Monday, January 15, 2007
THE SURGE AND THE WAKE
RENATO REDENTOR CONSTANTINO
Business Mirror; ParasIndonesia; Malaysiakini.com
January 17, 2007
The journalist Hossam al-Hamalawy was right to wonder aloud in May 2003, shortly after America's invasion had commenced, whether Iraq had become "the new bus stop for the mujahideen after Kabul, Bosnia, Grozny, Kosovo and Kashmir."
Others were thinking along similar lines.
It seems the US occupation has created "a new generation of mujahideen similar to the Afghani Arabs -- the 'Iraqi Arabs'," said Muhammad Salah, Cairo bureau chief of Al Hayat, a little over a month after American troops breached Iraq's borders. US aggression, Salah said, "has created favorable conditions for recruiting more cadres" and "has shifted the fortunes of Islamists."
And, of course, even then it should have been obvious that al-Hamalawy and Salah were right.
A month after the US invasion in 2003, young Indonesians were queuing up openly to register and volunteer to fight in Iraq against American troops. Around the same period, Islamist fighters composed largely of volunteer students from Jordanian and Syrian universities were battling US marines inside Baghdad. In Saudi Arabia, authorities interrogating three hundred captives -- young Saudis on their way to fight in Iraq -- determine that among their captives, "few if any ... had previous contact with al-Qaida and that most were motivated by the U.S. occupation."
"I'm sure George Bush never meant to help us," said the head of the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood, Mamun Hodaibi, in 2003. "But he did." Of course he did. But too few noticed because maybe too many wanted to be blind.
How many Iraqi lives were ground to dust during America's brutal assault on Fallujah alone? How many family members and friends who survived the carnage have since added their rage to the Iraqi furnace? These are uncomfortable questions. We would rather have asinine formulas: topple Saddam's government and rose water and rice will be thrown at the feet of the invading troops. Capture the tyrant and the violence will wind down. Take out the Ba'athist dead-enders and the fighting will stop. Take out Uday and Qusay Hussein and it'll be Mission Accomplished. Bump off Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the insurgency will collapse.
And now the monster Saddam has been lynched; there is a new Disneyland blueprint for winning. The Bush administration calls it The Surge: one more push in Iraq for total victory -- the deployment of over 20,000 more US troops-- in addition to the 135,000 US soldiers already stationed in Iraq -- "to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population."
Feral stupidity is fanaticism: you discover you are going in the wrong direction, and you double your speed.
In The Burning Tigris, a book about the Armenian genocide, Peter Badakian reminds us that memory today has become such a moral act; it's surely a timely reminder. Because without remembering, we "are subject to somebody else's remembering, or somebody else's forgetting."
It's a compelling way of looking at things, and maybe if we thought about it more we'd be thinking less about the cost-benefit aspects of America's proposed surge and more about the wake of US global peacekeeping.
February 1986; extracts of a taped conversation between the US government and the government of Iran. Iranian representative: "We must get the Hawk missiles.... Iran is being destroyed. We need those missiles."
The US government: "[I]f your government can cause the humanitarian release of the Americans held in Beirut ... ten hours immediately after they are released the airplane will land with the remaining Hawk missile parts."
After the US received one hostage, Iran got millions of dollars worth of missiles, a cake in the shape of a key, revolvers and a Bible with a handwritten note quoting St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians: "And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying 'All the nations shall be blessed in you.'" Signed, "Ronald Reagan, Oct. 3, 1986."
On the same year, Reagan told Saddam Hussein "Iraq should step up its air war and bombing of Iran." Three years later, through the determined prodding of James Baker -- the same Baker who heads the eminent Iraq Study Group advising George W. Bush on how to secure peace in Iraq -- America gave the Iraqi tyrant an additional $1 billion subsidy, "along with germ seed for anthrax, helicopters, and the notorious 'dual-use' material that could be used for chemical and biological weapons."
"I tremble for my country," said Thomas Jefferson, "when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever." And he is right to tremble. We should, too.
We reap what we sow, we sow with what we forget, and some have sown bitter fruit -- in the land of others where life has become what the poet Pablo Neruda described as great sorrow, where each "day is not hour by hour / but pain by pain." #
1. Hossam al-Hamalawy, "A new wave of Islamic militancy?" ZNet, 1 May 2003.
2. Edward Aspinall, "After the war, a lingering legacy of hate," Sydney Morning Herald, 5 April 2003.
3. Sidney Blumenthal, "Selling the war," Salon.com, 28 July 2005.
4. Christopher Cooper, "Iraq war may benefit Islamists," Asian Wall Street Journal, 2-4 May 2003.
5. "Bush blames failure to secure Baghdad on lack of troops," CNN.com, 10 January 2007.
6. The historian Howard Zinn recalled the old saying in Howard Zinn with David Barsamian, Original Zinn: Conversations on History and Politics (Harper Perennial, NY: 2006).
7. Ibid. David Barsamian quotes Badakian in his interview with Howard Zinn.
8. Ibid. Words in quotation by Howard Zinn.
9. Robert Fisk, The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East (Alfred E. Knopf, NY: 2005).
11. Ibid. The revolvers were returned, Iranian airport guards ate the cake, but Iran kept the Bible.
12. Dean Baquet, "U.S. supplied arms to Iraq, ex-aide says," New York Times, 5 February 1995. Reagan's message to Hussein is from the affidavit executed by Howard Teicher, Middle East and Political-Military Affairs staff member from 1982-1987 to the US National Security Council. Click here for a copy of the affidavit. For a more rounded discussion, see also Renato Redentor Constantino, The Poverty of Memory: Essays on History and Empire (CFNS, QC: 2006), pp. 168-186.
13. Robert Fisk, "What the US President wants us to forget," The Independent-UK, 9 October 2002.
14. Luis Poirot, Pablo Neruda: Absence and Presence (W.W. Norton & Company, NY: 1990)
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I failed to trace who made this composite image based on the iconic photo taken in 1972 by Vietnamese photographer Nick Ut of the girl, Kim Phuc, fleeing an American napalm attack. Click here to read Ut's thoughts on his photo, the war and Kim Phuc.