Tour of Duty
The last four weeks have been hectic (and, accordingly, blogless): Calgary (highlight: Banff!) to visit friends, San Francisco (highlight: Muir Woods!) for the Pacific APA, Las Vegas (highlight: the Star Trek ride!) for a panel on medieval Icelandic law at the APEE, St. Louis (highlight: being interviewed on Lloyd Sloan’s radio show on WGNU!) for a talk on anarchism – and right now I’m in Cleveland for the Central APA. (Below are pictures of Banff and San Francisco. I’ll let you guess which is which.)
While I’ve been scurrying around the continent, the military-industrial complex has been busy too. The invasion of Iraq has been a bit embarrassing for supporters of the war. They expected to find lots of weapons of mass destruction. So far: none. (That surprised even me; I thought Hussein probably did have some, I just thought it was irrelevant.) They expected our troops to be greeted as liberators; instead they encountered fierce resistance. (Funny how being bombed and starved for twelve years can make some people hostile.) So much for the two principal pretexts for the invasion.
But the conquest of Baghdad finally yielded the photo ops that the hawks had been hoping for: once American forces were in power in Baghdad, there were throngs of Iraqis cheering for President Bush and shouting down with Saddam Hussein. Of course these were the same Iraqis who, when the Ba’ath regime was in power, were cheering for Hussein and shouting down with Bush. The ruler’s jokes are always the wittiest. (Remember how the Afghans cheered when the U.S. “liberated” them by putting the Taliban in power? And how, more recently, the Afghans cheered when the U.S. “liberated” them by ousting the Taliban? See Harry Browne’s article All Hail the Liberators.)
The weird irony in all this is that the Iraqis most enthusiastic about Hussein’s fall are the militant fundamentalists who are most sympathetic with bin Laden. This fact gets scant attention in the U.S. media, as do the recent “No to Saddam, no to America” protests in Iraq. (A side note: while I was in Calgary it was interesting to contrast the devastating images – children killed by American bombs, etc. – in the Canadian press with the sanitised versions south of the border.)
Will the U.S. really establish a democratic regime in Iraq, thus ensuring the rise to power of the faction it regards as most dangerous? It’s unlikely. The estimated length of U.S. occupation has now officially been updated from 6 months to 2 years. American officials are busily drafting banking legislation and gun control laws for Iraq. The U.S. is even handpicking Iraq’s new leader, Ahmad Chalabi – a nice career move for a man so far notable only for running a bank swindle in Jordan and fleeing a felony conviction in the trunk of a car. Carefully securing the Iraqi oilfields while letting everything else get looted speaks volumes about U.S. motivations. So I’m not holding my breath for the promised Iraqi democracy. (Of course, what Iraq needs is neither U.S. occupation (tyranny by the few) nor democracy (tyranny by the many), but freedom. I’m not holding my breath for that either.)
Meanwhile, Bush is rattling his sabre at Syria while Rumsfeld urges a joint U.S.-Chinese invasion of North Korea. Soon the media, distracted by juicy new wars, will forget about the mess that the U.S. is making in Iraq, just as they’ve conveniently forgotten about the mess that’s been made of Afghanistan.
But then, so many things are slipping down the memory hole. Amid all the fuss about Iraqi mistreatment of American prisoners of war, I kept waiting for someone to mention the al-Qaeda prisoners in Guantanamo, denied basic POW rights on the shameful pretext that they are “unlawful combatants” rather than POWs. The moral outrage at Private Jessica Lynch’s being slapped around by her Iraqi captors has not been balanced by any comparable outrage at revelations that the U.S. has been playing “smacky face” with prisoners too.
To add insult to injury, President Bush keeps following me around. When I was in St. Louis, so was he – giving a speech at a Boeing fighter jet factory. (My flight was delayed half an hour by Bush and his entourage.) Now that I’m in Ohio, he’s on his way here to give a speech at a General Dynamics tank factory.
This might be a good time to buy stock in Boeing and General Dynamics. There’s nothing like perpetual war for perpetual peace.