Monday, May 14, 2007

“The Color of Blood, the Color of Resistance, the Color of Iraq.”

By Mike Whitney

“If I ever get married again…..I don't want any of this white dress business. I shall wear red.
Bright red.
The color of blood, the color of roaring, erupting volcanoes, the color of a dying sun, the color of passion, the color of Resistance...The color of Iraq”.
Layla Anwar; Arab Woman Blues,
“A Bed of Roses, A Bed of Thorns”

I wonder what goes through Cheney’s mind when he visits Baghdad. Does he ever look out the window of his armor-plated limmo and see the wasteland he’s created---the burned out buildings, the pock-marked streets, the wretched orphans sorting through the garbage for something to eat? Al Arabiya news says that there may be as many as 100,000 orphans in Baghdad now. These are Cheney’s kids, aren’t they--the Vice President’s gift to the “New Middle East”? The next generation of terrorists?

What a horrible legacy. What a horrible man.

Iraq is in a shambles and it’s mostly Cheney’s doing. He was the chief architect of invasion. It was Cheney who convinced his buddies in the banking and oil industries that Iraq would be “easy pickins”. And, it was Cheney who figured out that the American people could be duped into attacking a defenseless nation. And he was right.

For 6 years, Cheney has worked the levers behind the scenes to keep the American people in a constant state of fear. That gave him the time to move his armies into place and transform the government into a “one party” police state. For the most part, things have gone smoothly—the criminal activities of the state have been concealed behind the smokescreen of the “war on terror”, the biggest public relations swindle in history.

Nevertheless, the overall plan worked like a charm. The public ate it up, the congress caved in, and the United Nations looked the other way. Now, Iraq is in tatters---the schools are closed, the children are malnourished and traumatized, unemployment is soaring, the lights are out, the water is toxic, and every day another 35 or 40 civilians are blown to bits in a conflict that seemingly has no end.

Every part of Cheney’s plan has failed. Four years after “Mission Accomplished”, the “second most powerful man on earth” still has to slink into Iraq under the cover of darkness and be quickly whisked off to the safety of the Green Zone by a security-entourage the size of a small army.

There’s no “progress” in Iraq and there’s no security. The US military is trying to impose its will on a civilian population through force of arms and the Iraqis are flatly refusing. America is hated in Iraq and that won’t change. That’s why Cheney has to strap on a Kevlar vest and hunker down in the Green Zone whenever he comes to town. Americans are not welcome.

Cheney’s “surprise” visit comes just one week after Condi Rice passed through the region trying to drum up support for an Iraqi security plan. What a joke. Iraqis won’t have security until US troops are withdrawn and the political situation sorts itself out. That’ll take years if not decades.

The (real) purpose of Condi’s mission was to open a dialogue with Syria and Iran to see if they’d help to stabilize Iraq. Up to now, the Bush team has rejected the Baker Commission’s advice to talk to the two countries. But that’s all changed now. Bush has put aside his ego long enough to address the “grave and deteriorating” situation on the ground and see what can be salvaged of the mission.

Rice managed to corner the Syrian Foreign Minister and appears to have made some progress diplomatically. But she got nowhere with Iran. In fact, Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki used the conference at Sharm al-Sheik to further humiliate the United States by blasting American foreign policy and the Bush administration’s flaunting of international law. Mottaki’s speech was another black-eye for America.

But that makes no difference. What’s important is that the administration is trying to talk directly with its "enemies". That gives us some reason to hope. But it also gives us some idea of how badly the war is going. After all, if Bush is talking to Syria, the situation must be really desperate. Perhaps, they’re beginning to see that--as Harry Reid said— “the war is lost.”

In his brief stay, Cheney never poked his nose beyond the 18 inch cement walls of the Green Zone. If he had, he might have seen “the hell that is Iraq”. As Patrick Cockburn said in his latest article, “A Small War Guaranteed to Damage a Superpower”:

“The extent of the military failure over the previous three-and-a-half years is extraordinary. The foreign media never quite made clear how little territory the U.S. and the Iraqi army fully controlled – even in the heart of Baghdad.”

Cockburn makes an important point that’s normally papered-over in the media--- that after 4 years the US still doesn’t control ANY ground beyond the Green Zone. And, now, even the Green Zone is increasingly coming under fire.

Cockburn also adds this:

“America blithely invaded Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein to show its great political and military strength. Instead it demonstrated its weakness. The vastly expensive U.S. war machine failed to defeat a limited number of Sunni Arab guerrillas.”

How true. Big military, but nothing to show for it. Just a long, protracted bloodbath and the looming prospect of defeat.

Cheney’s plan for a “New American Century” depends heavily on the $500 billion US war machine. But the military has flopped in Iraq. Bombs don’t produce political solutions and the use of excessive force has only alienated the public and strengthened the resistance. The army is ineffective in urban warfare. Its advantages in weaponry and firepower are lost in an environment where guerillas can strike at will and then vanish without a trace.

Still, Cheney and Company “soldier-on” impervious to the lessons of the last 4 years and unwilling to change their basic strategy. If the definition of insanity is: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results---then, the Vice President should be institutionalized.

The occupation has just been one dismal blunder after the other; like Abu Ghraib and Falluja. Both suggest the moral superiority of the resistance, and both have been used to enlist new recruits.

Falluja was a particularly stupid error. The siege was an extension of the same muddled thinking that produced “Shock and Awe”. The Bush Team appeared to believe that Iraqi fighters would cower at the first sign of American firepower and simply throw down their weapons. What nonsense. Instead, it rallied the resistance and intensified the fighting.

Fulluja was attacked on November 8, 2004 in Operation Phantom Fury. The city of 300,000 was surrounded by concertina wire and a 6 ft high mound of dirt. The townspeople were forced to evacuate without food, water or shelter. Many still haven’t returned to their homes three years later.

The city was leveled. The Dresden-type bombing continued week after week---hospitals, schools and mosques were destroyed, civilians who left their homes for food or water were shot by snipers, bodies were left to rot on the streets, and corpses were deposited in makeshift graves in the local soccer field. From beginning to end, Falluja was a war crime---illegal incendiary bombs and other “unidentified” chemical ordinance was dropped on civilians. The BBC reported that 65 to 70% of the city was in ruins.

Falluja was a turning point in Cheney’s war. It should be regarded as the milestone for when the war was lost. The resistance has steadily grown in strength ever since. The Iraqis now understand that there can be no negotiations with people who are willing to flatten entire cities to achieve their imperial ambitions.

To fully understand what happened in Falluja we refer to a statement made by Vietnamese General Tran Quang Co who met with ex-Defense Secretary Robert MacNamara in the 1990s. Co was trying to explain to MacNamara when exactly he knew that America would lose the war in Vietnam. He said:

“When the US bombed the North and brought its troops into the South, well, of course, to us these were very negative moves. However, with regard to Vietnam, US aggression did have its positive use. Never before did the people of Vietnam, from top to bottom, unite as they did during the years that the US was bombing us. Never before had Chairman Ho Chi Minh’s appeal---that there is nothing more precious than freedom and independence—go straight to the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people as at the end of 1966”

Falluja united the Iraqis against American occupation. This fact is evident in all the surveys that have been conducted since the time of the siege. The overwhelming majority of Shiites and Sunnis now want the US to leave. Public support for the resistance continues to mushroom. The neocon plan to “teach the Iraqis a lesson” by creating a humanitarian catastrophe has backfired spectacularly.

After Falluja, a political solution is no longer possible. The US must either “pacify” the population by increasing the level of violence or withdrawal. The middle ground has been cut away.

The War Drags On

Cheney’s trip coincides with a number of stories that are being suppressed in the western media. Currently, the Iraqi city of Samarra is under siege—a cordon surrounds the city, the entrances have been blocked and food, water and medical supplies have been cut off. Similar to Falluja, the media has been banned and the city’s people are left to left to survive as prisoners in there own country.

Also, there are reports that the US is building another Guantanamo-type facility in southern Iraq in Dhi-Qar province. It’s clear that the crimes perpetrated at Abu Ghraib have not deterred the authors of the war from continuing the brutalizing of Iraqi prisoners.

Also, author and activist Sarah Meyer has also reproduced a map showing the location of permanent” US bases in Iraq---all of them conveniently located in the main oil fields. (“The Iraq Oil Crunch: Index Timeline”) It’s a useful primer for those who care to grasp the real objectives of the war.

There’s also a new report from the child’s advocacy group Save the Children that confirming that “The infant mortality rate in Iraq has increased by a shocking 150 percent since 1990—the highest such increase recorded for any country in the world…According to the report, one in eight Iraqi children—122,000 in all—died before reaching their fifth birthday. More than half of these deaths were recorded among new-born infants, with pneumonia and diarrhea claiming the greatest toll among Iraqi babies”. Save the Children’s report comes on the heels of earlier surveys which show that Baghdad orphanages are teeming with 100,000 orphans of the conflict most of whom are severely traumatized by the increasing levels of violence.

Finally, there’s the tragic story of the young Marine who was involved in the massacre of Iraqi civilians at Haditha---and who expressed his rage by urinating on their corpses as they lay in a pool of blood on the street.

This is the “democracy” Cheney has brought to Iraq.

In an impromptu press conference, Cheney casually dismissed the suffering of the Iraqi people by saying that Baghdad is still “a dangerous place”. This is about as close to an admission of guilt as the V.P. will ever get. That’s why he adroitly shifted the topic to the failings of the al-Maliki government--America’s new stooge in Baghdad. Al Maliki has become the convenient scapegoat for everything that has gone wrong in Iraq.

After his short visit to Baghdad; Cheney zoomed off to the Gulf where he delivered a predictably threatening speech on board the aircraft carrier U.S.S. John C. Stennis. He said:

With two carrier strike groups in the gulf, we’re sending clear messages to friends and adversaries alike. We’ll keep the sea lanes open. We’ll stand with our friends in opposing extremism and strategic threats. We’ll disrupt attacks on our own forces. We’ll continue bringing relief to those who suffer, and delivering justice to the enemies of freedom. And we’ll stand with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating this region."

Cheney’s fiery rhetoric was mainly intended to soothe the Saudi Royal family, which are increasingly nervous about the rise of a Shiite-dominated Middle East with Iran as the de facto superpower. Still, Cheney’s shameless saber rattling cannot be entirely ignored. There are signs that the more-hawkish members of the administration are still considering an unprovoked attack on Iran. Such an attack would ensure that the entire region would be consumed in a decades-long conflagration.

The administration has upset the fragile balance of power in the region by toppling the largely secular Sunni regime in Baghdad. The unintended consequence of this is that Islamic fundamentalism is progressively on the rise and bound to be a major factor in Iraq’s political evolution.

Lt. General William Odom cautioned that invading and occupying Iraq would not serve America’s strategic interests. He said, “We cannot win a war that serves our enemies interests and not our own. Continuing to pursue the illusion of victory in Iraq makes no sense. We can now see that it never did.”

But Cheney doesn’t heed the advice of the experts. He knows everything about war---except how to win. Now, he’s trying to mollify the allies in the Gulf by assuring them that the chaos in Iraq won’t spill over into other countries and set the whole region ablaze. But how would Cheney know? He’s been wrong about everything so far; so, why would anyone trust his judgment now? With 2 million Iraqis refugees in Jordan and Syria (Many of them wealthy Ba’athists) the prospect of a larger regional conflict is certain. In fact, the real prize for the Iraqi resistance is not Baghdad at all, but Riyadh. If fighting breaks out in Saudi Arabia, then oil futures will shoot through the roof and wreak havoc with energy supplies across the planet. It’s the quickest way to bring the industrial world to its knees---and don’t think these groups don’t know it! That’s probably why the Saudis rounded up 172 “terror suspects” without any evidence of wrongdoing just last week. The Saudis know that their widely-reviled regime is now squarely in the crosshairs of terrorist organizations.

Is this the war that Cheney wants? If so, he’s crazy!

This conflict is perfect-fit for decentralized guerilla cells that can independently carry out operations on vital pipelines, tankers and oil facilities. It's a "no-win" situation for the rest of us. There’s just no way to protect sensitive infrastructure or resource transport in a free market. Suppression of the population alone will not work.

Just look at Nigeria, Somalia, Afghanistan, of course, Iraq. This is not a war that can be won by military means. We must look for political solutions and stop the recriminations and violence.

Iraq has been the biggest mistake in American history. Bush kicked open Pandora’s Box and now we’re all going to pay the price. If the war spreads beyond Iraq; the era of cheap oil will come to a swift and decisive end. Our job now is to force the administration to rethink their strategy, change directions and work for “regional stability”. The present course will end in catastrophe for the entire world.

The world is changing quickly and America will soon be on the outside looking in. Its benign-sounding institutions (the World Bank, IMF, UN) are already in trouble and new alliances in Latin America and Asia are crystallizing into power-centers for the new century. America’s “soft power” and moral authority have been discarded and coercive diplomacy is no longer working. America is treading on quicksand while the Chinese Phoenix continues to rise in the East.

The exorbitant cost of the war, the ballooning deficits and the falling dollar have all contributed to the steady wearing away of American power. These long-term problems are only exacerbated by the fanatical dependence on militarism.

Victory was never possible in Iraq. It was just the fantasy of armchair warriors who never served in battle and never understood the realities of war. Wars are not won by superior firepower alone. Cheney never understood this simple point.

Did he really believe that we could put a Christian army of occupation in the center of the Muslim world? What arrogance. The plan was doomed from the very beginning.

Countless thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed or maimed in Cheney’s war---innocent victims shot down or bombed in their own cities, on their own streets or in their own homes! Iraq has become the greatest humanitarian disaster of our time---and its a long way from over.

America’s reputation is in ruins. The good faith we received after 9-11 has dried-up and been replaced with suspicion and rage. As former National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski says in his new book, “Second Chance”:

“Barely fifteen years after the wall came down, the once proud and globally admired America was widely viewed around the world with intense hostility, its legitimacy and credibility in tatters, its military bogged down…. its formerly devoted allies distancing themselves, and world-wide public opinion polls documenting widespread hostility toward the United States… The Middle East is fragmenting and on the brink of explosion. The world of Islam is inflamed by rising religious passion and anti-imperialist nationalisms. Throughout the world, public opinion polls show that U.S. policy is widely feared and even despised.”

America is headed for a fall. Everywhere we look we see the telltale signs of U.S. aggression---the partial remains of bombed-out buildings, the scattered piles of wreckage and debris, the bloated corpses of dead victims being eaten by dogs.

This is Cheney’s dark vision of the future—a “through the looking glass” world where people are slaughtered without cause and entire nations are pounded into dust. This nightmare-scenario threatens to swallow up the entire planet if a global resistance doesn’t quickly materialize.

If Cheney is not stopped, millions of people will die. That's a fact.