Whose Analogy Is This Anyway?
Whose Analogy Is This Anyway?
Here are parts of a rather ordinary summary report on 24 hours in
Here we have the sort of mad spin that anyone who lived through the Vietnam era can't help but remember -- the insistence on "progress" of one sort or another against all evidence on the ground, an anti-truth telling meant to "buy time" during which, it is hoped, evidence of the very momentum, the very progress being described will appear on the radar screen. Robert McNamara, the former secretary of defense, was an expert at this sort of thing and, as with McNamara, we'll undoubtedly discover when the tell-alls and memoirs come out that Armitage and most of the others knew things were much, much grimmer, but just went right on anyway. (Responsibility being something reserved for less eminent types.)
Lekic also describes an attack on an American military vehicle in the streets of Mosul, resulting in several wounded American who abandon the vehicle which is then burned not by the insurgents but by "local people" -- this in a city 250 miles north of Baghdad and so beyond the "Sunni Triangle," further evidence that the insurgency may be spreading northwards. (I use "insurgents," by the way, simply to keep up with the latest usage. The Los Angeles Times, according to Dan Whitcomb at the Commondreams website, "has ordered its reporters to stop describing anti-American forces in
"'They (Americans) are occupying the world,' said Shazad Ahmed, a resident who saw the attack. 'What do you want the people to do? Kiss them?'"
This seems to catch a response one might have heard in any colonial or neo-colonial occupation by any superpower of the moment any time in the last century. And talking of responses, Lekic reports the following American response to the crash (assumedly due to enemy fire) of a Blackhawk helicopter near Tikrit in which six Americans died and for which no one has claimed credit and no insurgents were found -- an event that has yet to be definitively declared the result of an act of "insurgency":
On television, this was reported as an assault involving tanks and howitzers as well, a whole air-land assortment of weaponry, all firing into nearby areas and at houses which insurgents (however unknown) "might" have used to aid in the attack. Consider that and you know that you have signs of collective punishment, though (as in Vietnam) it's seldom reported that way in our media; a collective punishment assumedly ordered from on high in a spirit of revenge for the dead, and possibly for the humiliations of the week, with a distinct edge of frustration undoubtedly thrown in for good measure. This is being referred to as a "show of force" in the Sunni Triangle and it takes us a small way toward the mindset that turned much of
For instance, our forces are globally stretched so thin that the decision has been made to ship up to 20,000 Marines to
And keep in mind what the results of that "show of force" in Tikrit are likely to be. That's easy enough to guess with only
"Sarab rolls up her sleeve and looks at the thick scar across her upper arm. The eight-year-old says she was playing in the bathroom of her house when the shots were fired but cannot remember anything else. 'It is their routine,' said her grandfather, Turk Jassim. 'After the Americans are attacked, they shoot everywhere. This is inhuman - a stupid act by a country always talking about human rights.'â€¦While the
"In the area around Falluja, the
According to Graham, the angry tribesmen claim to have shot down that Chinook helicopter last week and also to have shot up a train carrying military supplies. Anthony Shadid, the incomparable Washington Post reporter in Iraq (who actually speaks Arabic and so has an immense advantage over just about any other American, military or civilian, except the commander of our forces Gen. Abizaid) spotlighted similar problems in a recent article. Pointing out that "with a limited number of interpreters and interrogators, the military is often forced to take people to bases for questioning," he then wrote about one such case (
"[The mother of a fugitive son the Americans couldn't find] said brown burlap bags were placed over their heads. Terrified and crying, they were driven in Humvees to the nearby
Cultural ignorance deep enough to be staggering, superpower arrogance -- that is, a sense of our own superiority powerful enough to replace old-fashioned racism as a powering force in new-style colonial relations -- and a confusing mix of counterinsurgency tactics that might have been designed for, in Shadid's words, "creating enemies" makes up a powerful trio that, again, had its parallels in our Vietnam moment.
Not surprisingly, much of this has a deeply familiar ring to it to many Americans. Senator Fritz Hollings gave a speech in the Senate last week on his feeling that this was just dÃ©jÃ vu all over again:
"I voted for the [war] resolution. I was misled. Now we hear that this is not
"Mr. President, I do not know how many more similarities we are going to get.
"...Was it for nuclear? No. Was it for terrorists? No, they didn't have terrorists there. Your son gave his life for what? As their Senator, I am embarrassed. It wasn't for any of those things. Why we went in, the administration has yet to tell us. They keep changing the rules and the goalposts every timeâ€¦"
And here is a response to the Hollings speech from a mother whose son died in Iraq, the kind of statement that, later in the Vietnam Era became ever more common, if never less gut wrenching (Lauren Markoe, TheState.com [South Carolina], 11/6/03):
"'He is so right; there is no reason for the war,' said Carolyn Hutchings of Boiling Springs. Her son, Marine Private Nolen Ryan Hutchings, 20, died on the outskirts of Nasiriyah in a friendly fire incident. 'First of all, we're after al Qaeda, and then all of a sudden it turns to
The final sentence of Slobodan Lekic's piece is perhaps the most telling -- and it reminds us that whatever reality we Americans are inhabiting right now, we are not, in fact, in
"[Secretary of State Colin] Powell said in an interview that it remained unclear who was behind the spate of attacks."
Such a statement could never have been made in
Now, in some sense, we are literally unsure who it is we're fighting. This sort of passage, from a Howard LaFranchi piece in the Christian Science Monitor (
"Who makes up the resistance and why it is strengthening -- with attacks two nights in a row this week on the American civilian authority's fortress compound in central
"â€¦ even though the
There's a certain pathos in the fact that we entered
"After many weeks of refusing to admit the word 'guerrilla' into evidence, Rumsfeld seems to have made his peace with it. Yet, when asked this past weekend on television who the guerrillas are, he foundered, admitting in so many words that he hasn't a clue. I was actually embarrassed for him. A terrific debater and otherwise reasonably smart man, Rumsfeld was reduced to telling us once again that Iraq is the size of California and bemoaning the deficiencies in 'situational awareness' and lack of 'perfect visibility' into who it is that are killing our troops."
In our world, then,
There is "cut and run," a Lyndon Johnsonism that somehow won't die even with several stakes in its syntactic heart; "progress," McNamara's creature; "nightmare" into which in Vietnam we were always descending; Vietnamization (in the form of "Iraqification"), a state towards which we're suddenly running as if into the arms of a lover, though most of our leaders seem to have forgotten what "Vietnamization" really entailed -- a South Vietnamese army that was a funnel for arms going to the guerrillas and that proved anything but a trustworthy ally in the war; and recently, "credibility"(whatever we do, we can't leave, because we can't afford to lose it, whatever it is). It was the Vietnam-era word par excellence and it's now flooding into
This week Senator John McCain, still perhaps quietly positioning himself for a
He's not completely wrong, of course. If the Iraqi "enemy," top to bottom, remains faceless and largely speechless, so do the Iraqis on our side. Note that McCain talks about the Iraqi people, not the isolated, powerless Governing Council. It, too, is largely "faceless." At least in
"Our defeat in
In the meantime, let's note that as Vietnam words arrive, some key post-9/11 words seem to be disappearing: "Mullah Omar" (who remembers him, even though he's leading a reorganized Taliban in the land that time forgot, Afghanistan); "Anthrax killer" (He/she/they have long been in absentia, except when the odd pond is drained in Virginia, despite the fact that his/her/their attack -- the first to employ a weapon of mass destruction in the United States -- was a significant factor in driving us toward a "war" on terror, when it was still thought that the anthrax came from al-Qaeda, not from our own weapons labs); "Osama bin Laden" (except on the days when he releases a new tape); and what about that hangman's "noose" (first around Osama and then around Saddam Hussein, in both cases "tightening" rapidly); even "Saddam" seems MIA most of the time -- and that may be the strangest thing of all since to topple him we first enforced a decade of fierce sanctions, helping destroy the Iraqi infrastructure and inflicting vast suffering on the Iraqi people and then, despite (as reported this week) his last minute attempts to settle up, launched a war essentially against a single man, causing yet more suffering among Iraqis. The three personalized targets of our "war" against terror as it bled into our war against Saddam as it bled back into a war against terror are all evidently still free and plotting against us. If a police force had such results in a high profile series of cases for which the national treasury had been opened heads would obviously roll.