Monday, August 20, 2007

Iraq Dies a Little Every Day

It is rare that I agree with retired general, but yesterday as I was channel surfing the tube of boobery aka cable TV, and came across two talking heads discussing the Iraq War. One, a well-meaning young man from the "liberal" Brookings Institution (in fact, Richard Nixon, later Watergate related materials showed called for a break in to seize documents and, John Dean recalled, Charles Colson came up with the idea of bombing the place so that operatives could seize the documents while the fireman were running around,) talked earnestly about a possible division of the country into a number of regions, a reduced U.S. military presence over a long period of time, and various other actions to mediate religious violence and maintain indirect control. The general, an older man with a no nonsense attitude refused even to dignify these conjectures and said simply that a religious war is going on which the U.S. has no strategy to deal with and has in large part fomented by backing first one side and then another, Sunni and Shia, with no military or political strategy on the ground following the removal of Hussein, who kept order in the country (the General didn't appear to be a progressive--few General have ever been--but he wasa realist). What the U.S. should do, pretty much all it could do (this was my inference) was withdraw to save itself.

Meanwhile, a young woman journalist, reporting from Iraq joined the talking heads by saying that most Iraqis have no faith in the government they elected to do much of anything and that the present situation, with U.S. forces recruiting arming Sunni Muslims to fight against the Sunni Al Qaeda forces in the North (more, the journalist noted, a result of Al Qaeda's abuses than the U.S. military winning hearts and minds) presents a new developing horror with the U.S. supporting armed forces of the Sunni minority(the mainstay of Saddam's regime) against armed forces of the Shia majority, backed by Iran, and the Sunni Al Qaeda forces, as a "wild card" in a conflict that is destroying a country and people without much pretense today of saving it (the following are my interpretations, not necessarily the journalist's).

That was yesterday. Today a Shia governor was assassinated in a Southern province. Fighting between Sunnis and Shias and fighting among Shias and Sunnis is growing, along with conflicts between government police and militia forces and private groups. Much of the "middle class" has fled the country and is living in the region as best it can. American and British generals talk like old fashioned colonial imperialists as they announce that the "mission" in Iraq may take decades to complete and come forward with plans that make no sense in the contemporary world, where the only thing that is really certain is that change is rapid and that colonialism which means armies occupying regions for long periods of time and controlling governments in order to obtain natural resources, labor pools, and captive markets, is dead even as an imperialist strategy.

The New York Times reports a demonstration in Baghdad today against this horror at the office of Moktada al-Sadr, the warlord Shia cleric referred to in U.S. media as a radical. While I and I don't think anyone on the left should have any sympathy for al-Sadr (one might remember that the U.S. military paid him a sort of compliment and showed its contemptuous attitude toward the people by referring to a large Shia slum area in Baghdad that is a center of Sadr's organization as "Sadr City") one of the demonstrators said something that goes to the very heart of the matter and that anyone, especially progressives should seriously evaluate.

"The government which we elected," the demonstrator, who gave his name as Muhammad Hassan said, is the cause of all this suffering. They are watching us being bombed every day without doing anything Nobody is trying to save the city from the daily attacks. We know that the Americans don't need permission from anybody and Maliki (the Prime Minister has no authority to stop this. The Americans will do whatever they want."

What American citizen or citizen of any nation as against a colonial subject would tolerate this sort of government. What American citizen or citizen of any nation would not despise the soldiers of a foreign power that were pursuing such policies, whatever propaganda was used to justify their acts. What American citizen or citizen of any nation would not understand that they do not matter, are essentially invisible, as they are being killed and maimed every day and decisions and policies are being put forward in the interests only of the foreign power, its collaborators, and its internal and regional enemies and rivals. What American citizen could live with this for long without either withdrawing, escaping, or fighting back by demonizing the foreigners and everything about them, making them invisible as human beings just as they have made the people being colonized invisible.

That is the history of European imperialism in much of the world in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and that is where the Bush administration war and occupation of Iraq is leading.

Let me conclude by saying that I just finished a Summer Course at Rutgers University in the History of Imperialism, which was, given the quality of the students, one of the best courses that I have ever taught. One of the books the students read was Frantz Fanon's Wretched of the Earth, which addresses some of these questions in terms of their longterm destructive effects on the colonized peoples. I would recommend that the Democratic presidential candidates read it to gain some insight into what they are creating in Iraq so they can learn from history instead of re-repeating it Iraq, which bore the wounds of colonialism in the past only to bear new wounds from a "neo-colonialism" that isn't even so neo today.

--Norman Markowitz


Anonymous said...

It was the Jews who started this war for Israel:

Anonymous said...

ordinarily I wouldn't respond to such a crude statement of Hitlerian anti-Jewish racism, which I would expect, pointed in the United States at "the Muslims" or whoever was be being targeted, by the some ultrarightist of some kind. "Anonymous" at best proves my point about demonization producing counter-demonization, searching for scapegoats instead of addressing problems. I would suggest that "anonymous" read Jean Paul Sartre Anti-Semite and Jew," or that old and largely forgotten American classic, Carey MacWilliams, "Anti-Semitism: A Mask for Privilege" to get an understanding of what his bigotry is about. Since he is reading a Marxist blog, he might also look at Lenin, who denounced anti-Semitism as a form of social cannibalism, an encouragement of one group of the working class to devour another group(Lenin also made it clear that Communists repudiated the Jewish bourgeoisie and the clerical Rabbis, and he would have said the same thing about the Muslim bourgeoisie and Mullahs or the capitalists of Christian countries and the priests and the ministers.
Norman Markowitz