by Andy Worthington
Friday marked the seventh anniversary of the illegal invasion of Iraq, but by now, it seems, the American people have become used to living in a state of perpetual war, even though that war was based on torture and lies. Protestors rallied across the country on Saturday, but the anti-war impetus of the Bush years has not been regained, as I discovered to my sorrow during a brief US tour in November, when I showed the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (directed by Polly Nash and myself) in New York, Washington D.C., and the Bay Area.
Some activists were still burnt out from campaigning for Barack Obama, others thought the new President had waved a magic wand and miraculously cured all America’s ills, while others, to the right of common sense and decency, were beginning to mobilize in opposition to a President who, to be frank, should have been more of a disappointment to those who thought that “hope” and “change” might mean something than to those who supported the Bush administration’s view of the world. Obama escalated the war in Afghanistan, endorsed indefinite detention without charge or trial for prisoners at Guantánamo, and shielded Bush administration officials and lawyers from calls for their prosecution for turning America into a nation with secret prisons, an extraordinary rendition program, and a detention policy for terror suspects based on the use of torture.
Nevertheless, the Republicans’ assault on decency, common sense and the law, in relation to terrorism, escalated in the wake of the failed Christmas Day plane bombing, with a high-level revolt against trying those accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks in federal courts, and a renewed onslaught on President Obama’s already tattered plans to close Guantánamo. On the anniversary of the war, headlines were dominated not by anti-war protests, but by the disgusting behavior of the Tea Party activists, whose bitter, negative campaigning against Obama, which has always demonstrated a thinly-veiled racism, plumbed new depths when protestors hurled racist and homophobic abuse at members of Congress.
African-American Congressman Emanaul Cleaver (D-MO) was spat on by a Tea Party protester, Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), a protégé of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was called a “nigger,” and gay Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) was called a “faggot.” Congressman James E. Clyburn (D-SC), who helped lead sit-ins in South Carolina in the 1960s during the civil rights movement, told NBC News:
It was absolutely shocking to me. Last Monday, I stayed home to meet on the campus of Pomford University, where 50 years ago, as of last Monday, March 15th, I led the first demonstrations in South Carolina, the sit-ins. Quite frankly I heard some things today that I haven’t heard since that day. I heard people saying things today I’ve not heard since March 15th, 1960 when I was marching to try and get off the back of the bus. This is incredible, shocking to me.
It is enough of a sign of madness that the Tea Party brigade, who oppose healthcare reform, have been sold a lie by the very corporations who mercilessly exploit them, essentially by stirring up fears of “communism” and “socialism” that Europeans and sensible Americans find bewildering and illogical, but it is no less dispiriting that their pointless hatred overshadowed countrywide calls for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The war in Afghanistan may originally have had some sort of acceptable rationale, but it was a lost cause almost as soon as it began, when America failed to win the crucial struggle for hearts and minds, killing thousands of Afghan civilians in bombing raids, imprisoning others in vile conditions in prisons at Kandahar and Bagram (where some died), and sending others to Guantánamo.
Another major reason for the failure in Afghanistan was the administration’s intention – instigated as early as November 2001 – to move on to Iraq, and while the Chilcot Inquiry in Britain revisited the roots of the Iraq war in recent months, demonstrating, without a shadow of a doubt, that it was an illegal war decided as early as April 2002, when Prime Minister Tony Blair committed the UK to full participation, an often overlooked side-effect of this decision involved, in the most cynical manner, the exploitation of prisoners seized in the “War on Terror” to provide cover for the planned invasion.