A Strange Way to Promote Freedom
Many people around the world, actually most people, have been convinced for some time that the US is being run by a power-mad lunatic. The video of the Saddam killing, which crystallized the extent to which extremist Shiites have taken over the country, has galvanized millions and confirmed the worst suspicions about what is going on in Iraq.
How can anyone doubt it when the pre-occupation president is lynched by an angry mob shouting "Go to Hell" along with the name Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical cleric? Theocracy in Iraq, here we come, courtesy of US taxpayers. The US enabled not freedom but a coup by crazies.
Every stated ambition of the US has been turned on its head. Instead of democracy, Iraq gets military domination prior to Islamic dictatorship. Instead of punishing and thereby discouraging terrorism, the Iraq calamity has radicalized a generation. Instead of bringing peace and freedom, the US has brought instability, bloodshed, and unending upheaval.
Even if you believe that Bush was only pursuing a personal vendetta against Saddam, the US has managed to do what would have been unthinkable five years ago: made Saddam a folk hero for those looking for martyrdom in the jihad. Whereas many in the Islamic world once loathed his secularism, Bush's bumbling show trial and lynching have turned Saddam into an icon.
Among those undecided about Bush's war, his speech on the evening of his "surge" of 20,000 more troops probably solidified their opinion.
Consider his statement toward the end:
In the long run, the most realistic way to protect the American people is to provide a hopeful alternative to the hateful ideology of the enemy – by advancing liberty across a troubled region. It is in the interests of the United States to stand with the brave men and women who are risking their lives to claim their freedom and help them as they work to raise up just and hopeful societies across the Middle East.
In general, it sounds fine, more or less. So how precisely does Bush plan to advance this "liberty"? Why, by continued military occupation, threats, violence, martial law, and death, this time without caution or wincing.
In earlier operations, Iraqi and American forces cleared many neighborhoods of terrorists and insurgents – but when our forces moved on to other targets, the killers returned. This time, we will have the force levels we need to hold the areas that have been cleared. In earlier operations, political and sectarian interference prevented Iraqi and American forces from going into neighborhoods that are home to those fueling the sectarian violence. This time, Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter these neighborhoods...
He treats the problem in Iraq as if it were akin to pest control. Mow down the opposition and, mutatis mutandis, once and for all the opposition is gone. All who remain will be lovers of Bush-style freedom, which seems eerily like the freedom that we've been told that Saddam once guaranteed. That is to say, so long as you agree with those in charge, you are left alone (unless a mistake occurs). But if you object, your only choice is to kill or be killed.
Apparently there is nothing force cannot accomplish. No one can be shocked that Bush has chosen the path of more force, even to the absurd lengths that he took it during his speech equating obedience with freedom. This is the path he set out on after 9-11 – an unrelated event which he again dragged into the Iraq equation – and the path he has stayed on ever since.
He knows no other way. Teaching Bush about subtleties such as diplomacy and trade is like telling a box turtle to write a novel. It is just not part of his intellectual equipment. Bush knows how to order people to bomb things, so order he does.
And yet the whole history of the world teaches that force has its limits, though you can always count on one great ruler in every age to ignore that lesson. Growing up, we were taught to sneer at Soviet leaders and third-world despots who believed that force alone could shape their world. Now we see our own US president fall prey to that delusion, not only in politics but also in economics.
The day of the speech, an email sent to Republican leaders showed up in my inbox. It goes into more detail about Bush's plan, which has nothing to do with existing reality. But someone at the White House typed this, and there are probably a few who even believe it.
Particularly intriguing are the sections on economics. For those who understand the failure of socialism and other centrally planned government projects, the memo is a very bad joke. But it does reveal the extent of the hubris of the White House.
According to the Bush plan, Iraq is being told to "deliver economic resources and provide essential services to all areas and communities."
Well, such a plan has been tried before, in places such as Russia and today in Venezuela. Thank goodness the US government doesn’t try this at home. You know exactly what you would get if the government attempted to provide all resources and services. The whole country would look like a military base, public school, post office, and urban housing project rolled into one.
If that's not enough, Iraq is also being told to "capitalize and execute jobs-producing programs," "match U.S. efforts to create jobs with longer term sustainable Iraqi programs," and "focus more economic effort on relatively secure areas as a magnet for employment and growth." Oh and the US will "help" through "greater integration of economic strategy with military effort."
At what point will the Bush administration wake up and realize that its effort is unworkable, that the costs are ghastly, that the best strategy is quick exit, three years ago? Well, the truth is that many people do realize this. The problem is that there is a huge machine running full speed and it is benefiting too many people. Tens of billions, hundreds of billions, are landing in the pockets of well-connected elites, and they want to keep the party going as long as possible.
For those who are disgusted and demoralized by this administration's failure to think and act rationally, consider that the history books have already been written. Bush is wildly unpopular here and abroad. There is not a living soul who is willing to call the Iraq war a success. At the end of the day, all that he will leave is debt, death, and disaster. This is indisputable. So his name is already mud and will ever be so. That, at least, is some solace.