And so year five begins . . .
Today marks the beginning of the fifth year of the endless war of death and destruction that is destroying Iraq and its people. It is an appropriate time to focus attention on all those responsible for this atrocity, starting with the entire Bush administration, the neoconservative clique that surrounds the administration, the war cheerleaders in the so-called ‘think tanks’ like the American Enterprise Institute, and the pundits in the media who provided the intellectual cover for them. Robert Parry looks at how “the four-year-old conflict resulted from a systemic failure in Washington – from the White House, to congressional Republicans and Democrats, to an insular national news media, to Inside-the-Beltway think tanks.”
New York Times columnist Tom Friedman has to be one of the worst culprits of the pundits in the media and Matt Taibbi of the Village Voice has repeatedly skewered both his ideas and his writing style. The latest salvo lobbed by Taibbi is well worth reading as he points to how the apologists for wars are always alert to the need to fix blame for past war failures on everyone but themselves, and to lay the foundations to justify future wars. He points out that Tom Friedman is always ahead of the curve when it comes to the workings of this particular propaganda machine.
What we have to remember about America’s half-baked propaganda machine is that, dumb as it is, it always keeps its eye on the ball. The war in Iraq is lost, everyone knows that, but there are future wars to think about. When a war goes wrong, the reason can never that the invasion was simply a bad, immoral decision, a hopelessly f——up idea that even a child could have seen through. No, we always have to make sure that the excuse for the next war is woven into the autopsy of the current military failure. That’s why to this day we’re still hearing about how Vietnam was lost because a) the media abandoned the war effort b) the peace movement undermined the national will and c) the public, and the Pentagon, misread the results of the Tet offensive, seeing defeat where there actually was a victory.
After a few decades of that, we were ready to go to war again — all we had to do, we figured, was keep the cameras away from the bloody bits, ignore the peace movement, and blow off any and all bad news from the battlefield. And we did all of these things for quite a long time in Iraq, but, maddeningly, Iraq still turned out to be a failure.
That left the war apologists in a bind. If after fixing all of the long-held Vietnam excuses Iraq could still blow up in our faces, that must mean that we not only misjudged Iraq, but we were wrong about why Vietnam failed, too. Now, if we’re ever going to pull one of these stunts again, we’re going to need to come up with a grander, even more outlandish excuse for why both wars were horrible, bloody failures.
. . .
[B]oth Vietnam and Iraq failed not because they were stupid, vicious occupations of culturally alien populations that despised our very presence and were willing to sacrifice scads of their own lives to send us home. No, the problem was that we didn’t make an effort to “re-evaluate tax and spending policies” and “shift resources” into an “all-out” war effort.
The notion that our problem in Iraq is a resource deficit is pure, unadulterated madness. Our enemies don’t have airplanes or armor. They are fighting us with garage-door openers and fifty year-old artillery shells, sneaking around barefoot in the middle of the night around to plant roadside bombs. Anytime anyone dares oppose us in the daylight, we vaporize them practically from space using weapons that cost more than the annual budgets of most Arab countries to design. We outnumber the active combatants on the other side by at least five to one. This year, we will spend more on the military than the rest of the world combined — more than six hundred billion dollars. And yet Tom Friedman thinks the problem in Iraq is that we ordinary Americans didn’t tighten our belts enough to support the war effort.
. . .
This being tax season, I want you all to think about this Friedman column as you prepare your returns, because I’ll bet anything he’s surfing ahead of a trend here. If the next president is John McCain, or even if it isn’t, you can be damn sure that we’re going to hear a lot about how we blew Iraq because there weren’t enough troops or resources shifted into Iraq.
You’re going to hear that we didn’t have money to pay for body armor, when the reality is that the reason troops didn’t have body armor in recent years is that congressmen robbed the operations and maintenance accounts of the defense budget to pay for earmarks/pork projects (they took $9 billion in pork and earmarks out of the O&M allotment in 2005, for instance). They robbed the part of the budget that paid for ordinary soldiers‚ gear so they wouldn’t have to touch the F-22 Raptor, the CVN(X) aircraft carrier, or any of the other mega-expensive and mostly useless weapons programs. I mean, think about it — how else can you spend $600 billion dollars on the military every year and not have body armor for the soldiers deployed at war? Somewhere, someone who doesn’t need it has to be sucking up that money.
But trust me, the myth is going to be that you didn’t cough up enough for the war. It’s your fault we failed, not Tom Friedman’s.
I think Taibbi is right, but only partially, that the American people are being set up to be blamed for the Iraq failure. Another blame target is the Iraqi people themselves who are increasingly being portrayed as being ungrateful for the ‘sacrifices’ the US has made on their behalf and as lazy and incompetent and corrupt and not worthy of the great gift of democracy that god (through his chosen agent George Bush) generously decided to bestow on them.
POST SCRIPT: Harrison and Simon
This anniversary is too depressing, so I thought I would try and provide an uplifting note by linking to George Harrison and Paul Simon together singing two songs that each had made famous. Here comes the sun is of hopeful new beginnings and the other Homeward bound is about the yearning for home and the little things in life that signify normalcy. (Thanks to Crooks and Liars.)