THE JOYS OF EMPIRE
Next month, Chalmers Johnson, the eminent historian who wrote Blowback: the Costs and Consequences of American Empire, will publish a new book entitled The Sorrows of Empire. Johnson argues that the US's current imperial adventure is doomed to failure. Subject populations will not embrace a conception of freedom predicated on the preeminence of US corporate interests, and the financial burden of the enterprise will ultimately be more than the US economy can bear.
But Sunday showed that there are joys of empire as well as sorrows of empire.
Americans awoke on Sunday, Dec. 14, to the news that Saddam Hussein had been captured on the evening of the day before in Iraq (at about 9:30 a.m. PST on Saturday, Dec. 13) in a "spider hole" (as Gen. Sanchez called it) beneath the courtyard of a small rural dwelling south of Tikrit, where the fallen Iraqi tyrant was born about 65 years ago. The Iraqis listening to the initial announcement by Jerry Bremer erupted in joyful shouting. A few hours later President Bush made a televised statement from the White House, saying: "The capture of this man was crucial to the rise of a free Iraq."
But will the capture of the man designated by the Pentagon as the "Ace of Spades" end the Iraqi resistance? Will the Iraqi people now embrace the Bush administration's conception of "freedom"?
US public relations campaigns have demonized the brutal dictator of Iraq in selling the Iraq war to the American people. Saddam has been portrayed as the quintessence of evil, a malefic force, an evil genius who maintained power in Iraq through a regime of torture and terror while plotting diabolically to obtain "weapons of mass destruction" that would enable him to gratify his malevolent desire to inflict massive death and destruction upon the United States, a nation he is said to hate because, as George W. Bush put it, "we are good."
But of course it was not Hussein's crimes against his own people, the danger he posed to his neighbors, or the non-existent potential he had to destroy the United States that motivated the US war on Iraq. Nor was it his interest in developing weapons of mass destruction, which the US was happy to tolerate and even encourage during the 1980s when Iraq appeared to be a bulwark protecting Middle Eastern oilfields from the Islamic Revolution fomented in Iran by the Ayatollah Khomeini.
And in the eight months since the fall of Baghdad on April 9, it has not been a love of Saddam Hussein that has been motivating the Iraqi resistance to US occupation. This is not a "guerrilla war waged by holdouts loyal to ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein," as Tacoma reporter Mike Gilbert asserted in Sunday's News Tribune while attempting to explain the destruction of a $2-million Stryker reconnaissance vehicle on Saturday by an "improvised explosive device."
Interviews with resisters that have appeared in recent weeks in the Western press (see, for example, an interview with "Abu Mujahid" with a UPI reporter, published in the Washington Times on Dec. 9) have made it clear that it is a desire to bring an end to US occupation that is motivating those fighting against US forces and their allies in Iraq, not support for the widely despised Hussein.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, ranking Democrat on the US Senate Intelligence Committee (and great-grandson of the oil billionaire who was once America's richest man), said on Sunday: "Given the location and circumstances of his capture, it makes it clear that Saddam was not managing the insurgency, and that he had very little control or influence. That is significant and disturbing because it means the insurgents are not fighting for Saddam, they're fighting against the United States."
So how will the coalition forces and their leaders in the White House and the Pentagon explain continued resistance to their rule, now that Saddam Hussein has been captured? President Bush's statement on Sunday was followed within minutes by enormous explosions in downtown Baghdad, as if to announce that the capture of the Iraqi dictator did not mean an end to resistance. The elimination of the possibility of Saddam's return may even widen the resistance's appeal to Iraqis.
The capture of Saddam Hussein may be a cause for rejoicing. But will these joys of empire be short-lived? How will the US explain continued resistance to the occupation?
The United States of America has no business running Iraq. United for Peace of Pierce County continues to urge that the US renounce its dangerous and un-American doctrine of preemptive war and turn over stewardship of Iraq to the only international institution that can claim any legitimacy in the current situation: the United Nations. The consequences of the alternative to this approach are described in the subtitle of Chalmers Johnson's new book: "Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic."
Sources: C-SPAN; CNN; CBS; NBC; FOX News; News Tribune (Tacoma) (Dec. 14, 2003); San Jose Mercury News (Dec. 14, 2003); Washington Times [UPI] (Dec. 9, 2003); Le Monde (Paris) (Dec. 6, 2003); New York Times (Dec. 5, 2003); Foreign Policy in Focus (Nov. 20, 2003); Chalmers Johnson, Blowback: the Costs and Consequences of American Empire (Henry Holt, 2000); Chalmers Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (Metropolitan Books, 2004).