Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Zone of Delusion

The Green Zone is about four square miles in the heart of Baghdad, the former preserve of Saddam Hussein and his leadership cabal. In Saddam's day, the area was crossed by freely traveled boulevards, though Iraqis knew better than to stop to linger in its parklands or admire its many villas. Today, it is the huddling place for the U.S. embassy staff and the Iraqi government the U.S. has installed, surrounded by concrete blast walls, razor wire, tanks and heavily armed soldiers. Iraqis who do not work there, save a few who happened already to live within the perimeter, cannot go there. The Red Zone, beyond the blast walls, is Iraq.

For most of the nearly three years since the U.S. invaded, the view from inside the Green Zone was also the view of the corporate media and politicians of both parties in the U.S. Unable to see over the 12-foot fortification walls, Americans conjured up an imaginary Iraq, in which our troops were allied with forces representing Iraqi aspirations for democracy against a small but determined gang of fascists and religious extremists. Now the truth has begun to force its way to consciousness. The Iraqi government the U.S. has been arming and defending is an alliance of convenience between representatives of an indepenent Kurdistan, and sectarian Shiite theocrats. Most of the people we have been fighting are precisely the people who represented the only hope for the U.S. to avoid a geostrategic disaster in Iraq, by preserving a unitary secular state, that is the minority Sunni Arabs who were resisting absorption into a Shiite theocracy closely tied to their bitter enemy, Iran. A country's form of government depends on its political culture and history; it is not a kind of clay to be carved by bullets and bombs.

The occupying forces have now awakened to their preposterous and impossible position. They have no idea of who they should be fighting, or why, or what they are doing there at all. But here in the Homeland, we are still groggy and half dreaming. What agony must it be for the parents, friends and family of Americans who have been killed and maimed in Iraq to accept that their loved one's life has been lost of shattered for no more reason than the arrogant whim of a fool? What courage must it take for reporters and editors to admit that they made themselves willing tools of murderous lies? What politician is ever humble enough to admit to having betrayed the trust of his or her constituents and the honor of the country?

But that is what must happen. Americans, and particularly those in positions of influence, must confess their abandonment of principle and sense, their surrender to folly, their failure of responsibility, first to themselves, and then publicly. Next, they must bring to account the criminal gang who manufactured this disaster for the sake of self aggrandizement, power lust, and greed. Only then can we cleanse ourselves.

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