Most of us who were old enough to read in 2003 can remember the invasion of Iraq. Not only was the press saturated with propaganda about Saddam’s apocalyptic designs, but all “educated” commentary echoed Washington’s hypocritical outrage over their terror, their criminality, and their evil. Eight brutal years have passed since that tragic night, more than enough time for us to reflect on our deeds, our mission to usher in an era of “democracy”.
If the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians, the scores of refugees,the destruction of historical monuments, and the bombing of crucial infrastructure doesn’t give us an authoritative answer as to where our occupation is heading, the plans underway right now surely can. This May, the State Department released an internal document titled Department of State Planning for the Transition to a Civilian-led Mission in Iraq which detailed the methods whereby the US military will transfer the responsibilities of civilian “security” over to the State Department on October 1, 2011.
One of the major themes of this “sensitive but unclassified” document is that this shift in power will take place with the approval of the government of Iraq. Several statements were made about how the cooperation of the government of Iraq (not Iraq’s population) is essential to foster what the State Department calls a “bilateral defense relationship”. Now unless Iraq sits on chocolate reserves instead of oil and the US drops party balloons on people instead of bombs, one cannot possibly accept the idea that this relationship is bilateral or defensive. In fact, the words of the document point to an unambiguous campaign of State aggression that is being carried out in the most unilateral and reckless fashion. A real bilateral agreement would not allow this asymmetrical relationship to persist where an occupying superpower is dictating the coordinates of a future state while a puppet regime follows along obsequiously against the overwhelming demands of the Iraqi population. A real bilateral deal would actually take into consideration the grievances of the Iraqi population (you know those brown people who are giving American “diplomats” such a hard time by resisting our hegemony). Strangely, this study produced by the Inspector General lacks a single word that would imply that a population even exists in Iraq outside of America’s clients, a stark indication of the mentality that comes with privilege.
Bloodlessly, the study goes on about establishing “approximately 17,000 personnel . . . at 15 sites throughout the country”, managing 370 civilian police in 18 provinces, deploying more than 7,000 security office agents, and just in case an Iraqi civilian thought about raising his head, “two permanent consulates in Basra and Erbil”. Here’s my simple question: how can this process constitute any kind of meaningful transition where the occupying force is not only staying but enlarging the police state apparatus?
The answers to questions like this are rather straightforward and they reveal, in pretty graphic terms, our utter contempt for any kind of democracy in the Middle East. You don’t have to be an Ivy League historian to recall President Obama’s muted reaction as the whirlwinds of revolt swept through Baghdad and Mosul on March 7th, a revolt that led to the extrajudicial killing of 29 peaceful protesters. This same silence was replicated this past week when Obama hosted a secret meeting with Bahrain’s Crown Prince, consciously choosing not to mention the brutal crackdown on peaceful demonstrators and medical workers. As I write this essay, scores of Bahraini medical workers are standing military trial for simply fulfilling their civic duty by treating injured protesters. Alas, innocent people are being slaughtered in the streets as our President and his dictator friends make a game out of life through the proliferation of weapons, the waging of wars, and the criminalization of compassion. And the repression in Bahrain, like that in Iraq, reflects this intellectually bankrupt policy of violence.
Despite these grim realities, it’s important to note that violence of this brand is not a new phenomenon and there have always been popular struggles of resistance to push back against these arbitrary exercises of force, this hubris of the State. We see it everywhere, from the occupied territories in Palestine to the “Red” forests of India, ordinary people will not accept this philosophy of plunder. The people of Iraq have had enough of our imperial project which is why the objectives of the State Department’s study will only add to the, using the State Department’s term, “difficult security environment” of the country. Rather than treating the people of Iraq like children who need guardians, or beggars who need aid, the US government should be paying every Iraqi family devastated by this illegal war reparations. So as we raise our clubs above their heads, construct our embassies, train their police, capitalize on their natural resources, and oppress their people, we should understand that an empire can build an armored city while entirely unaware of a marginalized people diligently, but surely, building themselves.