28 March 2007: Fools’ War in Iraq

Fools war in Iraq is a colossal blunder

War can be explained as an arena in which older men live out unfulfilled fantasies and failed personal expectations vicariously through younger men. In that way, it’s not much different than football, except that in war a participant’s goal is to kill rather than tackle his opponent. As Henry Blake in M*A*S*H puts it, “There are two rules of war: the first is young men die, and rule number two is you cannot change rule number one.”

So, why do otherwise rational beings—one supposes—resort to such barbarism? Why, in turn, do some few young people buy into the potential of forfeiting their lives, or, if fortunate to survive, living them out with physical and mental disabilities within a system and culture that is long on words but short on deeds when it comes to “supporting the troops”? In America, are our wars really about defending freedom or a more often about defending corporate interests? To answer the last, one needs to disengage from myths and platitudes and look at the history of American wars in an intellectually honest way.

The War on Iraq, in Iraq, for Iraq—however one might wish to dub it—now surpassing both the American Civil War and WW II in length, has morphed from a calamitous misadventure into a greater one. George Bush and his coterie, the Australian Prime Minister, those who watch Fox for their daily ration of thought, and soldiers doing their duty are close to all who are left that believe in that which was doomed from the outset.

Since war, as it is with life, has in itself no meaning, it forces participants and observers to assign it purpose. For example, was the American Civil War about freeing the slaves or about states’ rights? A poll of all Americans in 1863 would have surely elicited responses correlated to where one lived, the North or the South, which, incidentally, remains true today.

Accordingly, for those on the right, the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 was about finding mythical WMD that could be launched in 30 minutes and about hunting down the terrorists of September 11, 2001 infamy, despite the fact that they were holed up then, as they are now, with their NBA-height leader dressed in a flowing white robe on the Afghanistan-Pakistani border. Since neither goal was reached, from that perspective it has been a failure.

As Iraq descended into the predicted chaos, the right’s rationalization of the American occupation morphed into a Wilsonian crusade to establish Western-style liberal democracy, despite the area’s long history of sectarian theocratic feuding and a dearth of prerequisite democratic institutions such as trade unions and Elks Clubs. Of late, pro-war advocates have resorted to a “we cannot walk away from the mess we—read, neo-cons—created” argument.

On the left, the war has been seen as the Bush-Cheney strategy to control the flow from the world’s second largest oil reservoir or about a son’s revenge or one-upmanship, depending on one’s take whether it were filial or oedipal. Those in the middle put their faith, as Americans historically have done, in the word of their president. What they have witnessed since is their president’s incompetence and prevarications from Iraq to New Orleans and Walter Reed Hospital, explaining his abysmal poll numbers.

A president saying a war is about defending American freedom does not make it so. American security was not endangered by Saddam Hussein anymore than it is today by Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s blustering. The killing fields in Iraq are, as they are likely to remain for the foreseeable future, horrific and pointless. The majority of the American people understands that and wants us out. More important, the people, whose country it is—the Iraqis—understand it as well and want the American occupation ended. In short, Iraq has no military solution, only political, and only the Iraqis, in cooperation with their immediate neighbors, can bring peace to their bloodied land.

Thousands of American lives, tens of thousands of American casualties, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi casualties, destruction of the Iraqi infrastructure, unleashing of pent-up ethnic and religious hostilities, hundreds of billions of dollars from the American treasury, and the earned world-wide disrespect and even loathing for America and Americans have been among the costs of the misadventure of George Bush, a man compensating for his less than stellar performance when he had his chance to fight in a war. The enduring consequence, not ironically, is America is less safe because of it and him.

Like Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Bush was dressed in “borrowed robes” and then usurped a power not fitting of his circumstance. Like Macbeth, he refuses to recognize the reality of his dwindling support, and, instead, lashes out at those who work to implement the will of the American people to end his war by accusing them of “staging political theater.”

At the end, trapped and realizing he is doomed, Macbeth despairingly observes, “Life is but a walking shadow, a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” As such can be seen Bush’s War: a bloody nightmare, a tale told by an idiot, full of sound of fury. But while life in Macbeth’s despairing mind signifies nothing, Bush’s War does: a colossal blunder, arguably the worst in American history with disastrous consequences lasting past his retirement to Texas or perhaps to Dubai to live out his days in brotherhood with his Halliburton cronies.

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