Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2003 9:19 pm 
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Iraq-watchers are seeing their earlier predictions, once deemed excessively pessimistic if not downright unpatriotic, being more and more reported as fact in the American media. We said there was no connection between Saddam and al-Qa'ida. We said the claims of a nuclear, chemical, or biological threat from Saddam were false. We said an invasion of Iraq would create a terrible mess, not democracy. These things are all being reported now, however guardedly at times, in the American mainstream media.

A widely published June 9 AP story by Dafna Linzer, for instance, tells us that the US military in Iraq has run out of places to look for WMD's and has stopped looking for them.

And the British and American papers are full of reports on Bush and Blair lies and cooking of intelligence prior to the invasion. Congressional attacks on the US's efforts to "rebuild" Iraq --their pace, costs, methods, and goals-- have also reportedly grown in recent weeks. (See Eric Schmitt's article May 23 in the New York Times, "Senators Sharply Criticize Iraq Rebuilding Efforts.")

What was once viewed as the direst heresy is now blandly declared at the top. It's extraordinary how Rumsfeld could end up stating that the WMD's were probably destroyed before the war, and even more amazing that Wolfowitz would let fall that the ultimate reason for the invasion, after all, was that it's "swimming in oil," precisely as administration critics said, and that WMD's were just a "bureaucratic reason" to justify the attack. One wonders if the open contempt for the public these statements show will get through to that public. But Bush's approval rating remains high, so it seems not.

Al-Qa'ida leaders, naturally, have denied ever having any links with Saddam, as a June 10 Independent article by Andrew Buncombe recounts. Yet this link is another thing Americans still believe in. In fact this myth is the naïve person's justification for the invasion.

We said that if the turnover of power didn't happen fast, there would be resentment. That resentment is increasingly acknowledged in the mainstream press. The first reports were that a rapid (I'd have said immediate) "slide into lawlessness," as a May 18 New York Times article put it, "squandered" the "good will" the US had earned by removing Saddam. Robert Fisk has been reporting the resulting ill will everywhere in Iraq but most dramatically in Fallujah. (One soldier Fisk quoted said that even if ten percent of the locals don't like Americans, "that's an awful lot of people").

The GI's are just not good at what they're being called upon to do in Iraq now and they're not diffusing that ill will at all. They frankly need help, and this too is repeatedly alluded to in the press. A Mirror story (May 22) reported British paratroopers being sent in to help out with their superior peacekeeping training. But deadly attacks on US troops are nonetheless currently rising (David Rohde, June 10, New York Times). Whether these attacks are by Saddam supporters or Baathists is pretty irrelevant. Opposition to the brutality and incompetence of an occupation is not an issue with any one political bias. Even Bush's handpicked stooges, such as Ahmad Chalabi, are vocally not at all happy with how things are going.

As the liberating forces quickly changed into an occupation and stayed that way, the possibility of self-government of any form quickly receded. Iraqi leaders are well aware of this and don't want to cooperate with their American rulers. As a prominent New York Times story has clearly stated, Iraqi political groups are resisting US plans to govern Iraq. One thing that is much commented upon is that the US "administrator," L. Paul Bremer III, is trying to use Iraqis as front men for an occupation rule; and it has been made clear that the Iraqis see through this and will have none of it. No doubt the longer the occupation goes on and chaos and suffering continue, the more the Baathists or any other opposition will grow in strength and unity. As Robert Fisk has been saying from the beginning of the war aftermath, it's only a matter of time before an organized resistance develops. That's where the good men and women who don't want to play stooge are likely to wind up. They come with diverse political and religious affiliations.

We had hoped more of our pessimism would be proven wrong. Even for us it's mysterious how the follow-up of the invasion could appear so botched. On June 9 The Nation ran a lead editorial, "Losing Iraq?" (not available online), that gives reasons -- a whole list of plans the Bush administration had to have, but lacked:

"They had no plan for providing security and countering the lawlessness and disorder that some Pentagon officials foresaw. They had no plan for managing a political transition that would entail more than directing the "dancing in the streets" Iraqis toward elections. They had no plan for insuring the supply of essential services. They had no plan for maintaining the health system (let alone guarding hospitals in addition to the oil ministry). They had no plan for restoring the economy and getting the oil industry up and running smoothly under Iraqi control. They had no comprehensive plan for quickly finding and securing the weapons of mass destruction they claimed were in Iraq or the nuclear material--of value to anyone looking to make a nuclear bomb or merely a dirty bomb--that was known to be present at various nuclear facilities. And they had no clue that Shiites would quickly develop a political force demanding power and a quick end to the US occupation--even though experts on the region warned that this would be likely."

It seems as though we have an administration in Washington that sees only what it wants to see, which isn't much. How far above Iraq was it that Mr. Bush flew? It looks pretty good when you can't really see anything. No doubt he had people in Air Force One on hand to tell him what he wanted to hear, too.

But the reality on the ground is as grim as ever. While there's considerable doubt about the presence of WMD's -- apologists for Bush say they're buried deep under the ground -- there's no doubt about the ordinance full of depleted uranium added to what was already in the country that now lies on top of the ground or even sits ready to explode. It's this depleted uranium, its use against civilians a violation of international law, that's believed to be the reason for the terribly high incidence of leukemia already present in the child population of Iraq. At this moment, a BBC story has reported, the youngest Iraqis are suffering from 2.5 times more dysentery and typhoid than a year ago. And the devastated health system -- which the Bush administration had no plan for maintaining -- isn't capable of dealing with these problems.

And yet, as the truth creeps out back home, in Iraq the occupiers begin to install censorhip. Another article by the tirelessly informative Robert Fisk tells us that Bremer has announced a new program by which Iraqi papers printing "wild stories" will be threatened or shut down. The Afghans freed of Taliban control by another American invasion now sell hard drugs on Baghdad's streets. Meanwhile American soldiers at the Baghdad airport are shot at every single night, Fisk says, while Bremer has fired a quarter of a million Iraqi soldiers from their jobs, leaving them "ready no doubt, to join the nascent resistance movement." Can the average American get his mind around this concatenation of events? There is reason to doubt it.

Also linked from Chris Ashley's website (June 12, 2003).

For daily listing of news items on Iraq see

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