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(DV) Petersen: Desperately Seeking Victory in a War Already Lost







Desperately Seeking Victory in a War Already Lost
by Kim Petersen
December 25, 2005

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“We can lose in Iraq and destroy our Army, or we can just lose.”

-- Marine officer quoted by James Fallows in the Atlantic Monthly

“We are approaching a New Year, and there are certain things all Americans can expect to see. We will see more sacrifice -- from our military, their families, and the Iraqi people.”

-- New Year Greeting from US President George W. Bush


In 1991, after having deceived Iraqi President Saddam Hussein into sending his invasion forces into Kuwait, the United States assembled a coalition of 30 or so [1] nations to militarily eject the Iraqi forces. Following the first phase of the Persian Gulf Slaughter, having achieved the stated objective, US President George HW Bush gleefully proclaimed, “By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all!” 

Yet, Massachusetts Institute of Technology sage Noam Chomsky continues to cast the Vietnam War as a “tremendous victory” for US imperialists. [2] Chomsky takes the iconoclastic position that the US war on Vietnam was a “success” because it achieved its major objective of halting the “virus” of “independent nationalism” from spreading throughout Indochina. [3] This is the novel Chomskyian definition of war victory. There is also the traditional definition: the last warriors left standing on the battlefield are the victors. When the US military hightailed it out of Vietnam, the country was left to the Viet Minh; consequently, the Viet Minh must at the very least also be victors. The Viet Minh victory brought communists to power in their country destroyed by US weapons including weapons-of-mass-destruction (WMD). 

Chomsky does concede: “it wasn’t a total victory for the US.” Certainly not. In a war, the objectives of all sides must be considered. What about the major objective of the Viet Minh? It was also achieved: the liberation of its territory from foreign clutches. Why then trumpet the Vietnam War as a victory for the US? Was it a US objective for the forces of Ho Chi Minh to come to power? No. Was it intended that the world would see footage of Americans scrambling to escape in helicopters from the rooftop of the US embassy as Viet Minh forces advanced? No. The hasty retreat from Vietnam was a humiliation to US military might. A peasant army had defeated the US military! This came after the Viet Minh had defeated the US-backed French imperialist forces. Therefore, to insist on depicting the Vietnam War as a victory for the US is puzzling. It seems much more accurate to state that although the US was defeated it did achieve a major objective.  

The defeat gave rise to Vietnam Syndrome. But before that there was Korea Syndrome. The US objective was not attained in the Korean War. [4] It is difficult to portray the Korean War as any kind of US victory except that the US forces did manage to avoid being driven off the Korean peninsula by an ill-equipped peasant Korean People’s army. The US was barely hanging on in the Pusan region, before it resorted to a vicious offensive to push the north Korean forces back over the 38th parallel.  

Where is the victory in Afghanistan? The Taliban have been driven from power and Osama bin Laden and his warriors are in hiding. But Afghanistan remains in turmoil. Has the major US objective been met? The major objective in Afghanistan was to draw Afghanistan into the US orbit for geostrategic military and commercial purposes; among the latter is the laying of pipelines through Afghanistan to the Arabian Sea. There is no way that under the present circumstances pipelines will be laid down anytime soon. 

The main objective in Iraq is controlling the abundant oil reserves. This has obviously not been attained.  

So the US has progressed from Korea Syndrome to Vietnam Syndrome to the current Iraq Syndrome. 

An Occupation Desperate for Victory

In January 2002, President George W Bush gave the State of the Union Address in which he said, “When I called our troops into action, I did so with complete confidence in their courage and skill.  And tonight, thanks to them, we are winning the war on terror.” 


On 14 April 2003, the US declared an end to “major combat operations.” A spokesman for U.S. Central Command, Navy Captain Frank Thorp, warned however: “It would be premature to say it (the war) is over as long as there’s continued resistance.” [5] 


Then in May 2003, Bush would take part in a piece of foolhardy drama, landing on the deck of the USS Lincoln in pilot gear. The ship was draped in a large banner reading: “Mission Accomplished.” Bush would later come under fire for pronouncing a premature end to major combat operations in Iraq. [6] 


In an address to the nation on 18 December, Bush oleaginously staked a claim to helping introduce democracy to Iraq, ignoring mention that the US was arm-twisted by Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and Shiite officials to hold elections. Chomsky speaks of the democratization going on in Iraq as “much to the horror of the occupying forces” who fear the “long-term consequences in international affairs.” Chomsky notes, “Bush and Blair have been so desperately trying to prevent democracy and any form of sovereignty and have been forced to back off step-by-step.” [7] It is, however, insidious to consider a process taking place under the auspice of occupation as having any meaningful connotation of democracy. 


The Bush speech was chock full of transparent bombast. Chortled Bush, “Our coalition confronted a regime that defied United Nations Security Council resolutions, violated a cease-fire agreement, sponsored terrorism and possessed, we believed, weapons of mass destruction.” The US selectivity in deciding which country must be punished for defying UN Security Council resolutions is pure hypocrisy, especially considering that the scofflaw state that calls itself Israel is in decades long violation of such resolutions. Yet contradictorily, the US rewards Israel. Bush also does not mention that the US snubbed the UN to aggress Iraq -- in supreme violation of Nuremberg Law and the UN Charter. He does mention a mistaken belief that Iraq had WMD -- without any apology. This mendacity requires something more than an apology because Bush had not claimed a belief in Iraqi possession of WMD, but had stated it as a known fact. [8] 

The president’s audacity knows no bounds. Despite the false casus belli, he asserts without shame, “Yet it was right to remove Saddam Hussein from power. He was given an ultimatum -- and he made his choice for war. And the result of that war was to rid the world of a murderous dictator who menaced his people, invaded his neighbors, and declared America to be his enemy.” The Bush administration has set an international precedent. No longer need a casus belli be based in fact, a belief is sufficient; but this belief need not be true. More egregiously, beliefs are irrelevant; it suffices that when a greater power issues an ultimatum then it must simply be obeyed. This is otherwise referred to as might-makes-right power politics or jackboot imperialism. The unsubtle president mixes his rhetoric with lies. At no time did Hussein make any choice for war. All Hussein’s actions were contrary to this lie. He feared war, so he opened up his country to inspections, turned over voluminous documentation to the UN inspectors, and even went on US TV to speak to the American public with CBS anchor Dan Rather.  

Dan Rather: What’s the most important thing you want the American people to understand, at this important juncture of history?  

Saddam Hussein: First, convey to them that the people of Iraq are not the enemy of the American people. If the American people would like to know the facts as they are, through a direct dialogue, then I am ready to conduct a debate with the President of the United States, President Bush, on television. I will say whatever I have to say about American policy. He will have the opportunity to say whatever he has to say about the policy of Iraq. And this will be in front of the world, on television, in a direct uncensored, honest manner. In front of, as I said, everyone. And then they will judge what is true and what is false. [italics added] 

But the American people would not be given the opportunity to judge for themselves. It was Bush who enthusiastically chose war [9] and anointed himself a war president.  

Bush demonized the enemy, sprinkling his speech copiously with the word “terrorists” or cognate 23 times in the speech. As writing colleague B.J. Sabri points out: “Technically, terrorism is an extremist violent response to an extremist violent imposition, but happens only as reaction to an action; to say the same in a tautological physical sequence, reaction can never precede action!” That the Middle East and Muslim World in general has been under the jackboot of western and Zionist imperialism for most of the preceding century and into the new millennium reveals verifiable primordial terrorism. 

Said Bush, “These terrorists view the world as a giant battlefield -- and they seek to attack us wherever they can. This has attracted al Qaeda to Iraq, where they are attempting to frighten and intimidate America into a policy of retreat.” Retreat? A retreat from where? From the US? No. From the Middle East? Yes. Do the US forces have a right to occupy lands in the Middle East where the population does not want them? No. Then what is Bush blathering on about? Possibly the teleprompter understands better than Bush himself. 

According to Bush’s conviction, “we [Why does Bush include himself? His career is one of dodging military combat.] will defeat the terrorists by capturing and killing them abroad, removing their safe havens and strengthening new allies like Iraq and Afghanistan in the fight we share.”


This is nonsense. Unleashing US-state terrorism for “capturing and killing” people who Bush labels terrorists (the greater number are disputably not terrorists) gives rise to new enemies of US imperialism. The wanton killing of civilians and killing of soldiers defending their homeland as well as the imprisonment of innocent people in contravention of international law foments resistance. The rare allies the US has in Iraq are expatriate quislings like Iyad Allawi and Ahmed Chalabi who were given the electoral thumbs down recently in Iraq. So much for allies. 


Bush continues the nonsense: “We continue to see violence and suffering, caused by an enemy that is determined and brutal -- unconstrained by conscience or the rules of war.” Who is this “we” that Bush keeps referring to? Who is it that barred the media from covering the genocidal attack on Fallujah? Which military is it that targets the media for elimination? What kind of conscience was revealed by Tommy Franks and Colin Powell’s disdain for Iraqi life? [10] The US government’s conscience was perhaps best encapsulated by the necrophilic quip of former secretary-of-state Madeleine Albright that the carnage of a half-million Iraqi children was a price “worth it” in pursuit of US foreign policy aims. 


Knowing that the tide of American opinion has turned against the occupation in Iraq, Bush must attempt to convince Americans that victory is still within reach: “Some look at the challenges in Iraq, and conclude that the war is lost, and not worth another dime or another day. I don't believe that. Our military commanders do not believe that. Our troops in the field, who bear the burden and make the sacrifice, do not believe that America has lost.” This is a faith-based president pleading a faith-based case. Americans are asked to trust in Bush’s beliefs -- just like they were asked to trust in Bush’s belief about Iraq’s phantom WMD.


Bush acknowledges the danger still present in occupying Iraq: “The terrorists will continue to have the coward’s power to plant roadside bombs and recruit suicide bombers.” It is something pushing the extreme limits of audacity for Bush to comment on the cowardice of others given that he was a deserter during the Vietnam War. [11] Moreover, to label the Iraqi resistance as cowardly reeks compared to the Shock and Awe campaign unleashed from great distance upon Iraqis, what Indian writer Arundhati Roy called: “an act of cowardice that must surely be unrivalled in history.” [12] 


Bush asserts that Iraqis are justifiably optimistic. He derides the partisanship in “defeatism.” Bush informs his “fellow citizens”: “not only can we win the war in Iraq -- we are winning the war in Iraq.” This feel-good assertion is designed to bolster the American public’s dismal perception of the occupation of Iraq. The American public is coming to realize that the occupation of Iraq is a sinkhole for taxpayer’s hard-earned money, that American youth are dying, and that the occupation is a moral cesspool that has blackened the image of the US and collaborating countries in the rest of the world. 


Bush contends, “It is also important for every American to understand the consequences of pulling out of Iraq before our work is done. We would abandon our Iraqi friends -- and signal to the world that America cannot be trusted to keep its word.” But Americans are understanding that the consequences of staying in Iraq are tens-of-thousands of US troops coming home mangled, limbless, or in body bags. Americans are understanding that Iraqi friends are few when it concerns US imperialism and that the number of enemies of US imperialism is increasing. Conversely, what Bush does not understand is the root cause of what he claims to be fighting. This was identified by University of Chicago political science professor Robert Pape, author of Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism: “The root cause of terrorism is occupation.” Paradoxically, Bush is creating what he claims to be fighting. Hence, Bush is in a logical sense the Godfather of Terrorism. 


Declared Bush, “To retreat before victory would be an act of recklessness and dishonor and I will not allow it.” The supreme deserter dares to speak of recklessness and dishonor. He dares to vow to prevent the retreat of the US as he himself had retreated behind the cloak of familial privilege. Such is the mettle of the man who leads the most powerful country on the planet. If ever there was a paradigmatic case to be made against leadership then Bush is the quintessential embodiment of such a paradigm. 


Bush pleads with Americans “to have patience in this difficult, noble, and necessary cause.” To have patience to what end? Is this the same noble cause that Bush refuses to share with grieving activist mother Cindy Sheehan? 


But Bush is ready to gamble the house. He states: “there are only two options before our country -- victory or defeat.” 


There is no US victory to be gained from the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The clear lesson is that if people steadfastly resist, even the might of the hyper-power can be thwarted. [13] What else can one conclude from the hideously immoral debacle that the US state foisted on the Iraqi people? Iraq was disarmed of all its major weaponry (except for the fighting will of its people); the nation was subjected to genocidal UN sanctions from 1990 to 2003, during which time it was constantly being illegally bombed; the Iraqis were violently assaulted by the US-UK’s Shock and Awe; the occupation forces sought to rule through Iraqi proxies; then the occupiers have sought to incite a civil war and rule through divide-and-conquer tactics; the latest attempt is to hope for influence through an illegitimate electoral process. Despite all this, the Iraqi resistance has persevered unceasingly.  


The American people might learn from the statement of the Iraqi resistance: “We are simple people who chose principles over fear.”  


Kim Petersen, Co-Editor of Dissident Voice, lives in the traditional Mi'kmaq homeland colonially designated Nova Scotia, Canada. He can be reached at:


[1] The exact number of coalition members differs according to source.

[2] “Chomsky on Terror and Iraq: An interview by Andy Clark
,” Amsterdam Forum, 18 December 2005.

[3] “
On the War in Iraq: Noam Chomsky interviewed by David McNeillZNet, 31 January 2005.  

[4] Ho Jong Ho, Kang Sok Hui, and Pak Thae Ho, The US Imperialists Started the Korean War (Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1993), 14. President Harry Truman’s memoirs indicate that the US wanted to occupy the whole of Korea and also Kwantung province in Manchuria. 

[5] Jonathan S. Landay, Sara Olkon, and Martin Merzer, “
End of major combat declared,” Knight Ridder News Service, 14 April 2003 

[6] Dana Bash, “
White House pressed on ‘mission accomplished’ sign,” CNN, 29 October 2003.

[7] op. cit., Amsterdam Forum.

[8] “
Iraqi WMDs” The pronouncements of Bush administration officials on Iraqi possession of WMD pre-9-11 and post-9-11 are presented. The uncertainty of pre-9-11 statements contrasts with surety of early post-9-11 statements. 

[9] Martin Merzer, Ron Hutcheson, and Drew Brown, “
Bush pumps fist, ‘feels good’ as attack on Iraq begins,” Knight Ridder News Service, 20 March 2003. An internal television monitor showed the president pumping his fist and quipping, “Feels good,” prior to announcing the launching of an illegal invasion of Iraq. 

[10] General Tommy Franks cynically quipped after the invasion of Iraq: “We don’t do body counts.” General Colin Powell expressed similar sentiments about casualty figures after Operation Desert Storm in 1991: “That’s not really a number I’m terribly interested in.” 

[11] Ian Williams, author of Deserter: George Bush’s War on Military Families, Veterans, and His Past (Nation Books, 2004), in a personal communication: “The evidence is clear that Bush used his personal family influence to secure a coveted slot in the Air National Guard -- which protected him from conscription and posting to Vietnam. Then he moved to Alabama and did not turn up for duty at his Texas airbase, nor at the bases in Alabama, even while the war was continuing. At this time, lesser mortals who did the same thing were prosecuted and drafted. … As for how he got away with it… Firstly, there was a pruning of all records from the Texas Air National Guard, secondly, there were a lot of people who had colluded in the cover up and had a vested interest in keeping it quiet. … Secondly, there is an immense deference to authority in the American media, which predisposes editors against scrutiny of presidential behavior. … Finally, there is the gullibility of a faith based electorate. Time and again when speaking on radio in the heartland, I came across callers who sincerely believed that Bush was a veteran, not least because he kept appearing at Veterans’ rallies and at military bases, usually in some form of military garb. There are millions of people in America who believe what is convenient for their faith systems.”  

[12] Kim Petersen,
An Act of Cowardice that Must Surely be Unrivalled in History: Challenging the Assumption of Valour,” Dissident Voice, 29 July 2003. 

[13] Ho et al., op. cit., 230. A similar conclusion was reached after the Korean War: “The Korean war proved the complete bankruptcy of the aggression tactics of the US imperialists who tried to achieve their aggressive aim, counting on their numerical and technical superiority and resorting to the most brutal methods and means of warfare. It exploded the myth of their ‘mightiness.’”

Other Recent Articles by Kim Petersen

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* Syria in the Imperialist Crosshairs 

* The Struggle to Restore the Dignity of Labor
* Gizen: Perverted Principle in Japan
* The Need to Speak Out: Canada’s Governor Generalship
* Antithetical Heroism
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* American Violence in Iraq: Necrophilia or Savagery? Part Five
* American Violence in Iraq: Necrophilia or Savagery? Part Four
* American Violence in Iraq: Necrophilia or Savagery? Part Three
* American Violence in Iraq: Necrophilia or Savagery? Part Two
* American Violence in Iraq: Necrophilia or Savagery? Part One
* Darwinian Survival of the Fittest Meets Wal-Mart and Hiroshima
* Making Sense of Terrorism
* The Message from the London Bombings
* Face to Face with the Absurd
* The Counterrevolution: Capitalism’s Ugly Head in China
* Damage Control Over the Downing Street Memo
* Rivaling Pax Americana
* Angels of Death
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* Objectivity in Independent Media, Part 3
* Objectivity in Independent Media, Part 2
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* Gauging the Worth of US Troops in Neocon Eyes
* A Sporting Revolution: The Parecon Hockey League
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