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Millions of US citizens protested before the war and when it was launched but as the US war machine proceeded to conquer Iraq, the movement declined, the number of protestors decreased to the thousands, and was mostly composed of committed activists. In its place, hundreds of thousands of US flags began to sprout from car antennae and housefronts. The polls indicated that close to three quarters of the population supported Bush's handling of the war.
It is clear that the rapid military conquest and US destruction of Iraq produced a wave of irrational chauvinist support for Bush and the war. The bitch goddess of success - even "successful" genocide - has a multitude of worshippers in the United States. This raises many painful and difficult questions about the nature of the US anti-war movement and popular sentiments. It is clear that those intellectuals who eulogized the pre-war opposition as a "new moral force" on an upward ascent were wrong. Many antiwar dissidents turned and supported the war once it started. An even greater multitude came out waving their flags after Iraq was defeated, Iraqi society destroyed and the Iraqi people humiliated. The war did not heighten opposition, as some progressive intellectuals hoped, military success decreased protest and increased chauvinist sentiments. Moreover as Bush, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz et al allowed looters and organized gangs to pillage the entire society, there was virtually no popular outrage - only a few professional archeologists and curators bemoaned the losses to humanity.
What accounts for the demise of the US peace movement and even the embrace of war among some sectors of the protestors, particularly as the military pulverized and conquered Baghdad?
The most important single factor was the turn from fear of a lethal "attack" by Iraq to the "security" of a US military conquest and occupation of Baghdad. In other words many US opponents of war were not motivated by moral principle or solidarity - they acted against the war because they feared that US society and soldiers might be adversely affected. Once it was clear that there was no chance for any significant retaliation within the US or Iraq ( Bush knew all along Iraq was effectively disarmed before invading), that the US military was in total control, they switched loyalties and joined in supporting the warlords.
The mass media presented military successes and conquest as the result of the strategic genius of US military and civilian leaders. The media presented every surrender and every humiliation of the Iraqis as reducing the "threat" to US soldiers and civilians. The absence of any Iraqi attack with weapons of mass destruction and the images of the US occupation of the principal oil wells and regime palaces were featured in the media, and were well received, even in a jocular manner, by most US citizens. In the psyche of many US citizens the absence of danger unleashed an orgy of chauvinism and an embrace of the geniuses of evil. Pro-war ideologues and their supporters became more aggressive in promoting new wars. The doubters and critics became defensive and some became demoralized by the sight of mass pillage, the killing of Iraqis protesting US occupation and the deranged chauvinist behavior of their neighbors and workmates, none of whom demonstrated the minimum concern for the conversion of Iraq into a smoldering wasteland. If there was the minimum concern among the mass of US citizens they would have noticed that the images of "masses" of Iraqis supposedly "welcoming" the US "liberators" was in the hundreds in a city of 5 million.
That the pulling down of a Saddam statue was preceded by the raising of the US flag and that US soldiers were among the handful of Iraqis pulling down the statue. In Mosul, Baghdad, Najaf, Nasariyz and several other cities, thousands of courageous Iraqis braved US guns, tanks and helicopters, to demand their freedom from the US and their appointed exile stooges as well as Saddam Hussein. But US citizens continued to exalt with pride over the "conquering heroes" ( "our brave soldiers" ) - the assassins of peaceful protestors demanding freedom from their past tyrants and present military overlords.
The bulk of the US public is not bothered that a US military general rules over 23 million Iraqis. Newspapers are positively elated to see General Franks celebrating the occupation as his new role as military ruler. Nearly eighty percent of US citizens believe the conquest, destruction and cultural rape of Iraq was a worthy war. They revere the generals and administration for carrying out an 'honorable' war despite the fact that every official justification for the war has been demonstrated to be lies. No weapons of mass destruction were found; no links to Al Queda were found; no capture of Saddam Hussein took place; there was no attempt to protect the civilian population; there was no protection of hospitals. On the contrary, the US occupation forces allowed the hospitals to be attacked and stripped of medicine and equipment - while thousands of maimed and wounded children, women, elderly and soldiers howled in pain and the more fortunate died in pools of blood on hospital floors from treatable wounds.
Contrary to optimistic progressives, the great majority of US citizens are totally disinterested in the suffering of the Iraqis at the hand of the US backed vandals and looters. Only a few indignant curators have protested. In most cities and towns, citizens are preparing celebrations to "welcome home our brave men and women in arms", glad that the B-52 bombers, missiles and fragmentation bombs were able to end the war so quickly, so decisively, so successfully…at the cost of only 121 dead US soldiers. "Bring on Syria", "Bring on Iran". I can hear it now in the beer halls of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, as well as in the well modulated but menacing voices of the leaders of major Jewish organizations, echoing the voice of their real President, Ariel Sharon.
This was not a "war" against a dictator, nor even a simply ugly massacre of the Iraqi people, it is the deliberate destruction of a civilization carried out by modern barbarians - modern barbarians combining high-tech weapons of mass destruction, directed at destroying homes, factories, offices, water treatment facilities, public utilities with primitive vandals and paramilitary forces destroying the heritage of 5000 years of civilization and 30 years of a modern secular Arab state. Vandals unleashed to incinerate the archives of a nation, its libraries and research institutes, to strip the most famous archeological museum of priceless antiquities and jewels of Islamic art, to destroy universities, school records, hospitals, documents detailing the most important aspects of modern Iraqi life as well as Iraqi national heritage. This is the systematic destruction of everything which allows a people to exist as a recognized nation.
There is no question that the pillage by the vandals was a deliberate policy of the US government. Washington was advised in advance of the war of the danger to the museums and precious historical archives. Yet Washington chose to meet in January with antiquities dealers to "liberalize" the rules of sale and export of looted art. Perlstein and other representatives of American art dealers demanded the US abolish Iraq's "retentionist" policy on art and antiquities. As the occupation took place and Iraqi citizens pleaded with US official and soldiers to protect the museums, offices, archives and hospitals, they were driven away. In cases where citizens defended their homes and businesses from the vandals, they were denounced to the Marines as supporters of Saddam Hussein and shot. The world's greatest war criminal Rumsfeld in his usual cynical and sinister jocular fashion absolved the vandals…"There is always looting after a war." He added, "There was nothing we could do…freedom means being free to do bad things."
The US armed forces,-200,000- occupied the major cities, protected the oil wells, took over the presidential palaces, patrolled the major streets in the city centers - helicopters, machine guns, tanks everywhere - and yet the most powerful army in the world could not stop hundreds of lightly armed criminals and arsonists right in front of their eyes?
One has to be utterly stupid to believe that this was merely an oversight. When there are riots and looting of supermarkets in the US, the National Reserves are given orders to "shoot to kill'… and they do, mostly Blacks and Hispanics, but not vandals, pillaging the heritage of humanity.
Pillage follows the logic of the US empire. First the sanctions, impoverishing the country and undermining the health of the new generation; then war to destroy the basic foundation of the economy and infrastructure; followed by pillage by paramilitary groups to obliterate the historical memory, the symbols and signs of a civilization; and finally the partition of the country among a collection of sheiks, mullahs, disreputable exile flunkeys, tribal tyrants and local gangsters - under the direction of a US generalisimo and US marines and protected by servile police and local officials willing to serve the foreign ruler. The US use of vandals and thugs follows the example of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the use of Maronite militias to pillage and murder Palestinian refugees in Sabra and Shatila. The destruction of hospitals, schools, ministries of health and education, land ownership records and cultural centers resembles Jenin, Ramalla and Nablus - only on a national scale. The imperial barbarians use the local vandals to complete the "final solution" - the reduction of a proud historical nation into a series of fragmented primitive fiefdoms of servile and tyranical vassals.
The imperial barbarians drunk with power, elated by massive public support, egged on by Ariel Sharon and his Zionist proxies in the Bush Administration immediately prepare for new conquests in Syria and Iran, recycling the same formula used to invade and destroy Iraq. The drive for Imperial wars is no longer oil, it is Israeli regional interests. A former high level CIA analyst spelled it out very clearly on US National Public Radio…"After Iraq, the US policymakers are looking forward to regime change or modification in Syria and Iran which will ensure that Israel will be the unchallenged superpower in the region".
The "evil genius" of US empire has infected the country - from a scratch it has become gangrene. The belief that the US can wage wars of conquest successfully without losing soldiers - is now common currency among the mass of North Americans. The high tech barbarians of Empire are unleashed. To the dismayed critics who ask "why the destruction and pillage?" , Rumsfeld answers "Why not? We won - They lost." Rumsfeld, Sharon, the Generals and the Israeli surrogates in Washington have not definitively defeated the Iraqi people. Surrogate vassals, bogus "prime ministers", imperial appointed administrators are already suspect or openly rejected. US occupation forces are frightened of every "stranger" in the streets - for they are the first conquering army that never fought…(the bombs did it all). Face to face with tens of thousands of Iraqis who totally reject them, they panic, they shoot and they kill, but the civilian pressure is building. Their slogans - "Neither Saddam nor the US" may not be the complete program for democracy and development…but it is a start. The Iraqi people are rising from the ashes once again, it is the story of 5,000 years of civilization, conquest and national liberation.
Copyright J Petras 2003. For fair use only/ pour usage équitable seulement .