Ramzy Baroud: Save The World, Not the Empire
Save The World, Not the Empire
By Ramzy Baroud
If the invasion of Iraq was indeed a desperate attempt to guard the interests of the ill-defined American empire, then the experience of the last 20 months might’ve been the needed historical imperative that classically precedes the disintegration and demise of great empires.
No single factor leads to this grim reality, but a combination.
The American public was duped into backing two dreadful wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq, thinking that by preemptively eliminating the ‘gathering dangers’ in these extremely poor countries, another 9/11 scenario might be thwarted. The elite coalition in Washington, however, had another scenario in mind, one almost of no relevance to the subject of averting terrorism altogether, but in fact one that is likely to spur the intensification of violence and counter violence.
This is neither to suggest that the war on Afghanistan was devised on the same pretexts of the latter war, nor that the ruling class in Washington adheres to the same political, ideological or self-motivated philosophy.
The increasingly prevailing narrative now indicates that Iraq was the prize sought by the neo-conservative elements in US administrations as early as a decade prior to September 11, 2001. While the justifications for the war were modified according to the political atmosphere in Washington, Israel’s security was, and remains a focal point. This in part explains why neo-conservatives are often labeled, the ‘Likudists’ on Capital Hill, referring to Israel’s right wing Likud party. The allegation is equally strengthened by the incontrovertible fact that some neo-cons – as they are often called - have served as advisors to past Israeli governments.
But the war party’s interests are of course not limited to that of Israel, or even to any other lone factor, be it strategic control over oil reserves, obstructing the growing Chinese economic force from encompassing the Middle East, defending the reputation of a weakening empire, or simply hunting for some Pentagon contracts. Added to that is the religious fanaticism and its rampant fervor that has more institutionalized and far-reaching influence in Washington than anywhere else in the world, with the exception of Israel and Iran.
To preserve these interests and widen them to reach other troubled (read exploitable) spots around the world, the average American must be kept under the watchful eye of state propaganda; Mission: Be Very Afraid.
Indeed, when in fear, people huddle, seeking salvation and deliverance, they learn to trust and become more gullible and are easily manipulated. In fear, presidents like George W. Bush achieve prominence, get reelected, rise of the status of the modern-day Messiah in the eyes of some, or many. It is indeed telling to see how Bush’s popularity fluctuates according to the variation of the terrorism scale alert. The nearer America is to the stage of ‘imminent threat’, the more worthy and trusted he becomes.
And in fear, easy explanations are sought as commonsense peters out of the public discourse. Context, history and cultural sensibility are abandoned in favor of Bill O’Reily’s “factor”, which now sets the stage, influences the agenda and dishonestly relates the truth as seen by hateful fanatics. Racist talk show hosts ride the wave to the end: “Nuke the Arabs”, France or any other who dares question the way of the righteous, the mighty, the proprietors of manifest destiny.
In a state as dismal as that, “shoot to kill” becomes the only prevailing doctrine that precedes in its significance the profusion of international law that was forged as a result of a century of conflicts and war. Only the war general has the exclusive right to decide who is to live and who is to die, what city to be destroyed and when: thus the massacre of Fallujah. Peace is no longer the ultimate objective, but death for its sake, thus: “We didn’t get rid of the insurgency in Fallujah, but we definitely killed a lot of them,” according to a US commentator.
But Americans, even if too frightened by the uncertain future cannot be allowed access to information on the ongoing genocide in Iraq or any other battles for democracy. Full details must be hidden from the public. Even such a tactic is canonized somewhere by a neo-conservative publication. Robert Kaplan, a leading neo-conservative writes in the Atlantic Monthly: “the best information strategy is to avoid attention-getting confrontations in the first place and to keep the public's attention as divided as possible. We can dominate the world only quietly, so to speak. The moment the public focuses on a single crisis like the one in Iraq, it becomes a rallying point around which lonely and alienated people in a global mass society can define themselves through an uplifting group identity.”
Therefore, by exposing the public to a controlled narrative, while blending the half-truths of the self-censoring corporate media to that of the propaganda-driven official account, the “rascal multitudes” can be kept under control. Add to that the occasional and well-calculated manipulation of terrorism alert levels and unleashing racist media pundits who insist that only by mass-murdering distanced and little understood “rag-heads” can Americans live in peace.
But even in conquest, commonsense shouldn’t be altogether discarded. Why agitate a conflict with Iran if the Pentagon is struggling to locate a meager 5,000-7,000 additional troops to deploy to Iraq to fight an already lost war, which has kept 139,000 US troops busy fighting a few thousand lightly armed Iraqis? Why would a ‘moderate’ like the resigning Secretary of State Collin Powell insist on provoking the Iran front without any evidence of the latter’s ill intentions? Hasn’t America had enough of his ruse about Iraq’s ‘stockpiles’ of weapons of mass destruction? Why is the Israeli media – the Jerusalem Post in particular - frantically trying to prove that Iran was the actual security threat to Israel, not Iraq? (Oops, we invaded the wrong country again). It won’t be long before serious talk about the army draft is introduced to this repellent discourse, not to secure America, but the narrow interests of Washington’s war coalition.
September 11 didn’t break America. In fact, it constituted an opportunity to make it stronger and to rally world solidarity. What is in fact hurting America, diminishing its spirit, its reputation and its chances of maintaining its relevance and prominence, is this endless lust for war by a coalition of Armageddon crying fanatics, neo-conservative pro-Israeli ideologues, aging war generals who are adamant about bringing democracy by killing everyone who dares to question their motives, and a president who must truly believe that he is God’s gift to humanity. To make this wretched discourse more digestible by the public, we are inundated with the wisdom of numerous ‘experts’, who keep justifying why it was necessary for the US to take on (or take out) half of the world, and like stock market experts, only rationalize a debacle after it unfolds.
The insurgency in Iraq is not nearing an end. In fact, “the daily number of attacks and incidents in Iraq is now running more than 100 per day, or double what it was before the Fallujah offensive began,” according to a Knight Ridder article. What is equally perpetual is the desire in Washington to go after other ‘rouge states’, for the neo-conservatives’ “total war” cannot possibly achieve its full potential in Iraq and Afghanistan alone.
What that means precisely for the future of the empire is unclear. But it is out of the question that a positive scenario can possibly stem from this ongoing calamity. And since there is one percent more Americans who voted for Bush than for John Kerry, then the president has the needed mandates - that of God and of the people - to carry on with the fight against forces of darkness, the “axis of evil”.
Nothing else shall bring an end to the international chaos and disorder, ensued and nurtured by fundamental and rightwing elements, but the course of action on the internal fronts in both Iraq and the United States: continued resistance in Iraq, and popular opposition at home. The focus here should neither be to salvage a disintegrating empire or a faltering reputation of a superpower, but to reclaim this world of ours, ruled by rogue fanatics and equally rogue states.