As a Nobel Prize recipient, Barack Obama faced the oxymoronic reality of having to accept prizes for peace while waging global war. Were global consciousness at an enhanced level, observers would have equated such a contradiction as akin to a reversal of the Nuremburg principles against aggressive war; a radical pardon of Hitler’s underlings recognizing that at the heart of such military expansion was the intention of peace and liberation. Instead, post-World War II history is replete with U.S. rhetoric about its benign intentions to spread “peace” at the barrel of a gun, an unchallenged narrative that has managed to disguise the real politics of imperialism as democracy promotion abroad and given the U.S. a blank check in projecting power in the world.
One example of many such contemporary contradictions lies in the declaration of democratic victory that has accompanied the recent “withdrawal” from Iraq. Most commentators have recognized the fragility of a fledgling democracy there and discuss the “democratic” challenges ahead. In doing so, they help to frame perceptions of Iraqi occupation as liberation and thereby excuse its reality as genocide and illegal war.
However with growing opposition movements worldwide, there is the potential to unite around principles that expose these hypocrisies, but by failing to connect the adverse national symptoms at home to the core cause of U.S.-led imperialism around the world, we help to cement the notion that today’s wars are waged in the name of peace. Imperialism and democracy are not compatible and Iraq, like America today, is no true democracy at all. We must not be fooled by the mere use of words.
Much has been made of the recent decision by Barack Obama to end negotiations to retain a residual force in Iraq. With withdrawal scheduled for end of 2011, we will certainly hear repetitively about the President—the keeping of his campaign promise to end the Iraq war and his efforts to begin drawdown in Afghanistan especially as his re-election campaign comes to the fore, but a closer analysis, unblinded by rhetorical claims, reveals America has really conducted only a policy shift which was initiated during President Bush’s second term.
This shift was spurred by the awareness that direct military occupation, especially in the Muslim world, fans multiple forms of resistance. It was realized that the only means of maintaining control would be through the cultivation and maintenance of indirect occupation through proxy regimes and a build-up of a coerce force that prefers to remain in the dark. The assumption was that the U.S. could mend the animosities left behind by its aggressive wars; in part, however the coalescing animosities, protests, and revolutions of the Arab spring are a byproduct of failed imperialism in Iraq, and they signify a mass strike demanding an end to U.S. control. Unfortunately that will not, by any means, deter U.S. aggression.
Take, for example, an event that occurred at “Camp Victory” last week where American troops handed control over to the Iraqi regime. The event was applauded in the American press as evidence that America was never in Iraq with the intention of long-term occupation and that it was leaving sovereignty in the hands of Iraqis. However, eyewitness accounts reported an interesting exchange during the final moments of U.S. evacuation. It seems a U.S. general, speaking through an interpreter, suggested to an Iraqi officer that they should hold a joint ceremony where the American flag would be lowered and replaced with its Iraqi counter in commemoration of the dead troops for both sides that died for Iraq “democracy”. It was reported that the officer listened to the interpreter in silence and then responded in broken but plain English simply, “No ceremony, get out!” Such lack of appreciation for the benign claim that America wages war for peace.
In fact, polls document a general dislike for U.S. presence across the region and at numbers substantially lower than the pre-9/11 era when the U.S. had declared an End of History and propped up dictatorships while its intellectuals contemplated why the Arab world, looked upon as the last frontier for democratization, was the anomaly of the Post-Cold war liberal order. Intervention in Iraq was supposed to change that, with democratization at the barrel of a gun inspiring liberal reform everywhere. Ten years and hundreds of thousands of dead and displaced Iraqis later, the American empire seeks vindication in the catastrophe that was Iraq by attempting to rebrand it as the inspiration for the Arab Spring. As Condoleezza Rice recently put it to ABC’s Christiane Amanpour, Iraq represents “a new kind of pillar of democratic stability in the Middle East (11/5/2011).”
If Iraq is what democracy looks like, most Iraqis would probably choose dictatorship. With over a million Iraqis dead since 2003 and over one million Americans having served in the war, we’re to believe President Obama’s removal of troops from the country, something that may appeal to liberal voters and secure his re-election, signifies Iraqi independence. No one is fooled by such rhetoric in the Muslim world. For now, troops have simply relocated to Kuwait where they will await stationing either within the loyal Gulf dictatorships or somewhere else in the Indian Ocean where the U.S. is building up its base on the Island of Diego Garcia and recently announced an agreement to develop a joint-base off the coast of Australia as well. Were there to be any conflict of U.S. interests in the region at all, a massive deployment would take only hours. In reality, troops are being repositioned to create the guise of independence. Once the first drone attack kills an Iraqi civilian, Iraqis will become all too aware of this new reality.
Oil production in Iraq is at all-time highs – 20 percent over budget for 2011 as the Kurds in the north have signed a major deal with Exxon and American firms stand in line for lucrative “post-war” contracts in the oil industry. But, collaboration doesn’t stop there.
The Maliki government has agreed to purchase 7.6 billion in F-16’s from the U.S. military-industrial complex and will have signed over 370 military sales by January 2012. This is part of a “Bilateral Framework Security Agreement,” the details of which cast doubt on the claim that all forces will be removed. The plan authorizes U.S. “trainers” to remain to conduct joint terrorism exercises and calls for continuing negotiations that could return troops to Iraq even as soon as shortly after next year’s U.S. elections. The new democracy in Iraq will be marked by security forces killing Iraqis with U.S. weapons as the regime embezzles the oil proceeds on behalf of Multinational Corporations. It is a liberation only oil can buy.
Just what does “Democracy” in Iraq look like? The Iraqi government was hardly immune from the Arab Spring. Despite underreporting in the Western press, protests there were squashed like those in other U.S. client states with large petroleum reserves without a word of criticism from the benign American master. Prime Minister Maliki recently arrested a spate of Sunnis without charge and the justice system is broken. Police checkpoints cover all of Baghdad as 100,000 officers there answer directly to the Prime Minister, representing a personal army for the “elected” official. The capital has been virtually cleansed of the Sunni minority, which reporters and bloggers claim lives in fear of a return to heightened ethnic tensions. Press freedom is virtually non-existent with many journalists in jail and the prospects that violence will return is high as well.
A November 5 New York Times article suggested “Al-Qaeda in Iraq is poised for a dangerous resurgance” and Moqtuda al-Sadr recently explained that U.S. Embassy workers were occupiers. Already, an explosion in Baghdad has been claimed as an assassination attempt on Maliki. 2012 is an election year and all signs indicate that shortly thereafter, U.S. troops will return, probably in the name of protecting the “peace.”
One day after Obama ended negotiations to retain a residual force, the militarists of U.S. Empire chimed in with criticism of the move. General Jack Kay, an architect of the Iraq surge, explained, “We won the war in Iraq, but we’re losing the peace!” as Condoleezza Rice hinted at failure claiming, “There was an expectation that we would negotiate something that looked like a residual force with the Iraqi government.”
In truth, the U.S. returns the biggest foreign embassy the world has ever known in Baghdad, and covert forces remain. But, in typical Obama-esque rhetorical manipulation, this temporary transition is at least a political play to make Maliki and Obama appear like honest politicians legitimately interested in preserving “peace” and “democracy”, but “democratic” Iraq stands on the faulty pillars of natural resource exploitation, lucrative military contracts, and genocide. Perhaps, sometime next year we will see Mr. Maliki accept his own Nobel Prize with Obama at his side.
The much touted withdrawal may also be a cover for an even more sinister plan. Fearing an inevitable loss of influence in the region, the U.S. may be preparing to initiate region-wide conflict with an attack on Iran. The U.S.-backed dictatorships of Kuwait, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia along with the other Gulf states certainly fear the potential. Contagion of the Arab Spring and U.S. troops exiting through their territories will remain long enough to bolster their own indigenous forces.
These very serious realities are deemed conspiracy theory by today’s press. Because the U.S. would never deliberately unleash World War III, we cannot question its role. Such blind acceptance of the false narrative is exactly what led to the Blind acceptance of the War in Iraq. Wars waged for democracy are really not wars; as long as the U.S. brands it as a war for peace, all dissent will prove to formulate only marginal opposition, but, these developments should provoke concern.
When we realize Iranian intervention is on the table, we can understand why Leon Panetta would declare publicly that Israel needed to “get to the damn table” of negotiations. At least then, they too can claim the intention of peace and thereby gain exemption from responsibility for the warfare that follows. And if there can be no attack on the Iranian nation, then that new bastion of democracy that is Iraq can spend the election year reigniting chaos, consolidating the grip made with more ethnic violence against the Sunni minority, and solidifying a new traditional Arab police state with U.S.-backed support. With democracies like these, who needs dictatorship?
Nobel Laureate Barack Obama once said he’s not against all wars; he’s against dumb wars. However, the smart wars of Obama are really a continuation of the dumb wars that initiated the decline of American power in the Muslim world. Dumb wars leave scars and the citizens of the Middle East are showing every day that they are not dumb people; they cannot be deceived by a mere altered strategic approach. They will continue to identify the rhetorical machinations of the U.S. war machine.
The question should be about whether or not the maniacs that yield U.S. power will create World War III simply because they’ve begun to lose control. This remains to be seen, but the likelihood of it happening would be greatly diminished if the spirit of opposition running throughout the nations of the world would recognize that their internal problems are but symptoms of the imperialist disease. Otherwise, sincere efforts everywhere to promote peace will once again fall short of preventing war—the prospects of which could spell disaster for us all.