America and Iraq have indeed known “difficult times together” – the US has caused them and Iraq has suffered them. The US helped install a vicious dictator, Saddam Hussein, supporting him through his worst crimes, which Western governments and media worked hard to bury out of sight. It then inflicted the devastating 1991 Gulf War and 12 years of genocidal sanctions, which claimed one million Iraqi lives. The 2003 war and invasion have cost a further million lives, have reduced 4 million people to the status of destitute refugees, and reduced a wrecked country to utter ruin.
But Obama’s lies matter little to much of the public, anti-war activists among them. ‘You don’t understand,’ they tell us. ‘Obama +has+ to say all this stuff – it’s not what he believes. He‘s out to change all this, but he has to say it.’
This involves a kind of treble-think. Politicians typically hide their ruthlessness behind compassionate verbiage. Obama, we are to believe, is hiding his compassion behind ruthless verbiage – Machiavellianism in reverse.
Which is exactly what was said of Clinton and Blair in the 1990s. Of course it could be the case now. But should we not aim to be a little more socially scientific in our political analysis?
We can observe that, in a way that mirrors Newtonian physics, enormous political forces tend to act unimpeded unless challenged by powerful oppositional forces. We can observe, further, that there is no reason whatever to believe that the greed and violence that have become entrenched in American politics over decades and centuries have simply gone away. Certainly they have not been countered by mass democratic movements rooted in compassion rather than greed. There are no new, mass-based parties rooted in progressive values; no city-stopping protests erupting out of a transformational political process.
If a brand new, benevolent face now fronts the system in which traditionally ruthless forces dominate, rationality demands that we assume it to be a makeover, a brand alteration, an attempt precisely to +reduce+ pressure on the system to change.
The Bush-Blair crimes contaminated the American brand with Iraqi and Afghan blood products – we have to assume that the same ferocious system is now in the process of rehabilitating, not revolutionising, that brand. Greed, ignorance and hatred do not miraculously transform into compassion, wisdom and peacefulness, in individuals or in superpowers. Call it Newtonian political physics. Call it Buddhist psychology. Call it common sense.
Obama then spoke to the US armed forces:
“And so I want to be very clear: We sent our troops to Iraq to do away with Saddam Hussein’s regime – and you got the job done. We kept our troops in Iraq to help establish a sovereign government – and you got the job done. And we will leave the Iraqi people with a hard-earned opportunity to live a better life – that is your achievement; that is the prospect that you have made possible.”
The first sentence is a flat lie. Bush also was “very clear” that the “single question” concerned the disarmament of Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. When it became impossible to deny their non-existence, Bush resorted to talk of “regime change”, although he knew this pretext was illegal under international law. Even this was not enough – the ‘coalition’ insisted the invasion would go ahead whether or not Saddam and his family left Iraq (as they were urged to do) because the goal, now, was “democracy”. As Noam Chomsky noted in April 2003: