Saturday, April 15, 2006

Iraq: Mistake or Betrayal

The cleansing power of the Coming Perfect Storm depends on the narratives we adopt about the events. These fables contain the morals and lessons learned.

Bush and Rumsfeld, "the architects of this unprecedented disaster", will not be held accountable, as long as the opposition takes the line that the war in Iraq was a mistake. This may seem paradoxical, but we are all human and we all make plenty of mistakes; mistakes can be forgiven, corrected.

The dynamics of the rhetoric, and the blame game, are perfectly predictable; the narratives could be written by machine. In the Left Blogosphere, there is already a decided split between those, who want to blame Bush et alia for incompetent execution leading to disaster, and those, who desperately want people to see and admit that the very idea of the war was a mistake. And, many on the Right have already successfully rehearsed the idea that it is only the Media's negativity, which is "losing" us this struggle. The Democrats are being set up by the Far Right, to be blamed for "losing Iraq", should we eventually withdraw completely.

If we really wanted to hold Bush, Rumsfeld, et alia "accountable" -- if we, sensibly, wanted to expel them from the Body Politic, as we sensibly should have expelled many of them, after Iran-Contra -- then we would have to take a different, harder narrative tack.

We'd have to say that "they" wanted the war they got -- there was no "mistake", except the one "we" made at the polls. The underlying implication has to be, always, that they do not want what we want, that they do not want the general good of the United States, they are not "loyal".

"We" would have wanted war, if the stories of WMD were true, so that is the story they picked. But, they were lying. They wanted war, for their own reasons, for "unAmerican" reasons, which they have never shared.

They wanted the oil. Not to pump it, and lower gas prices for their voters in Red America, but to avoid pumping it, to strengthen their OPEC friends in Saudi Arabia and Dubai at the expense of true-blue, and true-red, Americans. The threat that they saw in weakening sanctions was that Iraqi oil would return, in full force, to the world market, undermining Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Kingdoms and the American oil industry. They have succeeded. Saudi Arabia is stable; Dubai is buying our ports and building magnificent buildings; Exxon can hand out a $90 million retirement package, after racking up nearly $40 billion (with a "b") profits.

Iraq is weak, today, because they want it weak. A strong Iraq would ask us to leave, and begin pumping oil, ruining their plan. They funnelled the reconstruction money to their friends at Halliburton and Bechtel.

On its surface, the narrative I propose will seem, perhaps too facile. In fact, it can be elaborated and supported with great detail, because it, in fact, fits the known facts quite well. It is certainly more "True" than the Right-wing narrative, which blamed liberals for losing in Vietnam, by "forcing" Nixon to withdraw and by failing to support the troops, etc., and the similar narrative, which will blame the Media and the Democrats, should we eventually withdraw from Iraq.

Every time we say that Iraq was a mistake, we imply forgiveness and inclusion, we imply that Bush and Rumsfeld share our goals and value, though they are human and have mistaken views or deficient administrative skills. The harder tact, the harder narrative to sustain, is to assert that Iraq was not a mistake, it was a betrayal. Iraq was a betrayal of American interests and American values, by people, who do not share them.

Try it on for size. We can all be Michael Moore. And, maybe, we should be.

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