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Monday, April 14, 2003  
American victory, Iraqi disaster

The inestimable Ted Barlow brought this brain dropping from Andrew Sullivan to my attention.

THE COMING SPIN: You can see it now. Chaos. Looting. Disorder. Losing the peace. It's not that there won't be some truth to these stories; and real cause for concern. The pent-up fury, frustration and sheer anger of three decades is a powerful thing, probably impossible to stop immediately without too much force.

That is the weirdest thing I've read since the 'Mohammed' story. And, it has some of the same offensive characteristics. Notice the assertion that the chaos in Baghdad is an across-the-board celebration of freedom. However, if the same behavior occurred here or in any European country, Sullivan would refer to it as rioting. He would call for force to put it down faster than he can play the sympathy card for his illness. But, for some reason, thousands of brown people tearing their city, one of the most historic in the world, apart, is a good thing. Nor am I convinced the persons most involved are not the societal riffraff usually responsible for violent acts given free reign with all semblance of government destroyed in Iraq. Since when do people who are merely happy take over ambulances, loot museums, and denude hospitals?

The Washington Post describes a scene in Baghdad that sounds more like a nightmare than a celebration.

Tens of thousands of people - young and old, men and women - roamed the city, looking for plunder, with American forces making no effort to stop them.

. . .Meanwhile, smoke billowed from buildings across the city. Marines said Iraqi holdouts were setting fire to their own quarters and blaming the Americans. In at least one case, however, looters were seen setting fire to some buildings in the Interior Ministry complex.

U.S. troops occupied the Oil Ministry. But the nine-story Ministry of Transport building was gutted by fire, as was the Iraqi Olympic headquarters, while the Ministry of Education was partially burned.

I don't see the joyous masses happy to have been 'liberated' by Americans Andrew Sullivan does in that description. Instead, I see thousands of mainly poor people taking advantage of a breakdown in law and order to grab something -- anything -- with the criminally inclined leading the way. True celebrants are probably in the minority. I believe most people know having invaders take control of one's country is not the best thing that can happen, despite their disagreements with their rulers.

Ted focuses on another telling aspect of Sullivan's, and many Right Wingers' perspective.

I've got a bad feeling that the conventional wisdom on the right has already gelled that the real story of the Iraqi war ended on April 9. We came in, deposed a terrible dictator, and the Iraqi people were glad to see us. Roll credits.

I suspect that is exactly what will happen. To the people in the Bush administration, the Iraqis are extras in their movie, 'Shrub v. Saddam.' Saddam has been routed, so those extras don't matter, to the extent they ever did. If any efforts to restore order do occur they will be for the wrong reason. Colonialists had grounds to maintain order in their colonies -- exploitation of the resources. If the United States and the Coalition of the Complicitous restore order, it will be to better exploit Iraq's oil riches. Joe Conason observes the process has already begun, while describing an interview of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

What ["Meet the Press" host] Tim Russert ought to have asked was this: If looting is something that just happens, why did it happen in some places and not others? Was it mere coincidence that troops were sent to defend the Oil Ministry and almost nothing else? Why are there still no troops protecting what's left of the museum, and the hospitals, and the other government ministries?

The Moderate Republican wonders whether American values, as reflected by the choices made in Baghdad, are worthy of pride.

On public radio this morning, a caller basically said we should not put our men and women's lives at risk for art. So, we can put their lives on the line to gas our SUV's? Methinks our priorities are really screwed up.

The best hope for the Iraqis is not the degraded lives Andrew Sullivan would wish for them. Indeed, the fact that the only super power in the world is dominating a small, weak country is victory enough for a Sullivan. Beyond applauding (or happily rioting) on cue, the Iraqis are dispensible.

The worst scenario, in my opinion, is the Iraqis being reduced to second-class citizens in their own land. If the focus remains on exploiting the country's oil resources, that is what will happen. And, if Bush is reelected, that scenario is almost guaranteed. Sure, international pressures can be brought to bear. The United Nations will do what it can. The Red Cross, the Red Crescent and other eleemosynary organizations will try to alleviate the horrible conditions that threaten the health of the Iraqi citizenry. Their efforts will not be enough, particularly if the U.S. government makes it difficult to implement them.

The Post also describes Iraqis who conform to Sullivan's vision, as some, the short-sighted, surely do. They are joyous after destroying a statue of Saddam Hussein.

Iraqis and Marines hugged, high-fived or shook hands. Some of the Marines held their rifles aloft in a victorious pose.

"Now my son can have a chance in life," said Bushra Abed, pointing to her 2-year-old son, Ibrahim.

Ms. Abed is probably in for one hell of a disappointment.

9:08 PM