The Balance Sheet for Progress in the USA's War Against “Terror” Ruthless Criticism

The Balance Sheet for Progress in the USA’s War Against “Terror”

[Translated from Gegenargumente Vienna: May 8, 2007]

4-years of war in Iraq: the superpower draws up a balance sheet

The predicament

Four years ago, the USA attacked Iraq. With its vastly superior military force, it destroyed Iraq's infrastructure, removed Saddam's regime and established itself as the power that now defines how, by whom and for what purpose the state in Iraq is made. Since then, the USA has been waging a war in Iraq. In the course of this war, this state, in the judgment of official observers, has sunk to the level of a “failed state”: a community where even the minimal elements of statehood can no longer be found, let alone offer its residents any basis for a livelihood. The orgies of violence which happen in Iraq with the active participation of US troops in front of the world media bring it to the opinion: Iraq has risen to the category of a theater of war.

Certainly, this is not the scenario that the superpower had planned with its attack on Iraq – however, it is its work from front to back. With the campaign against the old regime, the USA had more in its program than only a military victory. With “Shock and Awe,” the US wanted to produce in friend and foe alike not only fear and reverential admiration for its ability to wipe a hostile regime off the face of the earth, but by the “asymmetric” application of violence at the same time convince them of the absolute incontestability of the program which the USA planned for Iraq. In place of the destroyed regime, a new order completely determined by the USA should step forth, a new sort of commonwealth: a state whose very national cause is to serve an American re-organization of the region. Iraqi statehood should be established according to the negative principles that this country should no longer issue threats against its neighbors, and it should administer its oil wells in the service of its – American – clientele instead of abusing them as a source of Iraqi wealth and Iraqi power. For the Iraqi people, no place was intended in this downgraded and trimmed back Iraqi economy in which they could have made themselves useful. A genuine Iraqi government was supposed to unfold completely independently of all of this, and with the greatest of ease, by order of their American supervisor. The USA had intended the various ethnic and religious groups in Iraq to be instruments and compliant officials in this transformation. Then, through elections set in law, commissioned for the exercise of a new power monopoly in the above sense, these associations – besides mutually limiting each other’s separate lust for power – this means “democracy” – should collectively manage the miracle of a pacified Iraq friendly to America, and thus offer a luminous example of the prospects of peace for states which submit in and under the American world order.

With its program of an Iraq stripped of power and democratically organized, the USA itself installed the contradictions that consequently produced the violent chaos that Iraq now represents. Governing purely in service to America’s interest, in a scaled-down Iraq, is an order that is not appealing to any Iraqi government; above all, however, there is not enough common will among the various groups which have been given the instruction to form a united state to construct this new Iraq. Each of them sees in Saddam’s annihilation their chance to seize Iraq by any of the means available to them in their struggle for power. This struggle for power is at the same time supplemented and heated up by the USA’s mercilessly implemented anti-terror war, in which US troops massacre anyone who positions themselves in the way of their program. In addition, the last bases for life in the country are destroyed; to such an extent that attacks multiply on the occupying power and its accomplices in the government. In the end, the USA is no longer at war only with former Baathists, but with every party. This is how the USA gets the voucher for the democratization business instigated by them – even the retired UN chief Kofi Annan cannot help but raise a reproach that the situation in Iraq is more terrible than it was under Saddam and the USA is to blame. And the superpower finds it must draw the necessary conclusions from this situation.

The findings: a new declaration of war

At the beginning of the year, the Bush administration condescended to a kind of confession: the Iraq campaign is not going as it had planned. In the words of the President:

“This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we're in” (Bush – State of the Union Address, January 23 2007; also the following quotations).

This is an interesting way to register American failure! There is nothing at all from the President in the sense that something, anything at all, could have been wrong in the Iraq campaign. His whole confession consists of an announcement that the marvelous project that the USA instigated with the attack on Iraq has surreptitiously changed into another war, one that has been forced on the USA, by an enemy who in spite of American superiority does not cease its anti-American activities:

“In the last two years, we've seen the desire for liberty in the broader Middle East -- and we have been sobered by the enemy's fierce reaction. In 2005, the world watched as the citizens of Lebanon raised the banner of the Cedar Revolution, they drove out the Syrian occupiers and chose new leaders in free elections. In 2005, the people of Afghanistan defied the terrorists and elected a democratic legislature. And in 2005, the Iraqi people held three national elections, choosing a transitional government, adopting the most progressive, democratic constitution in the Arab world, and then electing a government under that constitution. Despite endless threats from the killers in their midst, nearly 12 million Iraqi citizens came out to vote in a show of hope and solidarity that we should never forget.

“A thinking enemy watched all of these scenes, adjusted their tactics, and in 2006 they struck back. In Lebanon, assassins took the life of Pierre Gemayel, a prominent participant in the Cedar Revolution. Hezbollah terrorists, with support from Syria and Iran, sowed conflict in the region and are seeking to undermine Lebanon's legitimately elected government. In Afghanistan, Taliban and al Qaeda fighters tried to regain power by regrouping and engaging Afghan and NATO forces. In Iraq, al Qaeda and other Sunni extremists blew up one of the most sacred places in Shia Islam – the Golden Mosque of Samarra. This atrocity, directed at a Muslim house of prayer, was designed to provoke retaliation from Iraqi Shia – and it succeeded. Radical Shia elements, some of whom receive support from Iran, formed death squads. The result was a tragic escalation of sectarian rage and reprisal that continues to this day.”

This is how the theater of war in the Middle East looks from the control room of the boss of every American: everywhere the forces of progress are on the march and closer to their goal with American help; they do not let the evil enemy rest and so it becomes even more evil in its destructive work. That the USA’s policies in Israel, Palestine and Lebanon, its occupation of Afghanistan, destruction and occupation of Iraq, etc., releases and harvests reactions that are anything but interests friendly and useful to America is completely on account of the forces of evil and permits no doubts about America’s powerful reform program: this is still fully in order; especially the Iraq project, which still stands with its humane and heartening intentions just as radiantly as when the supreme military commander posed proudly with his triumphant soldiers and presented cheering people and the fallen statue of Saddam to the televisions of the world; when the whole business was taken as already crowned with the most beautiful success. Only, the enemy has not learned its lesson, has not eaten humble pie, has not backed down, but has gone to its terrorist work with doubled rage and has forced a new war upon the USA. It is not unknown to the President that in this slaughter in Iraq the religiously defined parties fight against each other in a civil war for the power released by America in Iraq. But the front continues to be of no interest to him – and certainly not what his victory over Saddam Hussein could have to do with it as the cause. He wants to know nothing about the political purposes of the hated enemies – he knows their true purpose and real aim:

“The Shia and Sunni extremists are different faces of the same totalitarian threat. Whatever slogans they chant, when they slaughter the innocent they have the same wicked purposes. They want to kill Americans, kill democracy in the Middle East, and gain the weapons to kill on an even more horrific scale.”

The fact that these terrorists mutually kill each other and their respective followers is not intended as such, in the American view. Actually, they have seen the true and good for which America and the Americans stand: a guaranteed order established by Washington in the chaos of the Middle East. With this interpretation of the war situation, the highest supreme commander drops the previous optimistic version of what the Iraq campaign is supposed to help with, as they fight against barriers and difficulties but make headway in American “nation building,” and presents a new one: in Iraq a form of “totalitarian threat” gathers – the adjective “totalitarian” comes not from a political analysis, but wants to allude to America’s “epic” wars and eventual triumphs over fascism and communism and to produce a continuity with the world war scenarios of those times – which is by no means limited to Baghdad and its surroundings and demands a new, comprehensive offensive self-defense program by the world power:

“If American forces step back before Baghdad is secure, the Iraqi government would be overrun by extremists on all sides. We could expect an epic battle between Shia extremists backed by Iran, and Sunni extremists aided by al Qaeda and supporters of the old regime. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country – and in time, the entire region could be drawn into the conflict. For America, this is a nightmare scenario. For the enemy, this is the objective. Chaos is the greatest ally – their greatest ally in this struggle. And out of chaos in Iraq would emerge an emboldened enemy with new safe havens, new recruits, new resources, and an even greater determination to harm America.”

From the internal Iraqi civil war the President paints a horror scenario which is even more terrible than Saddam Hussein and Bin Laden together: the danger that Iraq could degenerate into an enormous nest of 9/11 assassins. In the war actions that therefore now line up, it can no longer be about the democratic world improvement of a turbulent region, a positive benefit that the local people and the world together would gain from an exemplarily pacified Iraq. For the overdue escalation of the American grip on order, the President argues the enormous damage which the security of the world power would suffer if it does not take action here so that hostile totalitarian chaos has no chance – whatever this might look like. The challenge that he paints on the wall is similar to the day of the attack on the WTC and the Pentagon: the balance sheet for the political damage at that time surpassed the dead and the ruins. The highest of all strategic goods of the nation, the invulnerability of US power, was affected; a lightning victory over the Afghan wardens of anti-American terrorism was minimal for confronting the world with the lesson that the world power knows how to protect its incontestability. And because in the American view the dictator in Baghdad did not want to accept this lesson, the USA also had to prove the awesomeness of their weapons and with it the incontestability of their world-improving democracy diktat in Iraq. Now this proof is in danger: if Sunni-Shiite terrorism holds the last word in Baghdad, then this would call into question America’s ability and determination to lead the world of states to victory over the terrorist evil defined by Washington, the great “totalitarian threat” of the 21st century; and thus nothing less would be in danger than America’s global leadership, which is to be established by the emphatically proclaimed world war against “terrorism” and certified as incontestable. Now it is a matter of fighting for this supreme political value with renewed determination: now it surely only needs to be clarified in practice that the USA does not tolerate opposition to its program; that they are not only absolutely determined, but also able to overpower every threat which positions itself in the way of their world order program, and to snip any hostility in the bud. With his new declaration of war, the President defines the deployment to Iraq as the acid test of American world power; therefore, this is what it actually is. A victory must occur there, one of overwhelming persuasiveness, something like the unconditional surrender of the enemy, so that the world knows and misses nothing about that point, that it has no chance against the supremacy of the USA.

The Baker Plan:
Constructive suggestions to resolve a problematic situation for the nation

The position into which the superpower has maneuvered itself in Iraq is so serious that last autumn the government appointed a commission to investigate. The “Baker Commission” examined conditions at scenes of battle, questioned soldiers, men from the intelligence services, experts and Iraqis of all complexions, and arrived at a rather devastating judgment about the American project’s chances of success.

The commission diagnosed a new American problem. The war has become an unintended, continual stress on the nation: it devours soldiers’ lives and money to an unexpected and unplanned extent; that is already intolerable to a nation that is used to disposing of its resources comfortably. The commission considers much more terrible, however, the negative effects which the overstretched campaign has had on the whole American project of a re-organization of the region and, in addition, on the influence, respect and credibility which the superpower enjoys with its competitors and enemies. Their findings mean: while the USA lets itself be absorbed by “violent sectarian criminals” in never-ending, viscous battles on the ground, it runs the danger of damaging its status as a superpower. Its credibility as a higher level power suffers; its ability to spell out and direct the world-political agenda and to guarantee the compliance of the rest of the world is harmed if it should turn out that the USA with all its military superiority can’t get through to a bunch gangsters organized along ethnic-religious lines; if it can not even bring the government, established and paid for by itself, to govern the sort of “national reconciliation” that the American project intends for Iraq.

The commission cannot discover a positive yield in the Iraq war anywhere. However, that the USA could simply quit fighting in view of the increasing expenses for this endless and unsuccessful war and withdraw from Iraq is also impossible for the commission. From the higher viewpoint of it being a test for American power, it would be regarded as an even greater loss to its credibility if the superpower left the scene of battle to the enemy. This is its trial: under the high standard of a test of the fundamental ability of the USA to direct the world in its interest, the Iraq campaign must have a successful outcome. According to the government advisers, the superpower cannot afford to fail this test if its special role is not to be damaged as the outstanding power above all other state competitors. The horror scenarios which the report paints of the American entanglement stands for the danger into which the USA falls as a power if it continues in Iraq simply as it has until now. The sprawling burdens on the nation, which the commission deplores, should remind its leadership of the fact that sacrifices in money and soldiers should pay off for the nation, ultimately, instead of weakening it.

In light of this objective, the commission submits suggestions for a “change of strategy.” According to the majority view, the Bush administration didn’t use its power to extort the neighboring states enough in order to hold a “stable Iraq” together. The commission does not support a mere troop increase; instead it suggests a “massive diplomatic effort” in which all neighboring countries, even including the “rogue states,” should be “integrated” into the creation of American-ordered relations in this corner of the world. To achieve such an order, neighbors and competitors should deliver specific contributions and so help carry out the goal of a pacified Iraq. With the argument that the chaos in Iraq cannot be opportune for them, they should be won over to support American “nation building.” This broadminded offer, with which the neighboring states should be won over to the American re-organization of the region, consists in the fact that the USA could appear inclined to supplement its hostility against them with willingness to have talks. In this sense, the commission advises, the government should get those “peace processes” going again which were once in process in the Middle East. On this basis, the commission deduces that a temporary increase of American troops can be absolutely increased; combined with vigorous demands on the Iraqi government to now take care, at last, of the urgently announced national reconciliation.

The Bush administration gives the well-meant ideas of the commission a practical refusal: the military deployment in Iraq is expanded, the trajectory against the “rogue states” intensified. The Bush administration has of course nothing against diplomacy; as the American Secretary of State appropriately notes, the enemies of the USA know what they have to do and what happens to them otherwise: they should stop their hostility or they must expect war. What is there to discuss?

Bush does not have to accuse himself of errors.
And the nation must now only stand together.
Because the war must be; and it will last.

Bush does not have to reproach himself for anything. He has already done everything so that the terrorists and the enemies of freedom do not get a chance. Now the situation is as it is; as a new challenge, he must take care of the nation now across party lines:

“The war on terror we fight today is a generational struggle that will continue long after you and I have turned our duties over to others. And that's why it's important to work together so our nation can see this great effort through. Both parties and both branches should work in close consultation. It's why I propose to establish a special advisory council on the war on terror, made up of leaders in Congress from both political parties. We will share ideas for how to position America to meet every challenge that confronts us. We'll show our enemies abroad that we are united in the goal of victory.”

The closing of ranks of all political forces shows the seriousness of the situation. And the people are called on to position themselves behind the national war – precisely because the war shall not be won that quickly:

“This new strategy will not yield an immediate end to suicide bombings, assassinations, or IED attacks. Our enemies in Iraq will make every effort to ensure that our television screens are filled with images of death and suffering. Yet over time, we can expect to see Iraqi troops chasing down murderers, fewer brazen acts of terror, and growing trust and cooperation from Baghdad's residents. When this happens, daily life will improve, Iraqis will gain confidence in their leaders … Even if our new strategy works exactly as planned, deadly acts of violence will continue -- and we must expect more Iraqi and American casualties. The question is whether our new strategy will bring us closer to success. I believe that it will … Fellow citizens: The year ahead will demand more patience, sacrifice, and resolve. It can be tempting to think that America can put aside the burdens of freedom. Yet times of testing reveal the character of a nation. And throughout our history, Americans have always defied the pessimists and seen our faith in freedom redeemed. Now America is engaged in a new struggle that will set the course for a new century. We can, and we will, prevail.” (President’s Address to the Nation, January 10 2007)

The President announces to the nation that more difficult times are ahead. The American people – and the world public equally – should get used to the fact that the war in Iraq, with all its complications, is a long-term program of the nation. One must no longer believe that the bombing of enemy regimes will perform the essentials of making the world “a better place”; this is precisely why bombs are all the more necessary. As a good American, one should no longer evaluate this war by the criteria that victory should be easy; one should understand it rather as a difficult struggle that the nation has just begun, thus must also finish. This is the new tone of the war propaganda: the USA – an arduously struggling power that has to make sacrifices, but does not avoid its responsibility of bringing freedom to the globe. Thus the President declares the truth of the American war program: the special position of the USA in the state competition, its status as the power which assigns rights and duties to the other government authorities with its superior force, is to be had only if the USA strikes whenever and wherever resistance stirs.

Its all the same whether the majority of the nation withdraws its bad opinion about the sitting President; no matter which party eventually controls the government: this war program stands. To be dissatisfied with the course of the war is the right of every good American. Therefore, he may soon freely decide once again which leader he thinks capable of the earliest victory.