War on Terror: Seeking Meaning in an Enigma

By William A. Cook

"I would rather lose a campaign than lose a war, apparently Senator Obama would rather lose a war than lose a campaign." (John McCain, daily)

With this self-righteous and pseudo-truism becoming the principle mantra of the McCain campaign to the White House, it might behoove us to grapple with its meaning. What “war” does McCain fear losing? What “war” does Obama want to lose? With whom has the United States declared “war”? Certainly not with the Iraqi people; we invaded their country to “liberate” them from a dreadful dictator. Who then is the enemy in this “war” now that the dreadful dictator is dead? Do we know? How do we declare “victory” if we do not know over whom we are victorious?

Perhaps the enemy are Sunnis from the dictator’s old party; but today the Sunnis wear American supplied uniforms and receive American paychecks. Perhaps they are the Shia, the disconcerted that did not share the dictator’s power; but now they are the power, having been put there by the United States. Perhaps Al Qaeda is the enemy; but we don’t know who they are or where they are. Perhaps, in Iraq, the Americans are the enemy since they are the invaders and the Iraqi people want the Americans to leave.  
If by “war” Senator McCain means the “War on terror” declared by President Bush, why would he isolate Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq as “losing” when that “war” continues in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Somalia, Darfur, Sudan and, needless to say, Palestine because this President has determined in his wisdom that “Islamo-facism” exists in all Arab countries and must be hunted down until it is exterminated? A virtual “war” without end. How then lose a war that has no boundaries and no time limits? How can we sign a surrender when we cannot identify the enemy or bring him/her to a table to act on behalf of all who want to deprive Americans of their freedoms? What is victory if there is no document that attests to that victory, if the enemy has not been vanquished, if the American people can sense no tangible evidence of their sacrifice in soldiers and cost?  What then is the meaning of McCain’s mantra, “I would rather lose a campaign than lose a war”?
To win means to gain a victory; victory means defeat of an opponent. If the world exists according to Bush, then there is no end to terrorists that the United States must war against and no country that is the sole haven of our enemy. Perhaps McCain is right, we will have to stay in Iraq for a hundred years if we are to purge the Islamic world of all its terrorists. Perhaps that very thought should provoke the concern no one wants to raise: hasn’t the Bush administration’s abuse of language perpetrated on the American people created a catastrophic dilemma, an unsolvable catastrophic dilemma? Bush’s “War on Terror” is an illusion wrapped in an enigma. The illusion builds on the anticipated meaning that exists in the phrase “War on Germany” or “War on Japan,” both of which contain a known entity against which America wages war. Victory will be defeat of that specific enemy with surrender concretely evident in the signatures of the defeated Chancellor or Emperor. But Bush distorts the phrase and its meaning by placing two words together that cannot be sustained in fact, since a “war,” in the definable sense that uses it to declare force against a specified enemy, cannot be waged against unspecified individuals that have by definition no intrinsic connection to the state.
Consider the riddle inherent in the phrase: terrorists terrorize to create terror. Terror is the consequence of the terrorists’ acts, a state of dread or fear in a population. Bush’s “war” is against that “extreme fear or dread.” Logically, then, Bush’s policies should be directed at solving the causes for the terrorists’ actions against America not invading and occupying states. Indeed, as Chalmers Johnson has shown in Blowback and The Sorrows of Empire, it’s the clandestine actions of the CIA and the “invasion” of our transnational corporations into the mid-east and Indonesia that has caused the “hatred” of America.

Iraqis have reason to “hate” America since it made Saddam its Dictator, fed him weapons of mass destruction in the form of chemical and biological warfare, and continued its support of that dictator after he gassed the Kurds. America supported Saddam in his destructive attempt to destroy Iran. Iran has reason to “hate” America for that reason alone. But it was America, years before, that overthrew its elected leader in order to install our puppet, the Shah. There’s a history to Iranian “hatred” of America.

These two examples illustrate the point that America’s attempts to control the government’s of mid-eastern and Indonesian countries by monetary coercion, covert intrusion that results in assassination of leaders, and the installation of puppets friendly to U.S. interests, meaning corporate interests and ideological aspirations, provides the acid that ignites hatred of America. Perhaps Ron Paul is right, America should leave these foreign lands so that it can concentrate on America’s real interests not the investments of the few. After all, isn’t the use of American military forces to ensure the security of privately owned energy companies nothing other than corporate welfare?

It would seem then that McCain’s mantra is a deception that draws on the patriotic fervor of Americans to deny Obama the Presidency because he wants America to lose the “war” in Iraq when in reality Iraq never should have been invaded if the administration’s intent was “to hunt down terrorists and bring them to justice.” Indeed, America’s invasion of Iraq created a haven for terrorists. What then was the reason for this administration to wage “war” against a country that had not invaded or threatened America, had no weapons of mass destruction, and no connection to al Qaeda?

The real reason for the invasion is articulated in Cheney’s 1992 Defense Report prepared for George Bush 1st, but never adopted until 2002 since the Neo-cons were out of power during the Clinton years. That document reflects the intent of the Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Wurmser, Libby, Feith, Kristol, Krauthammer et al to protect Israel from its perceived enemies. The creation of a “War on Terror” was and is a fabrication to maintain a climate of dread and fear in America, not to abolish it. What we’ve created is a world-wide antagonism against the United States and against Israel. While Bush and Olmert have attempted to make the U.S. and Israel the virtuous victims of terrorists, in reality they have forced the world communities to see Americans and Jews as monsters intent on imposing their world –wide hegemony through Capitalistic manipulations and military force on all the nations of the world. Unless the U.S. reverses its absolute support for the terrorist nation of Israel (by definition a legitimate defining of terrorism – i.e. a state that intentionally sets out to create fear to intimidate and control others) it can expect only the continuation of “hatred” of America.

There can be no peace for America until it severs the bonds that link it to the Zionist regimes that guide Israel. There can be no peace unless the United Nations enforces its Resolutions 181(II), 1947, and 194(III), 1948, resolutions that were conditions to the admittance of Israel to the UNO. Only the UN can resolve what it created by its acceptance of the Partition plan for Palestine. Without U.S. blind support, Israel will have to comply.

There is no victory to be won in Iraq; there is no “war” to be lost. The people we purportedly sought to liberate became in time the unknown enemy, the innocent indistinguishable from the terrorist; survival drove perception, instantaneous reflex action locked out reflection, gut instinct guided action. Nothing that this administration has done in Iraq provides hope for victory. From its desire to invade a nation that had done nothing to the United States, from the arrogance that drove its willingness to brazenly lie to the citizens of these United States, to the brutality of its opening onslaught in “Shock and Awe,” to the wanton devastation of Fallujah by weapons of a barbaric and illegal kind, to the wholesale destruction of a society and its infrastructure, the belief that the United States could be an honest broker to peace is a fable, an untruth masquerading as possible. This administration had only its concealed intent to control a nation and its resources. Only the intervention of the United Nations on behalf of the Iraqi people can bring even a semblance of peace to this nation. The invader must depart so that an objective agency can oversee in concert with the government of Iraq the reassembling of the nation and the restoration of what the United States has destroyed.     

Until the United States accepts its responsibility to address the primary reasons for the “hatred” of America, not deceive the people of America with lies, it will continue on its ineluctable course of loss upon loss upon loss, sinking ever further into the morass of fear driven actions that shackle Americans in mind and body as those who desire to control America’s power tighten their grip on our freedoms by removing them in the name of security. Thus does the cure become the cancer that destroys.

-William A. Cook is a professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California and author of Tracking Deception: Bush’s Mideast Policy. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: cookb@ulv.edu.

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