by Eric Margolis
VANCOUVER -- Here in Canada's "make love, not war" capital, I am reminded of a French reader who asked me last week, "Why was Bill Clinton impeached for making love, while George Bush goes unpunished for making a war over fake weapons?"
Excellent question, monsieur.
Asked on TV this week about steadily mounting attacks on U.S. occupation forces in Iraq, President Bush narrowed his eyes, and hunched forward aggressively - thrilling his ardent fans from Biloxi to Paducah - and growled, "Bring 'em on!" - a call to battle worthy of the famously dimwitted American general, George Armstrong Custer who, like Bush, knew what he knew and didn't need advice.
Listening to such adolescent boasting from a man who never heard a shot fired in anger outside of downtown Washington, D.C. made me gag. Bush, let's recall, dodged real military service during the Vietnam war by making occasional appearances at the Texas Air National Guard. Watching him play John Wayne at Iwo Jima for the benefit of his adoring core voters, some of whom believe Elvis is still alive, made me realize how much American politics has been debased by the double whammy of catch-me-if-you can Bill Clinton and truth-deprived George Bush.
I know a real Marine when I see one. My father served in the Pacific in the renowned 5th Marine Amphibious Division, and fought at hellish Iwo Jima.
I mention these points because I am appalled watching Bush and his neo-conservative handlers pursue an imperial war in Iraq that will kill or wound growing numbers of American GIs and turn Iraq into the ugly twin of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza. Decent, honest, good-natured American soldiers are now being turned into a colonial occupation army. All colonial wars - Algeria, Chechnya, Kashmir, Aceh, Palestine - are similar. Occupying forces in these dirty wars become brutalized, sadistic and cynical. Look back at Vietnam.
I shudder watching American GIs kicking down doors of civilian homes in the dead of night, threatening screaming children with their weapons, hooding suspects, firing into crowds of demonstrators, and calling air strikes on villages.
As night follows day, this nasty war will lead, as all colonial wars do, to torture, masked informers, reprisals against civilians, secret executions. That's what happened in Indochina. Just last week, Amnesty International sharply rebuked the U.S. for brutalizing and humiliating captives.
White House propaganda
Bush's claims that mounting attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq are the work of Saddam Hussein loyalists and "terrorists" belong in the same trash bin as White House propaganda about weapons of mass destruction. Yes, there are some Baath party loyalists fighting U.S. occupation, but so are many more ordinary Iraqis who are reacting as would any other proud people to an invasion of their country.
George Bush has well and truly stuck the U.S. into twin quagmires in both Afghanistan and Iraq. These ongoing guerrilla wars, and their logistical support, now tie down some 175,000 men, fully one third of total U.S. ground forces. Back in the 1980s, Osama bin Laden preached that the only way to drive the U.S. from the Muslim world was to bleed it in a score of small guerrilla wars. Bush, who now threatens to attack Iran, is falling right into bin Laden's strategic trap. Bravo, Mr. President.
Iraq is not Vietnam, but we see disturbing reminders of America's Indochina debacle. The U.S. pro-consul for Iraq, Paul Bremer, just requested more troops - shades of Gen. William Westmoreland.
Roads in Iraq are increasingly unsafe. Attacks against U.S. military forces are both of the spontaneous amateur kind, and organized assaults by former military men. Corruption, civic collapse and political chaos hang over everything. The Iraqi oil that was supposed to pay for this Bush colonial adventure, and enrich powerful Republican corporate political donors, is barely being pumped due to sabotage.
Faced by the growing messes in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Bush administration is trying to emulate its role model, the late, unlamented British Empire, by hiring mercenaries to do the dirty work in Iraq. Washington is offering billions to India and Pakistan to send 15,000 troops each to pacify Iraq's unruly natives.
No one in the West will care if Indian or Pak mercenaries kill Iraqis or burn down their homes.
Other nations like Poland, Italy and Bulgaria are being pressured or bribed to send token forces to help pull Bush's chestnuts out of the fire in Iraq. Canada has been browbeaten into sending troops to increasingly dangerous Afghanistan where they have no useful mission other than protecting the widely detested regime of U.S.-installed puppet ruler, Hamid Karzai.
The longer U.S. forces stay in Iraq, the uglier the guerrilla war will get. And the more Americans will realize they were led into this needless conflict by a second George Custer manipulated by a cabal of neo-conservatives whose primary loyalty is not to the United States.
Suzanne Goldenberg and James Meek, "Papers
reveal Bagram abuse," Guardian, February 18, 2005
Copyright © 2003 Eric Margolis - All Rights