Thanks to George Bush, Talks With Iran Make Sense
US military history from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan is too often a combination of destructive stumbling around followed by an effort to sustain and project forward the notion of US power and exceptionalism. To forge another narrative is very difficult.
There’s the blind rush to war to put in its place some faction halfway around the world that has not played ball with US leaders. Next, there’s the moment military leaders realize they must fend off a local opposition they had not anticipated. Finally, there’s the inevitable condition of weariness over the killing, dying and destruction, leading to a withdrawal once that can be managed in a face-saving manner that sustains the delusion that the whole enterprise was honorable.
I made two trips to Iraq, one in December 2003, and another the following month, January 2004. Both entailed hair-raising 12-hour back-and-forth dashes across the Anbar desert in a large SUV sometimes doing 110 MPH from Amman, Jordan, to Baghdad. This was at the moment US military commanders realized, shock and awe aside, its invasion/occupation had flushed out a formidable resistance movement.
In December 2003, I visited Falluja with two Iraqis and another American in a blue Opal with a cracked windshield. We were going to link up my American colleague with his son at a forward base in Falluja. It was quite an adventure finding the base. In the process I learned that Falluja -- contrary to the identity it now has in the US as a famous battle -- was a lake resort known for its delicious kabob restaurants. Our Iraqi guide was a bit of a comedian and insisted that we would end the day with a visit to a famous kabob restaurant in downtown Falluja.
“Uhh, is that wise?” I asked. The guide who was a professor of cinema at a Baghdad university winked at me but kept up the joke for the more anxious American father in the front seat.
“No problem! They are delicious. You will love the kabobs of Falluja.”
My second visit to Baghdad was with David Goodman, a documentary filmmaker. We went to meet with this same cinema professor to ponder cultural exchange. Goodman and I were hoping to return to Baghdad to teach a class. Then, all our plans went up in smoke when several American military contractors were ambushed in Falluja and their charred bodies hung ignominiously from a bridge. This provoked the first, Army assault on Falluja. There was to be no cinema class featuring an American Academy Award winning director and his Sancho Panza sidekick. The resistance had grown and the price on American heads was too much.