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Saturday, March 24, 2007

It's the empire, stupid!

During the 1992 Presidential campaign, James Carville famously coined the phrase, "It's the economy, stupid", in order to keep the Clinton campaign on message.

Carville was wrong. It's not the economy. It's the empire.

As we observe this fourth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, let's remember the 3,218 American soldiers killed and the 24,042 wounded. Let's remember the $410 billion that have been wasted so far.

But let's also remember the Iraqis killed (as many as 655,000), the Iraqis wounded (who knows how many?), and the amount of Iraqi treasure wasted (who knows how much?).

And while we're at it, let's remember the Iraqis killed by the brutal sanctions imposed by Clinton during the 1990s (as many as 500,000). To the Iraqis, there probably isn't much of a moral difference between Clinton's economic warfare and Bush's conventional warfare.

Let's also remember this:

In 1996 then-UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright was asked by 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl, in reference to years of U.S.-led economic sanctions against Iraq, "We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that is more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?"

To which Ambassador Albright responded, "I think that is a very hard choice, but the price, we think, the price is worth it."

That remark caused no public outcry. In fact, in January the following year Albright was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as President Clinton's secretary of state.

--Sheldon Richman in "Albright 'Apologizes'" at

Let's also remember that these sanctions were one of the main reasons given by Osama bin Laden for the terrorist attacks of 9/11. And let's remember that Bush dragged the U. S. into invading Iraq--a country that had not attacked the U. S. and had not threatened to attack the U. S.--based in part on his implication, which turned out to be false, that Saddam Hussein was somehow involved in 9/11. So Clinton's sanctions led to 9/11, which led to the present Iraq war/occupation. What will the Iraq war/occupation lead to?

Of course, just as history did not begin on 9/11, it did not begin with Clinton's sanctions. In January 2003 (i.e., two months before the invasion), Sheldon Richman wrote as follows:

It is indisputable that the U.S. government has picked fights where it did not belong. This is true throughout the Middle East and in nearby Afghanistan at least since the end of World War II.

The CIA helped Saddam Hussein to gain power in Iraq. Then the U.S. government encouraged him to go to war with Iran, because Iran became our enemy after the people there overthrew the brutal shah, whom the CIA restored to power in 1953. During the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, the U.S. government gave Hussein export credits, intelligence data, and the capacity to make biological weapons. His use of chemical weapons was no big deal to our misleaders, though retrospectively, they are appalled.

The troubles for America in Afghanistan started in the late 1970s when the Carter administration got the bright idea of luring the faltering Soviet Union into its "Vietnam." Afghanistan had a secular, pro-Soviet regime. Carter's national-security team, led by Zbigniew Brzezinski, encouraged Islamic radicals to cause trouble for the regime in the hope that the Russians would intervene to save it and keep the peace on its border. Part of this effort was a Pakistani and Saudi program to get Arab radicals to fight in Afghanistan to expel the Russian infidels.

The plan worked like a charm. The only problem was that the radicals wanted to expel another foreign invader after they were done with the Soviets: the U.S. government. A particularly charismatic and wealthy Saudi was among the mujahideen, who were embraced as "freedom" fighters" by the Carter, Reagan, and first Bush administrations. His name was Osama bin Laden.

(Incidentally, this policy of encouraging sectarian radicals was not new. The U.S. government had previously supported the rise of religious rivals to the secular Arab leaders it feared, such as Egypt's Nasser. Likewise, the Israelis nurtured the religious Arabs who became Hamas in order to deprive the secular Arafat of followers. Such is how "blowback" operates.)

When the United States went to war against Saddam Hussein for invading Kuwait (an invasion condoned in advance by the United States), hatred of the U.S. government increased for its stationing of troops near the Islamic holy sites in Saudi Arabia and imposing a monstrous embargo on Iraq, depriving the people of food, medicine, and sanitation facilities. These were the main reasons cited by bin Laden for the September 11 strikes.

Another occasion for extended U.S. meddling in the Middle East has been the five decades of unwavering support for Israel against the Palestinians. While many Palestinians have engaged in murderous violence against innocents, it cannot be denied that the root of the problem is that the land of innocent Arabs has been taken from them and many have been killed and oppressed in the process.

The fruits of intervention

This long train of abuses by the U.S. government has understandably created seething resentment. How should an Arab feel when missiles and bombs with the words "Made in the USA" come crashing into his home, killing his children? Fortunately, most people in the Middle East distinguish the American government from the American people. Polls done by John Zogby routinely confirm this. They don't hate us. They hate our government's policies. So should we.

Unfortunately, a small number of fanatics don't make that distinction — hence, events like the World Trade Center terrorism. (No, this doesn't mean "we" deserved 9/11. It means the U.S. government failed us by putting us at risk and then was impotent to protect us.)

--"Arrogance Is Humility" at http://www.fff.org/freedom/fd0301c.asp.


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