The War in IraqJune 1, 2004
The Vietnam war betrayed the myth that the know-how of American power had the ability to resolve every issue, and history is evidently repeating itself. The delusion that military force can resolve every problem was supposed to have died in Vietnam, but it was revived in Iraq.
Nobody understood Vietnam and nobody understands Iraq. We bear witness to the killing made in our name, and we can only call it justice when the pictures are censored. War without end is not about justice. War without end is the insanity we have currently embraced.
This is nothing new. We are merely reliving the delusion and the paranoia that the Cold War produced. When American politics was nurtured by the atmosphere of the Cold War, the United States was constantly besieged by enemies of all imaginable kind. In the name of freedom and democracy, America betrayed its own principles about what is noble, true and right, rigged foreign elections and even plotted the assassination of duly elected leaders. Beseiged by what Nixon called, enemies from within and without, the list of Cold War casualties has never been counted because it is politically inconvenient.
History is repeating itself. If you listen to Richard Nixon's Cold War rhetoric, you will discover that George Bush is merely borrowing the justification of waging war, not in the practice, but in the name of preserving the world from evil.
When Richard Nixon was the President, he said, "We live in an age of anarchy, both abroad and at home. We see mindless attacks on all the great institutions which have been created by free institutions in the last 500 years. Small nations all over the world find themselves under attack from within and from without. If, when the chips are down, the world's most powerful nation, the United States of America, acts like a pitiful, helpless giant, the forces of totalitarianism and anarchy will threaten free nations and free institutions throughout the world."
The rhetoric of freedom was fine, but when we wage a campaign against foreign devils, the devil is in the detail. When we think that the only way to defeat the devil is to prove that we are more ruthless than the devil himself, we lose our moral authority and the support of the people in the process. That is what happened in Vietnam and that is what happened in Iraq, and there is no excuse, this time around.
This is one thing that John Kerry understands, firsthand, and that is why John Kerry should defeat George Bush in 2004. John F. Kennedy understood Vietnam, and John Kerry understands Iraq.
David Halberstam explained it all when he said:
"There were four or five points I was trying to make before the invasion. One was that we were going to punch our fist into the largest hornetís nest in the world and end up doing the recruiting for Al Qaeda. I said that I thought that we would do the race to Baghdad very well that the sheer military part would go well because our military is just very good, marvelous people, and our technology is awesome. But then the battle would change; we would be involved in urban guerilla warfare, and things would turn against us.
I said that I thought the movie that they were all watching in the White House and the Pentagon was Patton, and the movie they should have been watching was The Battle of Algiers [the 1966 quasi-documentary film about the Algerian struggle for independence from France in the late 1950s].
There is a moment in a war as there was in Vietnam and as there will be in this war where your military superiority is undermined or neutralized by your political limitations. And I thought the biggest miscalculation of all was a great underestimation of the colonial factor, just as there had been in Vietnam. In Vietnam the U.S. absolutely had refused to factor in the effect of the French Indochina War. And I felt the specter of colonialism would be a problem again in a more complicated way with Islam.
The greatest miscalculation was not about the weapons of mass destruction, but the idea that we would be greeted as liberators. When the Bush people kept talking about that, alluding to what happened in France and Germany after World War II, well, anybody who had been in Vietnam would have been wary of it. There was just no way we were going to be greeted as liberators in this part of the world. The Iraqis might want to get rid of Saddam Hussein, but they would not want us to do it for them. I was saying these things before they happened and not just ex post facto."
War is always the problem, never the solution.
As war is replaced by industry, thought turns from death to life, away from the grooves of reverant authority and into the initiatives of freedom and industry.
Indeed, the most far reaching change that has taken place in all the history of western society is the gradual replacement of a military by an industrial regime.
Students classify society according to whether governments are monarchical, aristocratic or democratic --but these are superficial distinctions.
The great dividing line is that which seperates militant from industrial societies -nations that live by war from those that live by work.
The military state is always centralized in government and always monarchical. The cooperation it inculcates is always regimental and compulsory. It encourages authoritarian religion, worshipping a warrior god. It developes rigid class distinctions and class codes.
Hence, history is a record of robbery, treachery, murder and national suicide.
Until war is outlawed and overcome, civilization is a precarious interlude between catastrophies.
The possibility of a highly developed state fundamentally depends upon the cessation of war.
Industry makes for democracy and peace. As life ceases to be dominated by war, a thousand centres of economic development arise and power is benefecantly spread over a large portion of the group. Since production can prosper only where initiative is free, an industrial society breaks down those traditions of authority, hierarchy and caste, which flourish in military states and under which military states flourish.
The occupation of the soldier ceases to be held in high repute and partriotism becomes a love of one's country rather than a hatred of every other. Peace at home becomes the first need of prosperity and as capital becomes international and a thousand investments cross every frontier, international peace becomes a necessity as well.
As foreign war diminishes, domestic brutality decreases and give rise to liberal creeds whose focus of effort is the amelioration and enoblement of human life and character on this earth.
In times of peace, the power of government lessens and the power of productive groups within the state increases, there is a passage from status to contract, from equality and subordination to freedom and initiative, from compulsory cooperation to cooperation and liberty.
The contrast between the militant and the industrial types of society is indicated by an inversion of the belief that individuals exist for the benefit of the state into the belief that the state exists for the benefit of the individuals.
David Halberstam was the best and the brightest.
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