The Middle East . . . War and Remembrances

The Middle East . . . War and Remembrances

posted in: BLOG | 0

It’s one thing for the United States to profess a desire for peace and prosperity for peoples across the world, but it’s a whole different matter when our consequent actions put the lie to our words and compromise completely any moral authority that we might have enjoyed in a particular region. That’s part of our problem in the Middle East. Let’s be clear: we invaded Iraq not to bring peace—freedom and democracy—to the region, but to get our hands on its oil. ( Due however to the bungling ineptitude of the Bush administration in handling and managing the post-invasion occupation, we failed even in that). This grab at Iraq’s oil was what Lenin was referring to when he talked about the potential for a creep toward imperialism in capitalist societies. It’s what first attracted Britain to the area following World War I. To be sure Saddam Hussein was a repressive dictator and a bad man. But in our capacity as a world leader since the end of World War II, we’ve done business (seemingly with no compunction) with a lot of repressive, brutal dictators—and truly bad men.

We invaded Iraq not to bring peace—freedom and democracy—to the region, but to get our hands on its oil.

Saddam was our friend when he was fighting our enemy Iran. We supported the Shah in Iran who tortured and killed thousands of his own people, and Augusto Pinochet in Chili—a brutal and repressive leader—in his overthrow of the popularly elected Salvatore Allende (so much for U.S. support for democracy). Pinochet would later be charged in the Hague with crimes against humanity. We supported Manuel Noriega of Panama, another brutal leader who was on the payroll of the CIA while at the same time operating as probably the world’s biggest international drug dealer. When Noriega refused to cooperate with Reagan officials in operations against the Contras, he would later be the target of a military invasion by the United States during the George H.W. Bush administration to have him removed. Noriega would later be brought up before a court in Miami on drug and money laundering charges—as well as fraud and racketeering. This was our former ally and Central American pal. For most of the last century our actions in Latin and Central America have been anything but an example of exemplary and enlightened foreign policy. And the world has learned to judge us by what we do, and not what we say. That’s too bad, and it’s not something we should be proud of.

Our record in the Middle East is not any better. We’ve blithely turned a blind eye to Israel’s repressive and illegal (often times brutal) treatment of Palestinians remaining in the occupied regions seized during the Six Day War in 1967. We backed Mubarek in Egypt right up to his ouster in the Arab Spring. And starting in 2004 we even began a process to normalize relations with the Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, another despot–torturer and killer—and the man who aided in the Lockerbie bombing attack on Pan Am flight 103 in 1988 which killed more than two-hundred and fifty passengers and crew. Our principle allies in the region are repressive, authoritarian (monarchical) regimes—not democracies—among them Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, all countries with dubious human rights records. Our friend Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East, and it’s hardly perfect—with a long history of human rights violations against the Palestinians living in the occupied areas. Our unflinching support of Israel over the years has been a source of much disaffection and hatred directed at the U.S. by the Arab people.

U.S. Army soldier stands guard near burning oil well in Rumaylah oil fields in Iraq.  Photo: U.S. Navy, 2003.
U.S. Army soldier stands guard near burning oil well in Rumaylah oil fields in Iraq (2003). Photo: U.S. Navy.

After the failed U.S. Occupation in Iraq, we brought in Nouri al Malaki as Prime Minister to lead a new “inclusive” government that was suppose to bring in Sunnis, Shias and Kurds to form a new working partnership to govern Iraq. Instead the statesman Malaki (our chosen man) arrogated all the power of the important cabinet offices unto himself as Prime Minister. (It should be noted that Malaki is a Shia). He then pushed aside the Sunnis and the Kurds and cozied up as close as he could to the mullahs in Tehran. Another unintended consequence of our misguided Mid-East policy. This further alienated the Kurds in the North, and opened the door for the disaffected Sunnis (many with ties to Al Qaeda) to re-name and reconstitute themselves as ISIS in Iraq. And that’s where we are today. ISIS has taken over major portions of Syria in their battle with Assad, and a large Sunni controlled area in Western Iraq. And now the media shows us (with seeming regularity) videos of Jihadi John beheading westerners. While this is shocking to the tender sensibilities of most Americans, all this should not come as a big surprise. Our ill-advised invasion of Iraq, and subsequent failure to establish a stable working government created the path for all this bad stuff to happen. There’s a parable in the bible that “you reap what you sow”!

After World War I, and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Britain had the mandate over Palestine, the Trans-Jordan and Iraq. And Britain controlled the major oil concessions. Following World War II, Britain was broke (a financial basket-case) and physically in ruins. No longer able to support its far-flung colonial empire, it started to withdraw. In 1921 a Hashemite monarchy was organized under British protection. Then in October 1932 the kingdom was granted independence. In 1958 the monarchy was over-thrown and the Republic of Iraq was created. In a 1968 coup the Ba’ath party seized power. The first Ba’athist president was Hassan Al-Bakr, but power gradually shifted to General Saddam Hussein until he acceded to the presidency in July 1979. As said before, Saddam was our friend in the eighties when he was fighting our enemy Iran. But then in 1990, to pay off his debts from the war with Iran and establish Iraq as the dominant power in the region, he invaded the oil -rich kingdom of Kuwait and launched the first Gulf War.

The U.S. Led coalition eventually forced Saddam’s army to retreat back to Iraq. And many in the defense/intelligence establishment thought we should have pushed on right into Baghdad; but Poppy Bush backed down, and Saddam was granted a reprieve. In March 2003, following the 9/11 attacks, George Bush—the son—sent the U.S. Military into Iraq to finish what his father had left undone.

We in the West still want to believe that we went to Iraq as “liberators” to improve the average Iraqi’s standard of living, to bring freedom and democracy, and give them a “better” more western oriented life-style. This is bull-shit. We went there to secure access to the second largest oil reserves in the Middle East. 9/11 and “weapons of mass destruction” were just convenient excuses to mask what was an out-right invasion, in violation of international protocols to which the U.S. is a prominent signatory. Also, we didn’t invade Iraq to “get” Osama Bin laden. He was in Afghanistan at the time, and we had a chance to kill or capture him at Tora Bora on the border with Pakistan, but George W. chickened-out. In spite of what we were led to believe, Saddam was never a threat to America, and Al Qaeda was not in Iraq.

After the 2003 invasion, western oil companies—led by the U.S. majors—came back into Iraq to exploit the production of Iraqi oil, and spent huge sums to repair the country’s crumbling oil infrastructure. Policy makers in the West consider Middle East oil to be a strategic vital commodity to Western industrial economies. They tell us that any disruption to the world supply of oil could cause grave problems for the western economies. The argument is that we have to keep a residual force there to protect Iraqi oil from falling into the hands of ISIS. This translates to the U.S. keeping a force in Iraq to protect the U.S. corporate investments in oil into perpetuity.

We’re not going to “win” the war, prevail in Iraq no matter how long we’re there.

This is a totally fallacious argument. ISIS or the Mad Hatter could take over Iraq tomorrow and not a drop of Iraqi oil would be lost to the market. How do you suppose ISIS would fund their terror war, procure the necessary weapons and fund their troops—selling and exporting pomegranates and dates to drug dealers on the French Riviera? When Saddam was in power there were U.S. and United Nation sanctions against Iraq prohibiting the sale of oil. But that didn’t stop Iraqi oil from being traded on the Black Market. It made the sales more difficult but it didn’t stop them, and the oil was still available to country’s willing to go around the sanctions.

I don’t know why any young man in his right mind would want to go to Iraq (or Syria) and risk his life to protect the economic interests of Exxon shareholders. If Exxon (or any other oil company) feels a need to protect their investments in Iraq, let them hire their own mercenary army. That’s what the Dutch East India Company did. It’s not the job of any American citizen (or the responsibility of the American taxpayers) to protect the commercial interests of Exxon. And in spite of what your stupid congressman or senator might tell you, we’re not going to “win” the war, prevail in Iraq no matter how long we’re there.

I know what some of you might be thinking. This guy’s a coward and an asshole. No, I’m a patriotic American just like you think you are. But I’m not so stupid to think that we can ultimately prevail in Iraq (or Syria) if we just keep fifty thousand troops there forever. We’ve already had a similar disastrous experience in Vietnam, and we still have 50,000 troops in South Korea, fifty years after we essentially drew a line in the sand at the celebrated 38th parallel. We don’t need another repeat of that. So no matter what you might hear on Fox News, or what your uncle Charlie might tell you, we’re not going to win the war in Iraq. And the Hollywood bio-pic “American Sniper” notwithstanding, killing people in Iraq today is not going to make you any safer in Poughkeepsie tomorrow. Kicking in the doors of private homes, killing civilians (even those suspected of collaborating with the enemy terrorists) and shooting women and children is not the way to show case our “American Values” to the broader world. The terrorist you really need to fear is not going to come from Syria or Iraq, he’s going to come from right down the street because he’s already here. Maybe fifteen years ago he was the young boy delivering your morning paper. So you can turn off the nightly news and hide under the bed, you can support your congressman who wants to send troops to Syria; but that’s not going to change anything. There will be domestic terror attacks. And don’t kid yourself, continuing a stupid, ill-advised war in Iraq, or upping the ante in Syria against ISIS will not make you any safer here at home.

Patriotism is a fine thing. I’m an American, and I consider myself to be patriotic. I’m also an old man. But if Canada was to launch an invasion over our Northern border, or if Mexico was to invade us from the South, or if ISIS landed a flotilla of ten thousand terrorists in Seattle or on Long Island tomorrow, I’d readily take up a gun and march off to war (providing they’d even accept me in the army) just like the early colonists did against the British at Lexington and Concord.

We in America tend to think sometimes (because we’re the United States) that the broader rules in the international community don’t apply to us. We also forget the inconvenient little fact that when a foreign nation (America) sends its military uninvited into another sovereign nation (Iraq, Panama, Grenada or wherever) that is generally, by most definitions, considered an invasion. Most countries, and most people (whether Christian, Muslim or Jew) resent being bullied by another nation — and they resent having their country invaded. They also resent having a principle national resource (like their oil) co-opted by an invading foreign nation—no matter how honorable and well-intended the foreign invaders profess themselves to be. Maybe we need to work on being a better—“citizen” of the world.

The Money Trader

Leave a Reply