"Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."
I can't tell you how many times I've had a conversation with other
activist veterans from "The Sixties" (roughly, from the Civil Rights
struggles of the late-1950s through the anti-Vietnam War mid-'70s),
where variations of the same unbelieving lament is expressed:
"I never thought I'd have to do this all over again!
"I'm marching in the streets against yet another lying, incompetent
administration. I thought we Americans would have learned history's
lesson by now that absent an imminent war coming our way, we should
not invade and occupy other countries, especially when we don't
speak their language and haven't got a clue about the social,
religious and ethnic complexities at work in those cultures.
"If we invade and occupy under those circumstances, the best we can
hope for is a quagmire, a stalemated war that seems to go on
forever. I thought our leaders would have figured out that
nationalists under attack have more endurance for such wars than we
have for fighting and not 'winning' them."
Certainly, we activist veterans learned those
lessons, as, in a sense, did Bush#1, who got in and out of Iraq
quickly in the first Gulf War. But the current crop of America's
leaders -- the reckless BushCheneyRoveRumsfeld crew, their GOP
lackeys in the Congress, and the corporate-owned mass-media outlets
-- behave as if history has no relevance to their actions. No wonder
so many American historians and ordinary citizens rate Bush as the
worst president of all time.
'NAM & IRAQ -- A WORLD OF QUAGMIRES
In Vietnam, a small country that had successfully resisted invaders
for centuries, the technologically-superior U.S. military was fought
to a standstill by a rag-tag guerrilla army that was disciplined,
determined, infinitely creative -- and, most importantly, fighting
on their own soil.
Five American presidents had been told by their best Pentagon and
Southeast Asia experts that there was no way that the U.S. military
could prevail in Vietnam, that the best they could hope for if they
invaded and occupied the country was endless stalemate. "Victory"
was out of the question.
But each of those presidents, acting out of personal arrogance and a
badly-flawed belief system, thought he would be the one to achieve
victory, and so each of them kept taking the U.S. deeper and deeper
into the quagmire. Truman supported the French in hanging on to
Vietnam; Eisenhower OKd taking over from the defeated French forces;
Kennedy, Nixon and Johnson kept sending more "advisors" and then
hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops down the 'Nam rathole. (Defense
Secretary Robert McNamara, we learned decades later, knew as early
as 1967 that Vietnam was unwinnable, but the slaughter went on for
eight more years!)
FAULTY BELIEFS STILL ALIVE
Among the faulty beliefs underlying America's tendency toward
that military superiority in terms of technology
and firepower guarantees that the U.S. will never be defeated.
that American "exceptionalism" -- roughly, that
God favors America over all others and thus will protect its
enterprises -- will work its magic.
that colonialism is still a viable model for how
the world should be governed, with the weak "third-world"
nations being at the mercy of the strong industrialized ones.
that Lord Acton's dictum -- "Power tends to
corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely" -- doesn't
apply to them.
that you can win the "hearts and minds" of the
local populace under your control, even though you disrespect,
insult and torture them.
IRAQ -- PIVOT IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Pick up history's remote and fast-forward 35 or so years. Long
before the tragedy we know as "9/11," Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld
started planning for the day when they would invade and conquer
Iraq, which they and their neo-con advisers had decided was the
pivot point in controlling the Middle East's oil and politics. Since
the Soviet Union had collapsed, the U.S. was the only remaining
Superpower left standing; the game was on.
But they couldn't just start bombing and invading; they needed a
"hook," some solid justification on which to hang their war. It
wouldn't be politically prudent to come right out and say "we're
going to war to control the rich natural resources of the Middle
East and to use Iraq as a demonstration-model for what we'll do to
other rulers in the region if they don't agree to our hegemonic
As you may remember, CheneyBush claimed they had to invade Iraq
because the alleged "weapons of mass destruction" Saddam possessed
were "a grave and growing danger" to the region and the world, and
specifically to the United States and our regional proxy, Israel.
Remember Condi's "mushroom clouds" over American cities, and
senators being told that Iraqi drone planes could spray chemical
toxins onto East Coast cities? These Bush Administration guys didn't
even bother making their lies believable; they just spouted them and
counted on post-9/11 fear and fright, as endlessly hyped by the
mass-media, to do the agitprop job of moving the American sheeple
along. And it worked.
Those few in Congress and the press who deigned to raise objections
or ask serious questions about the gone-missing WMD, or Occupation
policies and corruptions and tortures in Iraq, were denounced as
"unpatriotic," providing aid and comfort to "the terrorists." (Many
of the few media critics, such as Phil Donahue, Bill Maher and Dan
Rather, lost their jobs along the way.) The Democratic Party, the
ostensible opposition, pulled in its horns and went along to get
MILLIONS KILLED IN VIETNAM WAR
I organized my first Vietnam "teach-in" in 1965 when I was a young
faculty member in the Political Science Department at San Diego
State College; a goodly number of students showed up. It took
another seven or so years before the general public finally came
around; they had had enough. More than 50,000 of their sons and
husbands had been slaughtered, along with an estimated 2 million
Contrast that with how fast the dissenting opposition grew over the
Iraq War. This peace movement, mostly organized over the internet,
put more than 10 million protesters into the streets worldwide
BEFORE the U.S. even began "shocking&aweing" in Iraq. The mainstream
American middle-class -- including traditional conservatives,
retired military officers, GOP stalwarts -- eventually deserted Bush
over this reckless, dangerous war that is damaging America's
security and national interests; they, along with Democratic voters,
united to install a significant anti-war majority in the Congress in
Are we there yet? Have we turned the anti-war corner? Of course not.
Not only are the GOP faithful in the Senate rallying to CheneyBush
to prevent an up-or-down vote on the non-binding resolution against
the escalation of the war, but the Democrats are moving quite slowly
and timidly on their anti-war legislation, still nervously looking
over their shoulders, worried that the Dems will be blamed for
Why they are so frightened is beyond me. Clearly, the country has
made up its mind on the war, and, perhaps more importantly, on the
Bush Administration. The people just want U.S. troops back home as
quickly as feasible, and for CheneyBush and their bunker crew to
disappear before they do any more major damage to our democratic
republic, especially to our Constitution.
PLANNING FOR WAR ON IRAN
So here we are, bogged down in the Iraq quagmire, Afghanistan is
turning once again into yet another South Asia quagmire, and the
Bush Administration is planning on still another war in the region,
against Iran, using the same template of war-preparation that was
used pre-"shock&awe": demonizing propaganda against Iran's rulers,
talk about a "grave and growing" threat, WMDs, the fear of nuclear
weapons, a haven for terrorists, etc. etc.
The reasoning seems to go something like this inside the CheneyBush
"We have two years left before we have to
release the reins of power. There still is nobody that can stop
us, though there is plenty of yapping at our heels by those
essentially powerless: our allies, the United Nations, the
Democrats. Therefore, full speed ahead.
"Iran is five to ten years away from developing operational
nuclear weaponry; strike 'em now.
"Sure, there will be a firestorm of blowback coming our way when
we bomb Iran's nuclear labs and facilities, but everyone hates
us already so nothing new there. No need for our enemies to love
us as long as they fear us. Other regimes in the area, and
elsewhere -- North Korea, Syria and Venezuela, for example --
will get the message and comport themselves more to our wishes.
And the Democrats will be angry but essentially toothless to
prevent our foreign/military actions. Maybe they'll pass another
post-facto non-binding resolution expressing their distress
about our attack; oooh, ouch!
"Besides, much of the political and military fallout from both
the escalation in Iraq and an attack on Iran will not take place
on our watch. A new President, likely a Democrat, will struggle
unsuccessfully for four years to try to undo the damage we've
done in eight; he or she will be blamed for the failure, which
will ease the way for a GOP restoration in 2012."
BACK TO THE FUTURE
So that's the situation as CheneyBush's war with Iraq enters its
fifth year. We've been here before in Vietnam, and now, so to speak,
we're stuck on the landmass of Asia again. Quagmire City, and, under
CheneyBush, with more catastrophes (and treasury-busting
expenditures) to come.
That's why the Democrats and moderate Republicans must do whatever
they can to disrupt the Administrations' plans, however they can.
Yes, it appears to be an insurmountable task for us tiny
Lilliputians trying to tie down the powerful Gulliver giant, but our
opposition is stronger these days, and, thanks to the November-2006
election results, exercises at least some levers of power.
And with the internet as a strong organizing and educating tool, we
activists, both veterans and newcomers, likewise have more power to
help galvanize citizen opposition into gearing up for more effective
dissent, including creative civil disobedience.
In addition, there is a growing movement inside the military --
generals and colonels and lower officers and troops speaking out
against this senseless war escalation -- with the aim of helping
restore some sanity to U.S. foreign/military policy. Impeachment
momentum against CheneyBush is progressing in a number of states,
even bubbling beneath the surface in Congress, and rising in poll
In short, there is some clear light amidst the darkness spread by
the CheneyBush Administration. It's our job to increase that clarity
and keep the momentum building.
Copyright 2007 by Bernard Weiner