Iraq: What Were You Thinking?

(I’m a bit late coming to the table commenting on Iraq.  Mass opposition to the war seemed to vanish with President Obama’ s inauguration. The war is officially over and while some fault the President for leaving the job uncompleted, it was a task that could never be finished, short of a war of annhilation.

Obama’s far more tentative moves to influence events in the Arab world are equally misguided and based on similar utopian fantasy, but have the saving grace of costing far less in treasure, and nothing in our blood.  We will again reap humiliation and disappointment, but at a cost of mere billions, rather than trillions.  The Iraq War above all other trends and events, is the source of the Obama presidency.)

 

Toward the end of  “Band of Brothers” there is a scene in which GIs riding comfortably in a deuce and half taunt German POWs who are walking to the rear, with their wounded riding in horse drawn wagons:

Hey, you! That’s right, you stupid Kraut bastards! That’s right! Say hello to Ford, and General fuckin’ Motors! You stupid fascist pigs! Look at you! You have horses! What were you thinking? Dragging our asses half way around the world, interrupting our lives… For what, you ignorant, servile scum! What the fuck are we doing here?

Even Hollywood is right sometimes.

Truly a great moment, but one long gone.   Tonight, I caught snatches of  “The Green Zone” as I was making dinner.  It was by extension the standard, “Bush lied, people died” narrative, and ends with  Matt Damon as a whistle blower emailing all the media the “truth” about  WMD, a twenty first century remake  of the scene where Robert Redford pauses before walking into the New York Times in “Three Days of the Condor.”

Yet the film is worthwhile, for the Iraq War needs no propagandist’s frame to demonstrate its utter futility.

What were you thinking?   Did you sleep through college American History when they covered Woodrow Wilson’s Mexican intervention?  Did you think that rather than making the world safe for Democracy, that attempting that only in the MIddle East would be more manageable?

U.S.occupation of Veracruz, Mexico, April 1914

Did you ever speak to anyone, anyone at all, who had some knowledge of Islam and had perhaps spent some time in the Middle East, so as to know, that the Arabs would never put aside their arms  and join Israel in making the deserts bloom?

But Saddam is  gone, you say,  the Iraqis free.  A murderer and a sadist, and his sons worse yet, might still be there. Yes, they are gone; but the North Koreans  live on in privation that any Iraqi, even today cannot conceive.  Did yo pick Iraq because it was “doable?”

But we thought he had WMD; the intel was bad.  Today we have Iran on the brink and Pakistan transporting warheads around utility  vans, and of course, North Korea. If the intel was bad, it was your job to spot the flaws.

What were you thinking?

US AC47 Gunship raining fie on the outskirts of Saigon, 1965. Saigon, like Baghdad was never entirely secure. But there was plenty of beer.

Were you certain  our technology and wealth would prevail?  You had then, never landed at Ton Son Nhut in the 60ss, seen the aircraft parked wing to wing as far as the eye could see, and then in the evening watched firefights between the ARVIN and The Viet Cong at the end of the runway, while having a few beers on the rooftop of the Caravelle.  And tipping the barman,  as a joke said, “Vive Ho Chi MInh,” to find him in delighted agreement.

Toward the end of The Green Zone, on of the characters says to Damon, it is not for you to say what happens here.  No it wasn’t ,nor was it in Saigon, or Veracruz.  Like any many Americans across the political spectrum, I opposed this war from the very first, as I had opposed the Gulf War before it, and for the same reason.  These places simply are not fighting worth fighting for, and were they we would not fight on our own.

Yet, in the first days, I could not but help feel proud as our boys the young Americans and Brits rolled toward victory in armored columns.  Remember this picture well, for you shall not see it again.  This folly has robbed us of  the ability to wage righteous war for at least a generation, if not forever.

What were you thinking?

Were you nostalgic for the unequivocal victory of World War Two and the prosperous and just peace that followed, and having failed  in Viet Nam, did you want to give it one more try just to show that we still have it in us?  Could you not see that in liberating Western Europe we were helping nations that had authentic traditions of sovereignty and cultural institutions much like our own? And that our people were largely willing to join in a struggle to not only defend their own shores, but save peoples not dissimilar from them?  Did it not occur to you that the best we’ve done since, in wars where these conditions did not obtain  is pull a draw in Korea?

What were you thinking?

Did you think that you could remake a country with pallets of dollars despite the absence of any scale of historical, cultural and linguistic understanding of the place? “The Green Zone”  – accurately I’m sure -shows the bustling self important functionaries, with their phones, laptops, and ear buds, taking the situation in hand,  as well a s the sophisticated weaponry and command/control that would surely subdue insurgents with their AKs and RPGs.

Defense Chief McNamara arrives at Ton Son Nhut, April 1964

How do I know this is an accurate portrayal?  Because we have seen it all before, the crew cut guys with white shirts and ties, showing Macnamara around.  Did you think that money and and hubristic engineering could solve all problems?.  McNamara wanted to build  a fence around Vietnam,  and someone in DOD had the idea of ln6yofting a huge inflatable artificial moon into orbit to disrupt Viet Cong sleep patterns.  He couldn’t get the funding. This time, there were no limits.

What were you thinking?

Did you think the greatly lessened lethality of modern war, purchased at extraordinary financial cost, would make this more palatable?  That a war fought by a professional military would not raise substantial objection as it dragged on inconclusively if the public at large was not involved? If the relatively small number of dead and maimed were distributed across the vast country, and came often from communities of little influence, small town and rural, black and Hispanic?

You too, are ” ignorant, servile scum,” slaves to your utopian illusions.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s