Soldiers of the first U.S. invasion force to enter Iraq have expressed widespread resentment for Bush administration officials.
“If Donald Rumsfeld was here, I’d ask him for his resignation,” Spec. Clinton Dietz of the 3rd Infantry’s 2nd Brigade told ABC News in a July 15 report. Another sergeant said, “I’ve got my own ‘Most Wanted List,’ [and] the aces in my deck are Paul Bremer, Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush, and Paul Wolfowitz.” Those are the four men running U.S. policy in Iraq.
This is pretty serious stuff. GIs might gripe among themselves in the barracks, or the mess hall, but rarely are those complaints publicly expressed. Even in the aftermath of the Nuremberg trials, the universal soldier’s credo is: Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do or die.
The abrupt cancellation of homecoming plans probably pushed the men of the 2nd Brigade over the line. After all, they have been in the region since last September, when they were deployed to Kuwait. They were among the first troops in Baghdad during the invasion and have been in the region longer than other troops. But the soldiers also knew that making disparaging comments about civilian leadership of the military could bring a serious reprimand or even court martial. Some apparently were willing to take that risk.
Their courage, or recklessness, brings back memories of the Vietnam era and the soldiers who became involved in the struggle against that war. Members of the U.S. armed forces were some of the earliest soldiers in the antiwar movement; groups of veterans and active duty members were prominent in many antiwar protests. In Vietnam, increasing numbers of fragging incidents (attacks on superior officers) and mutinies revealed the troops’ growing disenchantment with official policy. The general public didn’t turn solidly against the war until late in the game, and then only grudgingly. Even after the 1971 revelations in the infamous Pentagon Papers, most Americans supported the anti-Communist crusade in Southeast Asia.
Our current situation is a bit different. Many Americans joined in global concert with millions of others to protest the prospect of this war. Much ado now is being made about the 16-word “mistake” (or lie) Bush uttered during his State of the Union address, but most global observers knew it was a dubious claim when he made it. There was already considerable information available in the global media that had cast doubt on the Niger uranium story.
Those who crafted Bush’s speech, and probably the president himself, knew the information was deceptive. But so what? They had been planning an invasion of Iraq at least since 2001 and had gone way too far to quit now. In fact, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, one of the major architects of the Iraq invasion, had been planning to invade the country since at least 1992, when he drafted a policy paper for Dick Cheney, then the defense secretary in the first Bush administration.
That report, excerpts of which were published in the March 8, 1992 edition of the New York Times, urged the United States to protect and exploit its unique superpower status, making pre-emptive strikes and taking unilateral action whenever necessary to ensure our pre-eminence. The draft proposal declared, “Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere.” The report called for military intervention in Iraq to assure “access to vital raw material, primarily Persian Gulf oil” and to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and threats from terrorism.
At the time, Wolfowitz’s prescriptions were considered too bellicose. The first Bush administration drastically revised and softened the document. Wolfowitz bided his time and retreated to the woodshed with his neoconservative cohorts, where they honed their arguments and sharpened their strategy. He is part of a group of ideologues that has been busy formulating policy prescriptions since 1976, under the auspices of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). Founded by neoconservatives concerned about Israel’s security, JINSA has attracted a select roster of board members including, at one time or another, Vice President Dick Cheney, former CIA Director James Woolsey, the infamous Richard “Prince of Darkness” Perle, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton, Pentagon official Douglas Feith, and Michael Ledeen, the itinerate and influential “terrorist consultant.” Many of these same individuals also are deeply involved with the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), created in 1997 and headed by William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard. In 1998, PNAC wrote a public letter to President Bill Clinton urging he attack Iraq. Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz were among the signatories.
The selection of Bush II in 2000 gave the neocons their second shot. Wolfowitz came back to Rumsfeld’s Pentagon, this time as a deputy secretary. Several other PNAC members are sprinkled in high places, and it’s clear their ideas are driving Bush’s international policies. Any serious observer of these developments can see that Americans have been conned, or perhaps neo-conned, into invading Iraq. And in any war, the most serious observers are the soldiers.
Salim Muwakkil is a senior editor of In These Times, where he has worked since 1983, and a weekly op-ed columnist for the Chicago Tribune. He is currently a Crime and Communities Media Fellow of the Open Society Institute, examining the impact of ex-inmates and gang leaders in leadership positions in the black community.
In These Times ©2003