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Oil, Blood and Iraq

Published on Friday, August 19, 2005 by
by Jerry Lanson

For the most part, the people sacrificing for this war are the troops and their families, and very few of them are coming from the privileged economic classes.
-- Bob Herbert, New York Times
One of my neighbors apppears to take his responsibility of raising a family in this affluent birthplace of the American revolution awfully seriously. He has draped an oversized American flag over his front door. It hangs there day and night, in sunshine and in rain, about 15 feet from the SUV parked in the driveway.

I've been tempted to ask him about his definition of patriotism; to ask him why, if he believes so much in America, he drives a car that guzzles gas, helps push its price sky high, and makes all of us that much more dependent on foreign oil. I want to know how many of his relatives have fought and died in Iraq. And I'd like to remind him that the American flag is supposed to be folded at night and taken down in the rain.

My Toyota Camry likely gets twice the mileage of his car. Yet he's the one with the yellow ribbon on his car's window. The Times' Bob Herbert understands. "The loudest hawks are the least likely to send their sons or daughers off to Iraq," he writes. They're also, according to my strictly unscientific survey, the most likely to drive oversized cars and live in oversized houses.

Just what allows these folks to smugly claim the moral high ground? At the outset of this awful war, they mocked those who suggested oil might be behind the invasion. They're still mocking. But then why are we there? Does anyone really believe that this was a war to stop the proliferation of WMD? There were none. Does anyone watching the daily carnage truly believe we're on the cusp of bringing democracy and freedom to the Middle East? Or that Iraq today is a markedly better place to live than under the oppressive rule of Saddam Hussein?

I doubt it.

Dirt does not power cars. Oil does. That's why few politicians, diplomats or armchair generals said boo about the systematic slaughter of tens of thousands in Sudan and Rwanda. That's why, this week, as more of our boys (and girls) are blown to bits on patrol, the Kurds, Shia and Sunni will keep fighting over a Constitution devoted as much to dividing Iraqi oil revenues as to creating democracy. And that's why we'll still be in Iraq weeks and months after Cindy Sheehan ends her determined vigil by the Crawford, Texas, roadside, waiting in vain for an arrogant president to say, "I'm sorry."

Jerry Lanson teaches journalism at Emerson College in Boston.


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For those of you who support this administration because you honestly believe that it is well-intentioned and that there exists some true "noble cause" behind its invasion of Iraq, take a moment to consider just the "freedom and democracy" aspect of the outcome. It really is one of those "nothing succeeds like failure" moments in history. Here's a quote from just one on-line article on the subject.

By destroying Saddam Hussein's administration and the Baath Party, the Bush administration removed the glue holding the Iraqi nation together as a secular state. So while initially planning a long period of direct U.S. rule, the U.S. was forced by the Sunni resistance as well as Shiite mass protests to create an Iraqi administration. It assigned it to compose a constitution. The difficulties and delay in writing that constitution reflect the artificiality of the nation created within the colonizers' borders, and expose the naiveté and arrogance of the Bush administration in supposing that an Iraq agreeable to all its communities and to itself could be easily established under occupation and outside pressure.

One isn't supposed to say this, but present chaos and threat of civil war in occupied Iraq, as well as the attacks on the rights of women, Christians and others make the era of iron-fisted Baath rule appear in contrast, at least in some respects, progressive and benign. Under the old regime girls walked to public schools to receive their secular educations, unconcerned about Islamic dress regulations and the threat of attack, abduction, and rape. Owners of liquor stores and video shops operated without having to worry about fundamentalist Muslim gangs enforcing religious law. Churches enjoyed the protection of the state, and Christians saw no need to flee in fear to Syria. Surely Saddam can mutter in his cell, "It's because I kept the lid on with my harsh rule, based on intimidation, fear and the demonstration of ferocious vengeance on my enemies that Iraq remained stable and secular. Then the Americans, my former allies, for their own imperial purposes, decided to lift the lid, empowering the clerics, pitting communities against one another, and inflicting chaos on my country!"

The moral of the story: True freedom and democracy do not come from the barrel of a gun -- nor from cluster bombs, napalm and "depleted" uranium -- regardless of intentions, good or bad.

SOURCE: The Myth of a "Free and Democratic" Iraq

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