This week the nation’s vice president instructed the Air Force Academy’s graduating class (in fundamentalist theology, one assumes) "to hunt down the terrorists before they can hit us again.” Catch that? “Before they” -- and “again.” Then, to quell the suspense, he declared “we are winning” the war on terrorism. “After 9/11, this nation made a decision. We will not sit back and wait for future attacks. We will prevent those attacks by taking the fight to the enemy."
After all this time and after, even, all the official disclaimers, Dick is still out there, on autopilot, demagoguing a connection between 9/11 and "taking the fight to the enemy" in Iraq. There’s demagoguery, and then there’s shameless demagoguery.
Not long before Cheney’s discredited prattle the secretary of state predicted that "as Iraqis see their interests … represented in the political process, the insurgency will lose steam." Lose steam? Has Condi seen a newspaper lately? Or perhaps this? There have been 1,851 coalition troop deaths, 1,667 Americans, 89 Britons, 10 Bulgarians, one Dane, two Dutch, two Estonians, one Hungarian, 25 Italians, one Kazakh, one Latvian, 17 Poles, one Salvadoran, three Slovaks, 11 Spaniards, two Thai and 18 Ukrainians in the war in Iraq as of June 2, 2005.
And most of these deaths occurred after we accomplished our mission -- the one we’re still winning, though we’re rapidly losing, but which will prevent the next. Vintage BushThink.
The real experts, the anonymous ones deep inside the administration with actual Middle East expertise, speak on occasion and say rather blunt things, like, "We are losing control." But they’re just the experts. The ones who play experts, the duplicitous ideologues like Dick and Condi who speak for George W. Bush publicly, are more like the Holiday Inn Express guy.
The reality on Iraqi ground is fixed and dilated but beyond the ken of these child-like fibbers. Their addiction to pushing fantasy and public befuddlement is beyond hope. There is hope, however, that the American public at large can face up to what the world knows, and what we look plain foolish denying.
The U.S. is an occupying force in an alien land with an even more alien culture. That reality -- versus the “liberator” fallacy -- is by now clear enough to have caused some perceivable shift in domestic opinion. But there’s a deeper reality that Americans need to accept in place of the phony “war on terrorism” demagoguery that has sustained the all too substantial domestic support for the U.S. occupation, support that would dry up overnight once the reality is accepted. And it’s a simple one.
Iraqis are resisting the occupation out of nationalism, not a fondness for terrorism -- just as the Vietnamese resisted American occupation out of nationalism, not a fondness for communism. U.S. policy makers didn’t “get it” then, and they deliberately don’t get it now.
As journalist and Harvard University fellow Molly Bingham reported in the Boston Globe about the grim education she received in Iraq: "I met Shia and Sunnis fighting together, women and men, young and old. I met people from all economic, social, and educational backgrounds.… The original impetus for almost all of the individuals I spoke to was a nationalistic one."
There is this similar report from the U.S. Project on Defense Alternatives: "Strong majorities in the Sunni and Shiite community oppose the occupation -- and significant minorities have registered support for attacks on US troops. 'What drives these attitudes more than anything else,' says the report’s author, Carl Conetta, 'are nationalism, the coercive practices of the occupation, and the collateral effects of military operations.'"
Nationalism is a prideful force that paradoxically thrives on oppression. The more an outsider oppresses it through the foolish process of occupying its disciples, the more the outsider feeds it. Again, the American public learned this simple lesson once, though the lesson took 10 agonizing years to learn. This time around, can’t we settle for two?
… and then permanently banish the addle-brained ideology that has cost the lives of 1,667 Americans, 89 Britons, 10 Bulgarians, one Dane, two Dutch, two Estonians, one Hungarian, 25 Italians, one Kazakh, one Latvian, 17 Poles, one Salvadoran, three Slovaks, 11 Spaniards, two Thai and 18 Ukrainians -- and God only knows how many innocent Iraqis.