April 22, 2003
Our Ignorance, Their Want
by Maureen Farrell
"Oh, man, look here. Look, look, down here," exclaimed the ghost.
They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meager, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shriveled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dreaded.
Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.
'Spirit, are they yours?' Scrooge could say no more.
'They are Man's,' said the Spirit, looking down upon them. 'And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom. . . ." -- Charles Dickens
* * *
now, many are familiar with Operation Northwoods, the U.S. plan to
attacks against American citizens and blame Fidel
Castro as a pretext for war. "We could blow up a U.S. ship in
Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba," the document read. "Casualty
lists in U.S. newspapers would cause a helpful wave of national indignation," it
continued. Developed through the far-right stewardship of General Lyman
L. Lemnitzer, in an early '60s atmosphere of anti-Communist paranoia,
Operation Northwoods was approved by all Joint Chiefs of Staff, but
nixed by the civilian leadership. "The whole point of a democracy
is to have leaders responding to the public will," Body of
Secrets author James Bamford told ABC News "and here this is the complete
reverse, the military trying to trick the American people into a war
that they want but that nobody else wants."
Sound familiar? Just wait.
Though President Kennedy assured Lemnitzer that America would never overtly attack Cuba, military ideologues met one month after submitting Northwoods and wrote a memo to Robert McNamara claiming that the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who saw "no prospect" of Castro being overthrown through "internal uprising or external political, economic or psychological pressures," felt that "military interventions [would] be required to overthrow the present Communist regime." The memo indicated that the Joint Chiefs believed that this could be "accomplished rapidly enough to minimize communist opportunity for solicitation of U.N. action" and that after U.S. forces assured "rapid essential control of Cuba, continued police action would be required." In other words, they would bypass the U.N. and America's military would keep Cuba's peace. "[W]hat Lemnitzer was suggesting," Bamford wrote, "was not freeing the Cuban people, who were largely in support of Castro, but imprisoning them in a U.S.-controlled police state."
Our Ignorance, their Want.
In their 1963 book, The Far Right, Donald Janson and Bernard Eismann exposed similar dangers. "Concern had grown that a belligerent and free-wheeling military could conceivably become dangerous to the stability of the United States as the mixture of rebelliousness and politics had in nations forced to succumb to juntas or fascism," they wrote. But though the far right remained frustrated in the 1960s, it's as if their dream has been fulfilled today, with Dick Cheney, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and other Project for a New American Century (PNAC) think tankers filling in for Lemnitzer et al and PNAC's "catastrophic and catalyzing event-like a new Pearl Harbor" taking Operation Northwoods' place. On the eve of September 11, Bush verified PNAC's prophecy, dictating into his diary, as Bob Woodward noted in Bush at War, that "The Pearl Harbor of the 21st Century took place today"and interjecting that "[t]his was a war in which people were going to have to die."
Though suggestions Sept. 11 was another Operation Northwoods http://cw178.tripod.com/s11-pt1.htm are unfathomable to most, the rest of the story has unfolded just as the far right planned more than 40 years ago, when communism, not terrorism, was the threat du jour. In addition to disregarding the U.N. (PNAC's Pax Americana requires "American political leadership rather than that of the United Nations"), the Bush administration has made Baghdad a U.S.-controlled environment. Describing the American-issued "Message to the Citizens of Baghdad" as "colonial in spirit" and "insensitive in tone," Robert Fisk reports that "with neither electricity nor running water," millions of Iraqis are "ordered to stay in their homes from dusk to dawn. Lockdown. It's a form of imprisonment. In their own country. Written by the command of the 1st US Marine Division, it's a curfew in all but name." http://argument.independent.co.uk/commentators/story.jsp?story=397925
Our Ignorance, their Want.
Even as Iraq burns and Afghanistan deteriorates, PNAC's plans for the U.S. military to "fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars," and perform "constabulary duties" are well underway, with Richard Perle already lobbying for a "Syrian Liberation Act," much like the 1998 law which made regime change in Iraq official U.S government policy. http://www.washtimes.com/world/20030416-64307592.htm. Then too, as Iraq's museums are looted and history stolen, plans for "democracy" are iffy, at best. The leaked State Department classified document entitled, "Iraq, the Middle East and Change: No Dominoes," discounted promises that democracy will flourish in the Middle East, stating not only that 'the towel heads can't hack [democracy]," but that "the only way to achieve stability in the country is to install another strongman drawn from Saddam's Sunni minority.' http://www.observer.co.uk/Print/0,3858,4626155,00.html
Moreover, though the $2.4 billion the House and Senate approved for post-war relief and Iraq reconstruction originally prohibited tax dollars from being funneled to the Pentagon, Congress was bullied into removing this restriction, which has paved the way for a Donald Rumsfeld/Pentagon-led reconstruction, and not the Colin Powell/United Nations venture Tony Blair and the rest of the international community believes best.
The U.S. military has flown Iraqi National Congress' Ahmed Chalabi and 700 militia-style followers into Iraq and things do not bode well for a government "of, by and for" the people. Described by the BBC as "the man seemingly anointed by the hawks in the Pentagon to help shape a post-Saddam Iraq, despite being deeply distrusted by much of the rest of Washington DC's foreign policy establishment," Chalabi flatly told the BBC that, "the United Nations has little role to play now. Kofi Annan, after all, went and smoked a cigar with Saddam Hussein in Baghdad and said 'he's a man I can do business with.' Do you expect us to accept a person who had this attitude to Saddam to come and pay a role in the reconstruction of democracy in Iraq? I don't think so." Unfortunately, though Chalabi acts as if he is speaking for all Iraqis, former United States ambassador to Saudi Arabia James E. Akins recently told The New York Times, "The only following Chalabi has in Iraq is the U.S. military."
Our Ignorance, their Want.
What will happen if Iraq's democratic conversion continues to be administered by the U.S. military, without a central U.N. role? Senators Joseph Biden (D-DE) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE) recently echoed international concerns when they wrote: "The best way to build legitimacy is by involving our key allies and international organizations - starting with the United Nations - in securing and rebuilding Iraq." Without the U.N.'s legitimacy and expertise, U.S. military occupation and a subsequent Pentagon-sanctioned government would not only fuel distrust, it would limit the U.N.'s role in delivering humanitarian aid. More than 50 American human rights and relief organizations recently wrote to Congress echoing international concerns that "humanitarian aid is most effectively delivered by civilian humanitarian agencies under U.N. leadership" while addressing ways military involvement might "lead to unintended consequences." http://www.fcnl.org/issues/int/sup/iraq_humanitarian-relief.htm
U.S. forces have already prevented a Save the Children plane, carrying medical supplies and emergency food, from landing in northern Iraq, delaying help to doctors who have heroically fought to save lives under deplorable conditions. "The lack of cooperation from the U.S. military is a breach of the Geneva Conventions and its protocols but more importantly the time now being wasted is costing children their lives," Emergency Program Manager Rob MacGillivray said. There's also disruption to the U.N.-backed oil-for-food program, Basra citizens are without water, and dysentery and other diseases are on the rise. Moreover, the much-publicized injuries sustained by 12-year old Ali Ismail Abbas are not uncommon, hospitals that haven't closed due to looting are full, and radiation from scattered depleted uranium shells is putting Iraq's children at risk. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's cold assertion that sanctions against Iraq, which killed a half million children, were "worth it" is mirrored in John Pilger's report that, "As of last July, the United States, backed by the Blair government, was willfully blocking humanitarian supplies worth $5.4bn, everything from vaccines and plasma bags to simple painkillers, all of which Iraq had paid for and the Security Council had approved." http://www.argument.independent.co.uk/commentators/story.jsp?story=398722
Our Ignorance, their Want.
Many Americans, unaware of our own hidden history, are equally clueless about the potential consequences of this war. Immediately following the toppling of Saddam's statue (staged to look as if hoards of Iraqis brought it down with a rope, instead of dozens who cheered as the US military toppled it via tank), the gloating began, despite history's darker lessons. When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, they were originally seen as "liberators," only to be driven out 18 bitter years later; both the Taliban and American troops were initially cheered and embraced in Afghanistan; and with tens of thousands already taking to the streets in Iraq, chanting "No Bush! No Saddam!" it already seems that the warmongers' victory dance is premature. How on earth did the Land of Jefferson and Lincoln become the conceited cheerleader in a low-budget horror movie? Because as warmongers boast of conquest and greatness, those looking at the bigger picture see Michael Meyers and Freddie Krueger lurking at history's door.
For two centuries, nations have attempted to conquer the Mideast for their own nefarious purposes, while posing as liberators. "Peoples of Egypt, you will be told that I have come to destroy your religion. Do not believe it! Reply that I have come to restore your rights!" Napoleon promised. "[O]ur armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators," the British commander F.S. Maude wrote in 1917. "Again and again, Westerners have moved into the Mideast with confidence that they can impose freedom and modernity through military force," the Wall Street Journal recently reported. "Along the way they have miscalculated support for their invasions, both internationally and in the lands they occupy. They have anointed cooperative minorities to help rule resentful majorities. They have been mired in occupations that last long after local support has vanished. They have met with bloody uprisings and put them down with brute force." http://online.wsj.com/article_email/0,,SB104802384328857700,00.html
Today, as Christian missionary groups are poised to enter Iraq with humanitarian aid packages (complete with attached notes referring to Moses and Jesus) and Franklin "Islam is very wicked and evil" Graham presides over the Pentagon's Good Friday services, it's doubtful our ignorance will subside. "Unless the Americans are far more subtle than they've ever had the capacity to be, and more subtle than the [colonial] British, it's going to end in tears," says Iraqi-born, Michigan-based State Department-affiliated lawyer Faisal Istrabadi. "The honeymoon will be very brief."
Our Ignorance, their Want
"We tend to overlook a basic rule: that people prefer bad rule by their own kind to good rule by somebody else," Boston University historian David Fromkin reminds. The 1953 CIA-supported coup in which Iran's nationalist leader Muhammad Mosaddeq was overthrown and the US-backed Shah installed resulted in the 1979 Islamic revolution; the CIA's "favorite coup," in which Saddam helped the U.S. bring the Baath party to power in Iraq led to today's troubles; and currently, in Afghanistan, where Hamid Karzai's two major opponents suddenly withdrew from last June's election, 46 U.S special forces bodyguards protect the president known as "Bush's echo box." In Bosnia, "America's top nation-builder," Jacques Klein, plans on creating a multiethnic state "whether the people like it or not" http://www.cato.org/dailys/04-14-03-2.html; and retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner's appointment to oversee Iraq's civil affairs, is met with derision, especially since Garner, who helped develop Israel's Arrow missile-defense system, recently signed a letter praising Ariel Sharon's treatment of the Palestinians. ''Out of the 270 million Americans, you choose a military ruler to rule Iraq who is closely related to the extremist factions in Israel," Syrian Deputy Ambassador Imad Moustapha recently said on NBC's ''Meet the Press."
Our Ignorance, their Want
Sadly, as Dick Cheney's ex-employer Halliburton, Donald Rumsfeld's ex-employer Bechtel reap profits from Iraqi suffering, and the United States reveals plans to maintain up to four military bases in Iraq, suspicions regarding America's commitment to democracy continue to fester. (Would the U.S. be willing, for example, to allow pro-Iran Shi'a Muslims, who account for more than 60 percent of Iraq's population, to elect a leader? Would we stand by as Kurds formed their own independent statehood?)
As Thomas Friedman has pointed out, if we, like Israel, begin to believe
that our victory in Iraq is self-legitimizing, without considering
how the Arab world sees things, we will forever remain stuck in the
seventh day of a Six-Day War. In which case, Ignorance and Want will
be our legacy. And Doom will be written upon our brow.
Maureen Farrell is a writer and media consultant who specializes in helping other writers get television and radio exposure.
© Copyright 2003, Maureen Farrell
otherwise noted, all original