Acts of idiocy by the powerful come rather frequently, but few in recent times have matched the vulgarity of the flight-suited swagger down the deck of the aircraft carrier, USS Abraham Lincoln, by a smirking George W. Bush on May 1, 2003. Few indeed can remotely approach the foolhardiness of the banner that provided the backdrop to his announcement that day, of a “mission accomplished” in Iraq.
If that was farce, Bush’s successor in the job once regarded as the most powerful in the world, was condemned to reenact it as tragedy. Seven years and four months from “mission accomplished”, Barack Obama announced in a nation-wide address, that the U.S. military was pulling out of Iraq, after “fulfilling its responsibilities”.
Apart from declaring the end of the combat mission in Iraq, Obama was also seeking to mobilise his bitterly riven nation to cope with “ongoing security challenges” and “the need to rebuild at home”. And though at pains to avoid deprecatory references to the misadventures of his predecessor, Obama spelt out the consequences of Iraq with a certain, though selective, attention to detail: “Thousands of Americans gave their lives; tens of thousands have been wounded. Our relations abroad were strained. Our unity at home was tested”.
Missing in this narration is any remorse over the hundred thousand Iraqis killed – a conservative estimate – or the destruction of the civic infrastructure that the people of Iraq had built up through years of arduous effort. Omitted entirely is the unsettled, potentially explosive, political mix that the U.S. has bequeathed.
Iraq is a nation where the generation today growing into adulthood, has spent its infancy and childhood under a regime of sanctions and starvation, imposed by the U.S. to deny all possibilities of growth. And the U.S. chose military invasion only when it found that sanctions and starvation were failing to do what it sought.
Obama does express regret at the economic vicissitudes that have beset the U.S. since the Iraq misadventure, though without drawing a direct linkage between the two. He laments that over the “last decade”, the U.S. has failed to do what is necessary to “shore up the foundation of (its) own prosperity”. The “grit and energy and common purpose” that went into the war effort, he says, now need to be brought home to tackle the woes of the U.S. economy.
Obama’s renunciation of the civilising mission also signals that it is entirely the job of the people of Iraq to fix a mess the U.S. has created. This famous retreat from the imperial ambition of reconfiguring the entire region has fortuitously, coincided with the release of the political memoir of Bush’s principal partner in crime, the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Always self-serving and willing to stretch the truth, Blair parades his famously convoluted morality across seven hundred pages of prose that he proudly claims as entirely his own. While disdaining a ghost-writer, Blair chooses not to identify the unseen demons that prompted him to march in lockstep with a demented leader across the Atlantic, in a mission to rearrange a region that the British empire had scuttled away from over six decades before. He does so, quite simply, through the demonisation of a man long since dead.
Saddam Hussain, the deposed president of Iraq, since executed in a ghoulish ritual of revenge, is in Blair’s narration, a scourge the Iraqi people had to be rid of. The U.S. and the U.K. launched their war on a mistaken premise -- that he possessed weapons of mass destruction -- but succeeded nevertheless in achieving the laudable goal of toppling a detestable regime.
It was not just the execrable track record of the Saddam regime that was at issue, but the potential and the intent for mischief he embodied. Blair concedes that Saddam had no known links with the Al Qaeda terrorists who rained death and destruction on the U.S. one September morning in 2001, but insists that he could have teamed up with his worst enemies in common antagonism towards western values.
Astonishingly then, Blair offers the alibi that the enterprise in Iraq would have been a glorious success, but for Al Qaeda and Iran moving into the power vacuum created by the overthrow of Saddam. This an exercise in dissimulation so characteristic of the war cabal, that it needs to be unpackaged: Saddam kept Al Qaeda and Iran out of Iraq, but could potentially have teamed up with them to wreck western civilisation. Our, i.e., the Bush-Blair axis’s invasion of Iraq would have been a glorious success but for Al Qaeda and Iran moving in to Iraq after we toppled Saddam, with the mere intention of undermining our civilisational mission.
While the circus artistes perform their incredible feats of moral contortion, the ringmaster remains discretely hidden. Neither “Israel” nor “Palestine” finds a mention anywhere in Obama’s speech of renunciation. But there is an obvious connection between his declaration of victory in Iraq and the launch of direct negotiations shortly afterwards, between Israel and the quisling Palestine regime of Mahmoud Abbas. Like all previous efforts by the U.S. to bring the Zionist entity to some semblance of accommodation with the Palestinian people, this too is destined to fail. Israel simply does not feel any sense of accountability for the millions of refugees it created while claiming its supposed national patrimony in Palestine. And the U.S., after creating an estimated four million refugees from Iraq – the best of the country’s middle-class and intelligentsia – feels little remorse that it was tweaked into a foreordained military disaster, to serve the strategic ambitions of a recalcitrant ally.