How we lost the war

Mar 12, 2003 at 12:00 am

Everything has been decided now, and I’m afraid nothing any of us can do will change it. We are going to war. This nation, for the first time in its history, is going to launch a pre-emptive attack on a much smaller nation and smash it to smithereens.

Doesn’t that make you all proud? By the way — forget the phony St. Patrick’s Day deadline by which Saddam has to “prove” he’s gotten rid of his “weapons of mass destruction,” whatever that means. That’s not any diplomatic deadline at all; it is merely the date by which we will have all our troops and tanks and planes ready to roll.

Then roll we will, even if the United Nations, as seems likely, stands against us; even if the vast majority of world opinion, as seems certain, is against us. George W. Bush decided to take out Saddam a long time ago, and all the diplomatic noises have just been eyewash. We are going to war, and we will very likely “win” too, in the sense that our army will destroy theirs, and thousands of civilians in the process.

Whoopee. Most likely we will also either capture or kill Saddam, thereby elevating this dictator thug to instant Islamic martyr status. However, he could, like our real enemy, Osama, escape into the shadows, which might or might not be worse. In any event, we will find ourselves the occupier of a California-sized nation full of people who hate each other as much as the people in the old Yugoslavia did.

That means that we’ll have years of nation-building to do. Now, Dubya sneered, you may remember, during one of the debates the media claims he “won,” that he wasn’t interested in any “nation-building.”

Well, he damned well better be.

What is happening now — make no mistake about it — is not primarily about Iraq. It is about the most radical change in the way the United States sees its mission in the world. Bush II has decided that we are going to become the modern-day Roman Empire. Every other nation must get with our program.

When they don’t, the Bush Doctrine reserves the right to take them over and remake them into societies we can live with and sell our products to.

That’s what’s happening here. We did that before, in Germany and Japan, and there it worked. We built those nations, which in many ways were already fundamentally Westernized, into stable democracies and allies. Though it took many years and many billions of dollars, that investment paid off.

Now we mean to try it again. Indeed, if it does work, Iraqis will end up living far better than they do under their present thug-in-chief. George Bush, whose command of and interest in foreign affairs was virtually nonexistent as late as 2000, doubtless dreams of a happy, pro-American Iraq, setting an example for the region, showing its people reruns of “Survivor” and “Dallas,” and selling us cheap oil and buying cattle feed.

But that is a silly fantasy. There are no real parallels with World War II. Germany and Japan launched wars of aggression against us, and their systems and ideologies were thoroughly discredited when the war ended. They had no international support. They were also distinct, ancient and ethnically near-homogenous nations.

This time, it is far more likely that the worst part of the war for America will begin when the shooting stops. We launch a war on Iraq at a time when we are widely perceived by many Muslims as being at war against Islam itself. We then will fulfill the prediction of fundamentalist imams who have preached that the “crusaders” were coming to destroy their people and their faith.

We will send untold thousands of angry young Arabs and other Muslims scurrying to our worst enemies. We may destabilize surrounding governments, such as Pakistan, and risk their being toppled by angry fundamentalists.

Worse, we will have at last made the United Nations irrelevant by this show of contempt for that body and for world opinion. For this is not a case of our country being suddenly or deliberately attacked. Nor was it a case, like with Vietnam or Korea, where foreign governments, however flawed, asked for our military assistance.

Diplomatically, invading Iraq will be the equivalent of hitting a hornet’s nest with a baseball bat. Yes, we will kill some hornets. Guess what the survivors will do? Ancient Rome, which regarded the rest of the world in a similar way, lasted for centuries after that republic became an empire, largely because there was no CNN.

But in the end, the barbarians sacked Rome.

Incidentally, nobody really thinks there’s a chance we might invade North Korea, a nation whose leader is crazier and far scarier than old Saddam. That’s because Pyongyang has nuclear weapons, and is about to make more. Don’t you think other nations, like Iran, will get the hint?

Yes, it is a lovely world the president’s men are building, with the aid of a (mostly) disgracefully silent opposition party and an appalling sheeplike media.

So march and protest and wear your NO WAR buttons, but remember that the scariest thing about our leader is that, he, like many reformed drunks who have found religion, is sure that he is right. But I wonder if he knows that when Constantinople, the last remnant of the Roman Empire, fell, its peoples had long since become Christian, just like Dubya. And the Muslims killed them, just the same.


Meanwhile, back in Lansing: Jennifer Granholm deserves high marks for public relations in selling her budget cuts by making people expect they’d be much worse. But wouldn’t you think a Democratic governor might at least try to halt the rollback of our not-very-high income tax rather than to deeply slash our universities, the seedbed of Michigan’s future?

Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. E-mail comments to [email protected]