Humvee convoy and a 25 year-old demonstrating in front of bulldozers was shot and killed.17
13 more Iraqis, among them three young boys, shared the same fate on April 29th, when American troops gunned down protesters at a rally in Fallujah, injuring scores of others. Hundreds of schoolboys "shook their shoes at the soldiers" and "pelted them with stones and yelled in English, 'Down USA!'".18 The response was swift: a day later in the same city, US forces killed two more protesters. Two British journalists on the scene reported that US troops opened fire without warning on the crowd of unarmed men and boys when a child threw a shoe at an armored vehicle.19 An American officer's explanation was appropriately pathetic: "The evil-doers are deliberately placing at risk the good civilians."20 Let him understand who can.
Every shot fired against a people seeking to defend their nation's integrity from foreign dominance, every blood-stained bullet that finds its way into the flesh of an Iraqi protesting occupation, is imperialism's warning to all those who resist submitting to absolute power; it is also a reminder to our movement of the necessity of resisting that power and exposing its predatory nature with unrelenting criticism and unyielding pressure.
Part Three: Uncivilized Exponents of the Civilizing Mission
To bring such criticism and pressure to bear, however, it is first necessary to know who is brandishing the dagger of absolute power and for what other purposes its blade has been sharpened. To this end it is only fitting to begin with the aforementioned scenes of military occupation now prevailing in Iraq. For no one who is aware of that other war in the Middle East, of the suffering and oppression of a native people living and dying under the heel of Israeli colonialism, can escape a sense of déjà vu in light of events in Iraq: the stone-throwing protesters, firing into crowds, tanks rolling into streets, curfews, and checkpoints common to Palestine now appear in America's own newly occupied territories. In fact, it could not be otherwise, for it so happens that the architects of liberation in Iraq have hired the builders of that inspiring edifice of apartheid which prevails in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to carry out their present task.
At the top of the list is of course General Garner himself, a close associate of the powerful Washington group Jewish Institute of National Affairs (JINSA) and signatory of a JINSA-initiated petition blaming Palestinians for the flare-up of violence sparking the second Intifada-a most curious position considering that in its opening months 272 Palestinians were killed as opposed to 18 Israelis.21 Garner's recently-anointed State Department superior is close to Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz who along with former Defense Policy Board member Richard Perle is a JINSA associate and fervent supporter of Israel's far-right and the war on Iraq. The overseer for 'reconstruction' of post-war Iraq is Douglas Feith, a Perle associate who also favored an intensified permanent military reoccupation of Palestinian land. The rabidly pro-Israel camp also includes the neoconservative think tanks which constitute the ideological pillars of the administration: American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and Project for a New American Century (PNAC), where Rumsfeld and Cheney stand as distinguished members. At any rate, the ties between the American and Israeli far-right are well-known and have been elaborated upon elsewhere; what is of importance in the context of the American program to 'liberate' Iraq is to uncover the shining qualities of the Israeli example from which our present civilizing mission derives its inspiration.
The official mythology of Israel has been parroted enough times for anyone familiar with other fairy-tales such as Hansel and Gretel or The Seven Dwarves to know the basics: Israel is an outpost of civilization facing a frontier of Arab darkness, constantly forced to defend democracy against hordes of heathens. This pleasant fiction has been shattered in the past twenty years by Israel's own historians consulting newly-declassified archives, who now admit that Israel "has committed the sin of colonialism" through "the dispossession and victimization of a whole people."22 Thus as British colonialism led by Cecil Rhodes began setting up a white settler state in South Africa at the end of the 20th century, it found a financial ally and ideological parallel: Zionism, whose mission was to carve out a state for European Jews-"a settler minority"-in the heart of the Arab world.23 Early Zionists were well aware that "the implementation of Zionism could only be at the expense of the Palestinian Arabs"-hardly an inconvenience because "'Disappearing' the Arabs lay at the heart of the Zionist dream, and was also a necessary condition for existence."24
Equipped with the understanding that its settlers "have not come to an empty land to inherit it, but…to conquer a country from people inhabiting it," Zionist leadership prepared "compulsory transfer," so as to "remove the Arabs from our midst," in Ben-Gurion's words.25 Thus even before the outside Arab states intervened in 1948-in which case the Zionist militia still "outnumbered all the Arab forces arrayed against it, and, after the first round of fighting […] outgunned them too"-Palestinians were massacred and expelled en masse, stripped of their property and possessions.26 The conquering settlers destroyed some 400 villages, swallowed up half the land, and confiscated "British pounds, jewelry and other over valuables" including hundreds of shops and "truck-loads of property".27 Once the war was over, some 750,000 Palestinians were relegated to the status of expropriated refugees, a position of crushing weakness whose dreadful consequences they have been unable to escape.
Israeli leaders, well aware of the success of their ethnic cleansing campaign and their great advantage in military and political power, would come to boast that they are "the generation of colonizers" presiding over a land where "there is not one single place…that did not have a former Arab population."28 Top Israeli government officials freely express their hatred of the native with the pride that comes with being a colonial power: as "crocodiles", "beasts walking on two legs", "grasshoppers…heads smashed against the boulders and walls", and "drugged cockroaches in a bottle."29 And with these words have followed complementary action: in the past three decades, thousands of Palestinian homes have been razed to the ground to create space for exclusively Jewish settlements filled with religious fanatics, the previous inhabitants tortured, transferred, detained, and murdered at will despite loud protestations from human rights groups inside and outside Israel.
Today of course, the Israeli leadership fears no one. Their settlers proudly proclaim that "One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail," their military chief openly describes Palestinians as a "cancer", their officers speak of "internalizing the lessons of… how the German army fought in the Warsaw ghetto," their army mows down 72 Palestinians in a month absent of a single suicide-bombing, their prime minister, indicted for massacring 1,800 civilians, is hailed as "a man of peace" by America's president.30 The Palestinians, for their part, remain imprisoned in ever-diminishing strips of uncultivable land, surrounded by settlers and soldiers, haunted by increasingly alarming levels of poverty (50%), unemployment (70%), and hunger, now burdened with-in the words of one Israeli policeman-"a different kind of despair, more like the one experienced by the Jews in the European Ghettos."31
There can be no doubt as to the implications of the aforementioned facts. The 'liberators' of Iraq, so intoxicated with a sense of superiority, deeply inhale these noxious fumes of Israeli brutality before releasing from their lips sweet words about saving Iraq as if it were perfectly natural. Sure enough, they speak with pride about instilling 'democracy' and 'Western values' in Iraq-but for decades Palestinians have been exposed to what these gentlemen consider the epitome of such 'values': Israel. We have seen with what results.
On this score there is an additional charge to contend with: the neoconservative camp furiously denies the relevance and impact of Israel's policies on America's colonial program, insisting that such talk is the product of anti-Semitic imaginations. This is nothing new. Israel's cheerleaders have long sought to deflect criticism of that nation's ethnic cleansing, torture, indiscriminate killing, bulldozing, and land aggrandizement by raising the specter of anti-Semitism. Unfortunately for them, many of Israel's leading critics are Jewish, the uncomfortable facts of Israel's past have been dug up largely by Jewish historians, a half-thousand of Israel's own soldiers refuse to serve in occupied lands, and so on. The real point here is that Israel's supporters invoke the charge of anti-Semitism not only to deflect criticism but also because they consider Palestinian life so worthless that they cannot believe criticism of Israel to be genuinely motivated by anything other than anti-Semitism.
Neoconservatives embrace the same distorted logic: in their view, no one could possibly be opposed to a policy of destruction and perpetual war on its own 'merits'; it is simply the Jewish background of some neoconservatives which stirs anger. What can one do when faced with this extraordinary performance of mental gymnastics? We can only confess that, lacking the vast funds of the Pentagon, we cannot hire enough missionaries to convert neoconservatives who are of Jewish persuasion to another religion and thus 'validate' our position. Paupers that we are, we must instead insist on certain strange and exotic principles, namely, that it is the content of one's actions, not one's religious or racial background, which determines its moral value. And the 'moral value' of the neoconservative program is not in doubt.
Let us sum up the result: America's fondness for the Israeli model presents yet another blow to the case of compassionate colonialism. One cannot claim to liberate one set of Arabs with the murderers of another set of Arabs. But the adoption of old colonialist methods to impose a new world order means not only the 'Palestinization' of Iraq but also the 'Israelization' of America: That is to say, the intensification of violence and dominance over the Arab under the pretext of exporting democratic values requires the accelerated deterioration of those very values within America.
All the hate, self-righteousness, and sense of superiority in society must be marshaled, disciplined, and directed against reason, against rationality, to maintain the coherency of the colonial project. Militarism and racism become the order of the day; society totally subordinates itself to the unquestioned leadership of a profiteering few; the media and press remain obedient; lies are beaten and hammered into truth; truth is beaten and hammered into forgotten history. This process now emerging in America has already fully matured in Israel, where, distinguished commentator Uri Avnery writes, "The callousness has spread from the occupied territories into Israel itself."32
Thus the question is no longer whether American elites will 'uplift' Iraqis -but rather to what depths these exponents of our civilizing mission have themselves descended.
First, there is the spectacle of naked greed. With European nations uninvited to the financial feast that is post-war Iraq, American corporations stand to profit quite handsomely. Consider the government contract awarded to Bechtel Corporation to the tune of $680 million for the purposes of 'rebuilding' Iraq, possibly worth billions down the line. Not more than a month ago, the head of Bechtel was appointed as a member of Bush's Export Council, which advises on trade. The senior vice president of the company is a member of the government-appointed Defense Policy Board. Its former president George Schultz openly militated for war against Iraq and served as Secretary of State under Reagan in 1983, at which time he sent Donald Rumsfeld to Iraq as a special envoy to conduct business with Saddam Hussein-the same Rumsfeld who heads the Defense Policy Board today and sold two nuclear reactors to North Korea in 2000.33
Speaking of the DPB, it recently suffered an undoubtedly grave loss as one of its esteemed members, Richard Perle, recently resigned under pressure due to a 'conflict of interest' when it became evident he was conducting deals with a Saudi businessman on behalf of a company that stood to profit from war.34 But no discussion of the incestuous government-business-war enterprise known as modern capitalism would be complete without mentioning Vice President Dick Cheney, who is the former head of Halliburton Company, which now serves as " the 'corps of engineers' to the US military" and specializes in developing oil fields. In a closed government contract worth up to $7 billion, Halliburton was put in charge of limiting damage to Iraq's oil wells in the event they were set ablaze-an early indication of its potential reach. New disclosures by the Army now reveal that Haliburton has also been granted the role of directly "operating pumps and distributing oil" in Iraq.35
Dressing up such brazen profiteering in the more respectable robes of a liberation campaign is no small task. But few are better equipped to carry it out than America's most illustrious recruit in the war effort-its media and press. Experts in the art of cultivating conformity and fealty to the administration's line with the prized paintbrushes of 'objectivity' and 'no spin zones', these organs of a supposedly 'free press' have became mere propaganda outlets. Television news stations first morphed into ex-generals' clubs, as an endless string of former military men appeared on hand to offer their comments on this or that military maneuver, including the use of cruise missiles to destroy Al-Jazeera's offices in Iraq. To this achievement we can add CNN chief Eason Jordan's proud description of all the military experts on his network: "I went to the Pentagon myself several times before the war started and met with important people there, and said…'here are the generals we're thinking of retaining to advise us on the air and off about the war'. And we got a big thumbs-up on all of them. That was important." Meanwhile, one American paper fired a technology reporter for attending an anti-war rally, and MSNBC squeezed an apologetic extraction out of one of its reporters, Ashley Banfield, who dared to criticize the network's sanitized war coverage.36 To the Pentagon's credit, no cruise missiles were fired at Ms. Banfield.
Nothing more clearly exposes the poverty of America's leadership than the set of puppet exiles they have chosen to help take over Iraq. The favorite eunuch of the hour among Pentagon officials is Ahmed Chalabi, who has been comfortably ensconced in London for the past half-century before returning 'home' to Iraq. He was airlifted into the region along with several hundred other Iraqi National Congress (INC) exiles courtesy of American C-130 Hercules transport aircraft and Special Forces after major war operations subsided. Chalabi, who travels around with an entourage of mercenaries he lauds as "brave volunteers," (and whom he pays $300 per month for their services) found himself welcomed at his first press conference in Iraq by bullets.37 One of his first acts was to take up residence at a playground palace formerly owned by Saddam Hussein's demented son Uday.38 He has also been indicted by the Jordanian government for massive bank fraud-clearly placing him in the ranks of America's own towering leaders. In another sign of belonging, the powerful American-Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC) cordially invited the INC to its annual conference in April, where the drums for war against other Muslim countries beat loudly.39
Chalabi and other exiles of his ilk like Kanan Makiya, who praised America's bombing of Iraq as "music to my ears," have demonstrated the proper fealty and subservience to America's hawks, adeptly filling the role of what Malcolm X once called the 'house Negro' That these exiles who first donned their American aprons long ago have no credibility among the Iraqi masses is indisputable. Shiite, Islamist, and nationalist currents, which never quite embraced the war with the expected mass jubilee, have made their voices prominently heard in large daily demonstrations, raising slogans against the American presence and the INC itself.
Of course, all this must be hastily forgotten and set aside: we are, after all, led by a man on a divine mission, the leader of leaders, hero among heroes, George W. Bush. The man who bathed in the warm applause of American Navy sailors after a successful (and well-staged) aircraft carrier landing is not frowned upon for evading military service in Vietnam, but hailed for bravery and courage. He is not chastised for aligning himself so closely with a Christian Right which ceaselessly demonizes Islam and demands a return to stagnant obscurantism, but is lauded for deep faith and religiosity. His crude and Kafkaesque rhetoric, vows to wreak vengeance upon nations across the globe, and unwavering contempt for all opposition inspire awe and admiration from large sections of an obsequious domestic audience.
What can one say about this most pathetic state of affairs? Have all our genuine democrats, conscientious intellectuals, gatekeepers of civil liberties, and guardians of constitutional rights been whisked away to Iraq? The internal decomposition of progressive ideals in America has created the rot from which the maggots of Reaction emerge, now calmly awaiting their metamorphoses so as to buzz about above the carcass of progressive principles the moment society surrenders and ceases to resist the renewed spirit of imperialism.
This new imperialism, as evidenced, will not be one of civilizing, liberating, and uplifting. Behind that proud but always illusory image of the strong Western figure with sturdy shoulders primed to carry White Man's Burden lies a pathetic and scrawny creature, emaciated by a diet of hypocrisy, duplicity, and denial, whose atrophied muscles are flexed only against the poorest, weakest, most vulnerable ranks of humanity and whose ego swells with false pride upon defeating third-rate armies of Third Word countries whose people are left in ruins.
For Americans who are committed to the cause of universal justice, the first task in the struggle towards a more humane society is to soberly come to terms with the true breadth and scope of the deeply-rooted problems that now face us, which I have attempted to lay out above. For no matter how vicious, how appalling, how infuriating the authors of this civilizing mission may be, they do not represent irrational or grotesque aberrations from a preset course of general progress. Rather, they represent the natural, ineluctable outcome of an irrational and grotesque system, whose preset course will lead towards increased suffering and misery until men and women of courage and conviction move with all their might to combat it and carve out new, brighter paths for humanity to follow.
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1. David Ross, "Saddam Hussein, Donald Rumsfeld, and the Golden Spurs: An interview with Jeremy Scahill", Z Magazine, November 2002.
2. See U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Second Staff Report on U.S. Chemical and Biological Warfare-Related Dual-Use Exports to Iraq and The Possible Impact on the Health Consequences of the War, May 25, 1994.
3. Anthony Loyd, "Gas victims struggle for air at gasp as Western 'hypocrisy'", The Sunday Times (UK), February 23, 2003.
4. John Pilger, "A People Betrayed", Independent (UK), February 23, 2003.
5. Foreign Policy Planning Study 23, State Department, Published in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1948, Volume I, pp. 509-529.
6. Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance, by Harlan K. Ullman and James P. Wade, NDU Press Book, 1996. Online: http://www.dodccrp.org/shockIndex.html
7. Brian Whitaker, "Conflict and catchphrases", The Guardian (UK), February 24, 2003.
8. Suzanne Goldenberg, "The hell that was once a hospital", The Guardian (UK), April 12, 2003.
9. Jonathan Duffy, "US troops 'encouraged' Iraqi looters", BBC News Online, May 6, 2003.
10. Robert Fisk, "A Civilisation Torn To Pieces", The Independent (UK), April 16, 2003.
11. Hassan Hafidh, "Iraqis Begin Oil Minister, Output Talks", Reuters, April 20, 2003.
12. Ed Vuillamy, "Israel seeks pipeline for Iraqi oil", The Observer (UK), April 20, 2003.
13. "Some Iraqis Try to Stop Looters in Baghdad", Associated Press, April 11, 2003.
14. "At least 10 dead as US troops in firefight in northern Iraq", AFP, April 15, 2003.
15. Thanassis Cambanis, "Iraqis slam US presence", Boston Globe, April 19, 2003.
16. Paul Belden, "Oh no, not again", Asia Times, April 23, 2003.
17. Jonathan Steele, "Keep out of town hall, Kut tells US troops", The Guardian, April 25, 2003.
18. Sarah Left, "US troops 'kill 13 Iraqi protesters'", The Guardian, April 29, 2003.
19. Chris Hughes, "Two Killed in New Iraq Demo Shooting", The Mirror (UK), May 1, 2003.
20. "U.S. Troops Fire on Iraqi Protestors Again", Associated Press, April 30, 2003.
21. Statistics from Israeli human rights group B'TSelem (www.btselem.org)
22. Original Sins: Reflections on the History of Zionism and Israel, Benjamin Beit-Hallahami
23. .S. Africa connection: Uri Davis, Israel: An Apartheid State (London: Zed Books, 1987, p. 3-4.) Also see: Ralph Schoemman, The Hidden History of Zionism, Veritas Press, Santa Barbara (Calif.) 1988. Online: http://www.marxists.de/middleast/schoenman/ch02.htm/ Settler Minority: Benny Morris, "Revisiting the Palestinian exodus of 1948," in Eugene L. Rogan and Avi Shlaim (eds), The War for Palestine (Cambridge: 2001), pp. 39-40.
24. Zeev Sternhell, The Founding Myths of Israel (Princeton: 1998) and Tom Segev, One Palestine, Complete (New York: 2001), pp.404-5.
25. First quote (Israel's first foreign minister, Moshe Sharret): Benny Morris, Righteous Victims, New York: Random House, Inc., 2001. p.91, Rest (Ben-Gurion): Benny Morris, "Revisiting the Palestinian exodus of 1948," in Eugene L. Rogan and Avi Shlaim (eds), The War for Palestine (Cambridge: 2001) and Benny Morris, Righteous Victims, New York: Random House, Inc., 2001
26. Avi Shlaim, "Israel and the Arab Coalition in 1948", contained in The War for Palestine, ed. Eugene L. Rogan and Avi Shlaim, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. p.81, 89, 99.
27. Tom Segev, 1949: The First Israelis, Free Press, 1986.
28. Israeli war hero Moshe Dayan, quoted in Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, "Original Sins: Reflections on the History of Zionism and Israel"
29. Ehud Barak, Israeli PM: Jerusalem Post August 30, 2000; Menachem Begin, Israeli PM: New Statesman, 25 June 1982; Yitzakh Rabin, Israeli PM: New York Times, April 1, 1988; Ralph Eitan, IDF Chief of Staff: New York Times, April 14, 1983.
30. Settler quote: New York Times, February 28, 1994; Chief of Staff quote: Haaretz, May 10, 2003; Warsaw Ghetto: Haaretz, January 25th (Hebrew version), 2003; 80 dead Palestinians: Haaretz, March 6, 2003.
31. On health and economy: James Bennet, New York Times, March 6, 2003; Israeli policeman quote: Neve Gordon, "Come to Dinner When the War Ends", Dissident Voice, March 31, 2003.
For an excellent and thorough overview of the I-P conflict, see Norman Finkelstein's analysis: http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/id128.htm
I also recommend my own more polemical overview on the subject: http://www.counterpunch.org/alam0713.html
32. Uri Avnery, "At Midnight, A Knock on the Door", Counterpunch, April 20, 2003.
33. Pratap Chatterjee, "Bechtel Wins Iraq War Contracts", CorpWatch, April 24, 2003 and Randeep Ramesh, "The two faces of Rumsfeld", The Guardian, May 9, 2003.
34. Seymour Hersh's piece on Perle: "Lunch with the Chairman", The New Yorker, March 17th, 2003.
35. Carolyn Koo, "War Could Be Big Business for Halliburton", Reuters, March 23, 2003, "More Flak on Halliburton Deal", Los Angeles Times, April 11, 2003, Roland Watson, "Cheney's old firm handed lucrative oilfield contract", The Sunday Times, May 8, 2003.
36. On CNN chief, Banfield, and firing: Patrick Martin, "Media bosses admit pro-war bias in coverage of Iraq", World Socialist Web Site, May 2, 2003.
37. Kim Sengupta, "Gunfire interrupts first press conference by 'Pentagon's man'", The Independent, April 19, 2003.
38. Sharon Behn, "Chalabi sets up base in Uday's palace", The Washington Times, April 18, 2003.
39. Nathan Guttman, "AIPAC and the Iraqi Opposition", Haaretz, April 7, 2003.