Deja Vu All Over Again: Quagmire Alert
Deja Vu All Over Again: Quagmire Alert
By Bernard Weiner
The Crisis Papers
"Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." -- George Santayana
I can't tell you how many times I've had a conversation with other activist veterans from "The Sixties" (roughly, from the Civil Rights struggles of the late-1950s through the anti-Vietnam War mid-'70s), where variations of the same unbelieving lament is expressed:
"I never thought I'd have to do this all over again!
"I'm marching in the streets against yet another lying, incompetent administration. I thought we Americans would have learned history's lesson by now that absent an imminent war coming our way, we should not invade and occupy other countries, especially when we don't speak their language and haven't got a clue about the social, religious and ethnic complexities at work in those cultures.
"If we invade and occupy under those circumstances, the best we can hope for is a quagmire, a stalemated war that seems to go on forever. I thought our leaders would have figured out that nationalists under attack have more endurance for such wars than we have for fighting and not 'winning' them."
Certainly, we activist veterans learned those lessons, as, in a sense, did Bush#1, who got in and out of Iraq quickly in the first Gulf War. But the current crop of America's leaders -- the reckless BushCheneyRoveRumsfeld crew, their GOP lackeys in the Congress, and the corporate-owned mass-media outlets -- behave as if history has no relevance to their actions. No wonder so many American historians and ordinary citizens rate Bush as the worst president of all time.
'NAM & IRAQ -- A WORLD OF QUAGMIRES
In Vietnam, a small country that had successfully resisted invaders for centuries, the technologically-superior U.S. military was fought to a standstill by a rag-tag guerrilla army that was disciplined, determined, infinitely creative -- and, most importantly, fighting on their own soil.
Five American presidents had been told by their best Pentagon and Southeast Asia experts that there was no way that the U.S. military could prevail in Vietnam, that the best they could hope for if they invaded and occupied the country was endless stalemate. "Victory" was out of the question.
But each of those presidents, acting out of personal arrogance and a badly-flawed belief system, thought he would be the one to achieve victory, and so each of them kept taking the U.S. deeper and deeper into the quagmire. Truman supported the French in hanging on to Vietnam; Eisenhower OKd taking over from the defeated French forces; Kennedy, Nixon and Johnson kept sending more "advisors" and then hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops down the 'Nam rathole. (Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, we learned decades later, knew as early as 1967 that Vietnam was unwinnable, but the slaughter went on for eight more years!)
FAULTY BELIEFS STILL ALIVE
Among the faulty beliefs underlying America's tendency toward foreign mi sadventures:
* that military superiority in terms of technology and firepower guarantees that the U.S. will never be defeated.
* that American "exceptionalism" -- roughly, that God favors America over all others and thus will protect its enterprises -- will work its magic.
* that colonialism is still a viable model for how the world should be governed, with the weak "third-world" nations being at the mercy of the strong industrialized ones.
* that Lord Acton's dictum -- "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely" -- doesn't apply to them.
* that you can win the "hearts and minds" of the local populace under your control, even though you disrespect, insult and torture them.
IRAQ -- PIVOT IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Pick up history's remote and fast-forward 35 or so years. Long before the tragedy we know as "9/11," Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld started planning for the day when they would invade and conquer Iraq, which they and their neo-con advisers had decided was the pivot point in controlling the Middle East's oil and politics. Since the Soviet Union had collapsed, the U.S. was the only remaining Superpower left standing; the game was on.
But they couldn't just start bombing and invading; they needed a "hook," some solid justification on which to hang their war. It wouldn't be politically prudent to come right out and say "we're going to war to control the rich natural resources of the Middle East and to use Iraq as a demonstration-model for what we'll do to other rulers in the region if they don't agree to our hegemonic demands."
As you may remember, CheneyBush claimed they had to invade Iraq because the alleged "weapons of mass destruction" Saddam possessed were "a grave and growing danger" to the region and the world, and specifically to the United States and our regional proxy, Israel. Remember Condi's "mushroom clouds" over American cities, and senators being told that Iraqi drone planes could spray chemical toxins onto East Coast cities? These Bush Administration guys didn't even bother making their lies believable; they just spouted them and counted on post-9/11 fear and fright, as endlessly hyped by the mass-media, to do the agitprop job of moving the American sheeple along. And it worked.
Those few in Congress and the press who deigned to raise objections or ask serious questions about the gone-missing WMD, or Occupation policies and corruptions and tortures in Iraq, were denounced as "unpatriotic," providing aid and comfort to "the terrorists." (Many of the few media critics, such as Phil Donahue, Bill Maher and Dan Rather, lost their jobs along the way.) The Democratic Party, the ostensible opposition, pulled in its horns and went along to get along.
MILLIONS KILLED IN VIETNAM WAR
I organized my first Vietnam "teach-in" in 1965 when I was a young faculty member in the Political Science Department at San Diego State College; a goodly number of students showed up. It took another seven or so years before the general public finally came around; they had had enough. More than 50,000 of their sons and husbands had been slaughtered, along with an estimated 2 million Vietnamese.
Contrast that with how fast the dissenting opposition grew over the Iraq War. This peace movement, mostly organized over the internet, put more than 10 million protesters into the streets worldwide BEFORE the U.S. even began "shocking&aweing" in Iraq. The mainstream American middle-class -- including traditional conservatives, retired military officers, GOP stalwarts -- eventually deserted Bush over this reckless, dangerous war that is damaging America's security and national interests; they, along with Democratic voters, united to install a significant anti-war majority in the Congress in 2006.
Are we there yet? Have we turned the anti-war corner? Of course not. Not only are the GOP faithful in the Senate rallying to CheneyBush to prevent an up-or-down vote on the non-binding resolution against the escalation of the war, but the Democrats are moving quite slowly and timidly on their anti-war legislation, still nervously looking over their shoulders, worried that the Dems will be blamed for "losing Iraq."
Why they are so frightened is beyond me. Clearly, the country has made up its mind on the war, and, perhaps more importantly, on the Bush Administration. The people just want U.S. troops back home as quickly as feasable, and for CheneyBush and their bunker crew to disappear before they do any more major damage to our democratic republic, especially to our Constitution.
PLANNING FOR WAR ON IRAN
So here we are, bogged down in the Iraq quagmire, Afghanistan is turning once again into yet another South Asia quagmire, and the Bush Administration is planning on still another war in the region, against Iran, using the same template of war-preparation that was used pre-"shock&awe": demonizing propaganda against Iran's rulers, talk about a "grave and growing" threat, WMDs, the fear of nuclear weapons, a haven for terrorists, etc. etc.
The reasoning seems to go something like this inside the CheneyBush world:
"We have two years left before we have to release the reins of power. There still is nobody that can stop us, though there is plenty of yapping at our heels by those essentially powerless: our allies, the United Nations, the Democrats. Therefore, full speed ahead.
"Iran is five to ten years away from developing operational nuclear weaponry; strike 'em now.
"Sure, there will be a firestorm of blowback coming our way when we bomb Iran's nuclear labs and facilities, but everyone hates us already so nothing new there. No need for our enemies to love us as long as they fear us. Other regimes in the area, and elsewhere -- North Korea, Syria and Venezuela, for example -- will get the message and comport themselves more to our wishes. And the Democrats will be angry but essentially toothless to prevent our foreign/military actions. Maybe they'll pass another post-facto non-binding resolution expressing their distress about our attack; oooh, ouch!
"Besides, much of the political and military fallout from both the escalation in Iraq and an attack on Iran will not take place on our watch. A new President, likely a Democrat, will struggle unsuccessfully for four years to try to undo the damage we've done in eight; he or she will be blamed for the failure, which will ease the way for a GOP restoration in 2012."
BACK TO THE FUTURE
So that's the situation as CheneyBush's war with Iraq enters its fifth year. We've been here before in Vietnam, and now, so to speak, we're stuck on the landmass of Asia again. Quagmire City, and, under CheneyBush, with more catastrophes (and treasury-busting expenditures) to come.
That's why the Democrats and moderate Republicans must do whatever they can to disrupt the Administrations' plans, however they can. Yes, it appears to be an insurmountable task for us tiny Lilliputians trying to tie down the powerful Gulliver giant, but our opposition is stronger these days, and, thanks to the November-2006 election results, exercises at least some levers of power.
And with the internet as a strong organizing and educating tool, we activists, both veterans and newcomers, likewise have more power to help galvanize citizen opposition into gearing up for more effective dissent, including creative civil disobedience.
In addition, there is a growing movement inside the military -- generals and colonels and lower officers and troops speaking out against this senseless war escalation -- with the aim of helping restore some sanity to U.S. foreign/military policy. Impeachment momentum against CheneyBush is progressing in a number of states, even bubbling beneath the surface in Congress, and rising in poll after poll.
In short, there is some clear light amidst the darkness spread by the CheneyBush Administration. It's our job to increase that clarity and keep the momentum building.
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at various universities, worked as a writer/editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently is co-editor of The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org). To comment: email@example.com .
First published by The Crisis Papers and Democratic Underground 2/20/07.
Copyright 2007 by Bernard Weiner.