Soundtracking the Resistance – Causing Chaos in Iraq

The 15th Anniversary of the Iraq War Approaches

Mar 17, 2018 Bookmark and Share


This week we look back on foreign invasions of years gone by, plus Trump turmoil, Russian spies, Neil Young laughing at the NRA, and Conor Oberst in his President Bush bashing days. 

The Big Event

Trump has created a bubble that makes everything seem uniquely terrible and he offers so much chaos to feast on. The last week alone produced enough content to fill several months' worth of stories; from shaking up the senior team to removing close aides from the White House practically on the spot, lying to foreign leaders, losing safe seats, and continuing to brush aside allegations of infidelity with a porn star. It never stops and there's never enough time to deal with any of it.

But Trump isn't uniquely terrible. He's an aberration in some ways, and in others no more than the latest in a long line of controversial and damaging leaders. This is as good a time as any to reflect on that because soon we'll mark 15 years since the launch of the U.S. led invasion of Iraq.

Operation Fudge Documentation and Equivocate Endlessly Before Destabilizing a Key Part of the World Causing Ongoing Chaos a Decade and a Half Down the Line (not the official title) kicked off on 20 March 2003, lasting until the start of May before turning into the general Iraq War. This then dragged on for another eight years, giving rise to ISIS and continuing on in different forms.

It did little to abate terrorist attacks in the West, despite the whole affair being conducted under the general umbrella of the Bush administration's War on Terror, and in all likelihood actually led to more incidents. It turned populations in countries that participated in the coalition of the willing against their governments, eroded trust in America worldwide, and did the very opposite of much of what it set out to do.

That's if anyone can ever agree what the invasion was setting out to do. If you take the extremely narrow objective of regime change, then Saddam Hussein was kicked out. Unfortunately, there wasn't much in the way of support to set up a functioning country afterwards hence the long conflict and civil war following.

If the aim was to get hold of weapons of mass destruction, there weren't any. That looks like a smokescreen to justify the invasion. Perhaps New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd was right and the whole misadventure was Bush Jr. working through some complicated family issues with his father.

Then we have the neocons' general desire to reshape the region, which failed spectacularly unless reshaping it meant reshaping it into a disaster zone. As for Dick Cheney, who knows what he wanted, but his old business associates certainly made out like bandits, creating a whole wave of new bandits to terrorize the local populace as they lined their own pockets.

While many of us fell for the mistruths and/or lies sold at the time by the American government and their allies (pick your description of choice), not everyone did. Mass protests erupted with millions taking to the streets as part of the Stop the War coalition. Musicians were part of this, from usual British suspects like Billy Bragg to Blur, Gorillaz, and all-around musical pioneer Damon Albarn. While in America bands like Dixie Chicks managed to spark enormous controversy by daring to criticize the invasion.

Plenty of others joined them, taking the opportunity to condemn Bush and his cronies through music. The Trump era may be sparking off a new wave of musical resistance, as we have been documenting for the past year, but it's hardly the first time, and it won't be the last.

The extent to which it changes anything is an important question of course, but the music is also a permanent reminder that not everyone sat quietly by and bought the official line, and many of those artists mixed their art together with political protesting.

As for Trump, for all his awfulness let's hope he never gets as far as starting his own Iraq War. It's hard to believe anyone could have mismanaged that debacle more than the Bush administration did, but Trump makes a habit of failing to meet even the lowest of expectations.

One thing's for sure, with the wrong people in charge, the mess left afterwards can take a long time to clean up. It's still going on 15 years later in this instance, and no one really knows what clean up means anymore.

What's Going On

The ongoing game of musical chairs in the Trump administration continues to be... well, ongoing. Out this week goes Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Policy differences are part of the reason, but they didn't exactly like each other. Tillerson allegedly referred to his boss as "a fucking moron." Trump chose to sack him via Twitter, because he's classy like that. With former Exxon exec Tillerson gone, and Goldman Sachs boss Gary Cohn out too, it seems even a poor titan of industry suffers under Trump. It's hard being in the Republican elite.

GOP hopes ahead of this year's midterms took a bashing on Tuesday when the Democrats sprung a surprise in a Pennsylvania Special Election for the House of Representatives. Despite Trump winning the district by nearly 20 points in 2016, Republican Rick Saccone lost to Democrat Conor Lamb. This happened despite the Republicans spending more and sending in Trump and his family. If even the reddest of red seats are going against them, they must be starting to worry.

It's back to the Cold War as Britain expelled 23 Russian diplomats and confirmed no one will attend the soccer World Cup in an official capacity from the country. This comes in response to the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy and his daughter using nerve agents in the English town of Salisbury. The British Government accused Russia of being behind the assassination attempt and gave them a deadline to explain themselves, which they promptly chose to ignore. Whether kicking out people on diplomatic passports bothers the Russians much remains to be seen. However, given reports from a couple of years ago suggested diplomats were running up a fortune in unpaid parking tickets, it might free up a space or two.

Speak Up!

It should probably come as no surprise that Neil Young and the NRA are not the best of pals. For whatever reason, NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch has taken to bashing Young publicly. According to The Daily Beast, he seems to be taking it in this stride though, commenting that "I'm glad I got under her skin." He also said, "why doesn't she just shoot me?" rowing that comment back to make it clear he doesn't actually advocate anyone shooting anyone. Which is probably why the NRA isn't such a fan.

Vince Staples has been busy of late, announcing his retirement provided fans stump up $2 million via a GoFundMe account, then apparently revealing the whole thing was a promotional gimmick, which doesn't exactly come as a surprise. But alongside handing back around $2,000 in donations, he'll also give that amount to the Michelle Obama library.

The Decemberists' new album, I'll Be Your Girl, came out this week. As Pitchfork reports, the vinyl copy includes "Impeach the President" as an etching on Side A, with "Bring on the Matriarchy" as an etching on Side B. They also thank Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the thank you section of the liner notes.

When repressive regimes around the world are cracking down on freedom of the press, how exactly do people get news sources through strict censorship? Reporters Without Borders Germany has launched a new project, The Uncensored Playlist, aiming to pair local journalists with local musicians in China, Egypt, Thailand, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. They'll produce songs that will contain news stories and get them out via streaming services like Spotify, Deezer, and Apple Music.

Song of the Week: Bright Eyes - "When the President Talks to God"

In keeping with the theme above, lets go with this wry yet vitriolic attack on the Bush administration from Conor Oberst back when he was still in his Bright Eyes days. In less than three minutes he lays into Republican attacks on women's rights, the desire for foreign adventurism, a disregard for minorities, and disdain for other religions.

The only difference here is this President thinks he's taking orders directly from God. The current one might be under the assumption he is God, or at least the closest approximation.

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