“For the first time,” a Washington Post-ABC News poll shows, “most say the Iraq war was a mistake.” Not to worry, however, because “a strong majority of Americans, 58 percent, support keeping military forces in Iraq until ‘civil order is restored,’ even in the face of continued U.S. casualties. By a slight margin, 48 percent to 44 percent, more voters agreed with Bush’s position that the United States is making ‘significant progress’ toward its goal of establishing democracy in Iraq.” But, oh wait: “Yet, by a similar margin, the public believes the United States is not making significant progress toward restoring civil order.” To top it all off, 70 percent say the present casualty rate is “unacceptable.”
Translation: The public doesn’t know what to think. But that’s okay, because our leaders in Washington are doing our thinking for us. So chill out: they won’t let rising public sentiment against the war change their course by a single millimeter.
To begin with, the Post-ABC News poll is not the first time a majority has rejected the rationale for the conquest and occupation of Iraq: a Gallup poll taken at the end of June and through July showed a majority had concluded that the invasion was a mistake. Furthermore, it all depends on the wording of the questions, such as this key query concerning “civil order”:
“Do you think the United States should keep its military forces in Iraq until civil order is restored there, even if that means continued US military casualties, or do you think the United States should withdraw its military forces from Iraq in order to avoid further US military casualties, even if that means civil order is not restored there?”
Having bombed the nation’s physical and social infrastructure into piles of blood-stained rubble, disbanded the Iraqi military, marginalized the highly educated and secularized Sunni elite and driven them into a destructive and increasingly successful insurgency we can’t leave until we establish the “civil order” destroyed by ourselves to begin with.
As the so-called Pottery Barn Principle established by Colin Powell and widely accepted in ostensibly antiwar liberal quarters would have it: You broke it, you buy it. The point of this moral narrative is to reinforce the widespread American delusion that the Iraq war is a noble act of altruism. We’re doing this out of sheer love for the Iraqi people although, as the old saw goes, you always hurt the one you love.
Be that as it may, the upcoming elections should establish “civil order,” at least in a formal sense. An elected Iraqi government will emerge from this process, albeit one that is still officially “provisional.” If the Sunni boycott holds, and the Shi’ite list backed by Grand Ayatollah Sistani gains a decisive majority, the means to establish order will be within the Iraqis’ grasp.
The leading Shi’ite group, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), is at the top of the Sistani list of candidates: the winner of this election could well turn out to be Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, son of an influential Iraqi cleric and head of the SCIRI’s military wing, the Badr Corps. SCIRI has always opposed the presence of foreign troops on Iraqi soil, but has reached an armed, albeit uneasy, truce with the U.S. since the invasion that toppled Saddam. Now the uneasiness on both sides may be increasing, and might even be exacerbated to the breaking point by the results of the January election.
George W. Bush’s widely cited critique of the Iraqi National Guards “When the heat got on, they left the battlefield: that is unacceptable” doesn’t apply to the Iranian-armed-and-trained Badr Corps. They will keep order, albeit not a liberal democratic one. But will the Americans let them?
Polls are another form of propaganda: the push-poll is a well-worn device, widely used by candidates and interest groups to portray themselves and their causes in the best possible light, in spite of growing suspicions that they’re all up to no good. And it isn’t just the wording of the questions that manages to frame the results in terms set by the questioner: in this case, it’s the questions that aren’t asked that stand out.
In the summer of 2003, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll inquired as to whether “it would matter” if Americans thought the Bush administration had misled the public on Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction”: 53 percent said yes. Yet this AP story, which spins the latest poll results as solid public support for continuing the occupation, indicates that the deception issue has been inexplicably dropped. Nor are the results of the “was it a mistake?” question so much as mentioned.
Another key weakness in the War Party’s armor, which the latest propaganda blitz is designed to disguise, is the growing realization by the ordinary man-in-the-street that we were lied into war. Combined with increasing revulsion at the high casualty count, there is the potential for generating a huge backlash against the warmongers. People naturally want to know who lied us into war: they want to identify the culprits, and bring them to some kind of justice, or at least a public reckoning of some kind. Some would call this scapegoating. Others, a deserved comeuppance.
In any case, the War Party is desperate to avoid this at all costs, and they are currently scrambling to deflect blame for the policies they originated and fought for by diverting attention to their former frontman and hero, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Parasites eventually kill their host. The neoconservatives won’t be happy until Rummy’s dried-up husk is left by the roadside, and their chosen replacement Wolfowitz? Woolsey? neocon tool “Stormin’ Norman” Schwarzkopf? marches triumphantly into Syria, Lebanon, Iran, and eventually Saudi Arabia.
Positioning the U.S. to be inexorably drawn into a wider war is the whole point of the current Orwellian propaganda offensive, which is supposed to convince us that growing disenchantment with the war really means support for “staying the course” in spite of it all. Because the longer American troops are fighting the Iraqi insurgency, the greater are the chances that the conflict will spill over into neighboring countries. This administration has repeatedly accused Syria, in particular, of harboring and aiding the insurgents, and that mantra has been taken up with renewed enthusiasm recently.
The infamous 1996 “Clean Break” policy paper written for then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, co-authored by Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, and a full coven of neocons now ensconced in the national security bureaucracy, is clear on this one point: Syria is the main problem. As the frontline state standing in the way of Zionist expansionism, Syria, according to Netanyahu’s former American advisors, must be confronted, and humbled: in their view, the road to Damascus clearly runs through Baghdad.
As the prime architects of the second Iraq war, the Perle-Feith-neocon cabal took their own advice to heart, and now it is time for phase two of the plan to make the Middle East safe for Israel . Oh wait, I mean: safe for democracy. Yeah, that’s the ticket . Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah: time for phase two. Or, as Seymour Hersh calls it, “Plan B.”
Having concluded that the war in Iraq is unwinnable the war Israel wanted, and agitated for ceaselessly, not only directly but through surrogates in the U.S. “Plan B” calls for Israeli infiltration of northern Iraq, otherwise known as Kurdistan. After all, the Israelis might as well make the best of a bad situation, and make their move while they can: the Kurdish adventure is a clear effort to stir up Syria’s substantial Kurdish population, as well as to provide “intelligence” of Chalabi-like quality on Iran’s nukes. What a coincidence that “pro-democracy” groups and Kurdish separatist elements are becoming more active in Syria at the same time as stepped-up charges of Syrian collaboration with the Iraqi insurgency hit the headlines. Meanwhile, the usual suspects have started up their chorus of complaints about Syrian policing of Lebanon, while the Israelis rampage through the occupied territories of Palestine and annex the best bits.
Phase two, arriving right on schedule .
Why are Bill Kristol and Andrew Sullivan a marriage made in hell if ever there was one echoing Mad Dog McCain’s barking for “more boots on the ground” if not to escalate and widen the fight? The dogs of war are baying up a storm as Christmas steals in with the night. So light a fire against the encroaching darkness, and cuddle up with whomever, while wolves howl in a distance that seems ominously closer. As we drift off to sleep, visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads, let’s forget for a moment that the War Party never sleeps.
Their energy is boundless, as is their boldness: to hear the little Lenin of the neocons, Kid Kristol, call for Rummy’s head because of the famous Rumsfeldian “arrogance” is to admire the sheer gall of a man who has called for a foreign policy bent on achieving “benevolent global hegemony.” I can’t express my contempt for these cretins as eloquently as the incandescent Christopher Manion, and won’t even try. All I can say in response to the neocon lynch mob calling for Rummy’s head is: first Feith, second Wolfowitz, and then Rumsfeld!
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
The only way for the War Party to keep a lid on rising antiwar sentiment is to “spin” the poll numbers the “right” way: to manage the news, Soviet-style. We must be bathed in a continuous stream of propaganda masquerading as “news” so that even accounts of our own dissatisfaction are “spun” to make it seem like we’re really not all that opposed to the dangerous and pernicious foreign policy of this war-maddened administration. The pro-war media, including the aggressive and well-connected neocon wing of the blogosphere, has been touting the brothers Fadhil, who set up a “blog” with a moniker that manages to express the essence of the neocon program for the Middle East Iraq the Model. At the climax of their triumphant American tour, sponsored by a “charitable” organization known as the “Spirit of America,” two of the brothers were received at the White House by none other than the president. But there’s a fly in this ointment, and that is the testimony of the third Fadhil brother, Ali. While his brothers were meeting with the commander-in-chief of the army that occupies their country, Ali was saying farewell to his readers:
“This is the last time I write in this blog and I just want to say, goodbye. It’s not an easy thing to do for me, but I know I should do it. I haven’t told my brothers with my decision, as they are not here yet, but it won’t change anything and I just can’t keep doing this anymore.
“My stand regarding America has never changed. I still love America and feel grateful to all those who helped us get our freedom and are still helping us establishing democracy in our country. But it’s the act of some Americans that made me feel I’m on the wrong side here. I will expose these people in public very soon and I won’t lack the mean to do this, but I won’t do it here as this is not my blog.
“At any rate, it’s been a great experience and a pleasure to know all the regular readers of this blog, as I do feel I know you, and I owe you a lot.
“Best wishes to all of you, those who supported us and those who criticized us as well.”
The Middle East scholar and war critic Juan Cole has been pilloried by the pro-war bloggers because he dared question the bona fides of the two democratic dentists who are supposed to represent the wave of the Iraqi future and now it seems Cole’s suspicion that all was not as it appeared to be on the surface has been confirmed. Elsewhere on the “Iraq the Model” blog, Ali denounces certain “extreme conservatives” who are trying to use him and his brothers as a “propaganda tool.” Imagine that!
You can’t make this stuff up. The wooden and unconvincing arguments marshaled by the War Party the stupid and obviously untrue assertion that the “antiwar” media is deliberately ignoring the “good news” from Iraq is public relations of a sort not seen since the crude propaganda of the old Soviet empire, which regularly stumbled over itself trying to prove its purportedly benevolent intentions. Bush’s Iraqi Potemkin village of “democracy” is coming apart at the seams and the war, as increasing numbers of Americans have begun to realize, was a colossal mistake. Now it remains for us to convince them that prolonging an erroneous and failed policy will prove fatal, not only to a large number of Iraqis and Americans, but also to our interests in the region and the genuine democratic aspirations of its peoples.