'V' for Victory, 'F' for Freedom

Spinning out of control in D.C. and Baghdad

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Say "cheesy": As Army flack Major Russ Goemaere puts it in the caption for this photo he shot of an Army photographer shooting a photo, "An Iraqi woman flashes her 'V for Victory' to a U.S. Army photographer after exiting a polling site in the Tissa Nissan district of east Baghdad." We last heard from Goemaere in July, when he was inflating the number of Iraqis blown up by an insurgent's bomb.

We've heard this exultation of crows before, but let's let George W. Bush have his say today about the Iraqi vote, which took place during a four-day national lockdown more severe than the ongoing state of martial law: All businesses were forced to close, frontiers were shut down, and on election day itself, private vehicles were banned — yes, banned — from the roads. Sounds like a solution to the energy crisis, at least. Anyway, here's what the POTUS said today on the lawn outside his White House bunker:

    I congratulate the Iraqi people. I thank you for meeting this milestone. Thank you for doing what is right, to set the foundations for peace for future generations to come.

    Appreciate it.

Think nothing of it. And I mean that from the heart.

Don't listen to what this discredited president says, nor to his flacks. You don't even have to listen to one of them squishy liberals.

ron-paul-mug.jpgYou might try a Republican, say, congressman Ron Paul of Texas. A maverick, Paul is a hardline libertarian type, an M.D. who's opposed to abortion. He's kinda out there by himself in many ways, but he's a tiger when it comes to criticizing the war — and he's a veteran, to boot. He's also not in thrall to the likes of Tom DeLay, so he speaks his mind.

Here's what Paul had to say this past April 6, during a speech on the House floor that nobody listened to — but should have. He was talking about the January 31 voting in Iraq, but he makes a simple, yet profound, point that is still apropos:

    Praise for the recent election in Iraq has silenced many critics of the war. Yet the election was held under martial law implemented by a foreign power, mirroring conditions we rightfully condemned as a farce when carried out in the old Soviet system and more recently in Lebanon. Why is it that what is good for the goose isn't always good for the gander?

    Our government fails to recognize that legitimate elections are the consequence of freedom, and that an artificial election does not create freedom. In our own history we note that freedom was achieved first and elections followed — not the other way around.

Get it?

Unlike most other pols, Paul seems to have a real sense of history — probably because he's so isolated as a maverick Republican in the current bipolar Congress that he has plenty of time on his hands to read.

And talk. Just last month, he delivered another floor speech on Iraq, this one entitled "Why We Fight." Yes, you may have heard a lot of this before, but probably not from this particular Republican, who gets practically no national press. Paul's succinct analysis bears repeating, and any time I can try to break the adhesions of our current lockstep two-party crisis, I'll try to do so. Here's an excerpt from his September 8 speech:

    The information Congress was given prior to the war was false. There were no weapons of mass destruction; the Iraqis did not participate in the 9/11 attacks; Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein were enemies and did not conspire against the United States; our security was not threatened; we were not welcomed by cheering Iraqi crowds as we were told; and Iraqi oil has not paid any of the bills.

    Congress failed to declare war, but instead passed a wishy-washy resolution citing UN resolutions as justification for our invasion. After the fact we're now told the real reason for the Iraq invasion was to spread democracy, and that the Iraqis are better off. Anyone who questions the war risks being accused of supporting Saddam Hussein, disapproving of democracy, or "supporting terrorists." It's implied that lack of enthusiasm for the war means one is not patriotic and doesn't support the troops. In other words, one must march lock-step with the consensus or be ostracized.

He knows what it's like to be ostracized. Anyway, Paul then gave a history lesson, which included this:

    Shortly after the new administration took office in January 2001, [the] goal of eliminating Saddam Hussein quickly morphed into a policy of remaking the entire Middle East, starting with regime change in Iraq.

    This aggressive interventionist policy surprised some people, since the victorious 2000 campaign indicated we should pursue a foreign policy of humility, no nation building, reduced deployment of our forces overseas, and a rejection of the notion that we serve as world policemen.

    The 9/11 disaster proved a catalyst to push for invading Iraq and restructuring the entire Middle East. Though the plan had existed for years, it quickly was recognized that the fear engendered by the 9/11 attacks could be used to mobilize the American people and Congress to support this war. Nevertheless, supposedly legitimate reasons had to be given for the already planned pre-emptive war, and as we now know the "intelligence had to be fixed to the policy."

    Immediately after 9/11 the American people were led to believe that Saddam Hussein somehow was responsible for the attacks. The fact that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were enemies, not friends, was kept from the public by a compliant media and a lazy Congress.

    Even today many Americans still are convinced of an alliance between the two. The truth is Saddam Hussein never permitted al Qaeda into Iraq out of fear that his secular government would be challenged. And yet today we find that al Qaeda is now very much present in Iraq, and causing chaos there.

I know, you've heard it before. But get it through your head that people in both parties are saying these things, that the political climate is ripe for a change, that it might be possible to throw off the yokels of oppression. Incidentally, Paul was one of only six Republicans in the House to vote against the war on October 11, 2002. That was a more crucial vote than the one just conducted in Iraq. More from Paul:

    We also were told the war was necessary for national security purposes because of the threat Saddam Hussein presented, although the evidence was fabricated. Saddam Hussein's ability to attack us was non-existent, but the American people were ripe for alarming predictions by those who wanted this war.

    Of course the routine canard for our need to fight, finance, and meddle around the world ever since the Korean War was repeated incessantly: U.N. Resolutions had to be enforced lest the United Nations be discredited. The odd thing was that on this occasion the United Nations itself did everything possible to stop our pre-emptive attack. And as it turned out, Saddam Hussein was a lot closer to compliance than anyone dreamed. It wasn't long before concern for the threat of Saddam Hussein became near hysterical, drowning out any reasoned opposition to the planned war.

Now that there is reasoned opposition, it's tragicomic that best hope of our extricating troops from Iraq lies with convincing the U.N. or Iraq's neighboring countries to take over the mess we created. Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel suggested that this morning on Face the Nation.

Hagel, one of the more moderate Republicans, called for a "regional security conference," saying it was "important to put this thing into a perspective of a regional context."

Good luck with that, Chuck. For that selling job, assuming the Bush regime would ever want to do such a smart thing, our U.N. ambassador is the loathed John Bolton, who openly sneers at the U.N. The late Paul Wellstone had Bolton's number, as I noted August 6.

All we can do for now is bring other voices into the mix. But I'm going to skip past Ron Paul's point that we're fighting for oil and that one of the many disastrous and unintended consequences of this folly is that the price of oil has skyrocketed. Talking about the current-day lying by the Bush regime, Paul said:

    Today, … all the old reasons for going to war have been discredited, and are no longer used to justify continuing the war. Now we are told we must "complete the mission," and yet no one seems to know exactly what the mission is or when it can be achieved.

    By contrast, when war is properly declared against a country we can expect an all-out effort until the country surrenders. Without a declaration of war, as the Constitution requires, it's left to the President to decide when to start the war and when the war is over. We had sad experiences with this process in Korea and especially in Vietnam.

Paul was an Air Force flight surgeon in the '60s, by the way. He has no use for senseless face-saving, which is all the beleaguered Bush regime is interested in these days. Paul continued:

    Pursuing this war merely to save face, or to claim it's a way to honor those who already have died or been wounded, is hardly a reason that more people should die. We're told that we can't leave until we have a democratic Iraq. But what if Iraq votes to have a Shiite theocracy, which it looks like the majority wants as their form of government — and women, Christians, and Sunnis are made second-class citizens? It's a preposterous notion and it points out the severe shortcomings of a democracy where a majority rules and minorities suffer.

As I said, Paul doesn't stray from his libertarian stuff, most of which I can't buy into. But effective politics are issue-driven, and the war is the issue he was talking about here. On the most basic common ground, that the war in Iraq must stop, he's there with many other people who wouldn't normally agree with him. So be it. The following passage poses questions that many of us are asking:

    If democracy is not all it's cracked up to be, and a war for oil is blatantly immoral and unproductive, the question still remains-- why do we fight?

    More precisely, why should we fight?

    When is enough killing enough?

    Why does man so casually accept war, which brings so much suffering to so many, when so little is achieved?

    Why do those who suffer and die so willingly accept the excuses for the wars that need not be fought?

    Why do so many defer to those who are enthused about war, and who claim it's a solution to a problem, without asking them why they themselves do not fight?

    It's always other men and other men's children who must sacrifice life and limb for the reasons that make no sense, reasons that are said to be our patriotic duty to fight and die for.

    How many useless wars have been fought for lies that deserved no hearing?

    When will it all end?

And toward the end of his speech that nobody heard, Paul said:

    The most important misjudgment regarding Iraq that must be dealt with is the charge that Muslim terrorists attack us out of envy for our freedoms, our prosperity, and our way of life. There is no evidence this is the case. On the contrary, those who have extensively researched this issue conclude that the #1 reason suicide terrorists attack anywhere in the world is because their land is occupied by a foreign military power.

Digression: Chicago prof Bob Pape has riffed on that topic, as I wrote on July 13 in "Suicide Bombings as an Occupational Hazard." Back to Paul:

    Pretending otherwise and constantly expanding our military presence in more Arab and Muslim countries as we have since 1990 has only increased the danger of more attacks on our soil, as well as in those countries that have allied themselves with us.

    If we deny this truth we do so at our own peril.


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