Wednesday, June 14, 2006

American Empire

I have an audacious question, and I hope someone will answer it and ease my mind. What is the essential difference between our unprovoked invasion of Iraq and Hitler’s invasion of Poland, or Russia’s of Afghanistan, or Saddam’s of Kuwait? For most Americans, it is that we invaded with good intensions: we wanted to help the Iraqi people, not dominate them. We wanted to remove a threat in Saddam and thereby let the Iraqis have their country back. We would liberate them, then we would go on our way. But what if this basic story is all a lie, like so many other things our government has told us? I still don’t want to believe that - it would mean that we are not, in fact, as I always proudly thought, a moral nation.

Randy Rhoads was talking about U.S. plans in Iraq today on Air America, and her conclusions are devastating. She noted that U.S. presidents don't pay unannounced visits on truly sovereign foreign countries, and that this indicates that Iraq is not truly sovereign, nor, according to Randy, will it ever be. As evidence of this, Randy points to the enormous (bigger than the Vatican, she says), multibillion dollar embassy we're building in Baghdad, and the 12 "enduring" military bases we have built throughout the country.

Sadly, I think she's inescapably right. My best read of the facts is that the neocon-led administration planned long ago to attack, conquer, occupy and control Iraq as the first stage in their plan to politically and militarily dominate the middle east and create American hegemony. And, of course, they followed through with this plan (having conveniently been handed 9/11 as a spark), leaving sorrow, devastation, loss, and chaos in their wake for us and for Iraq. They do not mean to ever give up control over the country or, by extension, the region. None of the imperatives, the fears, or the reasons that have been made public to justify the action and offset the tremendous human and monetary costs were genuine, in the final analysis.

In fact, I think I was naïve to think that we ever were planning to leave. When, since the Mexican War, have we left a country we entered without being driven out forcibly? We’re still in Cuba, still in Japan and Germany, still in most of Europe, still in much of the Pacific, still in Korea. I’m not saying that our influence in these places is evil overall, but it is influence nonetheless - the implied threat of force if someone gets out of line. It is a silent occupation that is felt in many hidden ways (say, perhaps in pressure to allow “rendition” or hidden CIA sites when a country’s people oppose it).

You can bet this conclusion is what drives the insurgency in Iraq. In the initial months of the war, I couldn’t understand why an Iraqi insurgency developed at all when we were there to help them. It was their fighting paradoxically that was keeping us there. Were they crazy, or evil? Did they just “hate freedom”. A more reasonable interpretation is that they suspected what Bush’s plan was all along, and they didn’t want to have U.S. military might installing a puppet government and using their country to intimidate Iraqis and others. What if they were right to do so?

I'm livid and dejected when I think that Bush and his administration have turned the U.S. into an expansionist military empire in my name. I don't want to believe this is true, but I am at a loss to make the facts make sense otherwise. I am horrifyingly no longer sure that what our brave troops are fighting for is justifiable or noble, however noble the troops themselves are. The rest of the world is not so torn, though. Today millions of world citizens who had once thought of us as a power for good in the world now think this is not so. World opinion perceives that the U.S. is now the greatest current threat to world peace.

If we are really the nation we purport to be - that we hope to be - , we can’t ignore this. We must conclude our government has manipulated and taken advantage of our fear and our trust. It is our responsibility as moral, patriotic, idealistic Americans to make sure that those who have perverted our country’s image, and soul are stopped, exposed, and brought to account. Otherwise, I fear that this war will go down in history as the beginning of an era of American empire hostile to the principles it once stood for.


At 5:20 PM, Blogger The Aggressive Progressive said...

Let me sketch a different picture of the Bush administration's vision for Iraq. We go in with massive firepower, decapitate the state in a matter of weeks, and get a democracy up and running in a few years. We take the oil revenues and foreign aid and build up the already fairly decent health, education and transportation infrastructure. We neo-liberalize the economy and let foreign direct investment flood in, boosting Iraqi consumer power. Then American companies make a killing pumping the country full of consumer goods because of the massive pent up consumer demand due to state expropriation and sanctions. With a prosperous, democratic Iraq and overwhelming American military might sitting next door, Iraq's neighbors, and the rest of the Middle East, start to neoliberalize and democratize. This is what I imagine they had in mind. And although the lies and war of aggresion is worthy of impeachment or worse, it is something of a compelling vision. Imperialism? Sort of. Utopianism? Sort of. Evil? The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Incompetently executed? Without the faintest doubt. This was neoliberal expansionism at the barrel of a gun, but with a humanitarian and realist slant.


At 6:00 AM, Blogger Warbler said...

I think you're pretty close to the mark - that their Iraq plan included all these hopes. But if their vision was about the after-war democratic Iraq, how could they make such an enormous bungling of the occupation? The tone of chaos was set when looting began just after the capture of Baghdad and Rummy says "that's a free society, folks". They, above all others, would know that investment does not easily flow into unstable areas. Yet they seem to have had no meaningful security plan. So either they simply relied on a self-serving belief that the Iraqis would keep in line and unwaveringly support us, or they were distracted by other concerns, like establishing an enduring military infrastructure. To me, the latter seems more likely.

At 10:34 PM, Blogger Soldier said...

questions? Money.


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