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Aggression Not Standing

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Message Michael Leon
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In a clear-eyed piece in Salon, Peter Galbraith argues convincingly that the Iraq war is “lost.”

But Galbraith’s piece also reveals the extent to which American imperial assumptions underlie liberal criticism(to say nothing of neocon praise) of the Iraq invasion and occupation.

Galbraith quotes approvingly Senator Richard Lugar, a respected Republican voice on foreign affairs in Congress, from his politically important and what was regarded as an impertinent (to President Bush) speech on June 25, in which Lugar says that we must “refocus our policy in Iraq on realistic assessments of what can be achieved, and on a sober review of our vital interests in the Middle East.”

Writes Galbraith: “After four years of a war driven more by wishful thinking than strategy, (Lugar’s) is hardly a radical idea, but it has produced a barrage of covert criticism of Lugar from the administration and overt attack from the neo conservatives.”

But the term “our vital interests in the Middle East” need not be accepted at face value.

What about Middle Eastern nations’ (say the Arab League and Iran, for example) vital interests in America, an aggressive superpower supportive of authoritarian regimes, including two nations in the region with nuclear weapons of mass destruction?

America is nearing pariah status in most of the world for its aggression and disregard of international law.

Were the nations of the Middle East to adopt the imperial logic of the Bush administration that American natural resources, America’ military capacity, and past military aggression form a gathering danger to their security, and then declare onto their nations a self-defense right to invade America, what do you suppose would be the reaction here?

Outrage, of course. And rightfully so. But the same logic works both ways.

Consider Thomas Friedman, the quintessential liberal foreign policy analyst.

In yesterday’s New York Times (July 18) (registration required), Friedman writes:

I can’t imagine how I’d feel if I were the parent of a soldier in Iraq and I had just read that the Iraqi Parliament had decided to go on vacation for August, because, as the White House spokesman, Tony Snow, explained, it’s really hot in Baghdad then — ‘130 degrees.’

I’ve been in Baghdad in the summer and it is really hot. But you know what? It is a lot hotter when you’re in a U.S. military uniform, carrying a rifle and a backpack, sweltering under a steel helmet and worrying that a bomb can be thrown at you from any direction. One soldier told me he lost six pounds in one day. I’m sure the Iraqi Parliament is air-conditioned.

So let’s get this straight: Iraqi parliamentarians, at least those not already boycotting the Parliament, will be on vacation in August so they can be cool, while young American men and women, and Iraqi Army soldiers, will be fighting in the heat in order to create a proper security environment in which Iraqi politicians can come back in September and continue squabbling while their country burns.

Here is what I think of that: I think it’s a travesty — and for the Bush White House to excuse it with a Baghdad weather report shows just how much it has become a hostage to Iraq.

A hostage in Iraq against its will?

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Michael Leon is a writer living in Madison, Wisconsin. His writing has appeared nationally in The Progressive, In These Times, and CounterPunch. He can be reached at
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