Global Policy Forum

From the Sunni Triangle to the Bermuda Triangle


By Michael Renner

Global Policy Forum
*Opinion Forum
November 15, 2003

With a rising tide of attacks against the U.S. occupation of Iraq, a new term quickly entered the media lexicon. "Sunni triangle" is now commonly used as shorthand for the geographic center of the growing resistance in Iraq. It reflects the Bush administration's insistence that no more than a small core of die-hard supporters of Saddam Hussein, plus an assemblage of "foreign terrorists," are to blame.

But the precise nature and depth of the Iraqi resistance is still open to debate. Instead of this focus on the Sunni triangle—a place not found in any atlas—a different phenomenon warrants investigation: call it the Iraqi "Bermuda triangle." Thanks to a compliant media that are at times hard to distinguish from imperial court stenographers, a number of vexing and unpleasant questions have mysteriously vanished into thin air – if the Bush administration has its way, never to be heard again.

Take, for instance, the question of Saddam Hussein's supposed stocks of weapons of mass destruction. Despite a series of belated, yet damaging revelations that showed that George Bush and Tony Blair lied in their relentless drive to war, the warlord on the Potomac was largely let off the hook (though his sidekick across the Atlantic was not). The Bush administration has been able to get away with a convenient shift in its story line—namely, that the invasion was kicked off to get rid of a terrible regime and to establish democracy in Iraq—and by blaming the CIA for misleading intelligence information.

But there is an even more serious matter that never sees the light of day. George Bush can stridently warn against other countries possessing "the world's most dangerous weapons," but no journalist thinks of confronting him with an obvious question: why is the United States refusing to give up its own huge arsenal? How could a country that ushered in the atomic age at Hiroshima insist that other nations foreswear nuclear arms, while it strives to refine and modernize its own arsenal to make the first use of nuclear weapons a real tactical option. It is a double-standard that is treated as a taboo in the mainstream U.S. media, which only deepens the distrust that the rest of the world feels toward Washington.

The Iraqi Bermuda triangle has swallowed other troubling questions. Much has been made of the Bush administration's ban on news stories and images depicting caskets of dead U.S. soldiers arriving back home from Iraq, and of George Bush's failure to attend any funerals. Of course, the administration deserves to be criticized for its crude attempts to camouflage the painful reality of the occupation.

But what about the Iraqi war victims? Independent estimates suggest that roughly 8,000 to 10,000 civilians have died since the start of the war, on top of at least 13,500 Iraqi military killed. According to the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), the death toll altogether could be as high as 55,000. Yet here the administration does not have to fear the same scrutiny. It does not have to ban media coverage, as there is so little of it. Anonymous Iraqi victims do not affect Bush's popularity ratings nor apparently are they considered newsworthy by the giant media conglomerates.

In fact, the lack of concern for Iraqi victims is hardly unprecedented. Conveniently down the memory hole is the catastrophic impact of the sanctions that were imposed on Iraq from 1990 until May 2003. Hundreds of thousands perished, falling victim to the most comprehensive and punitive sanctions regime ever devised; the economy was gutted and a majority of the population reduced to surviving on government handouts, while a lack of medicines and basic services like electrical power allowed diseases to run rampant.

Yet all of the country's current social and economic ills are now routinely ascribed to Saddam's misrule alone. No doubt, the regime's militarism and Saddam's penchant for building opulent palaces in the midst of growing misery contributed to the sorry state of affairs. But it remains a fact that Iraq had made major social strides prior to the imposition of sanctions.

Another forgotten element is the history of Western interventionism in the region. This concerns particularly the story of how Saddam was courted while he served Western interests—even though his regime at the time was at its most murderous. Consider the diametrically opposite reactions to Iraq's invasions of Iran and Kuwait. The first was cheered and sustained with arms deliveries, loans, and battlefield intelligence, but the second was condemned as an unacceptable breach of international law. The central lesson—that Washington helped create the monster that it subsequently decried—has gone unheeded.

But why drag up unpleasant facts from the past? Did George Bush not condemn past support for undemocratic regimes in the Middle East? Such rhetorical posturing would have greater credibility were it not for the fact that the current administration is supporting the same old authoritarian and anti-democratic regimes—in Egypt, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia and a number of others – not to mention the long-oppressive Israeli occupation.

What do we make of this pattern? The one constant here is the pursuit of U.S. "interests" —controlling access to oil, and dominating the Middle East key among them. But because naked power and profit do not square well with Washington's rhetoric about liberty and democracy, the unpleasant facts have to be relegated to the dustbin of history. It turns out that the "Bermuda triangle" is not located in Iraq, but rather in Washington, DC.

More Pieces from the Opinion Forum
More Information on the Iraq Crisis
More Information on Resistance to the Occupation

GPF home page


FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.