From the US Congress Press Gallery, I listened to an American president, George W. Bush, deliver the State of the Union address, his third to the nation. I watched as he spoke the reactions of his listeners on both sides of the isle. Democrats and Republicans were showing their agreement and disagreement in body language from standing ovations to head shaking and smirking.
The most dividing issue, of course, was Iraq. Questions asked these days include: Whose fault it was? Who voted for the war and against it? What to do about it? Will sending more troops pacify Iraq and speed up the eventual withdrawal, or complicate the problem and increase the American casualties and expenses?
Who voted for and against the resolution authorizing the Iraq war is relevant for three reasons: 1. The Democrat win in the November Congress elections showed how important the Iraq issue is to voters, and how alarmed the public perception of the situation is and its low-grade evaluation of government performance. 2. An earlier than usual run for 2008 presidential election brought candidates carrying anti-escalation or anti-war message. 3. The new Congress is overwhelmingly against the administration decision to send 21,500 extra troops to Iraq.
As I told the intellectuals I met in a Washington press visit organized by the National Democratic Institute, the State of the Union address should not be confined to the American audience. The whole world is interested in what the emperor has to say since the US empire is the co-author of world geopolitical map and modern history after World War II, especially since becoming the world’s solo “mover and shaker” following the sudden demise of the Soviet Union. Still, this world-police president is not talking to us in his most comprehensive and all-important speech of the year.
The Democrats, too, fail in addressing our concerns. In his response to the State of the Union address, Sen. Jim Webb, who has the credibility of being a veteran with a son-solider in Baghdad, spoke eloquently about how America should pull out instead of escalating its military presence in Iraq. He counted the human and material costs. But they were all American. Like the president, and almost every decision-maker I read and listened to during this visit, it was all about their troops and dollars.
The deafening silence in this wild and loud circus is about Iraqi fatalities and cost. Hundreds are killed daily because of this unnecessary war, billions of dollars in collateral damage and lost revenues are incurred weekly, and a whole country is slipping into the Dark-Age tunnel of civil war. Still no politician in America seems to care about these losses.
The excuse I was given? Americans don’t care! When you ask what the loss of the Vietnam War was, they’d say 50,000. Those are their dead but no mention of the three million Vietnamese killed by those 50,000 and their mates.
Most Americans today believe the war on Iraq was a disastrous mistake. That is the opposite of their position before and after the fall of Baghdad. Even then, the causalities and collateral damage were huge but on the Iraqi side only. Now, after years of fighting back, the Iraqis, like the Vietnamese and Afghans before them, are turning the gun barrel against the invaders. Yes, their losses are much greater, but at least the occupiers are feeling the heat, too.
I am always happy when people finally come to their senses, but why now and how? Many Americans still believe US propaganda that it invaded Iraq to search and destroy nuclear weapons, topple a dictator and spread freedom and democracy. When things went sour, they believed it was all others’ mistakes — neighbors and Iraqis. “We didn’t know this was a nation of killers,” an American friend complained. “You people are used to killing each other for ages! We came with an open hand and heart, but you don’t deserve our kindness! You don’t deserve our help! We are out of here”
I remind these people of an old American rule: If you break it, you own it! You go riding and shooting in a china shop, hang the manger, dismiss the staff, insist on running the business your way, but when everything goes banana you blame it on everyone and everything but yourself, then run!
Iraq was one piece before you rode in, Mr. Cowboy. Sunnis, Shiites, Christians and Jews lived side by side in harmony for centuries. Anything that happened during your occupation is your responsibility. The Ottoman Empire ruled Iraq for four hundred years — in peace. In four years, you managed to turn it into a slaughterhouse. So, don’t tell me now it is “them,” because even if it was, under the Geneva Conventions, it is your job, as an occupying power, to provide security and maintain law and order in the territories under your rule — no excuses accepted.