Saturday :: Oct 21, 2006

What To Do About Iraq?

by Mary

Earlier this month the human cost of our Iraq War was put in stark relief by the study just published in The Lancet (pdf) which estimates that 655,000 Iraqis have died since George W Bush started his war of choice. Yet, what does Bush say besides the fact he believes the study was incorrect?

I applaud the Iraqis for their courage in the face of violence. I am amazed that this is a society which so wants to be free that they're willing to...that there's a level of violence that they will tolerate.

Oh yes, they are tolerating the violence because they want the great gift of freedom that Bush brought them.

And today, he says that the reason there is so much violence in Iraq is because the nasty insurgents want to divide the American public so they can sap our willingness to stay the course.

Another reason for the recent increase in attacks is that the terrorists are trying to influence public opinion here in the United States. They have a sophisticated propaganda strategy. They know they cannot defeat us in the battle, so they conduct high-profile attacks, hoping that the images of violence will demoralize our country and force us to retreat....The terrorists are trying to divide America and break our will, and we must not allow them to succeed.

For Bush, everything, simply everything, revolves around what he wants and his delusions of grandeur. And nothing will ever make him admit he might have made a mistake.

But for us, there is a real question about what should be done about Iraq. Bush and his blind sycophants declare that those who talk about leaving Iraq want to "Cut and Run" and that he isn't going leave until we have victory. But what is victory? And is it even possible today? When should we leave? The facts on the ground say that we really should leave as soon as possible because we are not making it safer for the Iraqis and our soldiers are injured and dying everyday for a futile cause.

Patrick Cockburn writes that it is important for us to recognize that the US has not been preventing the civil war, but that the actions of the US has been a primary instigator of the war. Cockburn writes for the Independent and has been reporting on Iraq and from Iraq since 1979, well before the neocon dream of conquest was spawned. He knows the Iraqis and he knows their history, unlike our President who believes that the Iraqis "tolerate the violence" because they want the freedom he promised them.

The fact that there is a civil war in Iraq should no longer be in doubt, with the UN saying that 3,000 Iraqi civilians are being killed every month and the dramatic claim last week by American and Iraqi health researchers that the true figure goes as high as 15,000 a month.

Baghdad has broken up into a dozen different hostile cities, in each of which Sunni and Shia are killing or expelling one another. The city is like Beirut at the height of the Lebanese civil war. The wrong identity card, car number plate, or even picture on a mobile phone, is enough to get a driver dragged out of his car and killed. Militias are taking over. Sunni and Shia neighbourhoods that lived peaceably together for decades now exchange mortar fire every night.

...But the question has to be, was this civil war always inevitable? There was always going to be friction and possibly violence between the three main communities in Iraq - Sunni, Shia and Kurd - after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. The Sunni were going to lose much of their power and the Shia and Kurds were going to gain it.

But the occupation of Iraq by US and British armies over the past three years has deepened the divide between these communities. The Sunni Arab community fought back against the occupation in arms; the Kurds largely supported it; the Shia did not like it but used it to take power at the ballot box. Tony Blair's thesis - that the insurrection in Iraq is the work of some Islamic Comintern operating across the Middle East - was always nonsense.

The guerrillas in Iraq are strong because they are popular. A leaked Pentagon poll last month showed that 75 per cent of the five million-strong Sunni community support armed resistance.

The present slaughter in Iraq is taking place because the existing ethnic and sectarian hostilities have combined with animosities that have been created by the occupation. For instance, a Sunni ex-army officer supporting the resistance now sees a Shia serving in the Iraqi army or police force not just as the member of a different Islamic sect but as a traitor to his country who is actively collaborating with the hated invader.

The last excuse for the occupation was that at least it prevented civil war, but this it very visibly is not doing. On the contrary it de-legitimises the Iraqi government, army and police force, which are seen by Iraqis as pawns of the occupier. When I've asked people in Baghdad what they think of their government, they often reply: "What government? We never see it. It does nothing for us."

...The Government's picture of Iraq is not so much a tissue of lies as a tissue of fantasies. It is absurd to say that American and British forces will stay until Iraqi security forces are trained to take their place. What soldiers and police lack is not training but loyalty to the Iraqi government. Far from establishing an independent Iraq or preventing a civil war, the continued presence of American and British troops deeply destabilises the country, de-legitimises its government and deepens sectarian hatred.

If that is true, and it certainly explains the situation better than Bush's blithe chirps of how this is the battle of our generation, then we must get out as soon as we can.

So what might still work? Larry Johnson, Joe Wilson's friend and formerly of the CIA, provides the following suggestion.

At this juncture we must come to grips with the reality that Iraq is not a nation, but a fractured, tribal society. We should do the following:

  • Identify a Sunni militia that can become a counterweight to the Mahdi Army and ensure it is properly equipped and trained.
  • Open negotiations with the Mahdi militia and the Peshmerga to establish them as the regional security force for their respective areas.
  • Secure an armed UN Force to patrol Baghdad and protect the neighborhoods from sectarian reprisal (we are probably talking at least a force of 100,000).
  • Declare an end to armed U.S. patrols, reduce the number of U.S. bases, and institute a policy of attacking only if attacked.

This will help us defuse the spiral of violence currently underway in Iraq. Once the violence is under control, we can then begin the painstaking process of trying to promote reconciliation and healing among the Shia, the Sunnis, and the Kurds. But that will take years (if not a generation). At this point, the U.S. objectives should be to re-establish our image as "liberators (rather than occupiers) and avoid inflicting anymore pain, death, and humiliation on the Iraqi people. If we continue to be perceived as the agent of death in Iraq, we are sowing seeds for a generation of terrorism and revenge that will haunt our grandchildren.

But, we have already sown the seeds which lead to hatred and revenge. What else can the Iraqis think when so many people have died under our cruel, cruel watch. Add to those deaths the sheer avarice that allowed Bush's cronies to enrich themselves on the backs of the Iraqi people -- estimated to be a stunning 23 billion dollars stolen from the Iraqi people. And we can't forget the torture and humiliation that the Iraqis have experienced for years under Bush's claim that he was bringing them the gift of freedom. If God truly does judge us for our actions and results, and not our intentions, then our country's future could be mighty grim.

Final question: can anything work as long as Bush is president?

Mary :: 4:04 PM :: Comments (13) :: Digg It!