Iraq: The View from Year Six | The Nation


Iraq: The View from Year Six

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This article originally was published on TomDispatch.

The Children of War

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Tom Engelhardt
Tom Engelhardt created and runs the Tomdispatch.com website, a project of The Nation Institute of which he is a Fellow...

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When toddler killings outpace terror killings in the United States, the biggest problem is not jihad.

Does this really sound like an education to you or does it sound more like a Ponzi scheme?

In more human terms: imagine that a child born on March 19, 2003, just as Baghdad was being shock-and-awed, will be the right age to enter first grade when the sixth anniversary of Bush's war hits. He or she will have gone from babbling to talking, crawling to walking, and may be beginning to read and write. Of course, an Iraqi child born on that day, who managed to live to see his or her sixth birthday, might be among the 2 million-plus Iraqis in exile in Syria or elsewhere in the Middle East, or among the perhaps 2 million internal refugees driven from their homes in recent years and possibly not in school at all.

For those children, the real inheritors of the Bush war era, the Iraq War has essentially been the equivalent of an open-ended prison sentence with little hope of parole; for some Americans and many Iraqis, including children, it remains a death sentence without hope of pardon. All this for a country which, even by Bush standards, never presented the slightest national security threat to the United States of America. Recently, an "exhaustive, "Pentagon-sponsored study of 600,000 captured Iraqi documents confirmed, yet again, that there were no operational links between Saddam Hussein's regime and Al Qaeda.

With those children in mind, here's what's so depressing: in mainstream Washington, hardly anyone has taken a step outside the box of conventional, inside-the-Beltway thinking about Iraq, which is why it's possible to imagine March 19, 2009, with some confidence. For them, the Washington consensus, such as it is, is the only acceptable one and the disagreements within it, the only ones worth having. And here are its eight fundamentals:

•  A belief that effective US power must be based on the threat of, or use of, dominant force, and so must centrally involve the US military.

•  A belief that all answers are to be found in Washington among the serried ranks of officials, advisors, former officials, pundits, think-tank operators and other movers and shakers, who have been tested over the years and found never to have a surprise in them. Most of them are notable mainly for having been wrong so often. This is called "experience."

•  A belief that policy critics outside Washington and its consensus are gadflies, never worth seriously consulting on anything.

•  A belief that the American people, though endlessly praised in political campaigns, are know-nothings when it comes to the supposedly arcane science of foreign policy, and so would not be worth consulting on "national security" matters or issues involving the sacred "national interest," which is, in any case, the property of Washington. Like Iraqis and Afghans, Americans need good (or even not so good) shepherds in the national capital to answer that middle-of-the-night ringing phone and rescue them from impending harm. (The foolishness of Americans can be measured by opinion polls which by 2005 indicated that a majority of them had decided all American troops should be brought home from Iraq at a reasonable speed and the United States should not have permanent military bases in that country.)

•  A belief that no other countries (or individuals elsewhere) have anything significant or original to offer when it comes to solving problems like that of Iraq (unless they agree with us). They are to be ignored, insists the Bush Administration, or, say leading Democrats, "talked to" and essentially corralled into signing onto, and carrying out, the solutions we consider reasonable.

•  A belief that local peoples are incapable of solving their own problems without the intercession of, or the guiding hand (or Hellfire missile) of, Washington, which means, of course, of the US military.

•  A belief that the United States--whatever the problem--is an essential part of the solution, not of the problem itself.

•  And finally, a belief (however unspoken) that the lives of those children of George Bush's war, already of an age to be given their first lessons in global "realism," don't truly matter, not when the Great Game of geopolitics is at stake.

Of course, the most recent Washington solution, involving the endless military occupation of alien lands, can "solve" nothing. The possibility of genuine improvement in Iraq under the ministrations of the US military are probably nil. And yet, because the only solutions entertained are variations of the above, little better lurks in our future.

Who would want to speculate on just how old those children of March 19, 2003, will actually be before the Iraq War is ended? So here's my next question: What's wrong with this sentence?

On March 19, 2010, the seventh anniversary of President Bush's invasion of Iraq, as surely as the sun rises in the East I'll be sitting here and we will still have...

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