Back To Iraq, And Welcome To The Suicide State

Baghdad SignI feel like an Iraq war veteran not because I served in that still ongoing war.

No one thanked me for my service, and all praises be, I was not among those who were killed, wounded or traumatized on our side or theirs?

I was a veteran in the same sense that I was, as a journalist, for years, totally absorbed in the war from the building to the first shots fired and bombs dropped, as a daily blogger, a film maker that made WMD: Weapons of Mass Deception about the media war that was fought alongside the invasion and two books discussing that coverage in detail. Embedded (Prometheus Books, 2003) and When News Lies: Media Complicity and the Iraq War (Select Books, 2006). I later commented on the issues for Al Jazeera’s global website.

After such a deep immersion, I was burned out and delighted to focus on another issue, the war at home–the Financial Crisis. I directed two films, In Debt We Trust and Plunder to investigate that crisis and wrote companion books from 2006 to 2010.

But, now, Iraq is calling me back as the US plans a new round of bombing, not that it necessarily believes it will be any more successful than the murderous Shock and Awe campaign was, but the pressure to “do something” is heard as a call to return to the limited playbook that gets trotted out in all these conflicts. Yes, Virginia, generals do fight the last wars.

Sudddenly, an invasion justified by lies and deception is being treated with a certain nostalgia with frequent interviews with pro-war veterans and loud prescriptions for more Pentagonian violence by Neocons who made the mess in the first place. Howard Dean called out the networks for giving “experts” who were so wrong the first time around airtime to call for more US involvement.

Dean said neoconservatives “have no idea what they’re doing” and criticized Sunday talk shows for presenting political viewpoints instead of impartial analysis of what is occurring in the region.

“The problem is the Sunday talk shows are in decline, and that’s because all they have are people on there who either do political posturing like Sen. [Lindsey] Graham — who actually is very smart and knows a lot about defense, but the statements he made are clearly political and silly — and Judith Miller, who has no credibility whatsoever, who was fired from The New York Times for essentially misleading them and all its readers.”

Yet, this time around there are calls from the Obamanoughts who favor liberal intervention. The “tough” guys of 2003 have been replaced by the tough gals of 2014.

Writes Bob Dreyfus in The Nation:

“It’s appropriate that two of the leading liberal interventionists, both of whom have served in prominent positions in Barack Obama’s administration – are named Power and Slaughter.

Samantha Power, of course, is Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations, and a leading advocate of using American force overseas, especially when in her opinion civilian casualties can be exaggerated as “genocide.” And Anne-Marie Slaughter, long a foreign policy insider and currently head of the New America Foundation, served under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as director of policy planning at the State Department (2009-2011). Back in 2011”

True to her name, Slaughter is seeking more US slaughter on the ground. Interesting isn’t it that an Administration that backs massive NSA Surveillance, was caught off guard by the ISIS offensive in Iraq that seized cities and now oil fields. So much for the brilliant prognosticators in our intelligence agencies who also missed Putin’s move into Crimea.

Of course, the media jumped in with all its baggage. Suddenly there were new terrorists to excoriate with very little airtime devoted to explaining the corruption and failures of the Maliki regime that we brought to power, and who played the ethnic card by stigmatizing Sunnis and brutalizing critics.

The voices of Iraq Veterans again the war were, of course, not heard. In a press release, they “call on the Obama administration to learn from the lessons of our country’s past and to pursue non-military diplomatic solutions in supporting the people of Iraq in reaching reconciliation.”

How is it possible that after hundreds of millions spent on creating all this alleged “progress” in Iraq, a new U.S. dictator playing the ethnic card has taken over from Saddam.

Iraq is still a militarized state built on human rights abuses and massive inequality and presiding over a society that lost more than a million people with millions more living in other countries as refugees.

Has any of this horror show been explained on US TV by networks that mostly closed their bureaus and moved on, and are as clueless as the government.

The Political Scientist Michael Brenner puts in this way: “We all are acutely aware that Washington is in a serious jam because of the mounting threat to the Baghdad regime amidst signs of military and political unraveling. The United States is reaping the whirlwind from its twelve years of reckless “War On Terror” in the Middle East.

The disastrous Iraqi invasion/intervention is the direct cause. Strategically incoherent and disjointed American actions elsewhere are also essential parts of the story. For there has been no systemic logic guiding policies from place to place, from issue to issue. Yet the intersection and overlap of developments are the hallmark of the region’s politics. …Today, we are confounded by unanticipated events that leave us uncomprehending and at a loss as what to do.”

The blogger Legalienate goes further at

“The destruction of Iraq, which began under the conservatively emotional Bush regime, continues under the liberally placid Obama administration. There are differences in style when an intelligent landscaper replaces a slack jawed gardener but the plantation they serve differs only in the cosmetic facade it sells the public, not the diseased crop it produces. … It contrasts itself to its blood thirsty opposition as a peace-making arbiter among squabbling foreigners, but those squabbles often originate in our meddling foreign policy which looks like the rest of our economy; dangerously de-structuring.”

Could it be that the narrative here is totally different from what we have been told?

Could the men in black, the ISIS Rebels, however brutal in a terribly brutalized society, not be terrorists but a liberation army who have won over people in the towns they took over?

Is that why the New York Times reported public support for the force we have denigrated with the “T” word, writing. “In Places Such As Mosul And Anbar Province, The Security Forces Are Regarded As ‘A Foreign Force In Their Own Country.” And, “Some Residents, Hardened By Their Hatred Of The Army, Spoke Of The Insurgents Almost As If They Were A Liberating Army.”

Notes US Labor Against the War:

“What we are witnessing today is not just the military victory of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), but an uprising of Sunni tribes against al-Maliki’s authoritarian and sectarian rule. There’s no other way to explain how fewer than one thousand ISIL fighters were able to rout thirty thousand Iraqi troops to take control of Mosul – a city of 1.8 million. The Iraqi Army was not defeated; it simply refused to fight, collapsed and ran.

Sending more weapons to al-Maliki and US jets to bomb Iraq will do nothing to change the trajectory of events, except to increase the blood-letting and destruction in a country that has already seen far too much.”

There is some evidence that Obama knows this and is pursuing another maneuver according to London’s Independent that reports:

“The US has told senior Iraqi officials that the Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, must leave office if it is to intervene militarily to stop the advance of Sunni extremists, The Independent has learnt. The Sunni community sees Mr Maliki as the main architect of its oppression and the Americans believe there can be no national reconciliation between Sunni and Shia unless he ceases to be leader of the country.”

That may be, but the President claims he needs no new authority from Congress, a view that predictably outrages the Obama blamers on the right, and gives solace to the hardheads behind Hillary in the center so it is likely there will be more senseless aggression because flat-footed US policymakers seem unaware that once again, they will make it all worse.

Our media is filled with stories about suicide gunners and bombers, but all too little on what Henry Giroux calls our own “Suicide state.” Is it any wonder that Legalienate quotes Brecht: “War is a bastard but the bitch that bore him is in heat again.”

News Dissector Danny Schechter blogs at and edits Comments to

9 Comments on "Back To Iraq, And Welcome To The Suicide State"

  1. Joey McCabe | Jun 27, 2014 at 9:01 am |

    Obama is calling for 500k in aid to the Syrian rebels, but wants to kill the Iraqi rebels. I’m no ‘expert’, but aren’t they essentially the SAME rebels?

    • ~ $500m.


  2. Liam_McGonagle | Jun 27, 2014 at 10:29 am |

    This is bigger than Obama’s poor choices or Bush’s mistakes. It’s about the retarded political culture of the region. This thing has been inevitable even before the Brits carved up the Ottomoman Empire after WWI to suit their own whims.

    My thesis is that this is at least partially due the poisonous nature of the Islamic religion itself. As a universalist order, its core ideals are opposed to diversity and cooperation and are dependent on coercion. Of course that’s a recipe for never-ending war and murder.

    There is a meaningful difference with the west, where elites have historically steered a mixed course of difussing tensions through minimal concessions and subtler forms of economic and social coercion. With the east, it seems to be ALL about the blood. If you want to congratulate them for something, I guess it could be for their commitment to ideological purity.

    But maybe these people can’t help themselves. There’s a case to be made that the roots of this political culture lie in the fragile nature of the regional ecology, and the ability of individuals or small groups to exercise tyranny through control of key choke points. Maybe this horrible culture is determined to some extent by their horrible landscape.

    In any case, it’d be stupid to hope for any meaningful settlement any time soon. Maybe ever. Best to avoid these horrible people altogether.

    • My thesis is that this is at least partially due the poisonous nature of the Islamic religion itself. As a universalist order, its core ideals are opposed to diversity and cooperation and are dependent on coercion.

      I claim no expertise in Islamic studies, but I find this formulation deeply problematic.

      It sounds as if you’re overly influenced by the Political Islam (yes, Islamism *sigh*) of the last couple of centuries as opposed to the ~5 centuries of the Islamic Golden Age that clearly establishes both Islam and the populations that practice it as remarkably forward thinking and tolerant, considering the times & places.

      Obviously, much wrong has been done in the name of Allāh and Islam, much as any religion or organizing principle. But while Christianity fragmented Europe and plunged it into a cultural morass, science, philosophy, art, & commerce flourished under Islam and provided a unifying principle for peoples from Central Asia & India through the Middle East, across North Africa, and into Spain. Even post-Crusades, many Muslim rulers remained remarkably tolerant to minority Christian and Jewish populations–a respect they have never been accorded in return. And if I could point to nothing else: Western financial systems are inhumanly barbaric, particularly when juxtaposed with Islamic Banking practices.

      In my opinion, the road to Western Civilization runs through Islam and isn’t possible without it. No Crusades = no Renaissance. And here’s where the Turks re-enter the story–displaced from Central Asia by the Mongols–they made the Arab Caliphates just vulnerable enough to European invasion.

      However, I agree that much of the present dysfunction can be traced to the what the British, French, and Americans did post-WWI. The West remains the biggest patron of Political Islam to this day. The sad part is, it’s starting to stick.

      • Liam_McGonagle | Jun 28, 2014 at 1:33 pm |

        The core doctrine of Islam is the existence of a single, universal god.

        In the absence of alternatives, the specific attributes of god are incidental. All that really matters is obedience to god–or rather, as a practical matter, to his (current) authorized representative on earth.

        All Islam is political Islam. There is no non-political Islam. The genius who invented this religion took out all the spirituality and replaced it with politics.

        This is why Islam is the worst of all religions.

        The fact that some impressive cultural achievements occured in societies nominally Islamic in the remote past is really an accidental function of the idiocyncratic qualities of individual rulers. The god of Islam has no meaningful qualities other than raw omnipotence.

        I realize that disturbs many people, because, as you no doubt have perceived, thick or malevolent people are likely to misinterpret it as a hatred for the people who profess Islam. I recognize that some people could draw that conclusion, but I personally do not.

        I pity people who profess Islam. Most worthless religion. Ever.

        • Personally, I find submission to Allāh theologically closer to the formulations of Taoism or Buddhism than say, Christianity or Zoroastrianism. A single universal god that should not be represented visually or proscribed other attributes? I have harder time seeing that as a threat than the biblical portrayal of the psychopath that allegedly runs the Judeo-Christian world.

          So much interpretation here lies one just that one little tiny word: god. If one approaches the word from the Western Perspective and its tendency to anthropomorphize “god”, I can see how you more or less reach your assessment of Islam, though I would still dispute its accuracy. Islam preserved and expanded knowledge, while Christianity destroyed knowledge and impeded free inquiry. Theological pissing matches aside, the proof is in the pudding.

          I also catch your drift about “all Islam is political Islam” considering the inescapable importance of jihād to its origins. Regardless, I still find the barbarism in the foundations of their religion to be less barbaric and antithetical to life than that of the Christians. I also find that the mystics were more humanely treated in the Islamic world than the Christian world (as always, a judgement call).

          Religion/politics is certainly less of a dichotomy than many would assume. It’s very easy to blur lines, particularly when the people practicing are so divorced from direct personal spiritual experience. Indeed, in such a paradigm, the thick and/or malevolent people thrive. But just because 2/3 zombies prefer coke to pepsi, don’t impugn the basic action of drinking a liquid, or the existence of soda.

          I believe you are attempting to make a very nuanced argument in favor of your thesis, and I salute your free inquiry and the subtleties in the formulations you express. However I see that way lined with shiny shiny fnords–theology, anthropology, history–I still find no legitimate basis to stereotype an entire population in the ways that you have.

          • Liam_McGonagle | Jun 30, 2014 at 10:20 am |

            “Regardless, I still find the barbarism in the foundations of their religion to be less barbaric and antithetical to life than that of the Christians.”

            This is the only bit I have to strongly disagree with. Jesus was obviously an anti-state, non-sectarian rebel–180 degrees the opposite of your statement.

            The one thing that a Christian sect must adhere to is the doctrine of Jesus’ execution by the state and resurrection–figurative or literal–in defiance of said state. These sects may do a better, worse, or even horrible job of expounding on that core, but if they claim to be Christian, they cannot dispense with that doctrine.

            I suspect that you may be referring the the tertiary pragmatic/political accretions that surround core Jesus’ wisdom teachings. If so, I would have to agree, with the proviso that they are clearly at variance with the fundamental underlying teaching.

            You might wish to press the issue of making a distinction between spiritual traditions and religions, that the latter invariably contain some political element. You may be able to convince me that is so–I’m still thinking about it.

            But I see absolutely no evidence whatsoever that the core doctrine of Islam is anything other than an inhuman political power play, and that of Christianity is a compassionate, response against the same.

            Some religions really are worse than others, and Islam is probably the worst of all.

          • Jesus was obviously an anti-state, non-sectarian rebel–180 degrees the opposite of your statement.

            Yes, I agree with that assessment of the myth of Jesus. He was, in essence, an anarchist or something very much like it.

            However, real or imagined, I emphasize “Christianity” instead of “Jesus” because my interpretation of doctrine and history leads me to “believe” that if such a religion did bear any actual resemblance to the words and example of Jesus, it was thoroughly stamped out by the time Constantine co-opted it. What existed before that moment, we’ll honestly never know the truth of because of what Christians have done in their repeated purges of history.

            It’s too simple to say that the Romans reversed Jesus and Satan, but that’s the unfortunate simplistic formulation I’ll go with here. Whatever the theological nuances of it, Rome poisoned Christianity irreversibly and irredeemably for most seekers of truth to follow. There are some Christian traditions, obviously those less tied to Roman influence, though others as well, that give me hope that the corpse has not been entirely desecrated. But I honestly struggle to come up with a single time or place where Christians were not effectively living under draconian Sharia.

            “America is a Christian Nation. God Bless America.”

            What scares me is the true believers. Shrub Jr. and Raygun were very convincing in believing their own shit about Dog Almighty speaking to them. Even if they were play acting, far too many others don’t. What Christians have “accomplished” with this country is quite frankly the perfect example of what I believe they really serve, knowingly or unknowingly. Rome 5.0 or whatever.

            Meanwhile, with Islam, we have a de-mystified, historically identifiable human founder. Did he personally benefit from being “The Prophet” and do awful things? I don’t doubt it. However, among his more notable achievements was to forge a core identity for an otherwise strong people in deep disarray. In this sense, Mohammed is the “successful” iteration of what Jesus should have been. He also very strongly self-naughted with the restrictions on visual portrayals. Jesus might have had the foresight to leave the Europeans that tip. Obviously his legend and influence still loom large, but you know what they say about a picture…

            I feel I should disclose that when I began researching Islam, it was with a very Christian Conservative American viewpoint. What seemed just and right in the Crusades very shortly turned to horror with everything that followed from the first one. The Children’s Crusade and the Fourth Crusade, in particular, demonstrate the madness that is Christianity. When I connected with the truth that neither side had The Truth, I eventually found Islam to be the more benevolent panopticon.

            I admit this is difficult thing to do, especially with the media smart bombs of the modern era. But Christianity almost suffocated Europe. Islam is essentially the savior of all that we call “Western Civilization”. In the end, many of the best parts of said civilization are the elements born of struggle against Christianity. And I say this as someone who still has a great deal of affinity for elements of that set of crayons.

            In the end, it’s the little things that made the difference–the cultural artifacts that I find here or there– Rumi, the Sufis, Islamic geometric art, and devotional music. I’d go so far as to say that even in the modern secular musical era, they tend to hew a lot closer to the Rastas and Reggae than Americans and Rock & Roll. I also get a whole different vibe from the call of the muezzin than I ever got from the tolling bells of Christian churches. I don’t know if you are a spiritual person (or whatever that means), but there is a certain lack of pretension and hypocrisy (perhaps what you refer to as it being “ALL about the blood”) in Islam that helps it ring a little truer to my ears.

            All that said, I am not a Muslim, nor will I likely ever be. If I absolutely had to fit in a box, I think I’d go Buddhist or Taoist. I do occasionally miss having gang affiliations.

  3. Liam_McGonagle | Jun 28, 2014 at 3:20 pm |

    You have a good point. I won’t deny it. I think you are saying that, judging by their most obvious, immediately apparent effects, Islamic idealism is no worse than non-Islamic pragmatism.

    But if you take ideas seriously, you have to differentiate pragmatics from the ideological content of any thought system.

    Pragmatics are ephemeral, slippery and unreliable–especially when people don’t make an effort to separate them from the ideological content. But the core ideological content will ALWAYS remain.

    In otherwords, while you certainly CAN smear sh*t all over a Renoir, you CAN’T polish a turd.

    I get your point. But do you get mine?

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