Adam Blatner

May 27, 2004

A couple of years ago I posted on my website a paper, Why invading iraq is a baaaad idea. Turns out I was right in ways that I hadn't even anticipated. Mixed emotions: I confess to being slightly triumphantly satisfied, but mainly I'm very sad, worried and indignant, enough to be losing sleep over it. So this is an late-night early-morning rant.

This is also an appeal to John Kerry to take a stronger position, in light of recent events, to shift from the politically noble aspiration of hanging-in-there to a more discriminating policy: Leave as soon as possible, with the excuse that Bush got us in, messed things up–that part is obvious– but that now with the recent events, our position has become untenable and the chance that we can successfully influence the emergence of a stable democracy has plummeted to below zero. Our credibility internationally and in Iraq is shot, in spite of there having been some noble goals and worthwhile efforts mixed in with our anti-insurgency work. Consider, then, the following:

1. The majority of people want us out. (I am aware that some parts of Iraq are more stable, such as the Kurdish region. Perhaps we should dare to support their independence.)

2. The widespread rage, indignation, and offense, the hurt pride, has gone over the top as a result of the increasingly widespread abuses not only at Abu Gharib prison. At present, the major cause of armed attack on U.S. soldiers, civilian contractors, and terror internationally is the significantly reinforced perception that American intervention is hypocritical and essentially corrupt.

3. The mild punishments to some intermediate level officers and continued cover-ups (under the excuse that these matters are "under investigation"–hoping that the fuss will die down in the fickle mass media) are transparent to our soldiers as well as to everyone except those who feel a need to justify their previous allegiances. (Those who continue to deny the obvious influences of policies that go all the way up remind me of the abused wife who continues to make excuses for her abusing husband.)

4. The hypocrisy and bad faith of the generals who say, "we will investigate within our chain of command," so obviously implies that they are being pressured NOT to investigate beyond their chain of command–i.e., the real excessive authority granted to CIA, civilian contractors, and military intelligence!

5. The carry-over of denial of civil rights – to the point not only of indefinite and secret detention– of people arrested in America as well as overseas– on suspicion– just suspicion, mind you– many have not been charged– now is revealed to include philosophies of "interrogation" that are tantamount to torture.  That many of the people so treated were innocent– Red Cross estimate 90% – also is not being admitted. Under the excuse of "war" injudicious "sweeps" are permitted.
    (There are similar boundary violations going on with the "war" against drugs, but that's another paper yet to appear on this website.)

6. Kerry's guarded support for the effort to bring democracy to Iraq was understandable as a political validation of what many people wanted to believe. Many moderates who were wary about the adventure in Iraq two years ago still hoped that it could be turned into something constructive. However, the latest scandals have been a tipping point and must be recognized as one. Such a goal is utterly hopeless because of the affront to the national and cultural dignity of every man. (And, alas, every Muslim man and woman is now feeling an affront far beyond the mumbled apologies of Bush and Rumsfeld.)

7. Those apologies by the Bush administration are transparent evasions, with no real intent to even take stock of how high the "rot" goes up. This is because it goes up all the way, achieved by having the top folks "delegate authority." While that may seem to be a reasonable necessity of administration, if the subtext is, "I don't care how you achieve these results, just do it," mixed with "I don't want to hear about the details,"-- very prevalent policies throughout business and government, then subordinates are being told in effect that the end justifies the means! Indeed, CIA and top Brass are still maintaining their right to use extreme measures in "extreme" situations– but as Ashcroft is shaking the warnings–and is it just coincidental that these follow by one day the President's speech in which all he can seem to say is "terrorism"?-- it's quite easy to yell terrorism about any armed resistance or even threat of armed resistance.

8. A careful reading of Ashcroft's "patriot act"-- what a choice of words!-- reveals far too much discretion given to investigating agencies as to what they consider suspicious and bordering on terrorism. The word, like "communism," has become easily overgeneralized or applied--perhaps some day to people who simply disagree with their policy. It's the old "you're either with us or against us" attitude.

9. I am reminded of the high point when ? the lawyer for some of the accused during the McCarthy hearings in the early 1950s spoke out, "Have you no shame, Senator?"  That phrase needs to be said again and again to every Republican supporter, every spin-doctor, every excuse maker: "Have you no shame?"  Press the point, because there's no way, with continued focus, that they can wiggle out of having abandoned their moral compass– the big claim that they make as ideologues– in using the banner of anti-terrorism as a way to gain and sustain political power.

10. There was a pretty good chance that if the present administration decided to pull out within the next six months that chaos would ensue; and many observers have noted that there is a fair chance that chaos will ensue no matter what, because of the fragmented demands of special interest groups, tribal loyalties, and the fierce priority of vengeance over practical compromise and reconciliation.

11. What we are protecting is only partly the nascent and fragile democratic Iraqi government; far more important and not talked about is the prevalence of government-assured (if not guaranteed) contracts for a host of infrastructure-building projects. Halliburton being one of the chief culprits –and its corruption repeatedly investigated– it becomes clear that the quest for oil was just the tip of the iceberg. What we have seen are windfall profits, obscene salaries paid to civilian security officers compared to what the military troops are being paid. These also go to gas and oil suppliers (because gas and oil are used at an extreme rate in military operations, thus driving up demand and adding to the rise on gasoline prices); and munition makers.

12. All these monies are being diverted from health, education, and other collective resources. That the wealthy are not being taxed, and that corporations are allowed to use transparent loopholes to avoid paying taxes, all fits the overall picture of the Republicans taking their mandate to an extreme and imposing a trickle-down economic policy that hardly trickles down.

13. The troops are going to take the disproportionate punishments given to the low-level personnel most egregiously captured in the abuse photographs–while superficial or no real punishment is given to the higher-ups– as a message: If you are caught, we will deny that we have commanded you to do what we have implied that you should do if you want a good performance review. We will "hang you out to dry." (Sort of what spies are told in the spy movies.)  It isn't going to help morale.

14. The troops will also continue to get the message, louder than the claims of whoever is passing along the party line, the "morale officers," that the resistance isn't because "they hate democracy," or they are "muslim fundamentalist terrorists."  That argument was tried in Vietnam, the claim that people would not rebel if it weren't for outside agitators. Diehard segregationists tried that argument in the deep south in the 1950s and 60s. Alas, the troops will continue to encounter people who see us not as liberators, but as the foreign occupation, and as one American soldier said (about the Iraqi insurgents), "You know, I can't blame them."

15. The troops are still not being supported with sufficient supplies, military gear, etc. Shortages are allowed to build up while monies are spent for pork barrel big armaments schemes promoted by corrupt legislators, even when the military doesn't want them. Then there are other projects that again feed the profits of the big arms makers more than the needs of the nation, such as the "star wars" program–being pushed and going ahead in spite of hundreds of scientists saying that it can't work!

16. Whatever happened to "windfall profits" as an investigate-able ethical problem?  A couple of years ago people were pushing this as a form of immorality, but the rise in gas prices is way out of proportion to the rise of the price of oil. Refinery profits are obscenely up, as are the profits of oil companies. That this relates to the war is also true.

17. The theme of torture should not be ignored. Not only does it evoke false confessions, but it debases the entire structure of those who support it, debases the morality. In a country that wants to support its troops, even if it can't support the administration, well, it sullies this more seemingly noble loyalty, makes us view the troops more like–well, Rush Limbaugh justified the behavior by likening it to fraternity boys "blowing off steam."  The college fraternity boy that is indulging in hazing, drinking parties, date rape, etc., is becoming deservedly as suspect and disreputable as other social groups once considered to have impeccable integrity, such as big business executives, or movie stars who proudly smoked cigarettes.  That which was cool and "old boys' network" and all is becoming no longer acceptable.

18. Certainly as said at the outset, the knowledge that one's friends or countrymen are being tortured, degraded, assaulted, becomes a sufficient reason to take up arms. What adds to the indignation is the either bad faith or stupidity of Bush and his supporters that attribute the motivation towards violent resistance to something as simplistic as "they hate freedom" or "they hate democracy. For them, they hate occupation, which is the opposite of freedom. They are seeking freedom!

19.  Again, consider the plight of the person who is innocent, who really doesn't have any satisfactory answers for the interrogator–what is to become of him or her? The word is out that the bad treatment isn't just reserved for those who have rebelled.

20. There is a weird psychological dynamic going on for our military forces in Iraq: The more one mistreats another, the more one needs to reinforce the rationale that the other "deserved" the mistreatment, in order to allay feelings of guilt. The victims are thus further demonized: They'd do it to us if they could. They are all trying to kill us. It creates the psychopathology of mixed post-traumatic disorder and the perpetrators of domestic and child abuse.

21. The sub-text of racism must be recognized, however much it is denied. People are being arrested (in Iraq, and sometimes in the United States) because of their color and religion. It's a much more severe form of the kind of racial profiling that police have been using to stop and search people of color–way disproportionately over whites– in airports and on the freeways. This whole military adventure spills over to affect the morale of minorities in the United States who are trying to assimilate responsibly–but the mainstream sometimes does things that insults them even as the politicians give lip service to more inclusive sentiments.

Well, that's all for now. I'll add more as I feel the need or get further input from you.