The More Things Change ….

Business As Usual
By Irene Rheinwald

02/17/07 “ICH’ – — The more things change, the more they stay the same. What seemed an earthquake on November 7, 2006, has turned into a mere ripple in a volatile pond. Despite proclamations to the contrary, Democratic control of Congress cannot be termed a reversal of the ill advised, disastrous, policies of the Bush administration in Iraq.

Will the Democrats perpetuate the Iraq war? Or will they seek a viable solution that incorporates a full and immediate withdrawal from the escalating conflict? The mere presence of foreigners – namely, American combatants – irritates the social fabric of Iraq. Muslim memories are long. The Crusades are a still fresh source of inspired struggle. Muslim traditions, accomplishments and history are distinguished and extraordinary. The Western perception, based on colonial self-indulgence and ignorance, rests upon an assumption of cultural inferiority. George W. Bush always has a “raison de jour” for invading Iraq: first, to ostensibly to avoid the “mushroom cloud”, then the war against terror, then to liberate the Iraq people and bring democracy to the benighted. It is now some nebulous “success”. As we watch the situation deteriorate, and fatalities mount in almost incomprehensible numbers on all sides, a genuine turn of policy is vital. We wonder where it all went so terribly wrong. Are we the first to make such errors, or can history teach us about the madness of making war? Most important, are we willing to learn?

Governments, states, empires, kingdoms, from ancient times to modern, frequently embrace policies at odds with international stability and focus instead on short-term economic gains. From ancient Rome to Egypt, to the Holy Roman Empire, Napoleon, Victorian colonialism, and the Soviet Union, political and religious institutions have sought to absorb autonomous neighbours. Empire building, the consequence of self-delusion, arrogance, and xenophobia, is actually economic exploitation. The spoils of war are paramount: not democracy, not enlightenment, nor freedom, liberty, and certainly not self-determination. To assert such lofty motives is disingenuous dissembling. Why is the United States only interested in “liberating” countries swimming in natural resources such as oil? Why did the United States not champion former Soviet Republics in 1989? What of Chechnya’s struggles? Why has the United States ignored human catastrophes such as Darfur, Rwanda, or ethnic cleansing in Palestine? Aids in Africa? And what of medicare, social security, education in the United States? How far would the almost four hundred billion spent on the invasion of Iraq go towards bettering American society?

So what do with Iraq? Does the “you break, you buy” admonition still apply? George W. Bush would have us believe that Iraq was broken under Saddam Hussein, and that the people desperately needed and wanted American glue. Not so: from the 1980s until the 2003 illegal invasion, Iraq was perceived as a moderate Middle Eastern entity; a progressive, secular, stabilizing force amongst “evil” Islamic fundamentalists. Western powers overlooked, even tolerated, Saddam Hussein’s excesses. Indeed, Iraq had an extraordinary number of intellectuals of both genders – most now dead or in exile. At this point, the situation is a complex warren of militias, factions, sects, tribes, political alliances, mercenaries, imported terrorists and religious ideologues, clashing with American occupying forces and each other, based factional collusion with the United States. A sub-current is the return of ex-patriot Iraqis into positions of power under, again under the auspices of the United States. Is America now willing to prop up al-Malaki’s friendly government with massive force? Are we so deluded to think al-Maliki’s regime is legitimate, representative, and independent? Democracy has no history in the Middle East, outside of the despised Israel. Moreover, democratic movements are borne of internal stirrings in a nation with a strong middle class. Military invasion and perpetual terror against civilians alienates “hearts and minds”. Democracy cannot, must not, be imposed from without, under any circumstances. To do so simply invites bitterness and violence against the oppressors. The Soviet Union brutally invaded the democratic Baltic nations to “liberate” them – same coin, different side.

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