>Our commander-in-chief ventured to Fort Bragg to address the 82nd Airborne today, the White House dutifully posted a copy of the remarks. As has come to be expected, no sooner did he finish thanking various people than he launched into yet another ‘version’ of Bushian history. Bushian history, as compared to other forms of historical writing and analysis, allows its author to conflate, obfuscate, revise, and rewrite the fact to fit the political winds of the day. The President was in fine form.
Bushian History: “When our nation announced that the 82nd Airborne was flying toward Haiti in 1994, the country’s oppressive leader began to make plans to fly out. Across the world, the 82nd has come to represent the vanguard of freedom — and we salute all the brave veterans with us today who have ever marched in your ranks.”
This requires some serious revision. It also requires that one focus on Avril and forget the image of the peasant priest Aristide who received 67% of the vote in a 1990 election which featured a field of 12 candidates, but who was ‘transported’ from his country. There’s little question that the CIA and other U.S. groups funded the FRAPH which came to prominence in Haiti after a military coup backed by ultra-rightists ousted Aristide in September 1991. For the next three years Haiti was run by a military-civilian junta as ruthless as the Duvaliers. Seven weeks after Aristide’s return a Republican controlled U.S. Congress blocked aid to Haiti or burdened it with impossible preconditions. Money went to the anti-Aristide opposition. It flowed into Halliburton support services, but precious little effort was made to rebuild schools, open hospitals and clinics, repair roads, or to improve the beleaguered nation’s infrastructure. Worse, the U.S. still wasn’t finished with the desperately poor country.
There were supposedly ‘bills to pay.’ “Yet in order to meet the renewed demands of the IDB, the cash-strapped Haitian government was required to pay ever-expanding arrears on its debts, many of them linked to loans paid out to the Duvalier dictatorship and to the military regimes that ruled Haiti with great brutality from 1986 to 1990. In July 2003, Haiti sent more than 90 per cent of all its foreign reserves to Washington to pay off these arrears. As of today, less than $4 million of the four blocked loans – which totalled $146 million – has reached Haiti in spite of many assurances from the IDB.” And Aristide? He was ‘given a choice of destinations’ according to U.S. sources, although he was flown to Banqui, CAR (one of the most dangerous cities in the world) although Aristide still maintains that he was kidnapped and transported out of the country in January 2004. [LRB] The French are still trying to collect their ‘pound of flesh’ from Haiti, and the U.S. (once prodded by reactionary racist Sen. Jesse Helms) has been doing its part since Jefferson decided that recognizing the second republic in the western hemisphere would be the “worst message to send” to a slave owning country possible.
Opening up a discussion of U.S. foreign policy toward Haiti may not be advisable during the upcoming campaign season. There are entirely too many skeletons in too many Republican closets for this subject to be all that comfortable.
Bushian History: Since the attacks of 9/11, you have deployed on more missions than any other division in the United States Army. You’ve taken the battle to the terrorists abroad — so we do not have to face them here at home. And you’ve shown the enemies of freedom that the 82nd Airborne will never give any ground, and will always fight “all the way.”
There he goes again, “fight’em there so we don’t have to fight’em here,” as if Al Qaeda is a major force in the Iraqi insurgency tied down by our occupation of Iraq. Bushian orthodoxy requires that Republicans chant this slogan until time immemorial in spite of all facts to the contrary.
Bushian History: “Thanks to you, hundreds of insurgents have been captured in eastern Afghanistan; many others have been killed. And thanks to you, a nation where al Qaida once plotted the attacks of 9/11 is now a democracy and an ally in the war against these extremists.”
And, this would explain why the current situation in Afghanistan is now so tenuous that there are significant requests for more troops in the area to deal with an increasingly formidable reconstitution of the Taliban forces? [CrisisGroup]
Bushian History: “When Operation Iraqi Freedom began, members of the 82nd Airborne helped remove Saddam Hussein from power. The decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision at the time — and it remains the right decision today.”
Why remains a mystery left to the ages? He did not have an operational nuclear weapons development program. He did not have weapons of mass destruction. He was not collaborating with Al Qaeda forces and conspirators. So, why was it the right decision? The President likes to complain about critics who debate the causes of the invasion as ‘looking backward’ when it is time to move on. However, each time he makes this assertion the topic, of course, comes right back up.
Bushian History: “And across Iraq, violence is down, civilian deaths are down, sectarian killings are down, and attacks on American forces are down.”
Down compared to what? And, what do we make of the announcement that Shi’a cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has been quietly issuing religious edicts indicating that armed resistance against U.S. troops is permissible? [AP] This may, in turn, have some connection to reports similar to yesterday’s news that U.S. airstrikes had killed 8 Iraqi civilians and policemen. [Reuters] Then there’s the matter of the assassination of the director of the protection department in the ministry of transportation last Wednesday, and the attempted assassination of an Iraqi court judge. [JCole]
Bushian History: “So far three brigades, including the Falcon Brigade, have redeployed without replacement as part of this drawdown. Two more brigades will follow in the months ahead. When we complete this drawdown, we will have reduced our combat brigades in Iraq by 25 percent from the year before. General Petraeus and our commanders will continue to analyze the situation on the ground and report back to me with their recommendations for future troop levels. But my message to our commanders is this: You will have all the troops, you will have all the resources you need to win in Iraq.”
The reduction the President is haling will leave about 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq in mid-July 2008. [Reuters] When the President announced “mission accomplished” there were 146,000 troops in Iraq. [HuffPo]
Bushian History: “Often I’ve been asked: What will success look like in Iraq? So I want to share some thoughts with you. Success will be when al Qaeda has no safe havens in Iraq and Iraqis can protect themselves. Success will be when Iraq is a nation that can support itself economically. Success will be when Iraq is a democracy that governs itself effectively and responds to the will of its people. Success will be when Iraq is a strong and capable ally in the war on terror. And when our country succeeds in Iraq, generations of Americans will be more secure.”
Something tells me we’ve heard all this before somewhere?
Bushian History: “The second condition for success in Iraq is a country that can support itself economically. Iraq‘s economy has made tremendous strides since the beginning of the surge. Inflation is declining, economic growth is increasing, investment in the energy and telecom industries is increasing. Energy production is on the rise. Listen, there are many challenges that remain — and there is work to be done to overcome decades of oppression and mismanagement. Yet Iraqis can take pride in the economic progress their country has made.”
This would explain the problems with the water systems? Their electrical grid? It’s fine to have ‘investment’ in various sectors but putting money into projects doesn’t guarantee delivery, especially while the ‘oppression and mismanagement’ sectors appear to be doing just fine.
Bushian History: “And in Baghdad, the government is responding to these developments with an impressive string of legislative achievements. They passed a pension law, de-Baathification reform, a new budget, an amnesty law, a provincial powers law. And while there’s still a distance to travel, they have come a long way. Their legislative accomplishments would be notable in any country. But they’re even more impressive considering the conditions the Iraqis have had to overcome.”
However, the provincial elections originally scheduled for October have been pushed back a month because the Iraqi Parliament has not been able to pass an elections law. The Iraqiya List has refused another invitation to return to the al-Maliki government. No provincial elections (and now there are squabbles about set dates and rolling dates) no parliament, no parliament no government.
Bushian History: “And now the leaders of Iraq want to solidify their country’s relationship with the United States. Last year, America and Iraq agreed to sign a long-term strategic partnership. This partnership would support future cooperation between our countries — without establishing permanent bases, or without binding a future President to specific troop levels. Part of this agreement would provide legal protection for American troops in Iraq — similar to those in other countries where our forces are deployed. And it would show our friends across the world that America will stand with them as they stand against terror.”
Just a question here: Why would we need an “agreement to provide legal protection for American troops in Iraq” if there aren’t going to be American troops in Iraq more or less permanently? As in, say, the next 100 years?
Bushian History: “The enemy has made clear that Iraq is the central battleground of the great ideological struggle of our time. This is a struggle between those who murder the innocent to advance their hateful objectives and those of us who love liberty and long for peace. We saw that these enemies — what these enemies intend for our country on September the 11th, 2001 — and we must do everything in our power to stop the enemy from attacking us again.”
Ah, the so-called Global War on Terror has now been transformed into the “great ideological struggle of our time?” The President is so enamored of conflating Iraq and 9/11 that he’s still doing it. OK, we know Al-Qaeda in Iraq wasn’t in Iraq until we invaded. The President seems to have missed this memo. With whom, please, are we engaged in this Great Ideological Struggle? If it’s Islam, then the President is no better than the Patriot Parson Rod Parsley, whom candidate McCain just pitched under the bus. If it’s radical extremists operating along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border then the ‘great ideological struggle’ is significantly more compact.
Bushian History: “Withdrawal from Iraq before we have achieved success would embolden al Qaeda and give them new safe havens from which to plot attacks on the American homeland. Withdrawal before success would embolden Iran in its nuclear weapons ambitions and its efforts to dominate the region. Withdrawal before success would send a signal to terrorists and extremists across the world that America is weak, and does not have the stomach for a long fight. Withdrawal before success would be catastrophic for our country. It would more likely — be more likely that we would suffer another attack like the one we experienced on September the 11th. It would jeopardize the safety of future generations. And we must not, and we will not, allow that to happen.”
And if we leave Vietnam the Communists will take over and pretty soon they will be invading California? Washington? Oregon? Does the President really believe that a Shi’a government (and it will be Shi’a) in Iraq will tolerate the “safe haven” of Sunni extremists? And, what on this whirling blue planet would ‘embolden’ Iran more than removing a secular Sunni dictatorship that acted as a counter-weight to Iranian influence in the region before 2003? “9/11, 9/11, 9/11….”
Bushian History: “By contrast, success in Iraq would deny al Qaeda safe haven and hand Osama bin Laden a strategic defeat in the land where his terrorist movement has chosen to make a stand. Success in Iraq would deal a devastating blow to Iran‘s ambitions to dominate the region. Success in Iraq would show the people of the Middle East that democracy and freedom can flourish in their midst. And success in Iraq would send a signal to the world that America does not withdraw, does not retreat, does not back down in the face of terror — and that will make us safer here in the United States of America.”
Cue the President – if we’re in Iraq, Al Qaeda will be in Iraq. Success, as defined by the President to be an elected secure government in Iraq, will be more amenable to Iranian interests than to ours. This doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a satellite government of Tehran, merely that a Shi’a dominated government in Baghdad will have more in common with Tehran than with Washington.
“And success in Iraq would send a signal to the world that America does not withdraw, does not retreat, does not back down in the face of terror –“ no, but we might wish to withdraw in the face of reality. Unfortunately, this line from the President’s message to the troops reads like the desperate challenge of a wounded presidency unwilling to accept responsibility for its errors, uninterested in correcting its mistakes, and unable to think beyond a simplistic ‘flight or fight’ mentality. We really are a much creative nation than this, and it would be a very good thing if we had an administration to match our collective intelligence.