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Baghdad bait-and-switch. (The Last Word).

"The thrill of victory is fading for some Amenican troops in Iraq," reported a May 28th AP dispatch from Baghdad. "With the military victory squarely in the past, some servicemen ... are wondering about their role as peacekeepers." "Those who did the killing should not be the ones keeping the peace," observed one anonymous U.S. soldier. "They need to send us home."

This seems eminently reasonable. After all, didn't the banner prominently displayed behind President Bush during his visit to the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln proclaim: "Mission Accomplished"? Indeed it did. But curiously enough, since the president's May Day photo op aboard the Lincoln, dozens of American troops have been killed in Iraq, most of them in ambushes staged by surprisingly resilient irregular forces. Apparently the junior-grade Leni Riefenstahls in charge of sculpting Mr. Bush's triumphant image hadn't anticipated another wave of American bodybags arriving from Iraq.

Much of the Iraqi population supposedly liberated by the U.S.-led invasion is beginning to resent the openended occupation of their nation. A May 29th Los Angeles Times dispatch from the western Iraqi city Hit described a revolt that erupted when occupation troops, working alongside brutal local police from Saddam's despised Ba'ath Party, conducted house-to-house searches for weapons. After their peaceful protests availed them nothing, local residents staged a riot that eventually led to the coalition forces' withdrawal.

Esmael Rabee, a local construction worker, explained to the Times: "They forced women and children to leave their houses. They violated the dignity and honor of our women. We won't accept this violation. The people will do more of this if the Americans come in here again.... They showed no respect for our way of life."

Americans with a modicum of historical memory, and an attention span longer than the typical Sean Hannity soundbite, might hear in Rabee's angry words echoes of our ill-fated occupation of Somalia, another "humanitarian" invasion that degenerated into a chaotic bloodbath after "mission creep" set in. What supposedly began as an effort to feed famine victims was redefined -- by the UN and the Clinton administration -- as a nation-building effort, including efforts to disarm the civilian population.

Even as the Bush administration devises Orwellian justifications for the absence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, it is quietly revising its mission objectives in Iraq. It is clear now that President Bush knowingly lied about Iraqi WMDs threatening the very existence of the United States. It is becoming just as clear that he lied in his assurances that our troops would remain in Iraq only as long as necessary to oust Saddam. "But not one minute longer."

No occupation was necessary to destroy a nonexistent Iraqi military threat. And if the purpose of the occupation is to transform Iraq into a model western "democracy' it will never end.

Of the predictable consequences of Mr. Bush's Baghdad bait-and-switch, two are particularly worthy of attention.

First, veterans of the current Iraq occupation will compose much of the personnel pool from which our law enforcement system will recruit. (That pool will also include veterans of ongoing UN occupation missions in the Balkans.) These men will come to their new jobs with practical field experience in disarming civilians and carrying out other critical garrison-state functions.

Hopefully, many or most of them will develop a healthy disgust of being used in this fashion. But at least some of them will acquire a taste for exercising arbitrary power, or embrace the "I'm just following orders" mindset. It is the latter personality type that will be rewarded and promoted in our emerging "homeland security" apparatus.

The second dreadful consequence of the open-ended Baghdad mission will be a steady and worsening hemorrhage of national power, wealth, and prestige. One foretaste of the costs of Imperium was offered when President Bush quietly signed a measure raising the ceiling on the National Debt by nearly $1 trillion. Ultimately, those costs will prove too much for our nation to bear alone. In such fashion does swaggering imperialism set the stage for compelled interdependence.

In a new 148-page report bearing the unwieldy title A New National Security Strategy in an Age of Terrorists, Tyrants, and Weapons of Mass Destruction, the Council on Foreign Relations describes a three-stage process leading from our present Iraq occupation to a "Cooperative World Order" administered by the UN. Building on the UN-centered precedents set by President Bush in the Iraq occupation, the CFR report envisions a future presidential speech in which Mr. Bush, or a successor, urges the world to "move forward with the unfinished project of creating a permanent standing [UN military] force. I will ask the UN Security Council and the secretary-general to place this issue at the top of their agenda."

It's reasonable to imagine a not-too-distant time when American servicemen and their families, weary of the burden of empire, would eagerly embrace transferring that burden to the UN.
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Author:Grigg, William Norman
Publication:The New American
Date:Jun 30, 2003
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