US ally Turkey has invaded and bombed Iraq again last week.
The president of US enemy, Iran, visited Iraq last week, where he was warmly received by the Iraqi government.
Whose side are we on again?
I watched the documentary No End in Sight this weekend, a powerful and sobering film about some of the key decisions that led to the Iraq war, and the subsequent ruin of an occupation. If you’ve read Imperial Life in the Emerald City, not too much of the movie will surprise you, but it’s definitely worth a watch (and the book is worth a read). The one fact from the film that did take me aback was the time spent planning the post-war occupation of Iraq. The film tells you that prior to defeating Germany in WWII, the US government spent two years planning the eventual occupation of that country. How much time did the Bush administration spend planning the Iraqi occupation? 60 days, says the film, and even that answer gets undercut when members of that agency admit that they didn’t even meet until 10 days after they were hired, had a miniscule staff, and almost no resources.
The story of the Iraq war, is a simple one, really. A small group of arrogant idiots in the White House thought that they could spread “democracy” through the Middle East by replacing dictator Saddam Hussein with con man Ahmed Chalabi. By “spread” we mean “intimidate existing leaders and encourage coups against others” and by “democracy” we mean “any form of government that is friendly to US foreign policy and foreign corporate profit-lust.” I sometimes see this group of idiots (aka “neocons”) referred to as “reckless utopians”, as though we should applaud their intentions while weeping at the costs of their naivetie. But their intentions were not good, they were the same as so many people in power: the masses are sheep who should be controlled for the “greater good”; “leaders” like themselves are better than the rest of humanity; millions or billions of regular people may have to suffer or die to maintain “order”; since the leaders do such hard and important work, they deserve whatever power, perks and wealth they desire; and if the leaders can get away with all this, then the masses prove themselves to be the inferiors, and deserve whatever abuse and exploitation gets ladled out. That’s not utopian, that’s crass, ravenous, self-serving arrogance.
So that’s the story of the Iraq war. Powerful people who think they’re better than you and me decided that they could best maintain their dominance over other powerful people with deceit and slaughter.
Of course, discussing what got us into this war is sort of moot when compared to the question of what we should do in Iraq now, with its mountain of errors and rivers of carnage. And even that question is moot, as any answers provided by you and me won’t match up with the needs and goals of the folks in power who actually choose the policy.
Last batch of statistics I read said that around 70% of Iraqis want the US forces to leave their country. Many American politicians would quickly declare that if the US pulls out of Iraq, it will be a bloodbath. And it will certainly be terrible, no doubt about that. But that doesn’t change the fact that the Iraqi people, who know the situation far better than any senator or analyst in DC, still want the US to leave. And while large numbers of Americans are opposed to the war, a significant number seem to feel that we shouldn’t leave Iraq yet, either because it’s not right to leave the mess that we created, or because leaving without “finishing the job” will mean that the sacrifice and death of so many US soldiers was in vain.
Of course, the wishes of the Iraqi people should trump the wishes of the American public and American soldiers when it comes to what should happen in Iraq. Tragically, American soldiers were duped by this government, told that they were out to help the citizens of Iraq when the government did not really care about their desires and well-being (and increasingly shows that they don’t care about the well-being of the soldiers, either). Part of me is sympathetic, and does not want those soldiers and their families to have to accept these bleak and painful truths. But it is clear that the situation of Iraq is worse in by every conceivable measure since the invasion. And while it’s still possible for the US to do a little bit of good in Iraq, I don’t think it will be accomplished with bullets.
I don’t feel much need to address the “surge is working” point of view, but maybe I should. The “surge” was intended to reduce the violence in Baghdad so that political progress could be made in the Iraqi government. Violence dropped, but that was mostly due to the face that one side won. The Shia effectively control the city, and Baghdad has been ethnically cleansed. That’s why the civilian deaths are down. The reason US military deaths are down is a) Moqtada al-Sadr called a cease-fire between his Mahdi army and the US, b) the US is now working more through personnel-safe airstrikes, and c) the US has temporarily bought off the Sunni insurgency so that they’ll fight Al Qaeda in Iraq instead of American soldiers. But every savvy reporter that has spent time on the ground in Iraq says that Iraq does not really exist any more as a country, that the Iraqi government is a fiction, and that the Shia-Sunni civil war will likely re-ignite sometime between spring and fall.
How exactly are US troops going to fix this mess? Especially when the US government that gives them their marching orders has no real interest in actually helping the people we’ve fucked over?