JO - The awe is long gone, and the shock only gets worse
The awe is long gone, and the shock only gets worse
Saturday, March 17, 2007
It will be five years next Tuesday since the world was introduced to "shock and awe". That was when George Bush the Second, egged on by his group of self-righteous and puffed-up neo-con co-conspirators led by the perpetually dyspeptic Dick Cheney, decided to unleash the latest in military weapons and tactics on a small, hitherto moderately well-off country.
Iraq had spent the preceding decade under stifling sanctions imposed by the United Nations because of its behaviour towards ethnic, political and religious groups which, in the view of the notorious leader, Saddam Hussein, threatened the stability of his regime.
Iraq was, of course, itself no stranger to shock and awe. This is the place which we once knew as Mesopotamia, where, perhaps 10,000 years ago, human beings first gathered in farming villages and later, in the world's first city-states.
The land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers is known as the Fertile Crescent, and the rich soil and agreeable climatic conditions made the efforts of those early pioneers worthwhile. The territory was criss-crossed by Akkadians, Sumerians, Babylonians, Parthians and Assyrians, who all engaged in bloody armed clashes over the centuries. As the 19th century approached its end, the ruling power was the Ottoman Empire, which by World War I had run out of steam.
Then it was the turn of what is perhaps the greatest empire the world has ever seen - the British. They took over the disparate factions in that ancient land, and after employing their own version of shock and awe, were repaid in kind. A revolution ended Britain's hold in 1958, and now it was the turn of home-grown shockers and awe-imposers.
The Ba'athist Party took over from the dissolute satraps the British had installed, and a young operative whose only ideology was how to gain and retain power soon emerged as the top dog. It was Saddam Hussein who introduced a modern generation of Iraqis, Iranians, Kurds and Kuwaitis to shock and awe.
He attacked Iran with his not inconsequential military, but after eight years the exercise proved to be a disaster for both nations, which bled population, resources and cash until, totally exhausted, they were forced to call a halt. But Saddam wasn't satisfied, and attacked his southern neighbour, Kuwait, on the spurious claim that it was stealing Iraq's oil by drilling its oil-wells sideways.
TWIN TOWERS... When they came down on that fateful September day, George II vowed to go after the people who harboured and sheltered bin Laden
This provoked all the powerful western countries into stopping the effort, and that war was short but very effective. Saddam was halted in his tracks, and the heavy sanctions the world then imposed cost Iraqis dearly by any measure you can apply - in the country's mainstay, oil production; in agricultural, commercial and industrial activity; in money, and in their very health and welfare. The US and Britain conducted daily military flights over the "no-fly" zones they had declared, and over time destroyed almost every important military facility in Iraq.
Iraq's military lost considerable numbers of fighters and much of its material in the first Gulf war, and during the period of sanctions could not keep what it was left with in good repair, let alone replace them with more modern equipment. As for morale and discipline - well, that had evaporated long before.
But this didn't matter to the Bush League, which exploited the Al Qaeda attacks of 9/11 to launch its long-desired war against Saddam. They manipulated intelligence their spy services supplied; twisted situations to suit their bias; manufactured information about chemical and nuclear weapons, ruined the careers of principled military officers and public servants who dared to question their premises for going to war; and told actual lies about supposed connections between Osama bin Laden and Saddam.
When the Twin Towers came down on that fateful September day, George II vowed to go after the people who harboured and sheltered bin Laden - the Taliban in Afghanistan. He received overwhelming support from the rest of the world, but very quickly scaled down that effort in order to divert forces to Iraq.
The upshot is that the new, supposedly democratic Afghan government controls hardly anything outside the capital, Kabul, the Taliban have regained their influence, the opium trade is hotter than ever, and Iraq, which until that time was free of fundamentalist terrorists, is now crawling with them.
The US military has now been in Iraq longer than it spent in World War II; well over 3000 young Americans have lost their lives and tens of thousands of others have gone home with all manner of grave injuries. No one is sure just how many, but perhaps as many as half-a-million Iraqis have died in the daily litany of sectarian clashes and bomb attacks, not to mention the appalling lack of clean water, reliable electricity, adequate food supplies or drugs and medical treatment.
It is, in short, a total disaster, which Bush has turned out to be quite adept at - just think of the mess that still exists in New Orleans after Katrina - but not if you listen to Georgie-Porgie, Vice-president Darth Vader and the rest of the merry band of brigands who remain quite oblivious to the shock and awe their countrymen and women sent their way in the election last November.
To this day these cynical, cavalier and totally unprincipled individuals continue to spout unrealistic and ridiculous characterisations of the war in the manner of Adolf Hitler during his last demented days in his underground bunker. They try to snow the members of Congress to sign more blank cheques and to pour more young American lives into that Sinkhole on the Gulf.
Their discourse still link Saddam with 9/11, and their "war on terror" ignores the role of the deep purses of Saudi Arabia in that nefarious occurrence.
It all makes you feel as if you've just sat through a full-court presentation of Wagner's operatic celebration of Teutonic mythology, the Ring Cycle, and are now witnessing the dramatic dénouement, Die Götterdämmerung - The Twilight of the Gods, when the chief god, Wotan, the lesser gods and the Valkyries, or Rhine maidens, all disappear into the mystic Rhine in an orgy of pyrotechnics.