Sunday, March 05, 2006

Civil War in Iraq? Mission Accomplished!

William F. Buckley, Jr., editor at large for the far-right National Review, has declared defeat. “One can’t doubt,” he wrote on 2/24/2006, “that the American objective in Iraq has failed.” According to Buckley, the Bush administration operated on the assumptions that Iraqis would transcend their differences, cooperate to end insurgent violence, and pursue a society with religious freedom. But that hasn’t happened. And Mr. Bush, as “military leaders” are sometimes compelled to do, must “acknowledge a tactical setback, but…insist on the survival of strategic policies…And the kernel here is the acknowledgment of defeat.”

Despite the troubles in Iraq, the administration:

can defend itself historically, standing by the inherent reasonableness of the postulates. After all, they govern our policies in Latin America, in Africa, and in much of Asia…

In Buckley’s estimation, it would be better for Americans to concede defeat in Iraq than to abandon the principles which impelled us. “The killer insurgents are not entitled to blow up the shrine of American idealism.”

These claims, coming from a former C.I.A. operative who worked to undermine the Mexican government in the early 1950s, have no credibility.

By Buckley’s own account, he spent a year working under Everette Howard Hunt, Jr., one of the worst of the worst. Hunt is most famous for his Watergate caper with fellow C.I.A. officer James McCord against Richard Nixon, but Hunt has a lot of other dubious achievements. He was propaganda officer for the 1954 coup in Guatemala and the 1961 invasion of Cuba. In the mid-1980s, he sued Spotlight magazine over an article about his alleged involvement in some unpleasantness in Dallas, Texas — and lost. I’m not trying to convict Buckley by association. I’m merely noting that whatever he learned from Everette Howard Hunt, Jr. couldn’t be good.

And that makes me question Buckley’s concern for his metaphorical shrine to American idealism. What ideals does he have in mind? Toppling legitimate foreign leaders to replace them with thugs? Rigging elections? Building a better plutocracy? Raising mercenary armies and paying them with drug money? In the name of freedom and democracy, the U.S. has worked tirelessly against freedom and democracy in Latin America and elsewhere. We always have high-sounding excuses for supporting tyrants and butchers.

Buckley thinks we must preserve the “strategic policies” behind our invasion of Iraq. He doesn’t say what those policies might be, perhaps because they are insufficiently uplifting. The terrible reality is that we have no exit strategy for Iraq because we don’t plan on leaving. (Why else are we building permanent bases there?) If the United States converted to renewable energy sources tomorrow, the neo-cons would still press for occupation of Iraq, with an eye on Iran. Modern armies run on oil, and the neo-cons anticipate a lot of wars in the future. They want their hands on the oil spigot to thwart future adversaries — like Europe and China.

When we were defeated in Vietnam, some commentators lamented that our noble cause had gone tragically awry. But it was never a noble cause; it was a war built on lies from the very beginning — just as the invasion of Iraq was the bastard child of government deceit. The idea that civil war in Iraq represents a failure of U.S. policy presumes that the U.S. wants stability. Is there any reason to believe that?


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