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Sunday, August 9, 2020
MIAMI, Jan 9 2012 (IPS) - The official end of the Iraq war is an admission of defeat. It will serve as a bitter reminder of all that everyone loses in wars, victors included. From the foundation of the republic, war has been a constant feature of US history but produced a clear victory only on a few occasions.
The only two exceptions were the result of different causes: the Civil War was justified if one accepts that it was fought to end slavery. The more emblematic case was the double goal of bringing about the annihilation of the Axis Powers in Europe and Asia in the Second World War.
Although the Korean War might have resulted in another victory, the fact that it ended in a stalemate followed by the partitioning of the peninsula diminished somewhat the virtue of having led the UN coalition. The same could be said of the First World War, given that the truce put in place after the armistice deprived the Americans of a full victory. Much earlier, two military actions left permanent scars of shame and resentment: the invasion and capture of a large part of Mexico under the sweeping mandate of Manifest Destiny, and then what was called the “Spanish American War” in Cuba.
These two conflicts led to the birth and consolidation of Latin American anti-imperialism. The Mexican adventure produced what a century and a half later could be seen as an invitation to “reconquer” through both legal and criminalised immigration. In Cuba the eventual blowback took the form of the revolution of Fidel Castro. The successive invasions of a wide range of countries in the Caribbean and Central America, together with Washington’s support of B-movie dictators, served only to spur the periodic appearance of populist strongmen who built their identities on empty anti-imperialism.
Of all the US wars, Vietnam is the defeat par excellence. It cost the deaths of more than 50,000 Americans and a dizzying number of Vietnamese civilian deaths. It can now be estimated that the US withdrawal from Iraq leaves a toll of over 4000 American casualties and 100,000 Iraqi civilians.
In a reflection of the country’s rampant hypocrisy, the bodies of the soldiers killed in combat have been transported back to the United States in near secrecy for burial. This is the price American civilians are ready to pay for maintaining completely volunteer professional armed forces and is their thanks for the services the soldiers perform and the sacrifices they make.
Now that Iraq has been turned back over to the Iraqis, what remains is the slaughter of daily bombings. The hypocritical and self-satisfied response of many Americans is “I told you so.” In reality, large numbers of Americans were shamefully disengaged and pliant in terms of both the course set by the George W. Bush White House after the September 11 attacks and then Bush’s reelection. The country was paralysed at the time by the fear of seeming unpatriotic by being in any way critical of the “civilising mission” embarked upon by the American military machine.
And thus Americans allowed themselves to be fooled by the fiction that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Bush continued to be entranced by the slogans minted by his national security advisor Condoleezza Rice, who pushed the idea that the situation in Iraq represented a unique historic opportunity -a sort of second Cold War victory- to establish control over this strategically essential area. In essence, the strategy boiled down to taking possession of oil wells and selling their product.
Today, regrettably, the same people who failed to stand up against this tragic action are smiling with satisfaction that they were right. In keeping with this malevolent logic, the best way of maintaining stability in certain parts of the planet is leaving autocrats in charge of their lands.
Paradoxically, George W. Bush was wrong and should have acted as his father did, stopping the march on Baghdad after the Kuwait war was won.
It is tragic to now conclude that peoples like that of Iraq, or other non-existent nation states, cannot be left to rule themselves, seeing how after one ration of force-fed democracy there is a return to violence, tribal hatred, the rejection of what are called “western values”, and the appearance of neighbours (read Iran) fishing for opportunities. Given the alternatives and the costs, next time these unfortunate countries should be left to themselves. One need only note what happened to Mubarak’s Egypt and Gaddafi’s Libya. (END/COPYRIGHT IPS)
(*) Joaquin Roy is “Jean Monnet” Professor and director of the European Union Centre of the University of Miami. jroy@Miami.edu
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