David B.




Read David's bio and previous columns


July 26, 2006

A Corner Turned at the Zarqawi Factory


It has only been a few weeks since United States operations in Iraq "turned a corner" - another in a seemingly endless succession of corners turned in the occupation's downward spiral - with the killing of Abu Musab al Zarqawi, putative head of Al Qaeda in Iraq.


This, we were told, was a turning point (aren't they all?). Deprived of its feared leader, Al Qaeda in Iraq and the insurgency itself would find themselves hamstrung, demoralized and directionless, with a diminished capacity to inflict damage upon coalition forces or the Iraqi people. The "freedom" that Bush claimed was "on the march" would finally be able to up its pace from tectonic to glacial.


As with so many corner-turnings, though, it hasn't exactly worked out that way. The stealthy car bombings, ambushes and IED placements have evolved into open sectarian warfare, with steady escalations in carnage and horror. While American forces cower in their Green Zone and rookie Iraqi cops hide in their stations, insurgent groups set up false roadblocks to identify and execute either Sunnis or Shias, and even ethnically cleanse entire Baghdad neighborhoods through house-to-house raids and executions. In this climate of carnage, even the kidnapping of an entire Iraqi governmental committee during one of its meetings warrants scarcely a raised eyebrow in the U.S. press. We have arrived at the point in the Iraq conflict where slaughter has become mundane, the new normal. In the U.S., we have arrived at the point where we don't remember what we were doing, how we were to do it or why we started in the first place.


From the perspective of the comparative comfort of Midwestern America, the Iraq war and America's involvement in it seems more remote and incomprehensible than ever before. Life goes on much as it always has, albeit with doubled gas prices and higher unemployment. No matter how hard we looked, we never found Osama or Saddam skulking beneath our beds, or clandestine Al Qaeda cells meeting down at the local library. As the yellow ribbon and American flag stickers peel from the backs of our pickup trucks, whatever lingering remnants of 2002 war fever evaporate like mud puddles in the blistering summer sun. No one remembers the color-coded terror alert levels or the Clear Channel-sponsored war rallies anymore, and neither presidential speeches nor Toby Keith songs can reignite the manufactured mania that let George Bush and his accomplices rain destruction upon a sovereign people based upon, as George Galloway famously put it, "a pack of lies."


The war in Iraq, we were told, was going to change things.  Americans would be safer, life would be somehow intangibly better. But it didn't, we weren't and it wasn't. And when Bush's made-for-reality-TV war of convenience began to get boring, we turned our attention back to our jobs and our lives. The continual pronouncements of corners turned became simple aural wallpaper.


It's a uniquely American conceit to believe that as a people we too can "turn a corner," simply change channels and turn our attention away from the international messes we create when we become bored. Despite 9/11 and the accompanying choreographed wailing and gnashing of teeth, America remains insensitive to human suffering by virtue of never having truly experienced it. The only pogroms and extermination campaigns conducted upon American soil remain those against Native Americans and African Americans. There has been no American Dresden, Lidice, Auschwitz or Tuol Sleng. And when a whiff of tragedy does touch us, we quickly turn it into mass-market entertainment, a la Oliver Stone's new Twin Towers.


Far better to ignore history, even our own, than learn from it. This permits Bush and his accomplices to perpetuate the lies of corners turned and freedom marching, even as actual subsequent events contradict them. The wake of Zarqawi's unlamented death, the pace of violence in Iraq - as measured in bombings, neighborhood purges and piled bodies - has increased rather than decreased.


In countries such as Iraq, where there isn't an American Idol to turn to when war and bloodshed grow tiresome, there are actual long-term consequences to chaos and bloodshed. Bush and his sycophants like to pretend that Zarqawi was a cause, rather than an effect, of violence in Iraq. In fact, his transformation from a petty criminal into a hardened anti-American militant was a direct result of American actions. Zarqawi, and legions like him, took up arms in answer to past American actions - the first Gulf War, the establishment of permanent bases in Saudi Arabia, the war on Afghanistan. The appropriateness or efficacy of these actions is open to discussion, but it is beyond dispute that each played a significant role in consolidating and strengthening forces aligned against the United States. Specifically, each became a mechanism for the recruitment of Zarqawis.


With each American bomb that falls, with each Iraqi civilian killed at a checkpoint, additional fighters are recruited to the Islamist cause. Iraq has become a mass production factory for the creation of the Zarqawis of the future. Each "corner turned" marks a speedup in the production line, and America will see bitter results of its futile, failed policies made manifest in the form of bombings, hijackings, ambushes and attacks for decades to come.


2006 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


Click here to talk to our writers and editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.


To e-mail feedback about this column, click here. If you enjoy this writer's work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry it.


This is Column # DBL012. Request permission to publish here.

Op-Ed Writers
Eric Baerren
Lucia de Vernai
Herman Cain
Dan Calabrese
Alan Hurwitz
Paul Ibrahim
David Karki
Llewellyn King
Gregory D. Lee
David B. Livingstone
Nathaniel Shockey
Stephen Silver
Candace Talmadge
Jessica Vozel
Jamie Weinstein
Feature Writers
Mike Ball
Bob Batz
The Laughing Chef
David J. Pollay
Business Writers
Cindy Droog
D.F. Krause