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Iraq: Truly fighting for freedom?
By Martina Law
published February, 2005

"You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time." 

This famous quote, attributed to Abraham Lincoln, implies that in a functioning democracy leaders cannot be continually deceptive. Eventually they will be found out and given their just desserts.  

Yet in 2005, it is apparently sufficient to fool some of the people all of the time. Grasping for reasons to justify the Iraq war, even Bush and Cheney must be amazed at how large portions of the American population continue to swallow the increasingly implausible reasons served up to convince us that military action in Iraq was just and necessary. 

How can this be? For many Europeans, quotes from the White House – such as terrorists hating Americans’ freedom, and US forces in Iraq fighting for Americans’ freedom –  border on the absurd. Yet there is a deeply rooted nationalism, glorified as patriotism that blinds true believers to any wrongdoing in American foreign policy.

I am not saying that there is no nationalism anywhere to be found in Europe. Far from that: many European nations have to deal with sometimes-extreme nationalistic groups. Nonetheless, the overall European media landscape reflects a healthy criticism towards their governments’ decisions regarding foreign and domestic policies. And European children are consciously taught of Europe’s and the world’s diversity. 

And in the US? You would be hard pressed to find any American schoolchild who would disagree with the statement that the USA is ‘the greatest country in the world,’ despite the fact that the vast majority of them have never stepped outside the country, nor even learned much about the rest of the world from their formal schooling. Carried to its logical conclusion by adults unwilling to critically examine their patriotic beliefs, Americans are by definition superior, others inferior. With the yellow press such as ‘Fox News’ fanning a xenophobic mentality, this alone would seem to justify any military action the president deems necessary.

The Bush administration did not invade Iraq because Saddam was an imminent threat. They did not invade Iraq because Saddam was in league with bin Laden. They did not invade Iraq to liberate the Iraqis and give them the gift of self-determination, as we will find out if the Iraqis choose an Islamist, anti-American government. 

The Bush administration chose to invade Iraq in order to create a pro-American client state in a resource-rich region. The pretext of fighting terrorism was a convenient excuse to do so. As Americans ask themselves questions such as “when can the troops come home?” and “when will Iraq be self-sufficient?” the US military is digging in for the long haul, with orders to retain control of the hard-won prize. 

This fact is not lost on the rest of the world. Sadly, this only intensifies the anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world, fueled not by jealousy of freedoms but by fear and antipathy of American military power and global reach. 

The British Guardian once said, “The invasion of Iraq was a crime of gigantic proportions, for which (American) politicians, the media and the public share responsibility.” I agree.  

Every life lost in the war is tragic. The number of US casualties is rising, but you have to dig deep to learn more about the Iraqi death toll. It’s nothing the American media likes to talk about. Unfortunately, there is no official estimate of the number of Iraqi civilians that have died since the war broke out, because the US as an occupying power has failed to catalogue the deaths. Some independent sources such as the UK foreign secretary estimate that more than 10,000 Iraqi have lost their lives as a result of the invasion. A recently published study conducted by scientists of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School, Baltimore, even goes as high as 100,000 Iraqi deaths. 

These are dark days for American democracy. Let’s hope that the American public will weary of war, death and destruction and begin to cast a more critical eye on contradictory statements like ‘freedom is on the march.’ Freedom for Americans originally meant freedom from subjection by an outside power – the British. Do patriotic Americans really believe that other peoples will accept a freedom defined as subjection to American power? Perhaps not, if the myth of infallibility in their leadership is exposed. Let’s end on a hopeful quote, again from Lincoln: 

I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crises. The great point is to bring them the real facts.

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