Creating people's geographies
First, credit where its due: MoveOn recognises the obvious danger of General Petraeus (read his testimony here), like Colin Powell before him, serving as a shill to deliver the Bush-Cheney White House version in order to justify its agenda of prolonged war, as well as to downplay the extent of violence wracking Iraq. The advertisement (.pdf here) notes, for example, that “We’ll hear of neighborhoods where violence has decreased. But we won’t hear that those neighborhoods have been ethnically cleansed.” This is the type of public mainstream dissent that was altogether absent when it was Colin Powell justifying war in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq.
In terms of historic parallels, we are reminded about the Johnson administration’s General Westmoreland during the Vietnam War here (read Westmoreland’s address here). Are these former generals and administration officials troubled about their role? In Powell tried to talk Bush out of war (Sunday Times, 8 July), the former US secretary of state subsequently claimed that he spent 2½ hours vainly trying to persuade Bush not to invade Iraq. He believes, moreover, that today’s conflict cannot be resolved by US forces.
While General Petraeus is rightly copping flak, he’s outranked by the
Thief-Commander-in-Chief: he’ll ultimately deliver what’s favourable for the Bush-Cheney junta and the AIPAC lobby, and ultimately do as he’s told. He has been called the iPod general (Pepe Escobar), programmed to play the tune(s) selected by his owner, the White House.
A major glaring error of the advertisement, however, is MoveOn’s claim that
“Most importantly, General Petraeus will not admit what everyone knows: Iraq is mired in an unwinnable religious civil war.”
An unwinnable war, yes; a “religious” war, no. This claim altogether fails to address the fact that the root cause of violence is the occupation. Sunni and Shia have been living together and intermarrying for centuries here, why a sudden “religious” war? Any sectarian enmity that now exists is largely being created, its not pre-existing. This also deflects scrutiny from Bush administration culpability and attempts to instead pretend that the “real conflict” is between Shiites and Sunnis and has nothing or little to do with the US military presence. In his ‘progress report’ (video here), General Petraeus also spouted this notion in declaring that “the fundamental source of the conflict in Iraq is competition among ethnic and sectarian communities for power and resources.”
Contrary to MoveOn’s and General Petraeus’s claim, the US-UK invasion, occupation and several psy-, black- and false flag-ops manufactured this sectarian conflict. We recall the bombing of the Golden Dome Mosque in Samarra, which Mike Whitney argues has been used as a “Pearl Harbor-type” event. We recall the two British SAS snipers who were caught out in Basra disguised as locals, captured with explosives in their car. We recall that the possibility of employing the Salvador Option to use Shia death squads against Sunnis had been openly entertained in the US, and the appointment of John Negroponte as US ambassador to Iraq—Negroponte oversaw death squad activity from Honduras in the 1980s—only added to the suspicions of US-Israeli designs for instigating a civil war in Iraq.
Why would the occupier and its neocon-AIPAC underwriters want to manufacture a civil war? At least three reasons. A civil war in Iraq serves the occupation’s interests not only in deflecting attention away from the crimes of the occupier, it furnishes further rationale for their continued presence, to “protect” the civilian population. This ignores, among other things, how US soldier atrocities in Iraq have been systemic and that increasing numbers of soldiers, already stretched, are resisting the war. Thirdly, it sets up the case for the ‘soft partition of Iraq‘, as raised openly by many punters, including columnist David Brooks in today’s New York Times. Dividing Iraq makes it easier to divide the spoils of war and removes the threat (primarily to Israel) of Iraqi regional hegemony.
As veteran correspondent Robert Fisk acknowledged last year in his suspicions about attempts by the occupation authorities to provoke a civil war in Iraq:
The real question I ask myself is: who are these people who are trying to provoke the civil war? Now the Americans will say it’s Al Qaeda, it’s the Sunni insurgents. It is the death squads. Many of the death squads work for the Ministry of Interior. Who runs the Ministry of Interior in Baghdad? Who pays the Ministry of the Interior? Who pays the militia men who make up the death squads? We do, the occupation authorities. I’d like to know what the Americans are doing to get at the people who are trying to provoke the civil war. It seems to me not very much…We’re not hearing of death squads all being arrested…Somebody is operating these people…Is it really the case that all of these Iraqis that fought together for eight years against the Iranians – Shiites and Sunnies together in the long massive murderous Somme-like war between the Iranians and Iraqis — suddenly all want to kill each other?…
We need to look at this story in a different light. That narrative that we’re getting – that there are death squads and that the Iraqis are all going to kill each other, the idea that the whole society is going to commit mass suicide – is not possible, it’s not logical. There is something else going on in Iraq…something is wrong with the narrative we’re being given the press, from the West, from the Americans, from the Iraqi Government.
MoveOn started with a strong antiwar message; after coopting 3 million antiwar activists, it watered down to insipid levels its antiwar agenda and became a front for the Democratic “impeachment is off the table” branch of the War Party. Recalling that most voters gave the Democrats a mandate to end the war, let us hope the MoveOn leadership does not betray its own constituency, never mind the contrived establishment outrage.