April 10, 2020
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An Empire Of Corpses?

The anti-war upsurge indicates that a new American century is impossible

An Empire Of Corpses?
illustration by Jayachandran
An Empire Of Corpses?
"I left these shores, at Vancouver, a red-hot imperialist. I wanted the American eagle to go screaming into the Pacific.... I said to myself, here are a people who have suffered for three centuries. We can make them as free as ourselves.... But I have thought some more, since then, and I have read carefully the Treaty of Paris, and I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the Philippines. We have gone to conquer, not to redeem.... And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land."
Mark Twain, The New York Herald, October 15, 1900

Operation "Iraqi freedom", which was to stun the world with its "breathtaking speed", has run aground—even as it continues to wreak death and destruction on Iraq. The most advanced military machine history has ever seen: a force of over 250,000 soldiers, backed by satellites, aircraft carriers, bombers, missiles and all the rest of the instruments of death on which the sole superpower in the world spends a staggering $400 billion plus a year—all of it, brutally and illegally unleashed against the war-devastated and sanctions-crippled Third World country. And all there is to show for it is the capture of the tiny port town of Umm Qasr, which lies smack on the Kuwaiti border.

American and British military and civilian officials, who were promising the world to ‘shock and awe’ Iraq into submission within a few days, if not hours, are now speaking of weeks. "It’s important for the American people to realise that this war has just begun," George W. was proclaiming on day six of the invasion. The American president’s explanation for the "coalition’s" failure to live up to its promises was as quaint as we’ve all come to expect from him: "It [the war] may seem longer because of all the action on TV," he said.

Retired US Army General Wesley Clark, a cnn analyst and former nato supreme allied commander, had a less eccentric, if considerably more plausible interpretation. The scenario of a quick coalition victory "is not going to happen", he told the American satellite TV network, because of a simple fact: "The liberation didn’t quite occur. They didn’t uprise."

Not only did the Iraqis, who have little love for Saddam Hussein and his regime, not "uprise [sic]", they resisted. "Iraqi freedom" American style is nothing but conquest and subjugation, just as the great American writer, Mark Twain, said it was—over a 100 years ago. A hundred years of experience—from Cuba, the Philippines and Puerto Rico in 1898 to Panama in 1989—is quite sufficient learning time. And was it not those self-same self-styled liberators who, in 1991, bombed and killed tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers, on Iraqi soil, as they were fleeing from Kuwait. Was it not a senior member of the previous "dovish" US administration, Madeleine Albright, who openly said that the deaths of 200,000 Iraqi children was "an acceptable cost" for the "containment" of Saddam Hussein?

The obdurate Iraqi resistance has altered the course of the war. And so has the world’s opposition. On February 15, and before a single shot had been fired, over 30 million had marched, across the globe, in opposition to the then planned war against Iraq—a scene unprecedented in history. It is this upsurge of popular opposition, which continues to this day with demonstrations in the very heart of Washington, which may account for the "coalition’s" initial hesitation to unleash the full murderous wrath of the Pentagon’s "Shock and Awe" doctrine. In the words of its author, US military strategist Harlan Ullman, this doctrine is inspired by the effects of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and "the comatose and glazed expressions of survivors of the great bombardments of World War I and the attendant horrors and death of trench warfare". Not surprisingly, with such grisly source of inspiration, the doctrine recommends "nearly incomprehensible levels of massive destruction".

Scott Ritter, the top UN weapons inspector in Iraq until 1998, predicted in a radio interview in Lisbon on Tuesday, "The US is going to leave Iraq with its tail between its legs, defeated." He insisted, "It is a war we cannot win."

But as much as I would like to believe it, it seems too much to hope for. Nor, sadly, does it seem at all likely that the US and Britain will come to do "the decent thing": stop the carnage and put the whole affair back where it belongs, at the UN. The Bush administration is just too war-hungry, wholly committed to its megalomaniac drive to secure American world domination for decades to come. What we are most likely to see, and indeed, we are beginning to see, are "nearly incomprehensible levels of massive destruction".

Yet, as the American Century which began in Cuba, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines in 1898 is culminated today in Iraq, the stiffness of the resistance of the Iraqi people and the unprecedented upsurge of a global popular opposition to a militaristic American imperial dominion, it seems to me, are powerful indications that a new American century is impossible. The only way the New American Century hooligans’ "blueprint for maintaining global US pre-eminence" can be realised is through global mass murder. An empire of corpses is rather difficult to conceive.

(The author is managing editor, Al-Ahram Weekly, Cairo.)

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