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Friday, October 31, 2003

Worse Than We Think

This article in Mother Jones by Tom Englehardt offers one of the most thorough surveys of non kool-aid influenced commentary (including his own) on Iraq that I've yet read.

For instance, on the resistence's strategy:

At some level, complex as Iraq itself may be, the messages being delivered by a growing resistance movement possibly united only by its anti-imperial, anti-occupation views seem not so complicated. And they are sending us a message. As Habib of Baghdad University commented, "'They are picking targets for their media value,' he said, noting that the [al-Rashid] hotel is well known as the Baghdad residence of many civilian members of the American-led coalition, as well as some senior U.S. military officers." That makes sense to me. It may be that our leaders are living in their own tiny world, bounded by an imperial utopia on one side and a fearful descent into the Vietnam "quagmire" on the other, but the resisters in Iraq are living with the rest of us in a far larger world, however uncomfortably we all share it.

As was clear from al-Qaeda's September 11th attacks, we all, whether in LA, Washington, Baghdad, or Kabul watch the same movies -- this is one thing globalization means. It used to be that Americans worried about how "violence" in the movies and on television was affecting American children. Now, if you show a dirigible going into a football stadium, a kidnapped train loaded with explosives, a bus wired to a bomb, or... it's likely to be a global learning experience. And whether in the Bekaa Valley, the Sunni Triangle, or New York, everyone knows when prime time is and what TV news cameras are attracted to.

Don't think that only Americans saw that banner on the USS Abraham Lincoln that the President now denies was created by his own people. (Strange, don't you think, that he waited so many months to disavow it?) They know that the brag -- "Mission Accomplished" -- was his, however much he wiggles now. (See Bush Steps Away from Victory Banner, the New York Times)

The message of the most recent attacks in Iraq seems clear enough: Mission unaccomplished, get out! It's hardly more complicated than that. Get out of your hotel. Get out of your headquarters. Get out of the NGO business. Get out of town. All of you. No distinctions. No free passes. And we don't give a damn what you think of us! No one is going to be safe in proximity to the occupation, its forces and its administrators. No one involved in the "reconstruction" of Iraq is going to be safe. And no one who works with the Americans, foreign or Iraqi, is safe either.

The message clearly goes something like that. And with it goes a genuine political strategy. The United States is to be isolated as an occupying power, cut off from allies or helpers of any sort. Reconstruction is to be undermined and made ever more expensive, while the occupation authorities are to be provoked into acts that will only create more opposition. That this strategy is being carried out, as far as we know, without the benefit of an enunciated political ideology or issued statements of intent, that it is being carried out by people ready to die in cars packed with explosives and others hiding bombs at the sides of roads, that it is relatively indiscriminate (there's a message in that, too - don't even walk near those people) and cruel doesn't make it less a message or a strategy of resistance.

In fact, as Robert Fisk, reporter for the British Independent, pointed out in a new piece (included below), the message should be unbearably familiar to us: "You're either with us or you're against us."

There's more on political rhetoric, the Vietnam analogy, Wolfowitz's clownish tours, the emerging anti war movement, military morale, the WMD search and more.

We know a lot of this stuff, but it's amazing to see it all in one place. What a fucking mess.