| This is an article I wrote last Nov...
The Iraq War Fiasco
It’s November 1st. Next week voters will go to the polls and decide what to do with the current Congress and Senate. As politicians and their surrogates run from coast to coast stumping for their various candidates, the voters are inundated by sound bites and policy speeches, think-tank professionals, and talk-show hosts. And, according to every poll, the greatest angst of the American electorate is the war in Iraq.
The news from Iraq is not good. This last month a hundred American soldiers were killed—the greatest monthly number since the war began. The insurgency is admittedly in charge of Anbar Province west of Baghdad, and, after a concerted effort, American forces have been unable to secure the streets of Baghdad. Furthermore, a month after British forces left a large part of southern Iraq, towns in the region have fallen into sectarian bloodletting—this time among Shiite groups. And if that weren’t bad enough, this fiasco is costing the American taxpayer more than a billion dollars per week. To put that in perspective, the money spent in one month in Iraq could fix the Social Security problem in America. The money America spends in a couple of months in Iraq could fund a Manhattan style hi-tech energy development program to free us from our dependence on foreign oil, create hundreds if not thousands of high paying technical jobs, and enable us to begin cleaning up the CO2 contamination of our atmosphere that the National Academy of Sciences has said is fueling global warming.
But what about the prospects for turning the Iraq war effort around? As the pundits and experts talk around each other with thoughtful pronouncements on troop levels, Iraq army and police training strategies, and fears of creating a terrorist stronghold if we leave Iraq, the conversation seems strangely inept. Just like the faulty reasoning, lack of preparation, and ideological machinations that were endemic to the beginning of this misadventure, the confusion continues. Why not ask the real questions that are at the heart of this disaster? First, who are we supporting in Iraq? Second, is it possible to “win” militarily in Iraq? Third, does our staying in Iraq have anything to do with the final outcome when we are eventually forced to leave, either because we have run up the deficit to intolerable levels, or we have worn out our once great military on a mission that was, by its very nature, impossible?
A Recent British Military poll was taken in Iraq and found that 82% of Iraqis want Americans out of Iraq. If that weren’t bad enough, the same poll found that 49% of Iraqis thought it was okay to kill Americans. This is the attitude of the Iraqi public after four years of war, 2,800 American soldiers killed, 20,000 American soldiers and personnel injured, half very seriously injured, and perhaps hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed, according to a study by Johns Hopkins. Given all that, who is our enemy in Iraq right now—who are we fighting for? When our soldiers hit the streets in Baghdad, who are they putting their lives on the line for? They are defending the government of Iraq headed by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the same al-Maliki whose main supporter is Mugtada al-Sadr, the head of the Mahdi Army—the black-clad group of killers responsible for much of the Shiite death squad activity in Bahgdad. Our soldiers are stuck in the middle of a civil war where both sides are decidedly against any discernible American interest. Which begs the question: what are we trying to accomplish in Iraq right now?
Given this situation, is it possible to win in Iraq? After four years of war and three hundred billion dollars that have run up the American deficit, America, under the Bush Administration, has managed to alienate the Iraqi public and put Iran in a greater position to influence the outcome in Iraq than America. Those who support the present war in Iraq should reflect on President Eisenhower, who wisely chose to stay out of the middle east more than fifty years ago as France and Britain rushed to influence an Egyptian uprising and a looming conflict over the Suez Canal. Eisenhower realized, being a student of history, that military involvement in the middle east would probably result in a greater regional war that could spiral out of control and take with it American prestige in the world. History proved Eisenhower right and the British and French wrong. As for pundits and politicians who advocate some unrealistic democratic genesis in the middle east at the point of a gun, or compare the three thousand year old traditions of theistic tribal cultures in Iraq to recent European or Japanese cultures, they are either being dishonest or stupid or both. They certainly aren’t students of history.
Finally, what if Americans leave Iraq? Many of the same people who got America involved in the Iraq war, those who warned Americans about WMDs, or an al-Qaida Iraqi connection, or the necessity of building democracies in Iraq, are now warning Americans about the consequences of leaving Iraq. If America leaves Iraq, Iraq will become a haven for terrorists, the terrorists will come to the United States to kill Americans, etc., etc. The claims of the Bush administration are as hysterical and incompetent now as they were in March of 2003 when they got America into this mess. The question arises, given their track record, why would anyone believe or trust the judgment of anyone in the current Bush administration? They have been wrong about every pronouncement they have made concerning the war. Not only did they misunderstand the situation in the middle east, not only did they mismanage every aspect of prosecuting the Iraq war, not only have they left America’s ports, borders, and infrastructure vunerable, but they now propose to credibly tell Americans about what might happen if America withdraws from Iraq.
Iraq is a three thousand year old culture. Iraq has had a tradition of rejecting foreign influences like al-Qaida style terrorists in the past, and once Iraqis are again in control of their country, there is every reason to believe they will expel the foriegners. Iraq is not Afganistan. As for an all out civil war when Americans leave Iraq, it may happen. But there is no reason to believe it wouldn’t happen anyway. Americans staying in Iraq will only drive up our casualties with the same outcome once America leaves. The only difference being all the men and women who will die in the interim.
As for al-Qaida coming to the US to commit terrorist acts, Bin-Laden has declared time and time again that al-Qaida’s interest is to expel American influence in the middle east. In fact, it was Bin-Laden’s stated goal to coax America into an all out war in the middle east to polarize Muslim opinion and hatred against the US. It seems as if through the incompetence of the Bush Adminsitration, we have Bin-Laden exactly where he wants us.