A Terror For Our Time

An Australian soldier in Talill, Iraq.

Andrew Bolt wrote in his Herald Sun column last week: ‘Almost unacknowledged by the Australian media, the tide in Iraq is turning. We can now dare to think Iraq will indeed survive as a democracy.’

How delightful it must be to walk in Bolt’s shoes. A shameless booster of the Iraq War, tireless defender of George W Bush and his policies, and brave fighter against Islamofascism, the Murdoch columnist was recently as excited as a cadet confident that the ‘surge’ had finally vindicated the War Party’s tactics.

For a man who’s spent a few hours in Baghdad’s Green Zone with Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and who’s seen first hand the brilliance of US military strategy, Washington’s approved spin was terribly comforting. The price has been worth it, after all. The estimated million civilian deaths since 2003, four million refugees dispersed across the Middle East and the nearly one million internal refugees could be ignored. American ‘prestige’ was intact.

But Bolt is an irrelevance. The reality on the ground makes his ignorant pronouncements obscene. Iraq, even as a barely functioning entity, no longer exists. Whole communities are being ethnically cleansed. Sunni and Shi’ite death squads supported variously by the US, Iran and a host of other nations have recognised the most important fact of all: that America no longer controls the situation, its power drained after years of inept planning and criminal negligence.

Ironically, US defeat in Iraq, already a foregone conclusion by the beginning of 2004, has resulted in a Middle East that can finally release itself from decades of divide-and-conquer rule.

For the people of the region, multiple battlefronts Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine have revealed both the limits of US power and the rise of regional power-brokers like Syria and Iran. Time.com‘s Senior Editor Tony Karon explains that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has realised that the US has ‘shot its wad’ and is now looking towards Iran and Syria for assistance:

The US has created an intractable mess in Iraq, because steps taken to firm up the only Government capable of maintaining majority support mean siding with Iran against Washington’s Arab allies, while the only alternative is essentially to get back in bed with the Baathists and try to once again install a regime of suppression of the Shi’ite majority which can’t work, because the mechanisms are no longer in place, and the Shi’ite majority is risen.

The failure of the Iraq ‘project’ wasn’t decided on the battlefront but in the history books.

While many supposedly enlightened liberals supported the War in 2003 and now decry Bush Administration failings rather than the underlying ideology behind them it was always inevitable that a national resistance movement would arise in Iraq. It is now also becoming frighteningly clear how much the success of that resistance movement has managed to delay attacks on Iran and Syria.

The mainstream media may now be willingly hyping Washington’s erroneous claims about Iranian meddling in Iraq forgetting that Iraq is already virtually an Iranian proxy-State and that the vast majority of foreign fighters in the country are from close US ally, Saudi Arabia yet it has become virtually impossible to gauge the real picture on the ground.

Real journalism, as opposed to the Green Zone reporting beloved by Bolt and Co, is now so dangerous for both Westerners and Iraqis that we have to rely on fragmented reports from a wide variety of sources, not White House press releases (though these latest talking points are worth savouring). One wonders how Bolt and his war boosters can take anything Washington says seriously these days, after four years of disastrous stage-managing by the Pentagon.

The toll on Iraqi civilians is one of the unspoken tragedies of the War. A recent Australian book, Dead Bodies Don’t Count, attempts to address this imbalance. Authors Richard Hil and Paul Wilson examine the ‘ways in which the Governments of the œCoalition of the Willing  have consistently refused to undertake a count of the Iraqi dead and injured.’

The book highlights a comment by former Australian Minister of Defence Robert Hill. When asked in 2005 by Labor’s John Faulkner to ‘ascertain what these figures [civilian casualties]might be,’ Hill’s response was: ‘Well, we’ve accepted that it’s not possible at this time to produce an accurate figure on civilian casualties.’ In other words, the US Alliance is far more important than the trivial matter of mass killings. Such contempt for the real effects of the War are standard.

Meanwhile, the likelihood of a US military strike against Iran is growing by the day. Former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton hopes Washington will bomb the Islamic Republic within six months. Former CIA operative Bob Baer believes an attack is more than likely. The Democratic Presidential contenders all regularly threaten Iran. President Bush and his media henchmen do likewise.

We should, however, be highly skeptical of any ‘evidence’ of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. During my recent visit to Iran, I was constantly told that the Mullahs had been hoping for a US attack for decades, because they believe that it would help them crush internal dissent and solidify their rule. Those calling for military action against Iran care little about the effect on Iranian civilians. The supposed threat against Israel and US interests will always take precedence over defenceless civilians being bombed into ‘liberation.’

John Howard’s goose-stepping behind Bush’s disastrous Middle East policies up to now should be a warning to us all. But those who believe that a Labor Government under Kevin Rudd would act differently should read his recent address to the Australian American Leadership Dialogue. On many key issues, his ideas are little different to Howard’s, and his long-standing fawning over Washington would undoubtedly continue.

I’ve long believed that if Labor had been in Government in 2002 and they’d received a troop request for the impending Iraq War, they wouldn’t have hesitated in agreeing. The US Alliance has always come first under both Labor and Liberal Governments. With the British about to leave Iraq, thoroughly defeated in Basra, and a top US general suggesting that ‘democratic institutions are not necessarily the way ahead in the long-term future,’ it’s clear that both major sides of Australian politics will continue avoiding a reckoning of the real costs of this War.

When the likes of Andrew Bolt have moved on to support the next ‘liberation’ war against innocent civilians, listen to the voices of the dispossessed and ethnically cleansed.

History rarely records these invisible lives though John Pilger’s upcoming documentary the War on Democracy notably remembers the victims of US terror in Latin America and we should never forget that State-run terrorism is the true scourge of our time.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.