Iraq: ‘Mission accomplished’? That depends on what the mission was
Two years ago Sunday, in a splashy display of his role as commander-in-chief, George W. Bush landed on board the USS Lincoln in the co-pilot’s seat of a Navy S-3B Viking. Standing amid a sea of his Praetorians – against the backdrop of a huge banner proclaiming “Mission Accomplished” – our president had a distinctly Napoleonic air about him as he exuberantly proclaimed:
“Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country.”
As violence surges in “liberated” Iraq, auguring all-out civil war, the memory of this breast-beating moment – not to mention that unfortunate banner – mocks us across the years, haunting the families and friends of the fallen, Iraqis as well as Americans. Bush blithered on: “The tyrant,” he intoned, “has fallen” – yes, and as a government of Shi’ite fundamentalists takes the helm, a new tyranny arises to take his place, put there by U.S. force of arms. With the liar, embezzler, and Iranian double agent Ahmed Chalabi installed as Iraq’s oil minister, it is fair to ask: what is the nature of this “mission” we are supposed to have “accomplished”?
In his USS Lincoln speech, the president toted up our achievements thus far, claiming that we fought a war “for the peace of the world” – yet today the specter of a wider war looms over the entire Middle East, threatening to engulf Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iran, and even Egypt in a regional conflagration.
“In the images of fallen statues,” Bush averred, “we have witnessed the arrival of a new era.” That image of Saddam as a fallen idol amid a crowd of seeming thousands turns out to have been emblematic of the lies and media manipulation that characterized the War Party’s strategy from the beginning.
The felling of the statue was a phony media event, i.e., a non-event staged for the cameras: just as fabricated as the “evidence” of Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction.” The former was created by our complicit “mainstream” media, while the latter was manufactured by Chalabi’s group of exiles and retailed by the Pentagon. This is how a self-perpetuating circuit of deception was created between the media and the U.S. government, to keep the American people in the dark.
“In the images of celebrating Iraqis,” the president continued, “we have also seen the ageless appeal of human freedom.” These are images, not reality: mirages, as it turned out. Not that many Iraqis showered us with rose petals, and today a great many more are shooting at us. After two years, the insurgency, says a top U.S. general, is “undiminished.”
Mission accomplished? Not likely, for this is a mission without end.
Prefiguring the militant neocon rhetoric he would elaborate on in his 2005 “fire in the mind” speech – in which, you’ll remember, he proclaimed that the goal of U.S. foreign policy is “ending tyranny in our world” – the president jumped out of that fighter plane and bounded on to the runway, fired up by a mystic vision of his messianic mission:
“Men and women in every culture need liberty like they need food, and water, and air.”
If that were true, humanity would have died out long ago. I blame the president’s speechwriters, however, who should have known better than to haul out this crackpot intrinsicism – the theory that certain ideas are inherent in human beings, rather than learned – to buttress the false claim that American troops are “liberators” and not aggressors. After all, if the tendency to create free societies is an inborn human trait, common to all people, then why was it necessary to invade Iraq in the first place? For that matter, how do we explain the 20th century – and the mostly dark and bloody history of preceding centuries?
In reverting to religious despotism to replace the secular version recently disposed of, Iraq is re-proving history’s oldest lesson: that liberty is as rare as it is precious – and is, in any event, unlikely to be successfully transplanted to the Middle East any time soon, either by American force of arms or indigenous movements.
Bush’s “mission accomplished” speech is a study in Bizzaro World logic, unfulfilled prophecies, and brazen prevarication. Virtually every jot and tittle of turned out to be a lie, especially including this whopper:
“For a hundred years of war, culminating in the nuclear age, military technology was designed and deployed to inflict casualties on an ever growing scale. In defeating Nazi Germany and imperial Japan, Allied Forces destroyed entire cities, while enemy leaders who started the conflict were safe until the final days. Military power was used to end a regime by breaking a nation. Today, we have the greater power to free a nation by breaking a dangerous and aggressive regime. With new tactics and precision weapons, we can achieve military objectives without directing violence against civilians. No device of man can remove the tragedy from war. Yet it is a great advance when the guilty have far more to fear from war than the innocent.”
Two years on, the respected medical journal Lancet conducted a study – based on provincial averages excluding the “Sunni Triangle” war zone – that estimated as many as 100,000 civilians were killed by Anglo-American firepower. Weren’t they “innocent”? Ask the residents of Fallujah if we haven’t “destroyed entire cities.” The lesson of the American occupation is that there are no “precision weapons” when it comes to policing a conquered nation: as the occupiers fight a growing insurgency, everyone else is caught in the crossfire.
If only the guilty had anything to fear from this war, then we are all of us guilty as sin. Because it has been a disaster all around, for the Iraqis and for us, in every possible sense. From the loss of lives to the diplomatic, geopolitical, and financial consequences of the continuing conflict, this war is a net loss – and the American people, in their wisdom, agree with that assessment.
Mission accomplished? If the mission was to create conditions giving rise to sectarian violence, a growing insurgency, and all-out civil war, while dragging us to the brink of bankruptcy, then, yes, you might say that. But only if you were Osama bin Laden.
While the ability of this administration to delude itself seems without parallel or limit, it is second only to their ability to delude the American public. How many still believe that Saddam Hussein personally planned the 9/11 terrorist attacks? It’s a remarkable achievement, in the Bizarro World sense that a monstrous lie can be permanently embedded in the popular imagination as the conventional wisdom. No one knows how much the American government spends on propaganda worldwide, including under-the-table payments to favored pundits, e.g., Armstrong Williams, Maggie Gallagher, and whoever else is in on that particular gravy train.
Bush’s frequent references to “images” in his battleship address underscores the self-consciousness of our rulers as they try mightily to put one over on us. An image can reflect many things, not all or even most of them the truth. It is a concept imported from the advertising industry Hollywood. Just as a glamorous star has to keep up an “image” that is totally divorced from the real person, so those glamour-pusses in Washington, the biggest stars on the world stage, must maintain their image as all-powerful yet wonderfully benign global hegemons – as opposed to the not-so-glamorous reality.
The imagery conjured by our president and his propagandists is akin to a mask. In this sense, having access to Antiwar.com is like having x-ray vision – it gives you a clear unobstructed view of what’s happening behind the headlines. And we do it 24 hours a day.
Good Lord, it makes me tired just to think about it. And when I think that we’re well into our 10th year of operation – I frankly can’t see how we’ve managed to do it. I stand in awe of our success, and in constant fear that it won’t continue. That fear increases greatly when it’s time for our periodic fundraising appeals – of which the latest, as you can see from our front page, is starting today, and will go on all week.
These fundraising drives are a totally necessary yet greatly dreaded (on my part) seasonal ritual. I keep thinking that we won’t make it, constantly recalling those harrowing moments in fundraisers of the past when I was called on to write a much stronger appeal than normally needed, in order to make up for the expected shortfall.
You can bet that the War Party doesn’t go begging in this manner. They have plenty of contributors in the war-related industries, and from foreign lobbyists and domestic pressure groups, who have some interest, either economic or ideological, in pushing for a foreign policy of perpetual war and preparations for war. Powerful lobbies are massed on one side of the barricades, and it’s just us little guys – ordinary people – on the other side. They get a few huge contributions in increments of tens and hundreds of thousands or even millions: we get a whole lot of individual contributions that are mostly in the double digits. Heck, we aren’t complaining – every contribution, no matter how small, is greatly appreciated.
I am humbled by the knowledge that a large percentage of the money coming in during these fund drives is contributed by the people who can least afford it. What worries me, however, is that the sinking economy will make it more difficult for our longtime supporters to contribute as generously as before. People can only give so much. That’s why I’m asking those who can afford it to increase their contributions this time around.
We don’t want to have to make radical cutbacks in our coverage of world events. However, if the economy is as bad as I think it is we may have to – unless our more well-heeled supporters come through in this pinch.
Look, nobody here at Antiwar.com is exactly living in the lap of luxury. We run a very tight ship, and we utilize our tiny staff and limited resources in such a way as to have influence way out of proportion to our relatively minuscule expenditures. Yes, the rapid growth of our readership – we’re up to 70,000-plus visitors daily – is due to the phenomenal growth of the Internet as a medium of communication; but on the other hand, it takes dedication, regularity, and an enormous discipline to consistently maintain a site such as this. We work very long hours, for relatively little recompense – except that, for me, the knowledge that we are having an effect, that the War Party can be successfully combated and even defeated on occasion, is most of the recompense I required. And that goes for everyone on staff.
The War Party spends many millions – including your tax dollars – propagandizing for their program of permanent war, but we don’t need millions: just $60,000 so we can make it to the next quarter. That’s a drop in the bucket. Yet that drop has so far managed to make plenty of waves – and we plan to generate more. But we can’t do it without your support. We depend on the generosity and commitment of our readers, who know they are getting a service well worth paying for – and who recognize the value of the work we are doing. Somebody has to do it – and somebody has to pay for it.
And that is where you come in.
It’s important that you donate as much as you can, as quickly as you can – so we can get on with the business of providing you with up-to-the-minute news and analysis of the horrifically violent and dangerous world we are presently living in.
This is a battle that matters, and the stakes are very high. The War Party is already seeking to expand its great “victory” in Iraq: Syria beckons. So does Iran. Lebanon is ripe for the picking. Who knows where they might strike next?