FROM THE WAR CHRONICLES. DISSEMINATE FREELY.
By Jack Random
In the weeks preceding our preemptive strike on Iraq, our president begrudgingly appealed to the United Nations, inspectors reentered Iraq and they were greeted by a great deal of cooperation. In the days before the invasion, Iraqi officials were destroying the Al Sammoud missiles (marginally in violation of the 1991 disarmament accords). The destruction of the missiles (perhaps their only line of defense against the forces amassed on their borders) was not enough to ward off the attack. With the benefit of hindsight, there was nothing the Iraqis could have done. The entire process was a façade, a war dance, and a prelude to the inevitable.
We now know the invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction. We know the war was not related to Al Qaeda or the war against terrorism. We know it was not in retaliation for the attack of September 11, 2001. Well into the occupation, as our president has supplanted Ariel Sharon as the most despised leader in the Arab-Islamic world, we are left wondering why. Through the process of elimination, there are two interrelated reasons: First, the importance of oil to an oil president. Second, a vision of the world by so-called “neo-conservatives.”
Let us understand what this vision really is. It is a vision of endless war. It is the vision of a nation so obsessed that the preparations for the next war are in place before the first missile is fired. As vice president Dick Cheney said in the wake of September 11, it is a commitment to forty years of war – a prediction that deliberately and cynically parallels the duration of the Cold War.
To appreciate the scope and horror of this vision, we must revisit the four decades between the end of World War II and the fall of the Soviet empire for these Bush visionaries are the philosophical descendents of the Cold Warriors.
At the onset, understand that the Cold War was never cold. It cost the lives of over 100,000 American soldiers and literally millions of the indigenous peoples of Asia (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines), Latin America (El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile, Cuba, Columbia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Argentina, Panama, Grenada, the Dominican Republic), Africa (Zaire, Libya, Angola), the Middle East (Lebanon, Iran, Iraq) and elsewhere. The American Cold Warriors recruited, trained, armed and financed the terrorists that now plague much of the world.
The Cold War is a legacy of death, destruction and oppression in the name of freedom. Its culmination was Vietnam, a nation upon which we unleashed a destructive force unrivaled in world history. Yet the Vietnamese did not surrender. They are arguably the bravest people known to humanity, having survived the successive invasions of foreign powers and the most awesome military force on earth.
The great lesson of Vietnam was not only that we were wrong, that we sacrificed millions of lives for an abstraction (Communism and the Domino Theory), but that we could not conquer a people without winning their hearts and minds. We were not the liberators we were supposed to be. We were conquerors. As Daniel Ellsberg put it, we were not on the wrong side; we were the wrong side.
How strange it was, then, after the conclusion of the first Gulf War, for an American president to proclaim that “the specter of Vietnam” had been “lifted forever.” It was clear the American government had not learned the lesson of Vietnam. Perhaps these right wing ideologues secretly lament that we did not drop the big one on Saigon. Perhaps they believe their own propaganda: that the Cold War led to the collapse of Communism.
When the Soviet Union fell it was, above all, a lesson in economics. A state sponsored economy, under an oppressive and corrupt government, was not strong enough to support a system that dedicated more than half of its wealth to military spending. We are now in a position to learn whether or not a free market economy, under an increasingly oppressive and corrupt government, is capable of supporting a similar imbalance between domestic and military spending.
There was a time when our economy was predominantly industrial. Much of that industry – manufacturing, oil and steel – could be directed to the war effort. War was therefore considered a boon to the economy. The new economy, however, is increasingly based on technology. While technology can and does serve the military, its greater application is in the service and information fields. Only a fraction of the new economy benefits from perpetual war and many of them reside in the government, counseling our oil wealthy president. The economy as a whole will suffer from a prolonged economic slump and an alienated world market. In the new economic world order, peace and good will are our best allies.
The Cold Warriors of the Bush administration yearn for war at all costs to the general populace. Having disproved the Domino Theory, they wish to test a new theory of free-market dominance and an American controlled New World Order, but if they are wrong, it may well result in economic collapse.
The Cold Warriors desire an enemy that will rival the propaganda value of the Communist beast. In the war on terror, they will be the ones to determine who is a terrorist and who is not. It is already clear they have decided that Palestinians are terrorists. They are lining up potential enemies throughout the Arab world. Who will be next? Syria? Iran? Libya? Or will we shift hemispheres and resume our Latin American operations? Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Cuba?
It is not for those who oppose the war machine to defend those nations destined for invasion or subversion (though many are worthy of defense) any more than it is incumbent on the proponents of war to defend such allies as Pakistan, Israel, Columbia or Saudi Arabia. It is rather for us all to recognize that the vision the Bush administration is offering is a nightmare of unending destruction.
The Iraqi invasion was not a battle of virtue or principle. It was a prelude to decades of war. It was not a war for democracy. It was a war for dominance. In the vernacular, it is a war America can never win for we lost the battle for hearts and minds at its inception. America has neither the right nor the means to control the resources of the planet. America cannot and should not impose its will on the peoples of the world for the people will never submit.
We must finally come to terms with the fact that we are but one nation and that our wisdom is no greater and our god is no greater than that of any other nation. Though we have come to possess power and wealth beyond the world’s imagining, our greatest strength has always been our virtue.
As a nation, we have never had to face the full consequences of our actions. As a people, we have been protected by our government and its propaganda machine. To this day, there are those who believe that a crazed gunman killed our most promising president. To this day, there are those who believe that the Vietnam War, the bombing of Cambodia, and the invasions of Cuba, Panama and tiny Grenada were justified. To this day, there are those who refuse to believe that America sponsored and trained terrorists in the Middle East, Latin America and throughout the world. To this day, there are those who believe that the genocide on our own soil was the manifestation of a Christian god.
Unless we finally come to terms with the crimes of our past we cannot begin to understand the dangers we now confront. We are a nation that desires empire. Those who have studied history already know how it ends. This is the vision of the Cold Warriors as it was the vision of the ancient warriors of Rome. This is their collective promise to the world: An endless cycle of violence, where every act of terror is answered by another, where every voice of dissent is considered treason and every nation that opposes is considered an enemy. Is it any wonder the world has risen against us?
Wake up, America. Wake up before these lords of war and avarice steal our nation’s soul. We are still a free nation of proud and virtuous citizens. Now, at the time of greatest need, let us rally that pride and steady our resolve to change the course of history. Americans have no desire to control or dominate the world. Let us elect new leaders who share our vision, who will bury the doctrines of first strike and world dominance, and who regard our fellow beings in this world with respect and tolerance.