Democracy is new for you
But never mind
We will teach you …
It wasn't that long ago, but it's time for Americans to think back to why we invaded Iraq. I know: Ugh! This is partly necessary because Dick Cheney, in his new book, forgot all about it. But mainly, we're nearing our deadline to pull out (December 31st), and President Obama's being pressured to leave troops there.
Back in 2002 Obama was one of the few politicians brave and smart enough to speak against the war ("I don't oppose all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars"). Now that he's inherited it, it's still a lose/lose deal, and the best he can do is to leave a very few soldiers in an "advisory" capacity so he can claim, sort of, we're not abandoning the Iraqis who cooperated with us.
Obama handled the Libyan rebellion perfectly, doing what we can with help from allies, without committing our troops or ourselves to an extended run. If only Bush had done that with Iraq! Remember, first came "freedom" from Saddam Hussein, then came extended chaos and bloodshed, and then came what we're calling "democracy," but has really been a decade of war and anarchy. Imagine living there, with nothing, including electricity and water, working regularly. Only the bombs are dependable.
To say our soldiers have died for nothing would be wrong. They died fighting for their country, an honorable thing. But the extraordinary amount of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) diagnosed during the last six years — over 300,000 and growing fast — indicates that the men and women fighting our current battles know that something's wrong. (The Center for Public Integrity has documented over 1,000 false claims about the reasons for the Iraq war made by the Bush administration between 2001 and 2003 alone.) Who can forget Cheney's histrionic warnings of nuclear devastation? By the time Americans discovered that all these claims had no more truth than Orson Welles' radio announcement of a Martian invasion, it was too late. Welles's broadcast (October 30, 1938) was a Halloween trick that scared a lot of people. Bush's Iraq war has resulted in over a million deaths — mostly Iraqis — and is a major reason we're plunged into a worldwide recession.
Once the articles and books began coming out disproving all the reason for the war, the Bush administration came up with one that was harder to disprove: nation-building, turning Iraq into a Western-style democracy as a stay against Iran and a beacon of light to the oppressed people of the Middle East.
A terrible irony is that the Iraqis have been left out of the revolutions of the Arab spring that began in Tunisia on December 18, 2010, and by now have rocked almost every country in the Middle East — unless they rebel against their "occupiers," namely us! No one knows what will happen in the end with these uprisings, but they come from within and thus have a chance to make real changes.
In Iraq, by contrast, we've forced ourselves on them, so now, despite good intentions, we're responsible for a war that has broken the economic back of this oil-rich country, which may split up bitterly like the old Yugoslavia. Haifa Zangana, the Iraqi translator of today's poem, told Amy Goodman that Iraqi women — who at least had jobs during Hussein's repressive regime — are now "abused and imprisoned."
The unsavory go-to guy in Iraq today is Muqtada al-Sadr, the 38-year-old anti-American Shi'a cleric who's been living in exile, connecting to the hardliners in Iran (the real winners of the Iraq war). He and his Mahdi Army have gathered up the patriotism unavailable to our surrogates like Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and when Muqtada calls on his millions of followers, they'll be ready to march. But he isn't a threat to America, and it's still the wrong war. We don't want our soldiers there.
. . .They deliver
Wrapped in democracy,
Coloured in freedom,
Unnamed mutilated naked burned
Blown apart uncounted bodies . . .
—Both quotes from "Freedom Carol," by Iraqi poet Nedhal Abbas
Peter Meinke will be reading with other other Yellow Jacket poets at Hillsborough Community College's Ybor Campus on Friday Sept. 29, 6:30-9.