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Mon Jun 23, 2014, 03:04 PM

Hubris and Nemesis: American Elitists in Iraq and elsewhere

Steve Leser, a greatly respected member of this community known for his courageous forays into the enemy territory of FoxNews, said on another thread today that to refer to the Bush administration officials and other neoconservatives as having been "blinded by hubris" when invading is to ascribe to them good intentions. Mr. Leser does not believe that these had any good intentions.

This leaves me a little bone to pick with Mr. Leser, although it merely over the semantics of the matter than anything else.

I agree that the Bushies had no good intentions when they went into Iraq. They knew that they didn't know that Saddam possessed a biochemical arsenal -- I guess that's what Rumsfeld would call a "known unknown" -- but they didn't really care whether or not he did. For them, WMDs or a "reconstituted" nuclear program was just a talking point. It was the sizzle that would sell the steak. This was a war for Iraq's resources, plain and simple.

Talk of democratizing the Middle East was ridiculous on its face. An administration that seized power in America after losing a presidential election was going to spread democracy to the unwashed masses of the Middle East? A bigger concern was -- and remains -- re-establishing democracy in America. The talk of democracy from fascists informed by the droppings of Leo Strauss was just another empty talking point aimed at deceiving masses of American citizens. The neoconservatives had no intention of spreading democracy to the Middle East or anywhere else. The neoconservatives didn't believe in democracy. While theyt weren't spreading it abroad they were busy contracting it at home.

The occupation of Iraq was from the start an imperialist enterprise. First there was direct rule from an American proconsul who, after misruling the colony for about a year, turned over power to a puppet regime. In the end the mission was accomplished. The puppet regime that settled in Baghdad signed over Iraq's oil fields to developers based in Houston and the development would be financed with money from Wall Street.

Now it's all falling apart.

What has this to do with hubris? The only thing needed to qualify this as hubris is that the Bushies thought they could get away it. They actually thought that it was possible to stabilize Iraq as an American colony, and that this colony would be called a nation and bear the burden taking loans from Wall Street by way of the World Bank so that western petroleum companies could reap the profits from the development of Iraq's oil fields.

The ancient Greeks who gave us the word hubris used that word to describe the quality of a mere mortal who tries to defy the gods and assume power that is reserved for them. While we no longer believe in Zeus or Apollo, many of us still believe in some anthropomorphic God who has the powers of the Olympic gods and even those of us who don't believe in any gods at all still recognize some mysterious power that directs the forces of nature or of history without regard to the will of any mortal. When some mortal thinks he has that power, then that mortal possesses not power but hubris. His intention may be to construct a paradise on earth, even if getting there involves the slaughter of European Jews or the starvation of Ukrainian farmers, or if the intention may simply be the grand theft of another nation's natural resources for its own sake.

The gods would punish a hubristic mortal in an act called nemesis. Oedipus thought he could defy the prophecy of the oracles who foretold that he would kill his father and marry his mother by running away from home. What he didn't know was that he was adopted and he proceeded to fulfill the prophesy in ways that left him ignorant of its fulfillment. The nemesis came when all was brought to light; his wife/mother, Iocasta, hanged herself and Oedipus, in his anguish, gouged out his eyes.

The nemesis that the gods inflict on modern American elitists like the best and brightest who blundered into Vietnam and the neoconservatives who even more willfully sent American troops into Iraq come from two manifestations. First, there is the almost natural response of an invaded population to resist occupation. In the wake of the US invasion of Iraq, the one thing that Sunnis and Shiites could agree on was that American forces should be expelled from Iraq. The American elites who planned and executed the invasion were left to frantically search for an Iraqi government composed of Iraqis who would bend their will. Since this could only be legitimized with popular elections, the American elites were left to deal with Shiite leaders who spent time in exile during Saddam's reign of terror living in Iran. That's not exactly what Dick Cheney had in mind when he tortured detainees in Guantanamo and elsewhere in order to get them to talk about a biochemical arsenal that wasn't there so he could include it in the National Intelligence Estimate in order to justify the invasion.

In Vietnam, the very forces that the American elitists poured so much blood and treasure to prevent from gaining power marched into Saigon, the seat of the US-compliant government, and triumphantly renamed it Ho Chi Minh City, after the George Washington of Indochina whom the elitists opposed. That was a moment of nemesis. In Iraq, the elitists watch helplessly as Sunni fundamentalist terrorists are poised to take over Baghdad. Personally, I take no joy in their triumph. Those who liked Saddam will love ISIS. This, too, is a moment of nemesis.

The second source of nemesis directed at the American elites comes from the American people. Here, I obviously don't mean the American elites who invade other countries in order to place foreign resources under the control of American business elites, but people like you and me who vote in elections, always with the hope that our candidate will win and that this time, maybe this time, our candidate actually represent us and not those American elites who the bill for his (or her) campaign.

Unlike American elitists, the common people of America are democrats (note the small d) and democrats do not make very good imperialists. While the US has often been only a procedural democracy, and sometimes when under the sway of a demagogue like Joe McCarthy not even that, America has always been a cultural democracy. Don't let any paid stooge of American elitists on hate radio tell you that it is only a mere republic; America is a democracy. Democracy is what Tocqueville wrote about when he came to America to study the American prison system in the 1830s; that's why he called his book Democracy in America. This is the democracy that is the subject of Walt Whitman's bold and robust free verse. Woody Guthrie sang about it during the Depression; Bob Dylan lamented its weakness and hoped for its revival during the Cold War. That is the America of the Underground Railroad, the labor movement (including the Wobblies), Ida Tarbell, Crazy Horse, the Suffragettes, the Bonus Army, the Freedom Riders of the Mississippi Summer, the mass protests against the wars against Vietnam and Iraq and against the political domination of reactionary corporate elitists. This is the America that had no desire to own slaves or kill the natives. This is the America that had no desire to tell the Vietnamese people who shall or shall not govern them. This is the America that has no desire to steal oil from the Iraqi people, but would prefer to sit down with the Iraqis and negotiate a fair price for it and do that until we develop renewable energy after which we will need no fossil fuel ever again.

The American elitists have come up against the democratic America twice in recent history and were twice forced to back down. We heard last week the death throes of the imperialists of 2002 as they pleaded with us over the air waves to allow them to send our children and grandchildren back to Iraq in 2014. They were greeted with nemesis in the form of mockery. One said that re-invading Iraq was the right thing to, even if polls showed that 90% of the American people were opposed. Did that guy once say that he wanted to spread democracy to Iraq? Can you believe that?

The unfortunate thing is that nemesis was not allowed to more effectively purge the hubris of the elitists. They have not been sufficiently punished for their sins, or they would have had to make their pleas to spill more and more blood in Iraq from behind the walls of federal penitentiaries. President Obama deserves credit for withdrawing American forces from Iraq, but he and his do-nothing Attorney General must also accept the blame for not prosecuting Bush administration war criminals.

However, the American elitists are guilty of more hubris than just imperialism in Iraq. There is yet more hubris. They think they can make an end run around democracy by setting up a kangaroo court staffed by corporate lawyers with the power to fine a government that exceeds, in their judgment, a maximum level of regulation. Again, America is culturally democratic. I do not believe Americans will surrender their right to legislate commercial regulation to those whose short term interests will drive them accept only light regulation and then like they're making a major concession to the people of the world for that.

The day of reckoning for that is yet to come.

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Reply Hubris and Nemesis: American Elitists in Iraq and elsewhere (Original post)
Jack Rabbit Jun 2014 OP
Luminous Animal Jun 2014 #1
rock Jun 2014 #2
stevenleser Jun 2014 #3

Response to Jack Rabbit (Original post)

Mon Jun 23, 2014, 03:17 PM

1. Good post. Worth reading twice.

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Response to Jack Rabbit (Original post)

Mon Jun 23, 2014, 03:38 PM

2. Great post.

Quite incisive. One reason the repiggies are so contrary is that they thrive on hypocrisy,

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Response to Jack Rabbit (Original post)

Mon Jun 23, 2014, 03:44 PM

3. Can only scan for now but I love your ideas here. Will read them more thoroughly and respond later..


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