ROVING EYE 'Stability First': Newspeak for
rape of Iraq By Pepe Escobar
"Stay the course also means don't leave
before the job is done. And that's ... we're going
to get the job done in Iraq. And it's important
that we do get the job done in Iraq." - George
W Bush, October 11
Iraq is not simply a US
electoral issue. It's a human tragedy of biblical
proportions. Hence the urge at this point to
situate the tragedy in a historical context.
In AD 750 the Abbasid Dynasty
"de-Bedouinized" Islam by
defeating the Ummayad Dynasty
based in Damascus. The culture of the Abbasid
court ceased being Arab-only and started to
include Persia and the Turks. Islam turned into a
universal religion, no more constrained by
geography. "Baldach" - that's what European
travelers called Baghdad up to the late 18th
century - was catapulted to the center of the
From AD 786-809, under fabled
Haroon al-Rashid - who established relations with
Tang Dynasty China and the "illiterate emperor"
Charlemagne - Baghdad gave the world astronomy,
alchemy, hydraulics, diplomacy, fiscal
administration and the postal service. Up to the
early 12th century it remained the most important
intellectual center in the world.
had been under siege by the Assyrians and later by
Cyrus the Great from Persia. But it was only in
1258 that Baghdad was sacked for the first time by
what was then the equivalent of Desert Storm - the
Mongols riding their lightning-quick horses under
the command of Hulagu, Genghis Khan's grandson.
Legend has it that he erected a pyramid of 700,000
skulls out of his victims.
another foreign invader, the Turco-Mongol Tamerlan
("Timur the Lame"), devastated Baghdad yet again.
In 2003, after the devastation of "shock and awe",
came the Christian armies of President George W
Bush. From the beginning the comparisons with
Hulagu and Tamerlan were vivid in the popular
imagination. Over time, Baghdadis - Sunni or
Shi'ite - were saying, we will dictate our rhythm
and impose ourselves over the occupiers. This is
Quagmire Iraq is not a
21st-century video game of Arabs playing extras in
a slow-motion Armageddon. This is a wrenching
story with rivers of real blood and a terrible
accumulation of real corpses. The story was
engineered in Washington - and the plot would not
be advancing were it not for the United States.
The US bears all the moral and legal
responsibility for the destruction of the fabled
former capital of the caliphate and the de facto
Western flank of the Arab nation.
It is in
this context that the current avalanche of
Iraq-related newspeak in the US should be placed.
The recent bloody holy month of Ramadan in
Iraq has reflected the hellish mechanism unleashed
by the invasion and occupation - the daily,
gruesome banquet of death provoked by
state-sponsored terror, counterinsurgency, stoked
by sectarian hatred or the total collapse of the
This logic of
extermination of a society and culture was inbuilt
in the process since March 2003. In fact, the
systematic annihilation of 2-3% of the entire
Iraqi population, according to a study by The
Lancet, not to mention the 1 million people
displaced since March 2003, follow the more than
500,000 children who died during the 1990s as
victims of United Nations sanctions. Iraq has been
systematically destroyed for more than 15 years,
And it gets worse, because for
the Bush administration all this death and
destruction is just a minor detail in the "big
In a perverse replay of what
happened in the Vietnamese jungles, the Pentagon
lost the asymmetric guerrilla war raging in the
Sunni belt. Sunni Arabs are totally alienated.
Seventy percent are in favor of attacking the
occupiers, no holds barred. No wonder Saddam
Hussein is still popular. This month, about 500
Sunni Arab tribal chiefs and former Ba'ath Party
officials in the police, army and intelligence got
together in al-Hindiya, 25 kilometers west of
Kirkuk, to pledge allegiance to Saddam, qualified
as "supreme combatant and legitimate president".
It's true that Saddam's regime had already
started to disintegrate from the inside after the
Gulf War of 1991 - a process coupled with the
devastating effects of UN sanctions. The resulting
loss of civic spirit accelerated the
re-tribalization of Iraq. Even as tribal
affiliation nowadays is the only way to solve any
problem in Iraq, for the silent majority what
really matters is security: nobody is troubled by
perceived (by the West) Sunni and Shi'ite
divisions; and most Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen share
plenty of social, cultural and commercial
interests. Contrary to Western-propagated myth,
Iraqi civil society as a whole - apart from a few
factions - abhors civil war.
coalition of the drilling World public
opinion must switch to red alert. The real, not
virtual, future of Iraq will be decided in
December. The whole point is a new oil law - which
is in fact a debt-for-oil program concocted and
imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
This is the point of the US invasion - a return on
investment on the hundreds of billions of dollars
of US taxpayers' money spent. It's not war as
politics by other means; it's war as free-market
opening by other means - full US access to the
epicenter of the energy wars and the perfect
geostrategic location for "taming", in the near
future, both Russia and China.
observers have detailed what's at stake. In US
corporate media the silence is stratospheric.
US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman duly
landed in Baghdad this past summer, insisting that
Iraqis must "pass a hydrocarbon law under which
foreign companies can invest". Iraqi Oil Minister
Hussein al-Shahristani was convinced, and said the
law would be passed by the end of 2006, as
promised to the IMF.
No wonder: the Green
Zone US Embassy colossus has always made sure that
the US controls - via well-paid Iraqi servants -
the Petroleum Ministry, as well as all key
management posts in key Iraqi ministries. The
draft hydrocarbon law was reviewed by the IMF,
reviewed by Bodman and reviewed by Big Oil
executives. It was not and it will not be reviewed
by Iraqi civil society: that was left to the
fractious Iraqi parliament - which can be largely
bought for a fistful of dinars.
administration needs somebody to sign the law. The
nation of Iraq as it emerged out of British
imperial design is an artificial construct that
can only be "tamed" by a hardcore strongman a
la Saddam. It has to be "our" strongman, of
course: when Saddam started to act independently
he was smashed. Insistent rumors of a
US-engineered coup to replace the hapless current
premier Nuri al-Maliki have surfaced of late. Poor
Maliki, if he clings to a minimum of integrity,
can't possibly sign the oil law. Enter the
Washington/Green Zone-backed strongman a la
Saddam: a likely candidate is former interim
premier Iyad Allawi, who ordered the destruction
of Fallujah in late 2004.
No matter what
happens in the US mid-term elections next month,
this is the post-December scenario: Iraq enslaved
by the IMF; Big Oil signing mega-lucrative
production sharing agreements (PSAs); "partial"
troop withdrawal; relentless guerrilla warfare;
further disintegration; open road to partition.
Vast swaths of the US electorate have now
understood how the whole Iraqi adventure has been
built on lies: lies about the causes of war, lies
about the methodology of war, lies about the
terrible consequences of war. Inevitably, the
current media-targeted avalanche of Iraq-related
newspeak had to be also meaningless. This includes
"phased withdrawal", "empowering" the Iraqi
government, "putting security ahead of democracy"
and "partitioning Iraq". Surrealism in
international relations would reach new highs (or
lows) with the US ordering by decree that a
sovereign nation must dismember itself. Compared
with it, the current carnage in Baghdad - which is
already divided anyway - would be a Disney flick.
There's more: the Shakespearean despair
over "Redeploy and Contain" or "Stability First" -
newspeak coined by Bush family consegliere
James Baker's Iraq Study Group, staffed with
plenty of pro-war neo-conservatives. A notorious
casualty of the newspeak war seems to be "stay the
course" - replaced, according to Press Secretary
Tony Snow, by "a study in constant motion".
Anyway, the winner - after the mid-term elections
- will be "Stability First", which is basically a
remix, with a horn section, of "stay the course".
How can Americans - and world public
opinion - be engaged in serious, meaningful debate
when the Iraq tragedy is reduced to a mere catch
phrase? This incoherent whirlwind, this "study in
constant motion", is the travesty that passes for
Iraqi policy debate among educated elites.
Another reading is more ominous. It spells
the Bush administration and its attached elites
losing control - of everything. And that's how
they can become even more dangerous. On October
19, Vice President Dick Cheney once again stated
that the only way out in Iraq was "total victory".
A recent historical parallel is nothing but
gloomy. When the US was confronted with defeat in
Vietnam, it did not "Redeploy and Contain": on the
contrary, death and destruction were extended to
Laos and Cambodia. Baker's "Stability First" might
contain undisclosed subtexts.
victory", in Cheney's world view, means that the
Bush administration was not, is not and will never
be interested in Iraqi, or Middle Eastern,
"democracy". What matters is control of the
lightest, sweetest, most profitable crude oil on
the planet, 112 billion barrels of it in proven
reserves plus 220 billion barrels still to be
exploited, at a cost as low as US$1 a barrel; a
cluster of sprawling military bases; the largest
embassy/fortress-by-the-Tigris in the world; and
the indispensable client regime.
In sum: a
"Coalition of the Drilling" secured by the
Pentagon's Long War apparatus. It's up to ancient
and proud Baghdad to spoil the party. Baghdad
survived and buried Hulagu. Baghdad survived and
buried Tamerlan. Baghdad may as well survive and
bury George W Bush.