Solipsism of U.S. power: Iraq, Libya

This is just a short post to, once again, express my anger and sadness at what the U.S. government has done during nearly nine years of occupation of Iraq. (And also, at what looks very likely to happen over the coming years in U.S.-attacked Libya.)
Right now, the particular form of ‘constitutional democracy’ that the American occupiers imposed on Iraq looks set to implode and as Reidar Visser notes, there is a real possibility of complete political disintegration there. The present situation and future prospects for most of Iraq’s 30 million people look very grim indeed.
But in Washington DC– and Fort Bragg, NC– Pres. Obama and his people seem oblivious to the fate of Iraqis, intent as they are on trying to “sell” to the American people the idea that simply getting the American troops out of Iraq without them suffering any additional casualties constitutes some kind of a valuable achievement… regardless of what happens to the long-suffering Iraqis.
Obama’s people are even trying to fundraise around this idea. Two days ago, I got this email from Obama’s re-election campaign:

    Helena —
    Early this morning, the last of our troops left Iraq.
    As we honor and reflect on the sacrifices that millions of men and women made for this war, I wanted to make sure you heard the news.
    Bringing this war to a responsible end was a cause that sparked many Americans to get involved in the political process for the first time. Today’s outcome is a reminder that we all have a stake in our country’s future, and a say in the direction we choose.
    Thank you.

No reference at all to the idea that perhaps, having wrought such havoc inside Iraq, we might also have a responsibility to– and a stake in– Iraq’s future, as well.
This is wilfull, almost psychopathic, disregard for the facts of human inter-dependence and the responsibility that war-waging nations have under international law for the wellbeing of the civilian residents of the places where they choose to fight their wars.
We have seen this same solipsism in the conduct of the U.S. and its NATO allies in Libya– and in particular, in the way that the NATO command tried wilfully to disregard the compelling evidence that NATO bombs had killed many of the very same civilians whom they were allegedly acting in Libya to protect.
C.J. Chivers and Eric Schmitt had a generally excellent piece of reporting in the NYT on December 17, in which they detailed both their own painstaking investigations of incidents in which NATO airstrikes in Libya had killed civilians– and the extreme reluctance of NATO officials to acknowledge these facts.
Libya looks in many ways to be the ‘western’ nations latest paradigm in how to fight a war. Taking lessons from the problems the United States encountered in running the Iraqi occupation, western actions towards Libya have been much more hands-off. NATO never explicitly put troops on the ground in Libya (except for a few ‘deniable’ special ops forces), and therefore acts as if it does not have to bear any direct responsibility for running the country now. Meanwhile, the British government still reportedly controls much of Libya’s sovereign wealth, and NATO ships continue to police Libya’s shoreline. Both those instruments of power can be used to exercise indirect control over key aspects of the post-Qadhafi government’s policy.
It all sounds a lot like Gaza to me. There, the Israelis pioneered the whole concept of running a ‘hands-off’ kind of a military occupation wherein they (quite illegally) deny that they have any responsibility for the welfare of Gaza’s residents, while they still nonetheless continue to control all significant interactions between Gaza and the outside world…
At least in Gaza there is one, generally competent, indigenous governing body which has done a generally good job of maintaining public security for the vast majority of the Strip’s 1.6 million people– something that has been especially welcome to Gazans after the lawlessness of the earlier years of IDF/Fateh condominium there. In Libya, by contrast, the power vacuum that followed NATO’s destruction of Qadhafi’s army and the reluctance of the NATO powers to take any responsibility for post-Qadhafi public security has left the whole country open to the competing militias and warlords who were NATO’s local allies.
But why would voters in America or in other NATO powers care about any of that? The bet that Obama and the other NATO leaders are making is that the voters at home won’t care at all.

2 thoughts on “Solipsism of U.S. power: Iraq, Libya

  1. rosemerry

    Thanks Helena.Great to have you back in action,always welcome and on the point. As for the POTUS, his words
    “reflect on the sacrifices that millions of men and women made for this war”
    make me wonder if there is a heart or a stone inside that manly chest.
    Missy Beatty in counterpunch has a great post on the Iraqi side of the war which ruined their country and lives.

  2. John C.

    Excuse me Helena, but getting American troops out of Iraq DOES constitute a valuable achievement. An achievement that you and I and many others have advocated for a very long time.
    And what is there about the havoc we have wrought that makes you think we Americans have a “stake” in Iraq’s future? If I rob a bank, does that give me a stake in its future?

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