Journalist Robert Fisk recently explained the Bush/Cheney abomination in the Middle East quite succinctly, when he asserted:
"The world in the Middle East is growing darker and darker by the hour. Pakistan. Afghanistan. Iraq. "Palestine". Lebanon. From the borders of Hindu Kush to the Mediterranean, we - we Westerners that is - are creating (as I have said before) a hell disaster. Next week, we are supposed to believe in peace in Annapolis, between the colorless American apparatchik and Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister who has no more interest in a Palestinian state than his predecessor Ariel Sharon." [Robert Fisk, "Darkness falls on the Middle East," Independent.co.uk, 24 Nov. 2007]On Friday, November 23rd, a bomb exploded in a pet market in central Baghdad. It followed a "brazen attack against U.S.-backed Sunni fighters on the southern belt of Baghdad" and a mortar and rocket attack on the Green Zone a day earlier that constituted "the biggest attack against the U.S.-protected area in weeks." [Bushra Juhi, "Twin bombings Kill at Least 26 in Iraq," Associated Press, 23 Nov. 2007]
You might keep such information in mind whenever you hear dishonest Republicans and feckless Democrats shy away from the awful truth about the "hell disaster" in Iraq and the Middle East.
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And the awful truth is this: During the seven months preceding the Bush administration's reckless, immoral, illegal and incompetent invasion of Iraq, the architects of that criminal war — Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell, Wolfowitz, Feith and Perle — lied repeatedly about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and links to al Qaeda, grossly exaggerated both the welcome American troops would receive and the ease with which democracy could be established in Iraq, while fraudulently understating the projected costs of their evil venture. In a word, our "MBA President" and his cronies failed to exercise due diligence with the American people.
Yet, while these criminals were preparing to commit their crime, critics of the proposed invasion were struggling to be heard, struggling to penetrate the herd mentality of the mainstream news media - which, except for some reporters at Knight Ridder, found itself shocked and awed by the administration's war mongering propaganda. As we now know, post-invasion facts on the ground vindicated the critics, not only for doubting the Bush administration's bogus claims about Iraq's WMD and links to al Qaeda, but also for questioning the very need for preemptive (actually preventive) war and the very feasibility of forcing democracy at gunpoint.
Unfortunately, more than 31,000 American soldiers have been killed or wounded in the course of executing Bush's criminal plans. Add to that figure "at least 20,000 U.S. troops who were not classified as wounded during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan…[now] found with signs of brain injuries." [Gregg Zoroya, "Combat Brain Injuries Multiply," USA Today, Nov. 23, 2007]
Moreover, although some 3,875 soldiers have died in Iraq since March 2003, 6,256 US veterans committed suicide in 2005 alone. According to CBS News, the suicide rate among veterans is double that of the civilian population and veterans aged 20 through 24 - those caught up in Bush's war - had the highest suicide rates among all veterans. Finally, consider that almost 8,000 soldiers deserted the US Army during fiscal years 2006 and 2007.
Beyond such casualties, Bush's war has strained the U.S. Army to the breaking point. As Army Chief of Staff, Gen. George Casey recently observed, "The current demand for our forces exceeds the sustainable supply." According to Senator Jack Reed and security analyst Michele A. Flournoy, "Roughly half of the 2000 and 2001 West Point classes have already decided to leave the Army" citing multiple, back-to-back combat tours as the primary reason. Moreover, "roughly half of the U.S. Army's equipment is in Iraq or Afghanistan, where the harsh environment and the high tempo of operations are wearing out equipment at up to 9 times the normal rate."
Then, there's the exorbitant cost of Bush's war of choice. According to Democrats on the Joint Economic Committee, when the hidden costs of Bush's war are considered, the total economic cost has exceeded $1.5 trillion. The surge in the price of oil, from approximately $37 per barrel at the beginning of the war to over $90 in recent weeks, constitutes a major portion of those hidden, but very real costs.
Finally, citizens of the United States have seen their liberties subverted by the Bush administration in the name of national security. Through the abuse of signing statements, the use of torture and the embrace of illegal wiretapping the Bush administration has moved America creepily closer to those horrid dictatorships its citizens once derided.
Yet, the costs to the United States constitute mere chump change when compared with the price paid by Iraqis. Life in Iraq during Bush's reign of terror has been far worse than life was during the last years of Saddam's brutal regime. Consider the national humiliation associated with America's successful invasion, its brutal occupation and its degrading torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.
According to Robert Dreyfuss and Tom Engelhardt, "There are, by now, perhaps a million dead Iraqis, give or take a few hundred thousand. If a typical wounded-to-dead ratio of 3:1 holds, then you're talking about up to 4 million war, occupation, and civil-war casualties. Now, add in the estimated 2-2.5 million who went into exile, fleeing the country, and another estimated 2.3 million who have had to leave their homes and go into internal exile as Iraqi communities hand neighborhoods were 'cleansed.'"
As columnist Cesar Chelala recently wrote in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "One child dies every five minutes because of the war, and many more are left with severe injuries. Of the estimated 4 million Iraqis who have been displaced in Iraq or lest the country, 1.5 million are children." Quoting from an assessment by 100 British and Iraqi doctors, Chelala adds: "sick or injured children, who could otherwise be treated by simple means, are left to die in the hundreds because they don't have access to basic medicines and other resources. Children who have lost hands, feet and limb are left without prostheses. Children with grave psychological distress are left untreated."
Chronic shortages in electricity persist. And, as Bobby Cain Calvan of McClatchy Newspapers reported on November 18th, "the percentage of Iraqis without access to decent water supplies has risen from 50 percent to 70 percent since the start of the U.S.-led war…The portion of Iraqis lacking decent sanitation…[has been] even worse - 80 percent." Yet, the horrors in Iraq have been grossly underreported by America's mainstream news media. As Dahr Jamail concludes in his new book, Beyond the Green Zone, "If the people of the United States had the real story about what their government has done in Iraq, the occupation would already have ended." [p. 291]
One might ask how Bush and his co-conspirators are able to sleep at night, given all this blood and carnage on their hands. Why do they remain in office? Why haven't they been impeached? Why haven't they been thrown in prison?
But, then, one also might ask why the many conservative scholars and pundits who got everything so wrong — especially those despicable neo-cons - still fill opinion pages and the airwaves with their vile excuses for yet more war. Their latest con is to argue that the surge is working. Some dishonest clowns even mention the word "victory."
Of course, they spew yet more propaganda designed to maintain or bolster the 70 percent of Republicans who still support Bush's criminal war. (How different are they from Hitler's die-hard supporters during World War II?) For example, one of the more obnoxious and consistently wrong neo-cons, Charles Krauthammer, waxed euphoric in his November 23rd column about just how well the surge was going in Iraq.
Yet, the 23rd was the day of the pet market blast, which had followed the previous day's "brazen attack" in the southern belt of Baghdad and the rocket attack on the Green Zone. Those attacks prompted two reporters from the Los Angeles Times to suggest that "insurgents appeared intent on sending a message to U.S. and Iraqi officials that their recent expressions of optimism on the nation's security were premature."
But, then, consider the source. This is the very same Krauthammer who wrote in November 2001: [T]he way to tame the Arab street is not with appeasement and sweet sensitivity but with raw power and victory….The elementary truth that seems to elude the experts again and again…is that power is its own reward. Victory changes everything, psychology above all. The psychology in the [Middle East] is now one of fear and deep respect for American power. Now is the time to use it." [Andrew J. Bacevich, The New American Militarism, p 93]
Tell me, Mr. Krauthammer, how's the "fear and deep respect" playing out in the Middle East and the world in November 2007? How stupid could you be? And why are you still employed by the Washington Post?
The Post's Thomas Ricks provides a more honest assessment. "I just got back from Baghdad last week, and it was clear that violence has decreased. But it hasn't gone away. It is only back down to the 2005 level - which to my mind is kind of like moving from the eighth circle of hell to the fifth….I've interviewed dozens of officers and none were willing to say we are winning. What they were saying is that at least now, we are not losing." [Editor & Publisher, Nov. 24, 2007] Yet, if you recall that, on May 12, 2004, General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, told a Senate committee, "There is no way to militarily lose in Iraq. There's also no way to militarily win in Iraq," you might want to question why we're still there.
Anthony Cordesman recently published a more realistic appraisal of the surge. Titled, "Violence versus Political Accommodation: The True Elements of Victory in Iraq," Cordesman credits the surge for playing a secondary role in reducing violence in Iraq. But he cautions: "It is still far from clear that US success against al Qaeda in the rest of central Iraq has brought stability and security to any mixed area where there is serious tension and violence. If anything, the fact that the 'surge' has not halted the pace of Iraqi displacements and has often created a patchwork of Arab Shiite versus Arab Sunni divisions in towns and areas that extend far beyond Baghdad, has laid the ground for further struggles once the US is gone." [p. 11]
Cordesman adds: "Most of Southern Iraq is now under the control of competing local and regional Shiite gangs," which have become the "equivalent of rival mafias." [p. 13]
More significantly, Cordesman concludes: "The US cannot win the war; it can only give Iraq's central government and those leaders interested in national unity and political accommodation the opportunity to do so." [p. 10] [N]o amount of American military success can - by itself - have strategic meaning." [p. 13]
Finally, those who propagandize that the "surge" is working are advised to contemplate the work of MIT economist Michael Greenstone. As summarized in the December issue of The Atlantic, Greenstone has examined the financial markets in Iraq, especially the market for Iraqi state bonds. He found that "from the start of the surge earlier this year until September, there was a 'sharp decline' in the price of Iraqi state bonds, signaling a '40% increase in the market's expectation that Iraq will default' on its obligations."
The Atlantic article goes on to note: "Since the bonds are sold on international markets (hedge funds hold a large portion), where the profit motive eliminates personal and political bias, the trajectory of bond prices may be the most accurate indicator available for assessing America's military strategy. And the data suggest that 'the surge is failing to pave the way toward a stable Iraq and may in fact be undermining it." [The Atlantic Dec. 2007, p. 26]
Consequently, were we merely limiting ourselves to the catastrophes that has bedeviled both the United States and Iraq as a consequence of Bush's war, we'd be forced to conclude that Bush's national security policy has the touch of King Midas in reverse. Everything Bush touches turns to shit!
Unfortunately, as serious pre-war scholars and critics feared and predicted, Bush's King Midas touch in reverse has extended far beyond Iraq and the United States. Simply recall their warnings about the war's impact on the price of oil, their fears that such a war might undermine US efforts against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, their concern that Bush's invasion might inflame hatred of America throughout the Muslim world, their suspicions that Iran might be the principal beneficiary of a US-led invasion that placed Iraqi Shiites in power and their worries about how a destabilized Iraq might provoke intervention by it neighbors, Iran, Syria and Turkey, and thus embroil the entire region.
Thanks to the perverse King Midas touch of the Bush administration, Iran has indeed emerged as the most influential player in Iraq and Turkey is poised to invade Iraqi Kurdistan. Moreover, as Anne Applebaum has written in the Washington Post: [T] he collateral damage inflicted by the war on America's relationships with the rest of the world is a lot deeper and broader than most Americans have realized."
In support of Ms. Applebaum's assertion, simply recall the words uttered to Condoleezza Rice in October 2007 by Tanya Lokshina, chairwoman of the Demos Center for Information and Research, a Russian human rights organization: The United States had "lost the high moral ground." "The American voice alone doesn't work anymore…The Russians are not influenced by it." [Steven Lee Myers, New York Times Oct. 15, 2007]
Finally, mention also must be made of another catastrophe feared and predicted by the pre-war critics of Bush's invasion, one which now looms on the horizon: the destabilization of nuclear armed Pakistan. As Robert Parry wrote in September 2002, "One reason a war with Iraq might increase, rather than decrease, the danger to the American people is that the invasion could spread instability across the Middle East and throughout the Muslim world…[impacting] most notably the dictatorship of Gen. Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan."
As Parry observed: "Today, even as Musharraf cooperates with the U.S. war on terror, his regime is confronted by pro-al Qaeda factions both inside and outside his government. Many past and present Pakistani military officers continue to sympathize with the fundamentalists." [Robert Parry, "Bush's Nuclear Gamble," [consortiumnews.com, September 30, 2002]
As if describing Bush's reverse Midas touch in Pakistan, Juan Cole has observed: "The pressure the Bush administration put on the Pakistani military government to combat Muslim militants in that country weakened the legitimacy of [military dictator Pervez] Musharraf, whom the Pakistani public increasingly viewed as an oppressive American puppet." Not content with such long-term undermining of its client dictator, the Bush administration then "brokered a deal whereby [Benazir] Bhutto was allowed to return to Pakistan." But, "the huge explosion that greeted Bhutto in her home turf of Karachi…suggests that her arrival is hardly the remedy for Pakistan's instability." [Cole, Salon.com Oct. 24, 2007]
Thus, given its profoundly devastating King Midas touch that has rippled around the world, one can confidently predict that the Bush administration will further embolden militant Muslims and secure its legacy as the worst presidency in U.S. history by attacking Iran, thereby bringing America's staggering and tottering empire crashing to the ground. Like Lenin, during the pre-revolutionary period in Tsarist Russia, it would be tempting to say, "the worse, the better" for America. Except: (1) I don't believe the loss of empire will prompt Americans to wake up and (2) America's fervent Bush-supporting crackpot Christians, seeing evidence for their long awaited Rapture and End Times in the calamities actually wrought by Bush, already have a stranglehold on Lenin's dictum.
(More about such crackpot Christians in a future article).
Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. He also is President of the Russian-American International Studies Association (RAISA).
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