By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
If only the Bush administration had political strategies and policies half as smart as its high-tech weaponry. Who was not transfixed, and at some level or another horrified, by that first seven-minute shock-and-awe barrage that turned the Baghdad night into an orange-hellish glow of mini–mushroom clouds and rivers of flame? And as similar bombardments continued through the week, any reasonable spectator could likely assume that the Iraqi capital was being decimated and that nothing less than mass carnage was being carried directly into our living rooms via CNN.
And yet, this same administration that bulldozed recklessly into this unnecessary war, and whose notion of diplomacy was to plow over both foes and allies with equal abandon, was conducting one of the most tightly targeted, if not restrained, wars in modern history.
The number of civilians killed remains in the dozens — too many, but far shy of the mass graves that could be imagined on the first night of the war.
So for those of us who had argued against the war, there was some solace. At least on one crucial point, the administration was telling the truth. Its military strategy was indeed attempting to force the surrender of Saddam Hussein’s regime by scaring the wits out of it — and not, fortunately, by committing wanton destruction and indiscriminate massacres. Of course, that picture may change as the war intensifies and as more information becomes available. Outside of the tight focus of the camera lens fixed on the target of downtown government buildings, most of the rest of Baghdad was being spared, and the lights, the water, the phones, even the Internet lines, were still all up and running.
Of course, administration hopes for a three-day war were stopped cold by unexpected levels of Iraqi resistance in the southern part of the country. And as this column is being written, as American forces move northward, and Saddam Hussein concentrates his elite troops around his capital, the world prepares for the unpredictable horror of what may become the Battle of Baghdad.
Already, “progressive” anti-war Web sites like Commondreams.org are more or less gloating over these troubles, running every report they can suggesting that George W. Bush is about to bog down in a quagmire. But this hope, if you can call it that, is radically ill-placed. Just as a dozen years of draconian American sanctions against Iraq battered everyone except Saddam Hussein, this war going off the tracks would devastate just about everyone except George Bush.
A prolonged siege of Baghdad would provoke a humanitarian crisis of biblical proportions, running the Iraqi civilian population through a meat grinder of hunger and death. Military casualties on both sides would soar. And the already inflamed passions of much of the Arab world — and not only Arabs — could explode. It would be much worse even than the disaster we’re currently seeing in Basra. The consequences of a short war in Iraq are going to be bad enough. Only an idiot could hope for a prolonged conflict. That’s why the best we can now hope for is a swift and definitive conclusion of the war.
Notice I did not say we should stop the war. First of all, we simply cannot. The war will, hopefully, be over soon enough on its own. Second, and more to the point, about the only silver lining in this American misadventure for the Iraqi people is that it does the spell the end of one of the most barbaric 30-year dictatorships on the face of the Earth. To call off the tanks at this juncture, thereby saving Saddam’s skin, would be a double betrayal of the Iraqi people. With all the miscalculation, hubris, arrogance and imperial disdain that undergird this war, at least let its only saving grace be consummated by leveling Saddam’s regime.
Maybe someone in the peace movement should figure out that not only Bush could stop this war. So could Saddam — by resigning his unelected post and saving his people any further sacrifice. Yet I’ve yet to see one anti-war placard allude to Saddam’s responsibilities in securing the peace.
But talk about quagmires. The peace movement, which promises so much in its scope and energy, itself remains bogged down in a minimalist program of simply and only opposing U.S. military action. That’s hardly enough. The movement suffers a malady similar to that of the Bushies, but in reverse: smart principles but dumb — no, make that stupid — operational politics. Pure rejectionism, since the outbreak of war makes the peace movement as blind and indiscriminate as a WWII-vintage iron-cast bomb, though considerably less dangerous and infinitely less powerful.
Blocking traffic when 74 percent of the American people support the war, or endlessly whining about CNN’s coverage, or grandstanding as Michael Moore did at the Oscars telling America that a president who currently enjoys (for all the sordid reasons we know) stratospheric popularity ratings is “fictitious,” has much more to do with personal therapy than with effective politics. Continue on that tack and you can pretty much count on another four years of Bush, no matter how ugly the war turns.