It's hard to pull up your socks when your legs have been blown off
by Allan Uthman | The Buffalo Beast
"We have given the Iraqi people the chance to have freedom, to have their own country. It is up to them to decide whether or not they're going to take that chance."
"We're spending $2 billion a week, $8 billion a month, over $400 billion over more than four years. They now have to assume the responsibility of their own future."
"We should put the responsibility for Iraq's future squarely where it belongs—on the Iraqis. We cannot save the Iraqis from themselves."
I can't take this anymore. It was bad enough when the White House started pushing that "when the Iraqis stand up, we'll stand down" crap last year, but now the Democrats are chiming in with this "lazy, ungrateful Iraqis" trash, seemingly all at once.
Where is this bullshit coming from? No doubt, some Frank Luntz type—possibly Frank Luntz—held a focus group and found that Americans respond better to criticism of the war when it doesn't hint at American culpability in the embarrassing disaster it has become. Politicians, desperate to avoid the logically meaningless but emotionally powerful charge of "not supporting the troops," have hit upon a new formula: You can talk all you want about the hopelessness of continuing the occupation in Iraq, as long as you blame it all on the Iraqis.
Surely, politicians understand better than anyone the human desire to avoid acknowledging guilt. But blaming the occupied for the failure of their occupation is astonishingly despicable, even by today's standards. On the other hand, murderers often blame their victims to avoid dealing with their own insanity. No doubt Hitler blamed the Jews for the Holocaust.
You know, the Iraqis are hearing this stuff, too. They get Fox News. When Bush says we're fighting terrorism in Iraq to avoid fighting them in America, they hear it. Imagine what that sounds like to them: "Hey Iraqis, sorry about destroying your society and importing al Qaeda and all, but at least your deaths are keeping us Americans safe!"
They watch our politicians and analysts display woeful ignorance of the basic facts regarding Iraq on a daily basis. I can't count how many times I've heard some supposed expert talk about the Sunni-Shiite conflict as if it were the continuation of some centuries-long feud, when that is simply not the case. In the Democratic debate in South Carolina, Bill Richardson talked of "the three religious entities" in Iraq. I'd love to hear what he thinks the third is. Kurdish Scientologists?
All of this is bad enough. But understand, the best tally of Iraqi deaths as a result of the invasion put the number at around 650,000—almost a year ago. That's not counting Gulf War 1. Can you imagine how incredibly galling it must be to hear the people who have been bombing the hell out of your country for two decades tell you they're tired of "helping" you, and it's time for you to grow up and get your shit together? And then, the supposed opposition party steps right up and says the same damn thing?
How the hell does anyone stand up and say this stuff? What kind of person can tell such a transparently self-serving fiction and still manage to live with themselves? Let's face it: It was the Americans who dissolved the Iraqi army, sending 300,000 men with guns home with no pay and no future. It was the Americans who tortured Iraqi prisoners with little to no cause, in the most twisted, disturbing ways we could dream up. It was the Americans who tried to occupy a country on the cheap, ignoring the advice of their own military experts, in an extraordinary display of modern CEO-style "outside the box" arrogance. That was us. Not them. And for us, now, to pretend we did everything right, that we have provided some kind of golden opportunity for these people by destroying their infrastructure, assaulting their dignity, and doing nothing to repair either offense, is not just incorrect. It is downright disgusting. It reveals us as the low, deceitful, swindling, narcissistic assholes we truly are.
And it's not just that both parties are saying it; the really awful thing is that they have determined that it's what we want to hear. Because if we are willing to swallow that crap just because it makes us feel better about ourselves, what hope is there that we'll ever learn a thing about how to actually deal with terrorists?
When you think about it, this amazing capacity we seem to have for feel-good self-deception is at the root of our little terrorist problem. Think about how dysfunctional it is that we have never, as a nation, actually discussed the many real reasons Arabs have to hate us. We claim to be doing everything we can to prevent terrorism, but the unspoken truth is that we have never seriously considered changing the manner in which we pursue our foreign policy goals. Our image in the outside world is that of a duplicitous trickster, a myopic fair-weather friend whose word is a joke, and that image is well-deserved. Basically, we fund whichever group seems to be against the group we find most threatening at any given time.
For instance, we are now arming the Sunni insurgents in Iraq, to fight al Qaeda. That's right, the same Sunni insurgents who have been dutifully killing our own soldiers since we got there. Apparently, they have promised, scout's honor, not to use our own guns to shoot us. Also, we're funding Sunni al Qaeda-type terrorists in Lebanon, to fight Hezbollah. Al Qaeda, of course, is an outgrowth of the mujahadeen fighters we trained and funded to battle the Soviets in Afghanistan. In the '80s, when Saddam Hussein was committing most of the atrocities we now find so outrageous, we were giving him money to fight Iran. Before 9/11, we were giving the Taleban tons of cash to fight the opium trade in Afghanistan. Our foreign policy is a shifting, slithering mass of flip-flopping alliances, abandonments and betrayals.
Unsurprisingly, most people find this type of craven opportunism to be distasteful. Most Americans, however, have never once had to think about it, because they don't even know any of it ever happened. They don't know because market research has shown that they don't want to know, and no mainstream politician or journalist has the stones to go against those numbers.
Iraq, though, is no covert operation. There is no plausible deniability there. As much as we'd like to, there's no pretending we didn't just completely shit the bed on the global stage and create an entire generation of actual America-hating potential terrorists in the process. It's a blowback scenario that simply can't be swept under the rug. Americans can't go on pretending that this was a good idea, or that it never happened. So we go to plan C: It's all their fault. We really are a bunch of assholes.