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Thank You Fallujah

According to the new memoir Wiser in Battle: A Soldier’s Story by now-retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, this is what George W. Bush told his national security team in the aftermath of the killing of four U.S. contractors in Fallujah in 2004:

    Kick ass! If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! We must be tougher than hell! …
    There is a series of moments and this is one of them. Our will is being tested, but we are resolute. We have a better way. Stay strong! Stay the course! Kill them! Be confident! Prevail! We are going to wipe them out! We are not blinking!

He sounds a bit “unstrung,” like a playground bully who is used to always getting his way, until suddenly someone says no.

That reminds me that during a certain period around 2003–2005, the Iraqi resistance was the only group anywhere in the world that dared to stand up to American imperial ambitions. The Democratic Party wasn’t doing it. The American media weren’t doing it. The European powers weren’t doing it. In those days the Bush administration planned “full spectrum dominance” of the globe through the end of the 21st century, and a “permanent Republican majority” to control American politics for another generation. For quite a while, only one thing arose to challenge these twin illusions: the Iraqi resistance that began in Fallujah.

By exposing Bush’s war as morally bankrupt and based on lies, the Iraqi resistance eventually eroded the confidence of the American people in the truth-telling abilities of the Bush administration and the Republican Party, setting up the Democratic congressional victory of 2006 and likely propelling Barack Obama to the presidency in 2008. If Bush had been able to portray his war as the quick, easy victory it was originally intended to be, both the American global empire and the Republican dominance of American politics would still be intact today.

Is it too farfetched for Americans to thank the Iraqi resistance for giving us back our democracy? The first time I had this thought was back in November 2005, when I was living in Morocco. At the time, it felt like a radical idea. Today, less so.

    I’ll just go ahead and say it. In the end, it will prove to be the courage of the Iraqi resistance that saved democracy in America. That and all the others who said no: the majority of nations who balked in early 2003 when asked to pull the trigger in Iraq, the Turks who refused to permit transit of ground troops through their territory, the ranks of policy experts who went public with their grievances…the foreign peoples who forced their governments to unshackle themselves from American interests as a result of this war. But it was the Iraqi resistance itself that best exposed the lie.
    A friend of mine claims that if the war in Iraq had gone better for the Americans, we would still be happy with our president. Unfortunately he is right…but a war this out of touch with reality can’t go better than it has. We were promised music and flowers. Instead we got kidnappings and roadside explosions. … The Iraqi resistance is a result of this flawed policy: it is the reality piercing the illusion. It will remain that way until democracy reawakens in America, and reason is restored to the halls of government.

Recently Michael Schwartz, writing for the progressive website TomDispatch.com, expressed similar ideas in his essay, “River of Resistance: How the American Imperial Dream Foundered in Iraq.” In his conclusion, he points out that our work isn’t done until the imperial ambitions behind Bush’s war are rejected not only by the Iraqi resistance, but also by the American people themselves.

    As the occupation wore on, the Bush administration found itself swimming against a tide of resistance of a previously unimaginable sort, and ever further from its goals. … Because of the Iraqis, the glorious sounding Global War on Terror has been transformed into an endless, hopeless actual war.
    But the Iraqis have paid a terrible price for resisting. The invasion and the social and economic policies that accompanied it have destroyed Iraq, leaving its people essentially destitute. … Whether consciously or not, they have sacrificed themselves to halt Washington’s projected military and economic march through the oil-rich Middle East on the path to a new American Century that now will never be.
    It is past time for the rest of the world to shoulder at least a small share of the burden of resistance. … Unlike the Iraqis, after all, the citizens of the United States are uniquely positioned to bury this imperial dream for all time.

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