(By Chris Moore, LibertarianToday.com) -- In Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22, the author constructs a famous bind for one of his protagonists, a U.S. Air Force bombardier by the name of Yossarian, whose conscience has violently revolted against his continuing participation in the war. In order to be dismissed from combat flight duty on medical grounds, however, Yossarian must first prove he is insane. The problem is, no sane person would want combat flight duty, hence Yossarian’s efforts to escape service prove he is not insane and is therefore fit to fly.
Yossarian’s dilemma is not unlike the quandary into which American troops serving in Iraq have been forced by the Bush administration and its Washington enablers, whose self-contradicting Middle East policies have put US forces in ongoing jeopardy and an unwinnable situation.
The latest chapter of Washington negligence finds the Bush administration angling for yet another US-instigated war, this time against Iran. The White House recently issued a new “National Strategy for Combating Terrorism” which declared that “Iran remains the most active state sponsor of international terrorism,” and continues to “harbor terrorists at home and sponsor terrorist activity abroad.”
“Most troubling is the potential WMD-terrorism nexus that emanates from Tehran,” the report cryptically adds, perversely invoking the pretext that the Bush administration used to take America to war with Iraq.
The report follows months of demonization from US government and neocon media opinion-makers of Muslims in general and Iranians in particular as “fascists” and “totalitarians.”
The problem for US troops on the ground in Iraq now is that in order to subdue the sectarian violence between Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite Muslims (and save themselves in the process), they need the cooperation of the country that Bush and the neocons are currently agitating for war against.
Why? Because Iraq’s Shiite Muslim majority has strong religious and ethnic ties to Shiite-majority Iran. In fact, many of Iraq’s current Shiite leaders were deposed by Saddam Hussein and spent their exile in Iran plotting and agitating against the tyrant, finally returning when US troops had purged him from power. Yet with all their rhetoric aimed at one of the only countries to give the Shiite people hope and safe-harbor from Saddam during his long and tyrannical rule, Bush and the neocons have methodically driven a wedge between US troops and the majority sect of the country to which they were deployed on a mission of “liberation.”
The repercussions have been drastic: “The future of Iraq as a sovereign nation was thrown into jeopardy yesterday after a new law was introduced to parliament that would enable the break up of the country into semi-autonomous regions,” “If passed, a self-ruling Shia state is likely to emerge in the south, based on the autonomous region Kurds have already established in the north. It would not only be able to levy its own taxes and govern itself but, Shia politicians say, would have its own armed guards posted along its borders.”
“The future of Iraq as a sovereign nation was thrown into jeopardy yesterday after a new law was introduced to parliament that would enable the break up of the country into semi-autonomous regions,”said a September 7 report in the Telegraph.
“If passed, a self-ruling Shia state is likely to emerge in the south, based on the autonomous region Kurds have already established in the north. It would not only be able to levy its own taxes and govern itself but, Shia politicians say, would have its own armed guards posted along its borders.”
"This is a guarantee to our sons and grandsons that injustice will not be revived," Abdel Aziz Hakim, the head of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (the Iranian-tied party that drafted the proposal), told the Telegraph. “Iraq's Sunni community, which is bitterly opposed to the prospect, has warned it will mark the first step in the break up of the country and could lead to the south of Iraq becoming a satellite of Iran,”
“Iraq's Sunni community, which is bitterly opposed to the prospect, has warned it will mark the first step in the break up of the country and could lead to the south of Iraq becoming a satellite of Iran,”the Telegraph added.
So as Iraq’s long-beleaguered Shiite population moves closer to its religious and ethnic cousins in Iran for the sake of its own safety, Washington (which for years aided and abetted Saddam’s repression of the Shiites) is sending signals that it is likely to either invade or bomb Iran in the near future—which could well leave Iraqi Shiites again at the mercy of Washington’s former partners in persecution, the Sunnis.
This is hardly a recipe for encouraging Shiite cooperation with Sunnis in Iraq. After all, why would the Shiites want to take the pressure today off of a group with which they might be at all-out war tomorrow?
Meanwhile, US policy has also given Sunni militants, who are apparently behind the majority of attacks against US forces in Iraq, incentive to continue the sectarian violence as well.
They appear to be deliberately sowing chaos in order to either drive the US from the region altogether (which would increase their odds against the Shiites), or to encourage an American attack against Iran by forcing Washington into an escalation. From the Sunni perspective, such an attack would take the US heat off of their own sect and prevent southern Iraq from becoming the “Iranian satellite” they so desperately fear.
In both cases, the pivot is the prospect that the US might attack Iran. Each group is accounting for that scenario in its calculated strategy of rallying around its own sect and attacking the other, and in some instances attacking US forces as well.
Caught in the middle of all of this and being slowly picked off are US troops, who were originally sent to the region (supposedly) to de-fang Saddam Hussein —a mission they accomplished three years ago.
Of course, they were betrayed by the Bush administration once, when it turned out Saddam had neither the WMD nor the ties to the 9/11 terrorists that administration neocons claimed he did, but forced the troops into an untenable occupation anyway.
And today they are being betrayed yet again, the latest set of victims in the grand chess match that Washington has been playing in the Middle East for decades. This time it’s the US troops who have become pawns, and their chances of survival (let alone success) are being undermined by the contradictory and conflicting policies emanating from the very imperial leviathan that sent them overseas in the first place.
Little wonder, then, that even the Pentagon (which, despite everything, apparently still feels an iota of culpability for the fate of its soldiers) is openly contradicting the White House in its assessment of the situation in Iraq, albeit discreetly.
From a September 3 report in The Observer: “In his weekly radio address to the nation, Bush lashed out at critics of the war and portrayed the conflict in Iraq as an integral part of the war on terror. He said the country was not sliding into civil war… “That may be true, but the tone of Bush's speech was deeply at odds with a Pentagon report released late on Friday, which showed Iraqi casualties had soared by more than 50 per cent in recent months. The Pentagon often releases bad news late in the week in order to minimise press coverage and the study certainly made for grim reading. 'Death squads and terrorists are locked in mutually reinforcing cycles of sectarian strife,' it noted. The report added that civil war was a possibility in Iraq, which seemed to jar with the message from the White House and top Republican politicians.”
“That may be true, but the tone of Bush's speech was deeply at odds with a Pentagon report released late on Friday, which showed Iraqi casualties had soared by more than 50 per cent in recent months. The Pentagon often releases bad news late in the week in order to minimise press coverage and the study certainly made for grim reading.
'Death squads and terrorists are locked in mutually reinforcing cycles of sectarian strife,' it noted. The report added that civil war was a possibility in Iraq, which seemed to jar with the message from the White House and top Republican politicians.”
The problem with Washington’s ongoing policy of Middle East machiavellianism is that despite its rhetoric, the US government simply does not want self-determination and democracy for Muslims. It will form mutually beneficial alliances with Sunni or Shiite autocrats, so long as they remain docile and compliant to American imperial and Israel-first policies. But as soon as one group or the other starts gaining traction en masse and becomes a viable, self-functioning entity, the US will cynically partner with its opposition to slap it back into subservience. This cycle has repeated itself ad nauseam for years.
The difference this time around is that the Bush administration is trying to use the US military to slap all of the players into subservience simultaneously (an impossible task no matter how many troops are deployed), and it is lying to both the military and the American people about its reasons for doing so. In effect, the US military has become just another savage force to be manipulated and coerced into doing imperial Washington’s bidding.
Our ruling elites may have been able to get away with this pompous indifference to human life when they were pitting “mere” Middle Easterners against one another, but now that they are haphazardly throwing American troops into their cynical machinations, their schemes appear to have finally caught up with them.
A recent Pew poll found that “By a 45% to 32% margin, more Americans believe that the best way to reduce the threat of terrorist attacks on the U.S. is to decrease, not increase, America's military presence overseas.” Another poll, by Harris Interactive, found that a plurality of Europeans view the United States as “the greatest threat to global stability.” And yet a third poll, this one by Ipsos-Public Affairs, showed that 60 per cent of Americans think there will be “more terrorism in the United States because the country went to war in Iraq.”
Such finding can only be read as a major rebuke to America’s political class, and a lack of confidence in both its integrity and its ability to conduct foreign policy in a manner consistent with the best interests and values of the people it professes to represent.
In Catch-22, Yossarian believes that because he is the only one sane enough to revolt against the war, his comrades are the ones who have lost their minds. If Americans don’t follow through and revolt against Washington’s insane policies in the upcoming elections, our troops trapped in Iraq may reach the same conclusion about the country that has forced them into this fool’s errand.
It’s too bad it took several thousand US casualties and perhaps hundreds of thousands of Islamic ones for Americans to begin realizing there is something deeply dysfunctional about their government’s Middle East policies. But better late than never, so long as they punish the guilty in both parties by eliminating those who still support the war at the ballot box.