Monday, January 29, 2007

The Real Culprit For the Iraq War Fiasco: American Hubris


Who should we blame for the Iraq War fiasco?

George W. Bush? Dick Cheney? The NeoCons in general?

Personally, I think we ought to blame the arrogance of the American nation for this fiasco.

After all, many Americans, both rich and poor, Republicans and Democrats, are some of the most arrogant people on the face of the earth.

It's an arrogance that is the result of many factors. For one thing, it stems from the fact that U.S. is widely perceived to be the world's leading economic power. And the fact that Americans regard our nation to be nothing less than God's gift to the world: a nation with the world's best political system, the best justice system, the best economic system---in fact, the best overall system of any nation.

With this sort of arrogance rampant amongst Americans, it shouldn't really be any surprise that we as a nation believe that the rest of the world hungers to live the way we do. We believe that the rest of the world these days not only seeks to model their nations after America---but that they are actively working to do so.

Such hubris led most Americans to believe that Iraqis would greet us as liberators. Such arrogance led most of us to believe that the Iraqis would shower our troops with flowers---and then busy themselves with the task of re-making their society along the lines of an American-style Jeffersonian democracy.

We were astonished when this did not in fact happen. Psychologically, we as a people simply couldn't fathom why the Iraqi people wouldn't eagerly remake their nation in our image. We were stunned when the Iraqis began a ferocious insurgency against our occupation and began killing our troops with IEDs and suicide bombers. We were even more stunned when opinion polls consistently showed that an astonishing number of ordinary Iraqis supported these attacks on U.S. troops.

It's interesting to note that Iraq has a culture that was already ancient when Christ was born. And yet for all the turmoil, war, and strife that that nation has endured over the years, there was never a recorded instance of a suicide bomber until 2003, when America invaded Iraq. For all its faults, Saddam's regime never faced a single suicide bomb. Nor did Saddam's convoys ever face a roadside bomb.

America's arrogance has resulted in disasters for our nation (and for the world at large) before. After all, it was arrogance that led the U.S. into its previous disastrous war in Vietnam. We were convinced then that the Vietnamese were eager to embrace U.S.-style capitalism (when in fact, the Communists enjoyed widespread support among the peasants in the countryside).

It is our arrogance as a nation that will almost certainly lead us into future wars.

Many Americans have a tough time comprehending that the rest of the world simply doesn't wish to live the way we do. To be sure, there may be specific aspects of our society, here and there, that other nations admire. But the rest of the world simply doesn't want to emulate our nation as a whole.

A big part of the reason we can't comprehend why the world doesn't wish to live like us is rooted in Americans' complete and total ignorance about the rest of the world. It's a state of affairs that has arisen in large part because of America's abysmal education system and our lousy corporate media.

Few Americans speak a second language. And even fewer seem to fathom that the rest of the world simply doesn't think the way that we do. Instead of accepting this basic fact of life, Americans instead tend to criticize other nations for not doing things the way we do (because, after all, we reason, the American Way is, of course the best way to get things done).

Americans never stop to consider that maybe, just maybe, other nations don't worship the American Way and have no intention of copying us.

A good example of this is the American corporate media's constant slamming of Europe's economic system these days. As a result of the U.S. media's misinformation campaign about Europe, most Americans these days are under the impression that Europe is an economic basket case, struggling with "sky-high" taxes, an "over-regulated" economic system, "out-of-control" labor unions, and "excessive" workers' rights that threaten to destroy Europe's economic competitiveness.

What's worse is that the American media would have us believe that Europeans are busy these days "deregulating" their economies and working to re-make their nations along American lines, with less regulation, weaker unions, longer working hours, etc.

It might come as a surprise to most Americans that Europe, in fact, has no intention of copying America's concept of capitalism. In fact, Europe long ago took a good, hard look at America's brutal, dog-eat-dog economic system and rejected it.

In fact, many Europeans resent the U.S. lecturing them about economics. They wonder how Americans can proclaim their nation to be the "world's most competitive" economy, when in fact the U.S. economy doesn't make much these days that the rest of the world wants to buy. (Hence, America's titanic trade deficits, the largest in world history).

Do the Europeans really need any lessons in economics from America? Through European eyes, the U.S. economy seems to be a giant Ponzi scheme: an economic system that needs trillions of dollars in foreign capital just to stay afloat.

All of this raises the question: does any nation really want to emulate the American system these days? After all, the U.S. has the worst education system in the industrialized world. We have the world's largest prison population. We have a currency that is in danger of meltdown, because of our out-of-control deficits. We have a population that is the most economically polarized in the First World. We have a crumbling infrastructure. We have 45 million people who have no health-care coverage.

Last, but not least, we have a political system that has been thoroughly corrupted by money. People in other nations look at our political system these days not with admiration, but with bafflement. They wonder how Americans can tolerate a system that produces travesties like the 2000 election, when the "losing" candidate got 549,000 more votes than George W. Bush. They also wonder how Americans can tolerate a political system that is so obviously rigged to benefit the rich, at the expense of the poor and middle class.

In George W. Bush's simplistic, black-and-white view of the Middle East, the people were hungering for American-style democracy. I'd suspect most Americans believed the same, particularly in the heady days leading up to the U.S. 2003 invasion, when Americans went through one of their periodic outbursts of jingoistic flag-waving.

Four bloody years later, we've come to learn that maybe, we never really understood Iraq, after all. In the end, we invited the current disaster, with our nation's complete ignorance of other cultures and our arrogant delusion that the people of the Middle East were eager to remake their societies along American lines.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Did Bush's Lies To Troops Play Role In The Rape, Killing Of 14-Year-Old Iraqi Girl?


Out of the mind-numbing blizzard of horrific stories emerging from the Iraq fiasco, one particular story has haunted me over the past few months. It is a stomach-churning Associated Press story from November:

"One of four U.S. soldiers accused of raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl last spring and killing her and her family pleaded guilty (Nov. 15) and agreed to testify against the others. Spc. James P. Barker agreed to the plea deal to avoid the death penalty, said his civilian attorney, David Sheldon."

The military judge presiding over the case asked Barker why he participated in the attack in Mahmoudiya, a village about 20 miles south of Baghdad.

"I hated Iraqis, your honor," Barker is quoted as saying in the courtroom.

And what, exactly, might have motivated this hatred for the Iraqi people?

To get the answer to this question, you need look no further than the lies that George W. Bush has been steadily feeding our troops over the years.

As Mark Crispin Miller noted in his 2004 book, Cruel and Unusual:

"Bush sent a very different message to our harping on Iraq's alleged complicity in 9/11, and by hyping the fictitious `terrorist threat' posed by that nation. Because of such inflammatory propaganda, our troops were motivated mainly by a craving for revenge, as after the destruction of Pearl Harbor. Throughout the march to war, and through the first year of the war itself, payback was on everybody's mind. `The only thing that motivates all the soldiers fighting in Iraq is payback for Sept. 11, 2001,' reported Reuters."

Miller continues:
"That lust for righteous vengeance has helped push our troops toward barbarism---which is often frightening even to themselves."

In the aftermath of the horrific atrocities committed by our troops against the Iraqi people, the U.S. media can be counted upon to do a great deal of soul-searching, hand-wringing "how could this happen?" type stories. We've seen this happen over and over again in Iraq.

But for anyone wondering how our troops could be so savage and barbaric at times, I think the finger of blame should be pointed at the Bush White House for the steady diet of lies and misinformation it has fed to our troops.

The fact is, the Bush White House has deliberately lied to our soldiers in Iraq. By feeding them a constant stream of bullsh*t about Iraq's "ties" to 9/11, the Bush team has created a situation in which our troops are filled with rage and hell-bent on vengeance: a situation that has been directly responsible for the barbaric acts that we've seen committed by U.S. troops in Iraq.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Memo To Democrats: You Are No Longer Bush's Bitch


There was once a time when it was perhaps understandable that the Democrats cowered in fear of George W. Bush.

That would have been during the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, when Bush's approval rating soared into the stratosphere. Any Democrat who dared speak out against Bush then would have been flayed alive---not just by the right-wing propaganda attack machine, but by the mainstream media, as well.

Over five years later, how times have changed. But you wouldn't know that by taking a look at how many Democrats today still cower in fear of Bush.

Here's a memo to all the Dems who do so: you are no longer Bush's bitch.

You are no longer facing the swaggering flight-suit-wearing "warrior" who strutted across the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, with such confidence and aplomb in May 2003.

Today, you are facing the lamest of lame duck presidents. A politician whose approval ratings are in the toilet.

I wish the Democrats would show one-thousandth the enthusiasm for impeaching Bush for his many serious crimes and acts of treason that the GOP showed for impeaching Clinton for lying about a blow job.

Perhaps the Dems believe that if they show some courtesy and restraint now, the GOP will reciprocate on down the road and stop bullying them (the way the Repukes did the entire eight years of Clinton's presidency).

If that's the case, then I think the Dems are fooling themselves. If Hillary gets elected in 2008, then we will see a repeat of the Bill Clinton years, with Rush, Fox, etc. viciously attacking Hillary every minute of every day.

Dems: you have the power these days. You control the House and Senate. What's more, America's voters sent you to Washington with a clear mandate. To end this fiasco of a war. Now.

What, exactly, are you afraid of these days, Democrats?

Bush has been exposed for what he is. A liar and a crook. A chickensh*t coward who refused to go to combat when his nation was at war in Vietnam. A spoiled, trust-fund-collecting frat boy who used his rich family's connections to get ahead.

To be sure, Bush still has appeal to the Kool-Aid drinking diehards who adore their hero and consider him a "warrior" president, bravely guiding America in the War on Terror. But the fact is, Bush really has more in common with Paris Hilton than he does with any real soldiers like John Murtha or Max Cleland.

In fact, it's not really any wonder that Bush has cut veterans' benefits, even as he's fought hard to give wealthy people like Hilton yet more tax cuts.

I really can't understand why the Dems still cower in fear of Bush these days. Maybe they're afraid of the Great Republican Slime Machine and how right-wing talk radio and Fox News will savage them if they attempt to stand up to Bush.

If that's the case, here's another memo for the Dems: the GOP propaganda machine is already attacking you, and will continue to do so, regardless of what you do. However, this isn't quite the threat that it once was. The GOP propaganda machine's diehard, fanatical base is starting to wither away these days, as ratings at Fox News continue to plummet.

Not only should you Dems stand up to Bush and end this war now, you have a duty to do so. The American people, who voted Democrats into power in November, could not have been clearer in their message.

Democrats: you have a mandate. By ending this war, not only are you doing the will of the people, you're doing the right thing for America.

Please, Dems: stop being afraid of a spoiled frat boy. Stop fearing a coward who was waving pompons as a cheerleader at Andover prep school while true heroes like John Murtha and Wesley Clark were getting shot at in the jungle by the Viet Cong.

End this evil war now.