by David Gilbert, 16-7-04
The lies to justify the war on Iraq couldn’t be more threadbare: there are no weapons of mass destruction, Saddam Hussein did not collaborate with al-Quaeda on the 9/11 attacks (in fact, there was considerable hostility because of Osama bin Laden’s efforts to topple secular Arab regimes like Hussein’s), the Bush team’s pre-9/11/01 political agenda to attack Iraq can be easily documented. The revelations have eroded Bush’s popularity somewhat but haven’t resulted in the total discrediting and disgrace he deserves. Between a corporate media, cowardly Democrats, and a still-too-somnolent antiwar movement, we haven’t seen the mass outrage and uproar that’s needed.
The scandal about the disgusting abuse and torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib has been revealing, and it doesn’t look like Bush, et al. will get away with their “few bad apples” line. There is at least some attention to, even if not nearly enough focus on, the policy decisions that led to these widespread practices. But I don’t see anything in the mainstream media about the underlying reality: such brutality is the inherent logic and outgrowth of conquest and occupation. We hear so little about the estimated 10,000 Iraqis that have been killed so far. Nor any acknowledgement that torture and massacres were common in Vietman, even without the same “post-9/11 interrogation exigencies.” Nor any discussion of all the Latin American torturers trained, over decades, at the U.S. School of the Americas. While U.S. neocons disdain history, the Iraqis certainly haven’t forgotten that early in the last century the British colonialists claimed to be “liberating” Iraq, or that the League of Nations provided the legal cover for British and French colonial mandates in the Middle East. (See, Rashid Khalidi, Resurrecting Empire) To see the full implications of conquest and occupation, how abuse and humiliation become daily realities, just look at the protracted horror of Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
It may feel harder, compared to the 1960’s , to rally around the demand “U.S. Out!” in an era when much of the most militant resistance is itself reactionary and repressive. Please remember, though, that the U.S. not only led in crushing progressive opposition in the region but also very consciously fostered both bin-Laden and Hussein. Such a formative force in creating the problems can in no way coerce a positive solution. The basic demand of self-determination is as urgent and relevant as ever. Let’s also not be fooled by high-flown talk about “democracy” – from a U.S. government that has just overthrown one democratically-elected president, in Haiti, and has been waging a systematic destabilization campaign against another, in Venezuela. (The U.S. has violently intervened against democracy multiple times, as documented in William Blum’s Killing Hope)
The peoples of Iraq, Palestine, Haiti, and Venezuela deserve our staunch support against our government’s attacks on their integrity and well-being. It may feel overwhelming to address all 4 theaters of struggle. But there is a way in which together they create a fuller and more coherent whole, by exposing Bush’s big lie that he’s fighting this war for democracy. We who truly support democracy need to stress that conquests, occupations, coups, and destabilization campaigns are the antithesis of the very first democratic right under international law: self-determination. The urgency and value of challenging the whole pattern underscores why we so badly need to build an anti-imperialist movement today.