Cash for Chaos

Mark Levines spring break in Falluja

Most important, when I described how U.S. troops have been smashing Israeli-style into houses, roughing up men in front of their families, and then taking them away for undetermined periods without the family knowing if they're alive or dead (upwards of 20,000 Iraqis are being held this way), he justified this policy by shouting, "Oh, c'mon, Professor Levine! What do you expect the Marines to do? All these people are potential terrorists. . . . They all are willing to die for what they supposedly get in the afterlife. Don't you know that's the way they are?"

Even after years of reading these kind of essentialized, bigoted fantasies about Muslim hordes and the clash of civilizations, it still surprises me to hear such nonsense. I explained that such meaningless generalizations only inflame the situation, but of course he knew that already; the whole purpose of his show is to inflame people.

This is clearly the fall-back strategy of the Bush administration if the chaos spins out of their control: inflame people; make sure Americans understand that what's happening in Iraq is not our fault; that the only option—as even John Kerry argues—is to "stay the course," whatever that course is. In the meantime, in Iraq, a plunder economy is emerging, as it does wherever the chaos of war and neo-liberal globalization meet, as it did in Algeria, Kazakhstan and so many African countries. Welcome to the new New American Century.

Mark LeVine teaches modern Middle Eastern history at UC Irvine. He is the co-editor, with Pilar Perez and Viggo Mortensen, ofTwilight of Empire: Responses to Occupation (Perceval Press, 2003) and the forthcomingWhy They Don't Hate Us (Oneworld Publications, 2004).
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