Waiting For Saddam: Iraq from WWI to GWI
The Goal: Operation Iraqi Liberation

Samuel Beckett,
Since I began writing the Never Fight a Land War in Asia essays, US forces have entered Iraq and begun their operation to depose Saddam Hussein through the only means of political change Iraq has ever known: violence. Who says that Washington doesn't understand the culture in Baghdad?

I say it. Others say it, too, but they can get their own damned essays. Let's talk more about what I think.

The American media spoon-feeds us hand-picked evidence that Iraqis are finally getting around to that "cheering the conquering heroes" we were promised many times before the war started. With these glimmers of hope for a happy ending, more and more of the anti-war camp is running out of things to say. That's not a problem I ever have.

Before the invasion, The Voice of Reason had presented one particularly bleeding-heart friendly tagline, and now it echoes loudly.

Should we leave the Iraqis to their misery?


Most Americans respond to this challenge because they do care about the misery of the Iraqi people. They also believe in the mission of exporting democracy. God bless 'em.

Thousands of Americans are willing to spill their blood on the sands of Iraq in a sincere effort to create a better world for people they've never met, and know little or nothing about.

That's profoundly moving.

It's also profoundly sad given the bleak prospects for this vision of democracy being realized in Iraq. It's profoundly outrageous that America has given up so much in pursuit of this noble goal — huge costs, our diplomatic credibility, and most importantly, the lives our our soldiers and many innocent Iraqis — yet this goal is probably not even an important objective for the politicians who initiated the military action.

The latter assertion — the pessimistic view of politicians — really shouldn't need any further explanation at this point, should it? Actually, as a pretext for such a grandiose statement, it should. But, I'll cover elsewhere. Suffice to say, George W. Bush makes a rather unlikely poster boy for democracy.

Here I'm going to explore the first assertion. Rosy prophecies of Hamiltonian Utopia in Baghdad should probably be flushed now before the kids find them floating upside down in the tank. I'm not saying that the Iraqi people aren't capable of understanding democracy — shit, if the people who pack the aisles at Wrestlemania can understand democracy, it's really not a tough subject.

Many pundits have observed that the Iraqi people are just as dedicated to democracy as the American people. I hope the Iraqi people want democracy a great deal more than that, or they are seriously fucked. The last three years have taught us — once again — that some people see democracy as an impediment when it interferes with their agenda, and others see it as a luxury that can be enthusiastically sacrificed during any hysteria-inducing crisis.

The Iraqi people are fully capable of creating, embracing and maintaining a democracy that would make Jefferson proud, but Iraq is an environment essentially hostile to it. Planting democracy in Iraq without considering its political climate, is a lot like planting palm trees without considering that you're in Antarctica.

I have this weird fixation with analogies that relate things to Antarctica. I hope I get over it.

Yankee Go Home

The idea that America is going to be the avatar of democracy for Iraq is preposterous. In two centuries of foreign policy, the United States hasn't once delivered freedom and democracy to anyone. It hasn't even been particularly competent delivering freedom and democracy to its own citizens — too often requiring a court order to do so. But America's shortcomings as an exporter of its own ideals haven't really been demonstrated, because America hasn't ever made an authentic effort to export its ideals.

Maybe this will be different.

Maybe not.

In the entire history of Iraq, no nation has ever demonstrated an interest in — or even an awareness of — the misery of the Iraqi people that was anything other than an excuse to secure proximity to the oil resources of the Iraqi people. An exception that deserves notice is Israel, which made great efforts to liberate the oppressed Iraqi Jews by securing them permission to emigrate from Iraq.

Let's take a little tour of Iraq's history. You'll see a couple of overarching themes.

First, as I just stated, foreign governments wouldn't pay any attention whatsoever to Iraq, were it not for its oil. Democracy in Iraq will only be supported by the Anglo-American petrocracy if it enhances their access to that oil. It might enhance that access, which would make the Corporate Oligarchy happy, or it might impeded that access, which historically means that it — democracy — has got to go.

"If [they] grew carrots, we wouldn't give a damn,"
— Lawrence Koth, former US Assistant Defense Secretary
(Actually the quote is about Kuwait, but you get the idea.)

Second, there's never been a blueprint for what Iraq itself is supposed to be, much less what a free Iraq is supposed to be. There's no reason a blueprint can't be created, but it should probably be created by people who know something about the Iraqis. That rules out almost all Americans. It certainly rules out an American who had made only 3 international trips — not counting a few visits to Mexico — before becoming President.

The danger lies in the fact that we Americans think we know something about Iraq.

We do know that the Iraqi people would like us to tell them, "Saddam Hussein has been deposed." Most of us don't realize that they expect us to follow that good news by adding, "So we'll be on our way. Ciao!"

Simplistic, sentimental statements about "misery" and "liberation" only make sense in the Sesame Street Universe in which the Voice of Reason wants you to believe. However, if you acquire enough information about who the Iraqi people are and where they're coming from &mdash and if you have any understanding of it — you'll see the foolish arrogance of the current course of action.

This collection of essays covers Iraq's history from World War I to Gulf War I. That means it ends in 1979.

The first Gulf War started in 1990.

Yes and no.

Wars frequently go by multiple names. In this case, what we call GWI is called GWII by much of the rest of the world. What we call the Iran/Iraq war is GWI to them. I'm going to use this alternate naming in concert with a general theme of looking beyond American prejudice and mythology surrounding Iraq, and its second Gulf War.

So read this stuff. The history of Iraq is not only of immediate importance in world affairs, but it's pretty fucking entertaining.

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