Monday, February 27, 2006

Deadly Dancing

Give online libs their due -- unlike their reactionary cousins, who screech and growl when faced with unpleasant facts, libs, in the main, can perform impressive verbal dances when dealing with issues for which they have no real answer. Instead of throwing up their hands and admitting that they are stumped, they leap, twist, stretch, hop & slide across their respective stages, trying to make it seem like a lot is going on when instead they're merely buying rhetorical time.

A few days ago, Glenn Greenwald, a New York City litigator who's become an online lib darling, posted some thoughts at Crooks and Liars about a possible US withdrawal from Iraq and pondered what would be the "moral" rationale to support such a thing. Greenwald does the On The One Hand/On The Other shimmy, herking and jerking to the music in his head, but he never really comes to any solid conclusion:

"There is a good case to be made for troop withdraw [sic]. But it can’t be persuasively made by easy anti-war sloganeering. Such a case can only be made by arguing that our ongoing military presence will not help to salvage a country which we have shattered."

And in case you didn't appreciate that move, he does it again, almost immediately:

"There is a compelling argument to make that we should withdraw our troops. But that argument can only be based on the premise that our troops -- contrary to the views of the elected Iraqi government -- are doing more harm than good, not that the invasion was unjustified in the first place."

In fact, this single point is pretty much his whole argument, which is why he repeats it over and over, trying to make it look serious before the curtain falls. Had Greenwald been honest, he would have tapped out the above observation once, then admitted that, frankly, he had nothing else to say about the subject. Still, I'll give him a few style points for attempting to pass off a simple step as a fully choreographed number.

A lot of online libs like Greenwald may have opposed this "war of choice," but now are hesitant to advocate US withdrawal for fear the violence in Iraq might worsen. What I haven't seen from this corner is acknowledgment that far from the invasion being a "choice" as opposed to a "necessity" (read: Afghanistan), the US attack on and occupation of Iraq was inevitable, an outgrowth of nearly a half-century of geopolitical meddling, but more directly related to Saddam's betrayal of his regional role on August 2, 1990. Once Saddam invaded and displaced our dear friends in Kuwait, the clock began ticking on his regime. And recall that even after Iraqi conscripts were chased out of Kuwait (a good number of whom were incinerated by US forces as they retreated), there was no serious call for "democracy" in Iraq among US elites. As the NYTimes's Tom Friedman flatly put it at the time, the best of all possible worlds would be Saddamism without Saddam -- a dependable, obedient "iron fist" to keep the various Iraqi factions under control. And even after Saddam was deposed, that authoritarian concept was continually peddled, either through installing exiles into power like Ahmed Chalabi, or allowing Paul Bremer to be the American Viceroy over the natives. Of course, the natives had other ideas, primarily the Shi'a, for whom our invasion has been a positive, albeit bloody and savage, political and tribal boon. Greenwald claims that the "elected Iraqi government" opposes our immediate withdrawal, but recent polls suggest that those who elected that government want to see us go, some sooner, some a little more down the road, even though the majority of Shi'a, as well as the majority of Sunnis and Kurds, believe -- quite rightly -- that "the US plans to remain permanently."

This is why online debates about the Whys, Hows and Morality of our departure mean nothing to those in charge. Yes, there are those in the American power structure and elite press who are making noises about an eventual withdrawal (based on tactical concerns), but does anyone truly believe that after devoting all this money, time, energy and, oh yes, lives, to this corrupt and murderous enterprise, the US will voluntarily quit? Or that after three years of death, torture and ongoing chaos, a continued US presence will magically shift Iraqi reality in the opposite direction? The only way we're leaving is with a collective Iraqi boot up our ass -- or to put it so Glenn Greenwald might better understand, via the Euphrates Riverdance.