Well, it's September already. Soon we’ll have General David Petraeus’ report on progress in Iraq to endlessly analyze, microscopically dissect and carefully parse for hidden messages.
Not since the Dead Sea scrolls discovery has any written document (not counting the Harry Potter manuscripts, of course) inspired so much anticipatory delectation. We have been hearing about the revelations that might unfold for weeks now, mostly from administration apologists eager to deflect further embarrassing questions.
So now the Oracle of Baghdad at last makes his way home to give his report; then all of us will know … what, exactly?
Please! We already know the “situation” in Iraq. We don’t need yet another general spinning the truth, desperately trying to find some positive angle to highlight. The situation has been clear for at least three years now to anyone willing to read about it in the international press.
You have to go Iraq to escape the lens-smudging that U.S. media outlets employ in order to appear “mainstream” in a society where Fox News is actually considered an “information” source.
In other words, we don’t see how bad Iraq is for our country.
Here’s an example of how the rest of the world doesn’t get the same filtering of information. The New York Times Syndicate has for the past five years paid Noam Chomsky to write regular essays on the global consequences of U.S. policy and military action. These run in papers around the world. But the Syndicate doesn’t run them in the U.S.
Collected and published under the title Interventions by City Lights Press, Chomsky’s columns explain why Petraeus’ report can’t matter: It will be framed for a United States voting public that accepts the enduring Big Lie false premise about Iraq: They believe we are at war.
But we aren’t.
The rest of the world sees that quite clearly. It stopped being a war long ago, if, in fact, it ever was one. When the mightiest armed force in history squashes a demoralized, fragmented Third World army eager to surrender, that barely qualifies as a “war.” In the four years since, what we have been mired in is not warfare but occupation--colonial occupation.
If you ask the average person on the street in the United States whether she/he considers this country a colonial power, building an empire that circles the globe, she/he will vehemently deny it. But the people we have been colonizing for 50 years have no doubt of our colonialism.
To the Latin American, Arab, Southeast Asian, African and Caribbean countries that have felt our wrath in the last half century whenever they dared act independently of us, the occupation of Iraq is not difficult to see for what it is: a blatant interference in a sovereign nation intended to produce some desirable benefit for the United States, no matter what the cost to the Iraqi people.
But listening to (most of) the Democratic candidates for president muddy the waters during their interminable hair-splitting over whether or when or how fast to “withdraw troops” from Iraq without appearing soft on terrorism, I realize just how difficult it will be for Americans to ever understand the (justifiably) terrible reputation we have internationally.
When we look at our GIs today, we tend to see ancient reflections of our warmest memories of them--as if they were still liberating Paris in 1945. The rest of the world, though, sees them as they were when crushing popular uprisings and propping up dictators every decade since.
The Democratic candidates, like the majority of the public, ignore perhaps the most crucial fact about the situation we face in Iraq. The most powerful current in the history of humankind has been the one inexorably sweeping aside and dismantling all previous colonial empires: the demand for independence from foreign control.
It is against that tidal wave that George Bush has set our troops. We cannot “win” because we are attempting to occupy (colonize) another nation. Eventually we will have to leave. History is clear on this. We will even at some point have to abandon the world’s largest fortress, now under construction in Baghdad, our new, obscene, multibillion-dollar embassy/citadel.
We will in time have to also depart from the half-dozen or more mammoth military bases we have established around Iraq. Like the former British and French outposts of colonial authority, ours, too, will one day return to Iraqi control. No empire has ever lasted forever and ours won’t either.
So all the talk of benchmarks and timeframes and firm deadlines that serves only to confuse the electorate and somehow leave the impression that if only those darned Iraqi officials would start acting a little more responsibly, we could wrap this whole deal up … is useless.
Until we get out, we are in. And as long as we are in we are certainly colonials. And colonials will always eventually get their noses bloodied and have to hightail it home.
So what are we gaining by staying?
General Petraeus can tell us about casualties, guns and armor. However, he can’t change the powerful physics of the desire for human freedom. Unfortunately, we’re on the wrong side of that. All the rest is puffery. Bring the troops home.