With Iraq and the Middle East sliding into chaos, I feel it fitting to revisit the proximate cause of the present world disorder with a column I wrote less than six months after the US invasion in 2003. There has still been no reckoning.
In brief, the Bush-Cheney Administration used 9.11 as a pretext for doing what the neocons had been itching to do for years—‘finish the job’ of Bush Senior and remove Saddam Hussein. The unprovoked invasion of a country that was no threat to America opened the gates of hell in Iraq, and the world. Suicide bombings became standard currency on the news, numbing the human psyche.
As I’ve written before, I feel Bush Senior’s mission from hell was to provide the straw that broke the American spirit with the ‘good Gulf War’ (Hussein was led to believe the US would turn a blind eye to his annexing Kuwait); and that Bush Junior’s mission from hell was to provide the bale to break the human spirit with the ‘bad Gulf War.’ As the aircraft carrier The George H.W. Bush steams into the Gulf, terrorism continues to grow and spread around the world, aided and abetted by the policies of the United States. The human spirit still hangs in the balance.
In 2008, Barack Obama defeated Hillary Clinton in the primaries, and the Republicans in the general election, largely by running against the war in Iraq and on his record of not voting for the war in the Senate (unlike Hillary). But the malign neglect of the Obama Administration toward Syria the last three years allowed that conflict to metastasize across the region, growing into a menace that is producing many more terrorists to threaten the ‘homeland’ and Europe.
Jihadis called ISIS, which are worse than al Qaeda that spawned them, are redrawing sandy borders and joining forces across Syria and Iraq, putting the United States in bed with Iran and the Assad regime in a regional Sunni-Shia war. It’s all become a grotesque parody of the international order.
It was very unintelligent and ineffectual to make the removal of Assad, as much of a monster as he is, the core of Obama’s Syrian policy, and it deepened America’s decline and weakness. Great powers don’t focus on picking sides and removing despots, but on their responsibility to humanity, which in this case means protecting non-combatants by providing sanctuaries and safe corridors.
Without a philosophy of humanity, national interest is meaningless. Obama offered hope without vision, promise without possibility of transformation. For that, history may judge him as harshly than George W. Bush, who at least was what he was.
Here’s the column I wrote 11 years ago. If there’s one thing that the unfolding events are proving, it is that without a reckoning, there can be no beckoning.
August 21, 2003
They Work for the Devil, and Call Him Jesus
Pause and reflect for a moment on this astounding fact: a suicide bomber in a new cement mixer blew up the United Nations headquarters in Iraq and killed Kofi Annan’s special representative, perhaps the most respected and loved man in the UN community.
This is where America’s ‘global war on terrorism’ has led the world. We are not defeating terrorism, but spreading it like a virus. We are not achieving security, democracy, and peace in the region and the world, but generating a vortex that is plunging the entire world into darkness.
The Bush Administration has created a black hole not only for American forces and civil servants in Iraq, but a black hole for the UN and the world. They work for the devil and call him Jesus.
According to Annan and many others, Sergio Vieira de Mello was “an outstanding servant of humanity. I can think of no one we could less afford to spare,” Annan said. Another spokesman at the UN said that de Mello “was the UN in a way.” If so, the Bush Administration is succeeding in its ‘win/win’ strategy of either destroying the UN, and/or bringing it completely to heel under US power.
The last act in the Bush Administration’s sordid power play has not been written yet however. The horror and sorrow they are spreading is accelerating an examination of not only US power as the fulcrum of stability in the world, but propelling a reexamination of the core premises of the entire campaign to rid the world of terrorism.
First and foremost, the essential principle of waging a ‘global war on terrorism’ must be thrown out. To wage war on terrorists is to elevate them in status and prestige, and that spreads the virus of terrorism. Criminalizing terrorist activity, treating terrorists not as “enemy combatants” but as desperately sick mass murderers, robs them of status and support.
In truth, the Bush Administration thinks much the same way as the terrorists it vows to exterminate. Both see their cause as a holy war. Both are willing to kill civilians to attain their ends. Both see the world in simplistic terms that lend themselves to perpetrating evil in the name of good. Both want to destroy the UN.
The irony is that an effective way of dealing with terrorism already exists, and is quietly being carried out. Cooperative international police activity has caught many perpetrators, and prevented scores of others from carrying out their crimes against humanity.
But the mentality and propaganda of war and militarism preclude any possibility of eliminating the scourge of terrorism. Indeed, it is providing a far more putrid breeding ground for it.
War is a barbarity, an atavism that has become an anachronism in a global society. And yet, the Bush Administration has successfully won its most basic propaganda victory by couching the terrible challenge of terrorism in terms of war. And that plays right into the hands of the terrorists’ agenda.
Even the UN has accepted this philosophical and linguistic framework, and now has paid with the lives of its most cherished servants for doing so. Furthermore, the perception of the UN as an arm of US policy is not without basis.
After the illegal US invasion, UN diplomats acted like it could be business as usual in Iraq. Now that Iraq is a battleground for all forces opposing US power in the Middle East, the UN is seen as complicit.
The Bush Administration hews to its self-fulfilling prophecy, believing that the UN must now follow US ‘leadership.’ If it does, the world will continue to follow the bastards into hell.