Creating people's geographies
With very few honourable exceptions, the Congressional RepublicoDemocratic War Party is at one in their policy toward Iraq. Those who expected Democratic leaders to suddenly recover backbone after the mandate given to them after the November elections and inject sanity into the Bush administration’s murderous Iraq policy were going to be courting disappointment.
As a result, the destruction, likely enclavisation and ethnic cleansing of Iraq continues apace. Over 1,000,000 Iraqi and over 3000 US lives have been lost since the 2003 invasion, sacrificial lambs slaughtered for Empire at the ungodly altar of neocon-neoliberal wealth and privilege, particularly, but not limited to, its Washington and Tel Aviv branches. (See also the Nir Rosen interview in “Iraq Does Nor Exist Anymore“)
Chris Floyd has this pegged right in his important piece Bipartisan Paradise: Liberals, Bush Unite in Ethnic Cleansing of Iraq, in which he writes:
It is now obvious that one impetus behind the “surge” was to accelerate the “ethnic cleansing” of Iraq. Given the manifest failure to establish a strong central government to serve as a client state, the conquerors now find it easier to deal with separate ethnic enclaves, which can police themselves, shake out their own internal conflicts (however bloodily) and thus establish some kind of solid leadership that can cut deals and guarantee investments. Most of the measures taken during the “surge” seem aimed precisely at ethnic cleansing: the increased support of the Iraqi government security forces — which are largely Shiite militias — has been matched with what some see as the lunatic policy of arming Sunni militias.
The latter is indeed a lunatic policy — if your aim is to establish security and political rapprochement in Iraq. And although the leaders of the United States are indeed a gang of depraved moral idiots, they are not lunatics. Even they could see the folly of such a course — again, if the aim was actually security and political cohesion. Thus one can only conclude that this is not their aim, that their aim is indeed to exacerbate ethnic conflict, to foment more violence, in what amounts to a stealth operation of ethnic cleansing.
This serves two main purposes: first, as noted above, it will help shake the country out, eventually, into more manageable enclaves — each one stronger and more cohesive than the current government (which is largely a fictional notion at this point), yet weaker, and more malleable, than any stable and legitimate central government would be. And since the only kind of central government that could achieve stability and legitimacy in the eyes of all Iraqis would be one which was genuinely sovereign, truly independent from American domination, we will never see such a government in Baghdad as long as U.S. troops are in Iraq.
Which brings us to the second purpose of the “surge’s” arming of sectarian gangs: to maintain a level of violence and chaos that would “justify” the continuing presence of American troops in Iraq. A permanent military presence is one of the overriding goals of the invasion, set down long before the war, before 9/11, even before the loser Bush was given the presidency by five Supreme Court justices (two of whom had family members working for the Bush operation). Therefore, to the Bushists, any measure is justified that will keep American troops in Iraq — including fomenting bloody sectarian conflict and carrying out ethnic cleansing.
This in turn is tied to another of the chief war aims: the “oil law” that will open Iraq’s sumptuous resources to predatory Western investors. This can only be can only be guaranteed by the presence of American troops, backing up some compliant puppet state or “semi-autonomous enclave.” Again, a genuinely sovereign, truly independent government would never give away the nation’s patrimony to Bush and Cheney’s oil baron cronies and their European comrades.
And so the strategy behind the “surge” becomes clear: A united, independent Iraq cannot be allowed to exist, because such a state would not permit a permanent American military presence nor sign away the nation’s oil wealth. Therefore, Iraq must be torn apart — by sectarian strife, ethnic cleansing, terrorism and “counterinsurgency” warfare. And violence must continue until this shake-out is completed, in order to justify the continuing American presence.
While Bush pursues ethnic cleansing by stealth in Iraq — or rather, pursues it quite openly, but just doesn’t call it ethnic cleansing — the Democrats and their outriders, the “liberal hawks” (or “humanitarian interventionists” or “Wilsonian idealists” or whatever tag they’re wearing these days) are championing the policy in the public sphere. The idea of a three-way split of Iraq between Sunnis, Shias and Kurds has long been mooted in some quarters — Joe Biden and “liberal” intellectuals like Leslie Gelb and Peter Galbraith were early enthusiasts — and it is now gaining force within the foreign policy “clerisy” that Glenn Greenwald and Arthur Silber have been dissecting in recent days. Firedoglake points us to the incisive commentaries of Reidar Visser, “an actual expert on the regional aspects of Iraq and its history,” who has lately been debunking the deeply ignorant and murderously arrogant “partition” proposals of Galbraith and others.
Visser takes aim at one of the most hideous of these proposals: “The Case for Soft Partition in Iraq,” by respected “scholars” Michael O’Hanlon (see A Tiny Revolution for more on this fine mind of our time) and Edward Joseph. When I first read of these gentlemen’s work, I thought it must surely be a parody, a take-off on the deadly serious, genocidal fantasies of Philip Atkinson, who, on a website hardwired to the rightwing power grid of Frank Gaffney, James Woolsey and Dick Cheney, called for Bush to nuke Iraq, repopulate it with Americans and declare himself President-for-Life. The O-Hanlon-Joseph piece for the highly respectable Brookings Institution partakes of that same kind of murderous fantasy.
As Visser notes:
“…using cool academic language, the authors review the nuts and bolts of relocating somewhere between 2 and 5 million Iraqis in order to create new ethnic federal entities. Snippets from this part of the report probably speak best for themselves: “we advocate where possible dividing major cities along natural boundaries” (p. 16); “on the actual day of the relocation operation, Iraqi and US-led coalition forces would deploy in sufficient numbers to look for snipers, cover the flanks of the civilian convoys, inspect suspicious vehicles for explosives and conduct similar tasks” (p. 17); and finally, on p. 24, “this [internal border] control system would place some burdens on Iraq’s internal trade and other aspects of its economy. It would complicate the efforts of individuals to cross from one region to another to visit family and friends. For the most part these burdens would be bearable. For individuals or businesses that need to make frequent crossings across Iraq’s new internal borders, or those willing to pay for the privilege, an EZ pass system [sic] might be developed to expedite movements for those with important and regular business to conduct.”
“On the actual day of the relocation operation….” Try to imagine such a day, when millions of Iraqis are uprooted and forced to move to other areas, all under guard by “Iraqi and US-led coalition forces.” Actually it’s not that hard to imagine, for we have seen it before: in faded photographs and newsreel footage and films like “The Sorrow and the Pity,” “Shoah,” and “Schindler’s List.” Less familiar in the popular imagination but perhaps even more apposite are the “relocations” of ethnic populations carried out by Josef Stalin, when whole peoples, such as the Chechens, were uprooted and transported by force to other regions. Or we could of course look closer to home, at the “Trail of Tears,” the deadly removal of the Cherokee from their homelands to concentration camps in Oklahoma.
These kinds of scenes are precisely what the clean-limbed O’Hanlon and his partner envisage for Iraq, followed by a life ensnared by checkpoints and passes and internal border controls. It may sound harsh, brutal and inhuman, but not to worry: “For the most part these burdens would be bearable.”
I have a suggestion for Mr. O’Hanlon. I propose that he subject himself to such a regimen, then come back and tell just us how “bearable” it is. He doesn’t even have to move five million Iraqis under armed guard to participate in this experiment: he can go to Palestine right now, where the people already live under his kind of “soft partition.” Let him try it on for himself, just for a few months — not the lifelong sentence he proposes for the Iraqis. We can even give him an “EZ Pass” to expedite any “important business” he needs to do.
This is what we’ve come to — or perhaps, harking back to the Trail of Tears, this is where we came in. Ignorant, arrogant, cowardly elites proposing — and in Bush’s case, inflicting — vast human suffering on innocent people, driving them from their homes, terrorizing them, killing them. And all of this done for no other reason but to enhance the coddled elite’s power, privilege and pleasures.