Teach them a lesson they’ll never forget. So goes the thinking in Texas-on-the-Potomac. And what a lesson it has been! They’ll never mess with us again, nosirree Bob! As this childish thinking worms its way around the neocon braintrust, now giddy with “success” of their own definition (like toppling the Taliban?), it is instructive what lessons might be drawn by more rational–albeit scared to death–observers around the world.
These are some of the conclusions I’ve drawn, doing my humble little part to follow Bush’s sage advice. First, if you don’t already have nukes, you’d better get some–and that right soon. Uncle Sam don’t play. While you’re in the catalog, get a whole bunch of night goggles, and tons more air support. Spend more on the military, and less on feeding, housing and educating your people, if you care about your own sovereignty.
The picture of the American GI lounging in Hussein’s chair, plastered on front pages everywhere, sent the disturbing signal: it’s ours….it’s ALL ours. I can’t imagine that image spun quite the way it was intended around the globe–or maybe that’s just the point: we’re comin’ to getcha! And another thing–don’t bother trying to meet the Americans head on. Lesson number two is that, in asymmetrical warfare, guerrilla campaign is the only way to go–do anything, and I mean anything (see Lesson #1: Get Nukes) to keep the mighty invading army at bay.
Lessons 3 through umpteen were learned before the war started, actually: international law doesn’t apply to the U.S., The UN, EU, as well as various global aid organizations, conventions, and agreements are quaint relics of a bygone era. Oh, right–there is a caveat here: we can bring them back to life on call when it suits our purpose and we want to complain about other people’s behavior.
Although it may seem incongruous, I’ll allow myself a Seinfeld moment here. What the hell, Americans watch 25 hours of TV a day anyway. I couldn’t help thinking of the time Kramer was boasting about his karate prowess until he was forced to reveal that he was just beating up children. In an ominous twist, the kids ganged up and waited for him in the alley, where they beat the crap out of him.
And what is all this focus on civilian dead? I mean it’s horrific, of course–it’s the whole ball of wax, really. But soldiers aren’t people? When the tables are turned, the U.S. screams bloody murder if one of our boys is killed, TV up close and personals, etc. Enemy soldiers don’t have mothers? They can be blithely incinerated from 40,000 feet by fuel-air bombs and other weapons more horrific than anything currently banned–international law, thankfully for the Americans, hasn’t had time to catch up to the technology. I guess that undermining, bribing, and threatening pays off. Bush and Rumsfeld (dubbed Chemical Donald by a British columnist) even insist that we have the right to use nuclear weapons, or other gases only allowed for domestic crowd control.
Only the Americans have the sovereign right, drunk with power and arrogance, to threaten to try the invaded in US courts for “war crimes.” Bush and his corporate cronies are so busy trying to teach the world a lesson that they forgot the lessons they should have learned from history. For all the distorted comparisons to Hitler, they seem to have missed this gem from the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal: “War is essentially an evil thing… To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
There are other lessons, both foreign and domestic. Before the war came the bugging of UN personnel, some in their own houses. A sort of Watergate gone global–get the message yet? For icing, Americans exploited the fog of war to shoot up convoys of diplomats with whom they just happened to have beef, and killed a few journalists who gave them bad press–one of them on air! Now THAT sends a message! Coupled with the unabashed prostitution of embedded (or “in-bed-with”) journalism, and we have a pretty good idea of which way we are supposed to go.
But let’s not forget the domestic lessons. The Bush Cartel is an equal opportunity terrorist. Cops in Oakland opened fire on protesters with “non-lethal” weapons (kind of like pushing someone gently down the stairs) in an incident oddly reminiscent of the San Francisco 1934 general strike–which also started on the docks. Radio hosts encourage violence against protesters, and some have obliged, plowing into one demonstration in a truck, calling in bomb or sniper threats. A high school principal pulled the plug on movies like “Bowling for Columbine” by that dangerous radical, Michael Moore.
John Kerry was attacked for speaking out against Bush. One GOP hatchet man went so far as to suggest that Kerry had no right to call for “regime change” during wartime. Hmmmm..in civics class I was led to believe we had (technically) regime change every four years. And the Democrats, for crying out loud, who have enough trouble defining the word “opposition!” Forget Syria and Iran: if the milquetoast Kerry, who voted for the war, is fair game, who’s next?
But I suppose ol’ George and his puppet masters might be touchy on the subject. Imagine if people learned the wrong lessons, and enforced regime change the way they do–or even ascended to power the way Bush did? Yikes! Iraqis, of course, don’t speak out because they are afraid of the regime, and our freedom, by contrast, is the reason we should all just shut up (or else). Beam me up, Scottie! The whole project has the air of what Robert Parry has called Bush’s Alderan, recalling the Star Wars plot line where a small rebel planet destroyed by the infamous Death Star to keep everyone else in line.
Don’t worry, we are told–it will all come into focus soon. Yeah, we know. But no matter how many staged footage of toppling statues, Iraqis are a proud people. And a gun-toting one. When the US military tries to disarm Iraqi civilians, we’ll see...
What is also waiting to come out is that this episode of Gilligan’s Travels to Liliput hasn’t been quite the romp we’ve been told, even in the last week. Then again, it is a fiction to think that the access will be freer under the watchful eye of the US military occupation. Government minders are no match for tanks shelling your hotel.
And as far as lies go, you ain’t seen nothin‘ yet. Suicide bombers–the term itself a manipulative attempt at a subtle link with the events of Sept. 11–will be branded terrorists (or, even more incomprehensibly, ‘cowards’) by an occupation force and a press corps which refuses to admit it is there illegally. What a world turned on its head: how could there possibly be any illegitimate American targets where there is an occupying army? But of course, the invaded squirming under the tread of an Abrams tank don’t have the right to resist. Further resistance will be dismissed as “getting in the way of rebuilding Iraq.” They will not be heroic defenders of their country, but always foreign fighters, just as they were “outside agitators” according to COINTELPRO, and “agents provocateurs” at the Haymarket. Of course. In what conceivable universe could people actually want to repel foreign invaders?
We will be treated to many more planted stories of ‘potential’ WMD’s, the horrors of Saddam’s regime, the noble cause of “Freeing” Iraq. And the horrific cost of this war and the sanctions which preceded it will be laid at Iraq’s own door–with a docile press corps, the victor writes the history.
This all relies, by the way, on keeping the American bubble inflated. The Stupidity Factor doesn’t appear to be evaporating any time soon. Many Americans are perfectly happy to have a “president” who is no smarter than they are–it’s not threatening unless you get on his bad side. Kind of like the old drunk on the corner stool in the bar. He tells some good jokes, but watch out when he’s in a mood. Remember that egghead Carter? Yuck. I used to think that the monopoly corporations who funded Bush’s rise to power had picked wrong–and it may still be shown that they overplayed their hand. But my cynicism and despair have deepened in the past few months. What a coup (pun intended) to have picked a true idiot, a mean, drunken frat boy who does what he’s told and then some, sticking to it like a rabid pit bull.
I can’t help thinking that Randy Newman had the dark side of the American character pegged, and I keep running this old lyric through my head:
Americans dream of Gypsies I have found/and Gypsy knives and Gypsy thighs that pound and pound and pound and pound/And African appendages that almost reach the ground/And little boys playing baseball in the rain/America, American, may God shed his grace on thee/You have whipped the Filipino, now you rule the Western Sea/America, America, step out into the light/You are the best dream that man has ever dreamed/and may all your Christmases be white.
So, many of the people will eat it up. But the economy is in deep trouble and getting worse–the “what now” burp is already hitting the markets. And using the Conquering Hero spike to float their crazy economic agenda just won’t work like they want it to. Even Democrats will put up some kind of a fight.
Don’t forget the Afghan “model,” where Special Forces casualties are said to be “staggering.” Sorry for all the quotes and parentheses, but the bogus language of this war makes it almost impossible to talk without footnotes. Let’s not kid ourselves, no matter how many times we watch the bogus, staged, rehashed footage of statues toppling: this “war” (slaughter) isn’t “over” (left the front page) any more than its Afghan counterpart, where 11 civilians were recently killed by “mistake” (murder-from-above by an arrogant superpower that would rather kill and ask questions later, earning it the enmity of all and the certain retaliation by virtually anybody).
And I was only kidding before when I mentioned John Kerry. Of course we can’t forget Syria and Iran, now in the sights of the voracious Democracy Installing Cabal (you do the letters). And then there’s Colombia, Venezuela, Philippines, Syria, Iran, North Korea, Montezuma, the Shores of Tripoli…. But let’s not forget the biggest lesson, looming in the shadows: the Kramer lesson (apologies to Michael Richards). The kids are waiting in the alley, George. They are learning different lessons from this war–and their numbers are growing.
Welch lives and writes in Salem, Massachusetts with his wife, Julia Nambalirwa-Lugudde. Together they run The Greenhouse School.