Lew Rockwell’s final judgement upon Gulf War 2, “War on Iraq: The Verdict,” just begs for a dissenting opinion, which I will endeavor to provide:
Turkish and American officials had just finished toasting the first shipment of oil out of Iraq when the sound of clinking glasses was drowned out by a terrifying explosion. An oil pipeline west of Baghdad had been blown up by saboteurs. The resulting flaming tower was a fitting symbol. The supposed victory of US forces in Iraq has turned from hoax to chaos and, now, to all-round calamity.
Those of who remember the dire predictions made by the antiwar crowd before Gulf War 2 will find this conclusion hard to swallow. Saddam had the oil wells all rigged to explode, or he might empty them into the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, thus causing a new environmental catastrophe, as he did back in Gulf War 1 when he set Kuwait’s oil fields ablaze. It was also feared that he might blow up the dams north of Baghdad, thus sweeping away Iraq’s liberators in the ensuing flood. Saddam might attack Israel with SCUD missiles with chemical warheads, thus provoking Israeli nuclear retaliation. One week into the liberation of war, a pause in the action was widely interpreted as a “quagmire” and a “stalemate” by the antiwar crowd, and another week or so later Baghdad fell to the liberators. None of the dire predictions made by the antiwarmongers came true, and now we’re told by Rockwell that the demolition of one oil pipeline indicates that the situation on the ground in Iraq is one of “all-round calamity.” In fact, the Iraqi situation is nowhere near as bad as the antiwarmongers feared/predicted/hoped it would be.
Those who have made a science out of studying government know the principle at work: government tends to accomplish the opposite of its stated aims. The advertised aim of this war was to bring the region and world more safety and order. But even ulterior aims have failed: Saddam is loose, oil pipelines are being sabotaged, troops are being killed every day, and the entire region is more resistant to US control than ever before.
Like most antiwarmongers, Rockwell misrepresents the goals of Gulf War 2. Saddam’s regime was targeted for change because it was a dictatorship which was sponsoring terror and developing weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Antiwarmongers like Rockwell have denied any and all evidence presented in support of the claims that Saddam sponsored Al Qaeda and was pursuing WMD. However, there doesn’t seem to be any kind of evidence that could possibly persuade them of these things. Judged by the achievement of these goals, Gulf War 2 is quite successful: Iraq is no longer a totalitarian dictatorship, and Saddam is no longer in a position to use the profits from the sale of Iraqi oil to sponsor Al Qaeda and finance WMD development. At most, he may still have some resources stashed away before his overthrow to use for these purposes, but he’s certainly not in anywhere near as strong a position as he was before then. Iraq is still a long way off from being as free as the USA, much less an anarcho-capitalist society, and there’s still some mopping up to do of pockets of resistance by Saddam loyalists amongst the Sunni Arab minority of Iraq and Iran’s proxies amongst the Shia Arab majority, but things were much worse before the war.
Already it is too late for the US to leave in hopes of restoring anything resembling normalcy in the country and region. Islamic fundamentalists have never been as influential and powerful, and terrorists never more bolstered with an ideological rationale for menacing Americans at home and abroad.
What “normalcy” is supposed to mean in Iraq, a country which has been under Saddam’s totalitarian rule for about three decades, and was ruled by a succession of military dictators before then, is difficult to tell. What it’s supposed to mean in “the region,” considering that the entire Middle East has been ruled by regimes that range from totalitarian dictatorships to authoritarian dictatorships (with the sole exception of Israel, but don’t tell that to Rockwell) is equally obscure.
As for the power and influence of Islamic fundamentalism, Saudi Arabia was the first Islamic fundamentalist state in the world, and Iran has rivaled Saudi Arabia for power and influence as an Islamic fundamentalist state since Khomeini overthrew the Shah in 1979. However, the Iranian clerisy is currently having to use violence against popular protests against its rule and facing the threat of a general strike scheduled to start in early July, and the Saudi regime is taking baby steps towards political liberalization, so it’s no surprise that Rockwell doesn’t even bother to try to cite any evidence in support of his claim that Islamic fundamentalism is more powerful & influential than ever.
As for the terrorists being “never more bolstered with an ideological rationale for menacing Americans,” terrorist incidents last year were at a 30-year low according to a recent State Department study, the much-vaunted and much-overrated “Arab Street” failed to rise up and do much of anything in the wake of the overthrow of either the Taliban or Saddam, and the most recent terrorist attacks were in the terrorists’ own backyard, Saudi Arabia, showing that their reach, at least for the moment, has been greatly reduced.
Without having found WMDs, the US has lost any rationale that might have existed for the war in the first place, which raises fundamental questions about the legitimacy of the continuing mission, even among those who supported the war. The Bush administration, which advertised forged documents and has otherwise done nothing to bolster its credibility as a truth teller, expects us to believe that someone made the WMDs vanish just ahead of advancing US troops. Uh huh.
Again, the rationale for the war was threefold: Saddam was sponsoring terrorists, developing WMD, and oppressing the Iraqis. He is no longer doing any of those things, except perhaps from hiding on a much smaller scale. However, since so much has been made of the failure thus far to find any WMD in Iraq, let’s address that point.
First, as I am not the first to point out, we haven’t yet found Saddam, either, but that doesn’t mean that he didn’t exist before the war. The same goes for Saddam’s WMD. I don’t know where they went – some probably went to Syria, Saddam’s Ba’athist brother-regime, some probably went into the Euphrates, some may have been destroyed. However, even if Saddam had destroyed all of it after he foiled the UNSCOM inspectors in 1998, he still didn’t achieve transparency of his WMD programs, and that’s the key thing. Even if Saddam didn’t have any WMD, that would’ve been insufficient. What he needed to do was make it evident to the world that he did not have any WMD, and was not in the process of trying to develop any. That certainly was not the case. He gave all the appearance of someone who was trying to hide the fact that he was developing WMD. Furthermore, Iraq had already developed the scientific expertise necessary to develop chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, and still had most of that scientific establishment. As long as Saddam still had all those scientists on staff, he could resume WMD development at any time. The only way to prevent him from doing so was to remove him from power.
The expense of life and resources that went into war has so far produced only one major political result: it has made a folk hero out of Saddam Hussein, who credible reports describe as still alive, along with his sons. Only the Bush administration could have led millions of Iraqis to reflect on how good they had it when the “brutal dictator” was in charge. Does anyone doubt that he would win a landslide election today – unless the Islamic parties prevail and impose someone worse?
I most certainly do doubt that Saddam Hussein would “win a landslide election today” in Iraq. The Kurds certainly wouldn’t vote for him, nor would the Shia (who account for a majority of Iraq’s population), both of which population groups had tens of thousands of their members mass-murdered by Saddam’s regime. The only Iraqis to whom Saddam might be a folk hero today are the members of the Sunni Arab minority who had it best under Saddam and resent their loss of privilege. (Considering the fact that Rockwell is a white male defender of the Confederacy and the antebellum South and a die-hard opponent of the post-1965 desegregation of the South, I don’t find it the least bit surprising that he identifies with those who resent their loss of privilege.)
The unwillingness of the Bush administration to face any of this, or at least to admit any problems in public, is an ominous sign. So far its spokesmen have dealt with the massive tide of anti-US hatred in Iraq with absurd denials. US soldiers and civilian administrators wear body armor and travel only under the protection of heavy armor, and yet we are told that the opposition is somehow limited and narrow.
There is no “massive tide of anti-US hatred in Iraq,” and the only absurd denials are those from antiwarmongers like Rockwell about Saddam’s WMD & sponsorship of Al Qaeda. The opposition is limited and narrow, and wearing body armor and traveling under the protection of heavy armor is an appropriate response to such a threat. Consider how much people in the region changed their behavior when the Beltway Sniper was still on the loose – that was in response to only one sniper team!
Iraqi militants, Saddam loyalists, resistance fighters, Islamic radicals, guerillas under the control of the remnants of the Ba’ath party, disgruntled former employees of the former regime – these are all phrases invoked by the Bush administration and thus the press to describe the nameless snipers, rock throwers, and chanting mobs who continue to vex the US military during its occupation.
Precisely – and those phrases are all quite accurate.
For example, US head occupier Paul Bremer says these are merely “a very small minority still trying to fight us.” But when reporters have a hard time finding any Iraqi, from any class or religion, to say something nice about the occupation, the prattle about “pockets of resistance” begins to wear thin. At some point in the course of human events, all decent people develop more sympathy with those who seek liberty from occupation than with the occupiers, even if the troops wear the Stars and Stripes.
Reporters wouldn’t have a hard time finding Iraqis with nice things to say about the occupation, if only they cared to look for them, but they don’t. Quite the opposite, Western journalists are so infected with the same antiwar memes as Rockwell that they spend virtually all of their time looking for Iraqis with complaints about the occupation. Still, reports about Iraqis who are thrilled to be free of Saddam manage to make their way into the news anyways.
Almost half as many US troops have died since Bush declared the war over (55) as died during the war (138). That figure is significant enough, but consider that there is a huge difference between deaths in wartime and those killed during the supposed postwar peace. It is the difference between a military conflict, in which killing and dying is the whole point, and a political conflict, in which killing and death suggests despotism, lawlessness, and all-round calamity.
Considering the fact that Rockwell’s fellow antiwarmongers were predicting many thousands of US deaths in the Battle of Baghdad, a total of 193 dead thus far is pretty damn good.
We are encouraged to believe that anyone who would seek to harm US troops is necessarily driven by something other than the desire for the well-being of the Iraqi homeland. They must be radicals! They must be receiving their orders from a shadowy Saddam! They have been indoctrinated by Islam and thereby are prevented from seeing the great blessings being brought to Iraq by the US military! Pure nonsense, as ridiculous as the idea that the US has a just cause for occupying this country.
There’s nothing ridiculous or nonsensical about the notions that the Iraqi resisters are Saddamite loyalists & Islamic fundies, or that the US has a just cause to occupy Iraq and help it get back on its feet, just as the US did with Germany & Japan after WWII.
In Iraq, the “freedom” brought by the troops has so far meant canceling elections, suppressing opposition newspapers, confiscating weapons from civilians, going house to house to seek out political opponents of the US administrator, smearing and possibly killing anyone who raises questions about the occupation, and generally ruling the country as militaries from ancient times to the present have always ruled: through brutal force in the absence of the rule of law.
Since when is Rockwell so hot about elections, anyway? Doesn’t he hate democracy as the worst form of tyranny, just like his comrade, Hans Hermann-Hoppe? The “elections” which were canceled were ones in which manifestly undemocratic candidates were likely to win, and the US doesn’t want the post-Saddam Iraqi regime to follow the common Third World pattern: “One man, one vote, once.” The US had made it clear that those who are willing to confine their opposition to peaceful means will be free to do so, but those who are committed to violence will not be allowed to undermine the democratization of Iraq. If their newspapers are shut down, their weapons confiscated, and some of them are killed in the process, that’s evolution in action. By failing to distinguish between peaceful and violent “political opponents of the US administrator,” Rockwell is engaging in typical antiwarmonger mendacity, enabling him to misrepresent legitimate suppression of violent insurrectionists as if it were illegitimate repression of dissenters. (Then again, a neo-Confederate like Rockwell is committed to defending the violent insurrectionists of the Slave States, so it’s not surprising that he would naturally try to protect the remnant rulers of another slave state by trying to camouflage them as peaceful demonstrators.)
Finally, skipping several paragraphs because my replies to them would be merely redundant:
Of the fire produced by the exploding pipeline, an official told the New York Times: “We couldn’t do anything because the fire is bigger than our capabilities.” That sums up the entire US experience with this war.
A few years ago, there was a pile of old car tires in the California central valley that caught fire and couldn’t be put out, either, but that hardly meant that the entire Republic of California was in a state of “all-round calamity.” Putting out fires is a highly specialized occupation, putting out oil well/refinery/pipeline fires is even more highly specialized, difficult, and dangerous. Sometimes the best thing to do is to simply let the fires burn themselves out. However, the fact that some things are beyond our capability to accomplish doesn’t mean that everything is beyond our capability.
How ’bout some historical context here, folks: the US liberated, rebuilt, and democratized both Germany and Japan during WWII & afterwards – two countries which were much bigger military threats than Iraq, had much bigger populations than Iraq, and had suffered far more war damage than Iraq. By comparison, Iraq’s a cakewalk. That proved true during the military campaign, and it will prove true during the occupation, too. It’s still very early in the occupation, even if you accept the 2-year timeline of the Bush administration’s planners. I’ve always thought that was over-optimistic, and thought the US should plan on an occupation of 5 to 10 years, instead, especially considering the fact that the NATO occupation of Bosnia is still ongoing, having started back in 1995. Still, whichever timeline you use, it’s only a couple of months into the occupation of Iraq, and far too early to call it a failure.