The video opens with a few bars of adrenalin-pumping music. We see a topsy-turvy camera angle, sky, trees, darkness, then a staccato pop pop pop that blends rhythmically with the music, but of course it’s gunfire, lots of gunfire, followed by a few urgent words in Arabic, then English. “Down here! Down here!”
This chaotic excitement is Iraq, the evening’s International Hot Spot, brought to us by ABC. It’s the news, but it’s also reality TV and big league sports, rolled into an entertainment package of shocking cluelessness. OMG, ISIS is on the move. It’s winning. Stay tuned!
Iraq, Iraq. This is a disaster stamped “made in USA.” Worse than that. It’s a bleeding stump of a nation that we destroyed in our pursuit of empire, at the cost of multi-trillions of dollars, hundreds of thousands or perhaps a million Iraqi lives, and spiritual and physical damage to American troops so profound a new phrase had to be coined: moral injury. And now, our official, moneyed media serve up what’s left of Iraq to us as geopolitical entertainment: the moderates (our guys, sort of) vs. the insurgents. Go, U.S.-trained troops! Stand tough and die for American interests, OK?
Of course, as the Washington Post reported earlier this month: “Fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al-Qaeda offshoot, overran the western bank of the city (of Mosul) overnight after U.S.-trained Iraqi soldiers and police officers abandoned their posts, in some instances discarding their uniforms as they sought to escape the advance of the militants.”
This is our terrible baby, but hear the words of another Washington Post story:
“For both sides,” write Gregg Jaffe and Kevin Maurer, referring to sides within the U.S. military, “the debate over who lost Iraq remains raw and emotional. Many of today’s military officers still carry fresh memories of friends killed in battle.”
They add, however: “Iraq and the Iraqi people remain something of an abstraction. For much of the war, U.S. troops patrolled Iraq’s cities in lumbering armored vehicles and lived on heavily fortified bases surrounded by blast walls and barbed wire.”
That line — “Iraq and the Iraqi people remain something of an abstraction” — was quoted recently by former CIA analyst (and current member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity) Ray McGovern in an extraordinary essay that cries out — stop! — to American militarism and American indifference. We can’t continue to play this game. We can no longer not know that we murder children, that we murder innocent people with lives to lead, in our pursuit of oil and strategic advantage and war and empire: in our pursuit of militarized “peace.”
The debate about the current civil war in Iraq is not about how many troops we should send into the fray, or how many drones or missiles; nor is it about whether President Obama should have withdrawn most of the U.S. military presence from Iraq and terminated the occupation at the end of 2011; nor is it, good Lord, about whether we won or lost the war (“. . . just a few years ago,” wrote Jaffe and Maurer, the war “seemed on the brink of going down in history as a success”).
The debate is about whether or not, at long last, enough people in this country and on this planet are sick to death of war and want to deal with human conflict in a different way.
“As we can see from simply looking at a flower, nature knows how to organize itself,” Marianne Williamson wrote recently. “And this same force would organize human affairs if we would allow it to. This allowance occurs whenever we place our minds in correct alignment with the laws of the universe — through prayer, meditation, forgiveness and compassion. Until we do this, we will continue to manifest a world that destroys rather than heals itself. Iraq is a perfect example.”
We can try to align ourselves with “the natural intelligence of the universe” — the intelligence of life and healing — or we can remain stuck in simplistic certainty, aggression and an impulse to dominate.
“We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.”
These, of course, are the immortal words of Karl Rove, who uttered them anonymously a dozen years ago to journalist Ron Suskind. As Tom Engelhardt points out, the folly of this extraordinary hubris — this smirking desire to play God — has not been left to historians of the future to uncover. The Bush administration’s all-out war on evil, inherited and modified, but continued, by the Obama administration, has been a total disaster almost from the moment W stepped onto the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and announced to the world: “mission accomplished.” The reality these war criminals created has been global destabilization and perpetual war. They’ve manifested a world hell-bent on destroying itself.
The mainstream media cover bits and pieces of the destruction as pumped-up entertainment, with the Iraqis and everyone else trapped in the planet’s various International Hot Spots remaining abstractions and curiosities. This is journalistic malfeasance of the highest order. And it couldn’t be more at odds with the natural intelligence of the universe.
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His new book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound is now available. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at commonwonders.com.