A War in One Act

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Lord Bremer of Falluja, sounding more like Montbatten in India in the last days of the Raj, has said that American troops will leave Iraq if "the interim government asks them to go." Colin Powell has repeated that pledge. This follows the violent execution of the private American contractor, Nick Berg, by a gang of terrorists who will now claim that they are winning. Linked to Al —Queda, they could well be the Iraqi future Bush said he wanted so desperately to prevent.

How far are we from the glory days of "Shlock and Gore" when America unleashed its attack of Iraq, covered in the field by American journalists "embedded" with the troops so America could witness triumphant colonialism in action. But where are the trumpeters of the American empire now, the Robert Kaplans, the David Brooks, the Richard Perles, and the William Kristols, who proclaimed "the new American century?" Well, we have seen how the new American century begins, and it is with the sado-masochistic photographs of Iraqi prisoners in total humiliation and degradation. But is Paul Wolfowitz chocking on any of this? No. Rather he has just presented the latest bill of $50 billion for the carnage in the name of "exporting democracy," as William Safire calls it. We can fully expect John Kerry to vote for it, unless he is too busy flying around the country denouncing the policies he has supported.

It is easy to call for Donald Rumsfeldu2018s resignation after he did what Kerry voted for him to do. The "tricky part," to use the title of a new play about sexual abuse, was to have voted against it in the first place. But that would have taken political courage and a willingness to stand for what one claims to believe.

Bush, looking at the polls and at Kerry coming at him fast, will undoubtedly attempt to reverse course while pretending he is not. Going from "Mission Accomplished" to "Mission Impossible" in so short a time should tell us something about this pathetic potentate, who throws away lives as though they were baseballs at a Texas Rangers game. The sight of Nick Berg’s father and brother weeping on the lawn in front of their house will be the photograph by which this administration will be remembered, just as the photograph of the young girl wailing over the dead student after the Kent State massacre came to symbolize the Nixon administration.

And when Donald Rumsfeld says that the investigations and coming court marshals show that we are civilized while the terrorists are evil thugs, he fails to mention the all but forgotten fact that the CIA hired Saddam Hussein as an assassin to murder the Iraqi ruler, Abdul Karrem Kassim, putting him up in an apartment in Cairo. But Saddam failed in his mission, making his famous "swim of escape." When he returned to take power by murdering everyone in his way, the CIA looked on in approval, only to learn after he was the dictator of Iraq, that his role model was Joseph Stalin.

From the beginning, America was never in Iraq with clean hands. And with profits falling at Bechtel, once headed by George Schultz, who remains a board member, and currently by Riley Bechtel, who is now a major advisor to Bush, and Halliburton on the verge of bankruptcy because of the acquisition of a company that was the target of asbestos law suits, all on Dick Cheney’s watch as CEO, what better way to revive their fortunes than a war with Iraq so they could clean up with the rebuilding contracts that would reverse their fortunes? Schultz even wrote an Op Ed piece in the Washington Post saying as much, when, arguing for war, he pointed out the opportunities of rebuilding a post-war Iraq. Throw Halliburton subsidiary, KBR, into the pot and you have the sumptuous meal of war profits that was the basis for this enterprise all along.

Nick Berg was the complete innocent in all of this. Once, on a bus, he lent his computer to an Al-Queda operative without knowing his identity. Then, traveling from Israel and then Jordan, he entered Iraq with the hope that he could make a contribution in rebuilding the country. With "Israel" stamped on his passport, he went around the country until his capture. The sight of him in his orange jump suit, saying his name and the names of the members of his family, will haunt us all forever. He was beheaded, the way the Mahdi had Gordon murdered in cold blood, the savage retribution for the mindless, self-righteousness of colonialism disguised as "the white man’s burden" or the "exporting of democracy." And with new Madhis springing up, you can count on more of this.

The least we can do is to export to Iraq that pack of phonies that lured Nick Berg to his bloody death in Iraq and who now say, "Oh, we told him to leave." Told him to leave? When they are telling all of America that we have to stay? Unless, of course, the Iraqis ask us to leave. And now Rumsfeld, paying a surprise visit to Iraq, has said, "It’s more fun here than in Washington. " More fun? Surely, he is joking. Or is he waiting for the second act? But there are no second acts in America. This war is over in one.

Richard Cummings [send him mail] taught international law at the Haile Selassie I University and before that, was Attorney-Advisor with the Office of General Counsel of the Near East South Asia region of U.S.A.I.D, where he was responsible for the legal work pertaining to the aid program in Israel, Jordan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is the author of a new novel, The Immortalists, as well as The Pied Piper — Allard K. Lowenstein and the Liberal Dream, and the comedy, Soccer Moms From Hell. He holds a Ph.D. in Social and Political Sciences from Cambridge University and is a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers. He is writing a new book, The Road To Baghdad — The Money Trail Behind The War In Iraq.

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