Friday, March 24, 2006

Failing to learn from history

Rumsfeld rambles on:

"The terrorists seem to recognize that they are losing in Iraq. I believe that history will show that to be the case.

Fortunately, history is not made up of daily headlines, blogs on Web sites or the latest sensational attack. History is a bigger picture, and it takes some time and perspective to measure accurately."

This from a guy who has clearly lied about the history of this war, cf:

"'It would have been probably October of '02, and the war was March, I think," of the following year, Rumsfeld explains. "I sat down, and I said, 'What are all the things that one has to anticipate could be a problem?' And circulated it and read it to the president - sent it to the president. Gave it to the people in the department, and they planned against those things. And all of the likely and unlikely things that one could imagine are listed there. It was just on the off-chance we'd end up having a conflict. We didn't know at that stage.'

Some might quibble with Rumsfeld's description of the historical moment. At the time he wrote the memo, dated October 15, 2002, Congress had recently voted to give President Bush complete authority to invade Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein. A White House spokesman had just confirmed that invasion plans were on Bush's desk - detailed plans, we now know, which Rumsfeld had been shaping and hammering and editing for much of the previous year.

In other words, there was far more than an "off-chance" of conflict. All that remained to be done was for the president to reach his official decision. The train was loaded, its doors were shut, and it was ready to leave the station.

Rumsfeld never pretended there was anything off-chancy about the timing of the memo when he discussed it with Bob Woodward, who wrote about the document in his authoritative history of Iraq war preparations, Plan of Attack. In that account, Rumsfeld portrayed the memo as a warning blast, an attempt to do "everything humanly possible to prepare" Bush for the awful responsibility that had settled onto his presidential shoulders - and his shoulders alone..." [i.e. covering his arse]

Robert Fisk, who has just written a massive history of the Middle East, "The Great War For Civilisation", shows that Rummy is right that "daily headlines" - and US news stories - are unlikely to tell the truth about history, but not for reasons Rummy would accept:

'I thought U.S. reporters no longer trusted the U.S. administration, not after the mythical WMD and the equally mythical connections between Saddam and the international crimes against humanity of 9/11. Of course, I was wrong.

Here are the sources - on pages 1 and 10 for the yarn spun by reporters Josh Meyer and Mark Mazzetti: "U.S. officials said," "said one U.S. Justice Department counter-terrorism official," "Officials ... said," "those officials said," "the officials confirmed," "American officials complained," "the U.S. officials stressed," "U.S. authorities believe," "said one senior U.S. intelligence official," "U.S. officials said," "Jordanian officials ... said" - here, at least is some light relief - "several U.S. officials said," "the U.S. officials said," "American officials said," "officials say," "say U.S. officials," "U.S. officials said," "one U.S. counter-terrorism official said."

I do truly treasure this story. It proves my point that the Los Angeles Times - along with the big East Coast dailies - should all be called U.S. OFFICIALS SAY.'

Fisk points out that had people in power like Rummy actually studied history they would not have created the disaster of Iraq today:

"... this is a story of tragedy and folly and of dark foreboding. It is about the past-made-present, and our ability to copy blindly and to the very letter the lies and follies of our ancestors. It is about that admonition of antiquity: that if we don't learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. For Iraq 1917, read Iraq 2003. For Iraq 1920, read Iraq 2004 or 2005.

Repairs of an armored car from No.1 Company in Iraq,
British Royal Air Force, ca. 1923 (IWM HU. 49856, Fagg Collection)

"Yes, we are preparing to give "full sovereignty" to Iraq. That's also what the British falsely claimed more than 80 years ago. Come, then, and confront the looking glass of history, and see what America and Britain will do in the next 12 terrible months in Iraq.

... by September 1919, even journalists were beginning to grasp that Britain's plans for Iraq were founded upon illusions. 'I imagine,' the correspondent for The Times wrote on 23 September, 'that the view held by many English people about Mesopotamia is that the local inhabitants will welcome us because we have saved them from the Turks, and that the country only needs developing to repay a large expenditure of English lives and English money. Neither of these ideals will bear much examination... From the political point of view we are asking the Arab to exchange his pride and independence for a little Western civilisation, the profits of which must be largely absorbed by the expenses of administration.'
The British now realised that they had made one big political mistake. They had alienated a major political group in Iraq - the ex-Turkish Iraqi officials and officers. The ranks of the disaffected swelled. For Kufa 1920, read Kufa 2004. For Najaf 1920, read Najaf 2004. For Yazdi, read Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. For Badr, read Muqtada al-Sadr.

In 1920, another insurgency broke out in the area of Fallujah, where Sheikh Dhari killed a British officer, Colonel Leachman, and cut rail traffic between Fallujah and Baghdad. The British advanced towards Fallujah and inflicted "heavy punishment" on the tribe. For Fallujah, of course, read Fallujah. And the location of the heavy punishment? Today it is known as Khan Dari - and it was the scene of the first killing of a US soldier by a roadside bomb in 2003.

In desperation, the British needed "to complete the fa├žade of the Arab government". And so, with Winston Churchill's enthusiastic support, the British gave the throne of Iraq to the Hashemite King Faisal, the son of Sherif Hussein, a consolation prize for the man the French had just thrown out of Damascus. Paris was having no kings in its own mandated territory of Syria.'

Guess who wrote this, and when:

"The people of England have been led in [Iraq] into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiques are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. It is a disgrace to our ... record, and may soon be too inflamed for any ordinary cure. We are to-day not far from a disaster."

T. E. Lawrence, in 1920, (I changed Mesopotamia to Iraq and omitted "imperial") and he concluded:

"We say we are in Mesopotamia to develop it for the benefit of the world. All experts say that the labour supply is the ruling factor in its development. How far will the killing of ten thousand villagers and townspeople this summer hinder the production of wheat, cotton, and oil? How long will we permit millions of pounds, thousands of Imperial troops, and tens of thousands of Arabs to be sacrificed on behalf of colonial administration which can benefit nobody but its administrators?"

What a pity Rummy didn't learn from this. Yes, "Those who are ignorant of history are condemned to repeat it." (not from "antiquity", Fisk, but from Santayana).

As Georgia10 says in The Daily Kos blog, contra Rumsfeld, the history IS being told by bloggers:

"Yet the legacy of this war will include the blogs. The internet has empowered the citizens of this country to preserve facts in the face of a relentless propaganda campaign. Where the administration has sought to cover-up and hide the reality of this conflict, blogs have stepped up to counter their revisionist history. As the scribes of a new millennium, we preserve in pixelated form every folly, every lie, and every death Rumsfeld wishes was overshadowed by false claims of victory. Ultimately, it will be the truth-seekers, on and off the internet, that will shape the legacy of this war as an ill-conceived fraud perpetrated on the American public, as an endless war grossly mismanaged by those who breached the public trust."


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