No Matter What

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

I did not wait with baited breath for the President’s long-anticipated speech on a “new strategy” for Iraq. For I knew, with chilling certainty, that no matter the “strategy,” it would hardly be “new.” I knew that more didn’t mean new—just more. And I knew that this president was incapable of little more than more of the same. More troops—more war—more death—more disaster.

There may be a new phrase—but after “Bring ’em on!,” “We’re winning!,” or “War Against Terror,” what can a new phrase mean—but more b.s.?

Wars aren’t fought with phrases; they’re used to sell wars; to stir the blood; to quicken the pulse; and to enliven the bloodlust in men. This one is no different.

I fought my journalistic urge to watch the President’s press conference. It’s a lot like watching Bugs Bunny’s Elmer Fudd stuttering something about catching that “wascally wabbit.” I can actually hear Bugs laughing at Elmer’s latest antic, saying, between guffaws, “What a maroon!”


And yet, as is often the case, the journalistic urge wins out, so as a compromise, I turned on the local NPR affiliate, and listened to the speech. And despite advance billing by party and PR flacks about the contents, Bush managed to do it again.

Within moments of his latest offering came appeals to the events of Sept. 11th, which he blamed on “extremists.” Like Iraq had a damned thing to do with 9/11! Once again, he sprinkled his speech with calls to supporting “liberty,” and essentially said the problem was “too few U.S. and Iraqi troops, and too many restrictions.”

And the solution? 21,000 more troops.

With each twist and turn of administration policy, I’ve scoffed. This “new strategy” evoked the same old emotion.

This too is destined for failure. Why? Because the U.S. Army hasn’t an ounce worth of trust in the Iraqi forces. Because Iraqi “insurgents” (or dead-enders”—or “extremists,” or whatever we’re calling them now) have seeded themselves within the Ministry of the Interior—the Army, the police—you name it. If the U.S. delivers new arms to the Army, it will be in the hands of the so-called “insurgents” by dawn.

And what is this American antipathy against “extremists” or “insurgents,” anyhow? The U.S. was formed by armed groups of insurgents—and yes, extremists. Those who stood against the British King in 1776 were opposing the biggest, baddest superpower of the era. The Crown was the seat of legality, order, and power. To dare to challenge them—to fight the mighty British Empire, was—well, extreme.

The U.S. did it, and at least one “founding father”—Thomas Paine, had to flee Britain, or face time in the Tower awaiting the national noose. (It was just his bad luck that he fled to France, where the Robespierre-led National Assembly tried to feed his head to the guillotine—but that’s another story.)

The point? A war against extremities, or terrorism, is misleading and stupid. It’s a war against an idea.

It’s now approaching 4 years of this madcap and illegal war. Now is hardly time for a “new strategy.” Failure leads to failure. Disaster leads to disaster. This “new strategy” is kinda like putting lipstick on a pig.

Its other flaw is its obvious tilt towards the Shia, with Sunnis targeted by the U.S.-Iraqi forces for a kind of “super-occupation.” What will this lead to? Everything that the administration has done—from Day One—has made more enemies, not less. It has made the threats facing the U.S. more dangerous—not less.

Good work, Elmer (or should I say, Daffy Duck”).

Copyright Mumia Abu-Jamal, January 10, 2007