Sunday, February 06, 2005
It's a truism that imperial wars are fought for loot. The Romans wanted Egyptian grain, the Europeans coveted West Indian sugar, Hitler set out to seize 'living space' to the East for his master race (and Slavic slaves to toil in their service); George Bush and those he represents want control of Middle Eastern oil.
The launching of the US imperial legions into Iraq does however have a strategic dimension. In tandem with the new US bases in Afghanistan and the Caspian, the intention is to starve China of access to the oil it will soon need to match the US industrially and militarily.
Hence the Bush Administration's frustrated sabre-rattling - they were really yelps of dismay, for there's nothing Mr Bush and his neocon visionaries can do about it - when, in the past couple months, first Russia and then Europe announced plans to intensify economic and other ties with the coming Asian superpower of the 21st Century.
The Europeans' arms deal with Beijing drew protests from the White House, which claimed to be concerned it would imperil Taiwan. The Russian moves were even more defiant. In December the Kremlin announced it would be inviting the Chinese to help it develop its vast energy resources (sic!).
Then it announced that, 'for the first time in history', it would be conducting large-scale joint military exercises with China - in China. (That part is called 'showing the flag' - to Washington.)
In the Washington Post of January 21, columnist Charles Krauthammer, discussing these not-so-subtle tectonic rumblings in the geopolitical landscape, sounded the neocon alarm: ''Tomorrow's Threat'.the beginnings of a significant 'anti-hegemonic' bloc - aimed at us.'
But I digress.
Imperial wars may be launched for loot, but an occupied people can be put to other uses as well, and last Sunday Iraqis were sent by their American ringmasters to jump through the elections hoop. What made that particular circus uncommonly cruel is that, voting for the first time, so many of them clearly believed in what they were doing.
The date, January 30, wasn't arbitrary; the moment it was announced, one knew that Rove and Co were planning a pre-State of the Union Address extravaganza. The ultimate goal was to empower Mr Bush to push through his domestic programme - making permanent his tax cuts for the wealthy, dismantling the last remnants of Roosevelt's humanitarian 'New Deal', specifically Social Security - unburdened by domestic American perception of the albatross that's Iraq.
Thus, there was never a chance the elections would be postponed until they could be held with even a semblance of propriety. The date - three days before Mr Bush's State of the Union address - was, after all, half the point.
The other half was that Iraqis had to be enticed to vote. A 'great victory for democracy' had to be manufactured.
So, beginning last November, the spinmeisters in Washington and their functionaries in the compliant American media began spinning every attack by Sunni insurgents as aimed solely at preventing the elections.
The paradigm that should be obvious to anyone - that, from small beginnings, the insurgency has grown, and grown, and grown, until it now appears to have a limitless supply of men prepared to die for it, in suicide bombings - was tacitly shoved under the table.
The insurgency, to hear them tell it, had but one goal: Stop the elections! Like that, Iraq's elections became the fifth 'crucial milestone' (after - in order - killing Saddam's sons, capturing Saddam, installing the Interim Government, and razing Fallujah), each of which - it was implied, when not explicitly avowed - was going to 'break the back of the insurgency'.
Indeed, when by midweek last week the elections' euphoria began wearing off as the reality of the insurgency reasserted itself, an Associated Press editor still couldn't resist relating the ongoing attacks to the elections. 'Vengeful Insurgents Ramp Up Iraq Attacks,' read his unintentionally funny headline last Wednesday.
The fact is, the Sunni insurgency has always had two goals: (1) To drive the American legions out of Iraq. (2) To block the majority Shiites from effectively wielding power over them. Neither goal has been in the least affected by the elections. It goes without saying that the insurgency continues - and continues to grow.
But that, anyway, was the first White House gambit: Make the Iraqi elections a sort of Superbowl, with Terror lining up against Democracy.
The other gambit was to feed the Iraqi electorate a ringing lie: if they voted, their American tormentors would leave.
In the week before the elections, an embedded journalist reported this pitch more or less word for word. 'You vote, we leave,' he overheard a Marine repeatedly telling Iraqi civilians while handing out flyers urging them to vote.
In his own campaign, Allawi, the White House-appointed thug, hinted at the same outcome. And so did that cagey character, the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, 'the most powerful man in Iraq'. Sistani went further and informed his flock it was their religious duty to vote.
The upshot was that many Iraqis went to the poll believing they were voting out the Americans.
That was never on the cards, of course - not as a nomad's tent did Mr Bush and his cohorts conceive their huge command-and-control centre for their war on the Middle East, aka the US's Baghdad Embassy in the Green Zone. Mere days before January 30, Sistani's United Iraqi Alliance dropped its main electoral promise: an explicit timetable for the departure of US forces. (Allawi, needless to say, waited till afterwards.)
Now, unfortunately for everyone except the neocons, whose goal increasingly seems the disintegration of Iraq, the situation is not as simple as that. Mr Bush may have hit on his new casas belli, 'Planting the Flag of Freedom' in the Middle East, but as is the case with most electorates divided along ethnic or other lines (as in Jamaica, for example, with its PNP and JLP tribes) most of the Iraqis who voted last Sunday (and those who didn't vote, as well) were hungry, not for 'freedom', but for power - something else entirely.
Thus, with less than 10 per cent of the votes counted, the Kurds - numerically the smallest of Iraq's tribal groupings - were last week demanding either the presidency or the prime ministership. (If in secession, virtual or literal, the Kurds try to grab Iraq's northern oilfields, they will invite attack by Turkey - and will probably be defended in turn by Israel).
For the rest, Sistani knows his time has come. To the purely titular extent that any party, or party of parties, may be about to 'rule' Iraq, Sistani is about to rule. By last Friday, his party was leading Allawi's in votes counted by three to one.
And Sistani is a close ally of the Iranian mullahs, whom Cheney, Rice, etc are preparing the rhetorical groundwork for the Bush Administration to attack next.
Make sense of that if you can.
As for the Sunnis, 'vengeful' may indeed now describe their mood, after all. Reported the Washington Post solemnly last week: 'Election officials have said full official results and determin[ation of the] turnout might not be ready until [next] Tuesday.
The count appeared to have been delayed somewhat by controversies in Ninevah, a region with a large Sunni Arab population. On Thursday, the electoral commission said it had sent a team to the northern city of Mosul to investigate complaints that some stations never opened or ran out of ballots.
Election official Safwat Rashid said US and Iraqi forces in the area initially allowed authorities in Ninevah, the province surrounding Mosul, to open only 90 out of its 330 polling stations.One prominent Sunni politician, Meshaan al-Jubouri, accused the commission of mismanaging the vote in some Sunni areas because they 'didn't want the Sunnis to vote so that the Shiites could score a fake victory.'
By last Thursday, AP was reporting the reality of Iraq today - as distinct from Mr Bush's State of the Union Address heraldic business. The wire service's report ran in part:
'In the deadliest incident, insurgents stopped a minibus south of Kirkuk, ordered army recruits off the vehicle and gunned down 12 of them. One US Marine was killed Thursday in Babil province south of Baghdad.
Two other Marines were killed in action Wednesday night in Anbar. Elsewhere, rebels attacked Iraqi police Thursday in the Baghdad suburb of Abu Ghraib, killing one policeman and wounding five. Gunmen fired on a vehicle carrying Iraqi contractors Thursday to jobs at a US military base in Baqouba, killing two people, officials said.
A suicide car bomber struck a foreign convoy escorted by military Humvees on Baghdad's dangerous airport road Thursday, destroying several vehicles and damaging a house. Helicopters were seen evacuating some casualties, witnesses said.
The US military had no immediate comment. Insurgents ambushed another convoy in the area, killing five Iraqi policemen and an Iraqi national guard major. An Iraqi soldier was killed by gunmen as he was leaving his Baghdad home.
The bodies of two slain men wearing blood-soaked clothes were found in the western insurgent stronghold of Ramadi. On Wednesday night, insurgent attacks in Tal Afar, near Mosul, and at a police station in the southern city of Samawah killed three Iraqis.
A car bomb exploded at a house used by US military snipers in Qaim, near the Syrian border. US troops opened fire, hitting some civilians, the witnesses said. A US military spokesman had no immediate information.
In a word, what occurred last Sunday - and was wildly celebrated as 'the triumph of democracy' by Mr Bush and his agog Congress, citing ridiculously-inflated voter-turnout percentages, 60 per cent, 72 per cent - was a major acceleration of Iraq towards civil war and partition. That's all.