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Reaping the Bounty of Imperial Arrogance

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Reaping the Bounty of Imperial Arrogance
by Ken Sanders
The occupation of Iraq by U.S. forces "fuels the insurgency." What's more, the U.S. military occupation of Iraq foments terrorism throughout the entire Middle East.
Think those are the conclusions of some Bush-hating, pinko-commie liberal? Perhaps, but think again. In fact, those were the assessments of Army General George Casey during his testimony to Congress on September 29, 2005. In his prepared remarks to the Senate Armed Services Committee, the top U.S. commander in Iraq admitted that the U.S. military's occupation of Iraq not only gives the insurgency its raison d'etre, but also helps recruit new converts to the cause of jihadist terrorism.
Thanks for stating the obvious, General.
Nevertheless, according to Casey, the U.S. needs to "reduce our presence in Iraq, taking away an element that fuels the insurgency; that is, the perception of occupation." Well, it's more than a mere "perception of occupation," isn't it, General? After all, an occupation, by definition, occurs when one nation's military controls all or part of a foreign nation during an invasion or following a war. Does the U.S. military not have and maintain possession and control of at least part of Iraq? Did it not achieve that possession and control following its invasion of and war upon the sovereign nation of Iraq? Despite the installation of a nominally democratic Iraqi government, is not the U.S. military still in control? Undeniably, yes.
That the "occupation" nominally ended in 2004 is substantively meaningless. There are over 130,000 U.S. military forces on the ground in Iraq. Those forces do not answer to the fledgling Iraqi government. In fact, the reverse is true. Iraqi forces operate under the command and control of the U.S. military. The Iraqi government exists solely because the U.S. military supplanted a sovereign (albeit tyrannical and despotic) government. What else can the U.S. military's presence in Iraq be called, besides an occupation?
Therefore, General Casey's statements to the contrary notwithstanding, it is the U.S. military's actual, not perceived, occupation of Iraq that fuels the insurgency and rallies recruits to the terrorist cause. It is the violent and imperialist foreign policy of the U.S. that has thrown Iraq and the greater Middle East into chaos. It is America's imperialism and short-sighted belief in "realpolitik" that makes the U.S. and the world less and less secure.
Take, for instance, the past diplomatic and commercial relationships between the U.S. and Iraq. Saddam Hussein came to power in 1979, a year before the eight-year Iran-Iraq war began. In 1982, despite the fact that Iraq was "actively acquiring" chemical weapons, and despite the fact that it sponsored known terrorist groups, the U.S. removed Iraq from its list of states that sponsored terrorism, making Iraq eligible for U.S. dual-use and military technology. Why? For the realpolitik reason that Iraq was warring with Iran, a county overhauled by an Islamic revolution and which had taken dozens of Americans hostage.
After Iraq indisputably began deploying chemical weapons against Iranian forces in 1983,
the U.S. secretly provided Iraq with intelligence to "calibrate" its mustard gas attacks on Iranian troops, including satellite photos of Iranian targets. Then, in 1984, with complete knowledge of (and cooperation in) Iraq's use of chemical weapons, the U.S. re-established full diplomatic ties with Iraq on November 26, 1984.
In 1988, the U.S. Commerce Department approved exports to Iraq's SCUD missile agency, allowing Iraq to extend the SCUD's range far enough to strike targets in Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Previously, in 1983, knowing that they would be used to deploy chemical weapons, the U.S. sold Iraq 70 "civilian" helicopters on the pretense that they would be used for crop spraying. All-too predictably, Saddam used the helicopters in 1988 to spray Iraqi Kurds with chemical weapons in retaliation for their support of Iran.
In 1989, knowing that Iraq was the world's largest producer of chemical weapons, and that Iraq was developing nuclear and biological weapons programs, the U.S. approved dozens of export licenses which allowed the shipment of U.S. dual-use equipment to Iraqi weapons factories. In 1989, after all international banks had stopped loaning money to Iraq, the first President Bush signed National Security Directive 26, mandating closer U.S.-Iraq relations and $1 billion in loan guarantees. Bush's loan guarantees provided Iraq with the necessary cash to continue buying and developing WMD and were only suspended upon Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. In the weeks leading up to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, the U.S. approved $4.8 million in advanced technology product sales to the Iraqi ministries responsible for developing chemical and nuclear weapons.
The rest, as they say, is history.
In the name of realpolitik, the U.S. created, funded, and armed a murderous despot in Iraq. Without any apparent appreciation of or concern for the ramifications of its support for one of the most despicable and inhumane regimes in modern history, the U.S. provided Saddam Hussein with the money and materials to develop and deploy WMD. It even helped the Iraqis with their aim. Why? Because Iraq was an enemy of Iran, which was, in turn, an enemy of the U.S. An enemy of my enemy ....
(Notably, Iran's Islamic revolution was due, in no small part, to U.S. arrogance and imperialistic designs. The CIA-led coup in 1953 of Iran's democratically elected Premier, Mohammed Mossadeq, to prevent the nationalization of Iran's oil industry, returned the Shah – himself ousted by the British following World War II – to power. The Shah was an autocratic despot who, through the SAVAK secret police, squelched dissent through intimidation, torture, and murder. Popular resistance to the Shah, largely organized in Iran's mosques, culminated in the 1979 revolution, the hostage crisis, Iran's enemy status, and cozier U.S.-Iraq relations.)
So, who benefitted from U.S. backing of Saddam Hussein throughout the 1980s? Certainly not the thousands of Kurds we helped Saddam gas in 1988. The rest of the Iraqi people didn't reap any benefits from living under Saddam's cruelty, either. Nor did they gain anything from U.S. precision bombing of Iraq's civilian infrastructure during the Gulf War. They benefitted even less under the U.S.-led sanctions regime of the 1990s, ostensibly put in place to "punish" Saddam but resulting only in the otherwise preventable deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, mostly children under the age of five.
Then, of course, there's Operation Iraqi Freedom, launched to disarm the regime we so enthusiastically armed only 20 years earlier – a regime which the United Nations had already successfully disarmed. Through Operation Iraqi Freedom, Saddam would be punished for the crime of gassing his own people – a crime in which the U.S. was a knowing accomplice. Through Operation Iraqi Freedom (there being no WMD to be found), the U.S. would "liberate" the Iraqi people from the despotic regime of Saddam Hussein – a people the U.S. unwaveringly sanctioned to death, liberated from a regime the U.S. strengthened and supported.
The result? Nearly 30,000 dead Iraqi civilians and a country reduced to rubble. A burgeoning civil war between Sunnis and Shiites that threatens to destabilize the entire Middle East. An anti-American insurgency that has resulted in nearly 2,000 U.S. military fatalities, and more than 14,000 Americans wounded. A training ground for terrorists who, like the majority of Saudis fighting in Iraq, are radicalized and drawn to jihad by America's occupation of Iraq.
So, who has benefitted?
The truth is, America's imperialist foreign policy of realpolitik doesn't benefit anyone. While it fills the coffers of the military-industrial complex, including companies like Haliburton and Raytheon, that profit from death and destruction, it certainly doesn't benefit the average man, woman, or child. American imperialism does not benefit those who must live under U.S. military occupation. It doesn't benefit those in whose name the empire is built – those who long ago surrendered control of their government and their military.
The blowback from the war of aggression on Iraq is but the latest example of the bloody ramifications of American imperialism. Indeed, the very term "blowback" was coined by the CIA in 1954 to describe the unintended consequences it feared would result from its coup in Iran. The CIA was right to concerned.
Panama's General Manuel Noriega was a close ally of the U.S. and on the CIA payroll from the 1970s to 1986. Although he was responsible for the deaths and disappearances of hundreds of Panamanians, it was only when Noriega's abuses resulted in the death of a U.S. Marine that the U.S. declared him a drug-trafficking threat to national security, and invaded a sovereign country to depose a former U.S. asset.
In Afghanistan, without any regard for what would happen to the Afghan people, the U.S. deliberately and clandestinely induced the Soviet Union to invade in 1979. For the next ten years, in the words of Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor to President Carter and brainchild of the operation, the U.S. gave "the U.S.S.R. its Vietnam war." Only the U.S. didn't fight the Soviets directly. Instead, to the tune of over $3 billion, it helped train and fund an alliance of overtly anti-American, Islamic fundamentalists (including Osama bin Laden, Sheikh Omar Adbul-Rahman, and Gulbaddin Hekmatyar) to combat the Soviets. In 1989, having been sufficiently bled in Afghanistan, the Soviets withdrew. No longer having any use for or interest in the nation in which it had staged its proxy war and encouraged the Soviets to bomb into oblivion, the U.S. also abandoned Afghanistan, leaving its "freedom fighters" to their own devices.
One such "freedom fighter," Osama bin Laden, embittered by and resentful of America's callous exploitation of and disregard for Afghanistan and (again in Brzezinski's words) "some stirred-up Moslems," turned his sights on the U.S.
Hence, September 11, 2001.
What will it take for the U.S. to realize that it is its own worst enemy? How long before it acknowledges that its acts of imperialist aggression, fickle support of tyrants and despots, and subversive interference with the governments of other nations only serve to make the U.S. and the world less safe? What will it take for the U.S. to learn from history and from the consequences of its arrogant and short-sighted foreign policy of realpolitik? Clearly not the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents around the world, written off as mere collateral damage. Apparently, not even the deaths of 3,000 people, mostly Americans, on 9/11 was enough to snap the U.S. out of its arrogant mind-set.
What, then, will it take?
I wish I knew.


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Ken Sanders is a lawyer and writer in Tucson, Arizona. His publishing credits include Op Ed News, Z Magazine, Democratic Underground, Dissident Voice, and Common Dreams. More of his writing can be found on his weblog at (more...)
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