The American Bear


The Case Against War: Ten Years Later | Stephen Zunes

Or: Why I still read Stephen Zunes

Ten years ago, I wrote a series of articles for the Foreign Policy in Focus website in which I put forth a series of arguments against the Bush administration’s push for a U.S. invasion of Iraq prior to the fateful congressional vote authorizing the illegal, unnecessary, and ultimately disastrous war. At the request of the editors of The Nation – the oldest continually published weekly magazine in the United States – I wrote a version entitled “The Case Against War,” which appeared on their website September 12, 2002 and as the cover story of the September 30 issue. It became one of the most widely circulated articles in the magazine’s 147-year old history. Every congressional office received multiple copies.

In the articles, I correctly predicted that an invasion would result in sectarian violence, terrorism, Islamist extremism, and a bloody counterinsurgency war that would be the most elaborate and expensive deployment of U.S. forces since the Second World War.

Specifically, I noted that, “Although most Iraqis would presumably be relieved in the event of Saddam Hussein’s ouster, this does not mean that a regime installed by a Western army would be welcomed.” I expressed concern about U.S. occupation forces becoming bogged down in “a bloody counter-insurgency war” with “bitter, house-to-house fighting” and challenged by competing armed Sunni and Shiite factions.

The article also stressed the illegality of the invasion and the problems that would result from the lack of international support. I challenged the administration’s false claims of Iraqi ties to Al-Qaeda and its exaggerated reports of Iraq’s role in international terrorism. I noted how containment had been successful, explaining that Iraq’s economy had collapsed from sanctions and Iraq’s military capabilities were only a fraction of what they had once been. I argued that an invasion would result in a dramatic increase in anti-Americanism and extremism throughout the region and damage the struggle against Al-Qaeda.

(Ironically, editors at both FPIF and The Nation insisted that I omit, tone down, or qualify sections in which I questioned the Bush administration’s insistence that the Iraqi regime had somehow reconstituted its WMD programs, and instead focus on how there was an adequate deterrent against any possible Iraq threat.)

Just three weeks after the article’s publication in The Nation, the resolution authorizing the war passed by overwhelming bipartisan majorities (297-133 in the House and 77-23 in the Senate). The resolution falsely claimed that Iraq “poses a continuing threat to the national security of the United States by…continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability, actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations.”

A number of congressional staffers for leading Senate Democrats who supported the war resolution acknowledged that they read the article and passed it on to their bosses, but that the senators found the Bush administration’s arguments to have somehow been more credible. Despite efforts by some of the more liberal members of Congress, I have never been called to testify at any congressional hearings dealing with Iraq or other Middle Eastern issues. Indeed, despite being correct in my assessments in the article and despite having a respectable academic record on Middle Eastern affairs, there is little interest on Capitol Hill in my input; to this day, when I contact congressional offices, I can rarely get beyond the twenty-somethings who answer the phone. [++]

Forgive me, but I don’t want to watch uncorked champagne spill onto hallowed ground where thousands were murdered in cold blood. And I don’t want to see any ugly blood stained sheets as proof of death or justice. Nor do I want to think about bullet-ridden corpses being dumped into the sea. And it breaks my heart to witness young Americans cheer any death — even the death of a horrible, evil, murderous person — like it is some raucous tailgate party on a college campus. Kristen Breitweiser (via azspot)

(via azspot)

I will say that only twice before in my memory, and maybe thrice in American history, has there been as much carefree talk about war and unprovoked strikes as we’ve had concerning Iran in recent months, including from candidates other than Ron Paul in the GOP race. The twice in my experience were: during the runup to the invasion of Iraq in 2002, and in the “bomb ‘em back to the stone age” moments of the early Vietnam era,

James Fallows.

(h/t/ Sullivan)

(Source: anticapitalist)

A remaining realm of American excellence | Glenn Greenwald

[NOW] the graphic photo of the corpse of Moammar Gaddafi is once again sparking outbursts of American pride — despite the fact that he was captured alive and very well may have been summarily executed.  As I wrote previously, “no decent human being would possibly harbor any sympathy for Gadaffi, just as none harbored any for Saddam.” And it’s understandable that Libyans who suffered for four decades under his rule (like Americans after 9/11 or Muslims after years of violence and aggression in their countries) would be eager for vengeance. Nonetheless, and regardless of what one thinks about Gadaffi or the intervention, summarily shooting a helpless detainee in the head is one of the most barbaric acts imaginable — under all circumstances — but Gadaffi’s gruesome death nonetheless sparked waves of American jubilation and decrees of self-vindication this week.

It is difficult to articulate exactly why, but there is something very significant about a nation that so continuously finds purpose and joy in the corpses its government produces, while finding it in so little else. During the Bush years, I frequently wrote about how repetitive, endless fear-mongering over Terrorism and the authoritarian radicalism justified in its name was changing — infecting and degrading — not just America’s policies but its national character.  Among other things, this constant fixation on alleged threats produces the mindset that once the government decrees someone to be a Bad Guy, then anything and everything done to them (or ostensibly done to stop them) is not merely justified but is cause for celebration. That was the mentality that justified renditions, Guantanamo, vast illegal domestic surveillance, aggressive war against Iraq, and the worldwide torture regime: unless you support the Terrorists and Saddam, how could you oppose any of that?

That character-degradation is produced at least as much by conditioning the citizenry to stand and cheer, to beat its chest, to feel righteous and proud, each time the government produces a new dead Bad Guy. Even at its most necessary and justified, the act of ending a human life with state violence should be a somber and lamentable affair. There’s something bloodthirsty about reacting ecstatically. To react that way when guilt is unproven (Awlaki), or when the person is unknown (most drone victims), or is killed by acts of pure barbarism (Gadaffi) is the mind of a savage.  But it’s now been more than a decade since 9/11, and this has been the prevailing mentality in America continuously since then (to say nothing about the lengthy, brutal wars fought before that). What happens to a citizenry and a nation that so frequently erupts into celebratory dances over the latest dead body its government displays?

What simultaneously explains this and makes it all the more significant (and all the more damaging) is that the citizenry has almost no other cause to engage in political celebration, nationalistic pride or collective moral purpose. There is awidespread perception for the first time ever that America is a nation in decline. Faith in the country’s leading institutions and political figures is shockingly (though appropriately) low. The country is plagued by mass sustained joblessness, oceans of debt, loss of entire industries, a disappearing middle class, exploding wealth inequality, declining class mobility, and a deeply corrupted political system that now resembles an oligarchy far more than a democracy. For many, the shame of the Iraq War, Abu Ghraib and the torture regime endure. Everyone desires something to celebrate, to feel good about, and the country’s political organs can now offer little more than Bad Guy corpses to enable those feelings.