It was the most publicized teardrop in modern history. As the Washington Times, in a veritable swoon, breathlessly related:
"President Bush yesterday swooped into Baghdad for a surprise Thanksgiving Day visit with U.S. troops and, with a tear running down his cheek, said their countrymen pray for your safety and your strength as you continue to defend America."
"As he surveyed the crowd," reported the Associated Press, "a tear dripped down the president’s cheek."
"A tear could be seen rolling down the president’s cheek as the troops roared and pushed forward," a Houston television station observed.
"Entering the hall, a tear visible in his eye, was an emotional moment, Bush said afterward," according to the Los Angeles Times.
Tears of empathy from the compassionate conservative, or tears of frustration on account of how badly the war is going? In any case, they certainly werent tears of remorse:
"We did not charge hundreds of miles into the heart of Iraq, pay a bitter cost in casualties, defeat a brutal dictator and liberate 25 million people only to retreat before a band of thugs and assassins. We will prevail. We will win because our cause is just. We will win because we will stay on the offensive."
In his recent speech to the National Endowment for Democracy, the President proclaimed his "forward strategy" and he means it, I believe, in a military sense. Iraq is merely a way station on the road to complete domination of the region. Were on the Middle East escalator and who knows where the next stop is Iran? Syria? Saudi Arabia? Bush realizes that, by playing a purely defensive game in Iraq, the US cannot hope to win any time soon and, in any case, the political price may be so high that an American "victory" would be strictly Pyrrhic. All the insurgents have to do is hold on, and wait for the Americans to tire of the burden of empire.
But if we look at the occupation of Iraq as merely the first stage in a larger strategy to clean out the Augean Stables of the Middle East "draining the swamp," as the neocons say then the stationing of so many American troops in Iraq begins to make a certain amount of sense. After all, these troops are not trained as police, as humanitarian aid workers, or even in counterinsurgency tactics: their job is to confront and defeat enemy armies, that is, the armed forces of other states. So why the tremendous resistance on the part of this normally opportunistic administration to handing over a festering problem one with ominous domestic political implications to the United Nations? Listen carefully:
" we will stay on the offensive."
What does the President mean by this? Is he saying that future wars are on the drawing board? This, of course, is the sort of question that the political opposition in a real democracy is bound to ask. But not in America, where the fake "opposition" tries to outdo the administration in the militarism department. To anyone with illusions about how, if only the Republicans hadnt "stolen" the Florida election with the complicity of the Supreme Court, we wouldnt be in Iraq today, I implore you to pay attention. Listen to what Senator Hillary Clinton (D-New York), said on her own trip to Iraq. She echoed the Presidents own words: the headlines read "Clinton says: Stay the course." She added that she didnt think we have "adequate forces" in the region: "We have to exert all of our efforts militarily, but the outcome is not assured." She said she was "moved and inspired" by what she saw in Iraq, but qualified her endorsement by adding:
"The administration didn’t fully appreciate what they would be encountering in Iraq, [although many members of the Bush administration had been preoccupied for years with Saddam Hussein.] Now we’re playing catch-up."
During the course of two Thanksgiving dinners with the troops in occupied Iraq, the soldiers wanted to know “how the people at home feel about what we are doing.” The leader of what is perceived as the far left wing of the Democratic party replied:
"Americans are wholeheartedly proud of what you are doing, but there are many questions at home about the (Bush) administration’s policies."
"American troops at Ibn Firnas airport, seven kilometers from Baqubah, shot Fatimam and Azra, 15 and 12, on Thursday at midday as they were collecting wood from a field some 30 meters away, their brother said. Azra died on the spot and my other sister later died from her wounds, said 18-year-old Qusay.
"Policeman Hussein Ali said U.S. forces handed one of the girls’ bodies over to the police arguing that she had a gun in her possession. Police searched the girls’ home, without finding anything illegal, Ali added."
Americans are proud of the bravery, the endurance, and the professionalism of American soldiers, but these personal virtues are entirely separate from and, often, in opposition to the policies and politics of the civilians in charge. Americans are most emphatically not proud of what their soldiers are doing in Iraq: I, for one, am disgusted.
"You are defeating the terrorists here in Iraq," Bush told the troops over turkey with all the fixings, "so that we don’t have to face them in our own country." Will somebody please tell me how shooting down teenaged Iraqi girls in cold blood is protecting us from a terrorist attack on American soil? If Young Qusay some day flies a jetliner into the heart of an American city, dont say you werent warned.
I might add that the U.S. occupation authority has strongly denied that the shooting even occurred, claiming that American forces somehow chanced to come upon the bodies and that the girls were murdered by persons unknown. The story denying the incident was carried by several Western media, more than carried the original accusations. One can only note that Arab, French, and Iranian news outlets cite their sources by name, including an Iraqi policeman, while the American denial mentions no names and is therefore not checkable. How convenient.
But the perpetrators of what could be a war crime neednt worry. As the pet poodles of the War Party, the American media is all bark and no bite: theyre much more interested in the pathetic details of the latest Michael Jackson scandal to be bothered with running down the truth about what happened to Fatimam and Azra.
Heck, the American media is too busy covering itself. How many times did we have to hear and read about how friggin surprised some clueless dork of a journalist was to be specially chosen by the Powers That Be and whisked away to Iraq on Air Force One? Wowee zowee! And then we had to hear about what a political "masterstroke" it was, as the unctuous Jonah Goldberg put it, and how this warmed the cockles of American hearts as they gathered around the family hearth and sat down to a Thanksgiving feast, as Kate OBeirne tried to spin it on "Capital Gang."
What if they had been told that, just as George Bush was popping his monkey head from behind the curtain, Fatimam and Azra were being cut down in their tracks as they foraged for firewood?
Ill bet it would have spoiled their appetite.