Sunday, March 30, 2008

Iraq: A "Geographical Expression"

Back on March 16, Patrick Cockburn, writing in the Independent, has this to say about the current situation is Iraq:

Five years of occupation have destroyed Iraq as a country. Baghdad is today a collection of hostile Sunni and Shia ghettoes divided by high concrete walls. Different districts even have different national flags. Sunni areas use the old Iraqi flag with the three stars of the Baath party, and the Shia wave a newer version, adopted by the Shia-Kurdish government. The Kurds have their own flag.

...The US and its allies never really understood the war they won that started on 19 March 2003. Their armies had an easy passage to Baghdad because the Iraqi army did not fight... The war was too easy. Consciously or subconsciously, Americans came to believe it did not matter what Iraqis said or did. They were expected to behave like Germans or Japanese in 1945, though most of Iraqis did not think of themselves as having been defeated...

In that first year of the occupation it was easy to tell which way the wind was blowing. Whenever there was an American soldier killed or wounded in Baghdad, I would drive there immediately. Always there were cheering crowds standing by the smoking remains of a Humvee or a dark bloodstain on the road...

After the Sunni guerrillas blew up the Shia shrine in Samarra on 22 February 2006, sectarian fighting turned into a full-blown civil war... The Sunni defeat in the battle for Baghdad in 2006 and early 2007 was the motive for many guerrillas, previously anti-American, suddenly allying themselves with American forces. .. There is now an 80,000 strong Sunni militia, paid for and allied to the US but hostile to the Iraqi government. Five years after the American and British armies crossed into Iraq, the country has become a geographical expression.

Writing on Alternet, in an article entitled "Five Things You Need to Know to Understand the Latest Violence in Iraq," Josh Holland and Raed Jarrar describe:

Heavy fighting has spread across Shia-dominated enclaves in Iraq over the past two days. The U.S.-backed regime of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has ordered 50,000 Iraqi troops to "crack down" -- with coalition air support -- on Shiite militias in the oil-rich and strategically important city of Basra, U.S. forces have surrounded Baghdad's Sadr City and fighting has been reported in the southern cities of Kut, Diwaniya, Karbala and Hilla. Basra's main bridge and an oil pipeline connecting it to Amara were destroyed Wednesday. Six cities are under curfew, and acts of civil disobedience have shut down dozens of neighborhoods across the country. Civilian casualties have reportedly overwhelmed poorly equipped medical centers in Baghdad and Basra...

The conflict is one that the U.S. media appears incapable of describing in a coherent way. The prevailing narrative is that Basra has been ruled by mafialike militias -- which is true -- and that Iraqi government forces are now cracking down on the lawlessness in preparation for regional elections, which is not.

Remember the declarations in the past such as George's "Mission Accomplished," Cheney's "Last Throes of the Insurgency," Rumsfeld's "We'll be greeted as liberators, or even McCain's "Hillary should apologize to Petreus." Weren't those misguided conclusions the result of errors similar to the one the authors describe as taking place today?

"The conflict doesn't conform to the analysis of the roots of Iraqi instability as briefed by U.S. officials in the heavily-fortified Green Zone. It also doesn't fit into the simplistic but popular narrative of a country wrought by sectarian violence, and its nature is obscured by the labels that the commercial media uncritically apply to the disparate centers of Iraqi resistance to the occupation."

Glenn Greenwald this week described "What can and cannot be spoken on television" and the difficulties encountered when you bring an actual Iraqi on your show to talk about the significance of the 5th Anniversay of the "Liberation" and all he wants to talk about is how bad things are:

ROSE: And obviously, what we want to accomplish on this fifth anniversary of the American invasion, or the coalition invasion of Iraq, is how they see it as Iraqis, five years later.

Give me an assessment.

ALI FADHIL: That's a big question, assessment. Well, basically, probably, I`ll kind of sum it in a few words.

It's -- we have a country where the government is not functioning after five years. We have too many internal problems. And we have the violence increasing day after day.

We have a huge crisis of refugees inside and outside Iraq. We have a total failure of the -- of the civilian -- the civilian structure and what's happening inside. We have the sectarian divisions increasing. We didn't have that before. Now we have it.

So, basically, my assessment is we have a whole nation called Iraq, now it's wiped out.

Greenwald goes on to describe Rose's reaction to this assessment:

Rose was as adversarial and argumentative -- angry, even -- as he ever gets with anyone, because he plainly did not anticipate, and did not like, that he was being exposed to such hostility towards our Freedom-spreading, Liberty-loving Liberation of the grateful, lucky (dead and displaced) Iraqi people.

But it's not as if we weren't warned. As a former Congressman from Wyoming who was then a fellow at the American Enterprise think tank put it in 1994:

"Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein's government, then what are you going to put in its place? That's a very volatile part of the world, and if you take down the central government of Iraq, you could very easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off... It's a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq."

His name? Dick Cheney, the same man, who, when asked this week by ABC's Martha Raddatz, on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion, about the fact that "Two-third of Americans say it’s not worth fighting," said simply, "So?"

Later, when asked by Raddatz about the milestone of 4000 dead troops, Cheney emphasized the existence of an "all volunteer force" and also described the person who, "obviously" carries the biggest burden in this conflict:

"It obviously brings home I think for a lot of people the cost that's involved in the global war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan," Cheney said in the interview, conducted in Turkey. "It places a special burden obviously on the families, and we recognize, I think — it's a reminder of the extent to which we are blessed with families who've sacrificed as they have."

"The president carries the biggest burden, obviously," Cheney said. "He's the one who has to make the decision to commit young Americans, but we are fortunate to have a group of men and women, the all-volunteer force, who voluntarily put on the uniform and go in harm's way for the rest of us."

In a nutshell, just because I described the area as a "quagmire" 14 years ago doesn't mean I, I mean he, shouldn't be allowed to send you there for several deployments even though 70% of the American public doesn't think it's worth fighting.

Reminds me of the story Ron Suskind tells in "The One Percent Doctrine" about Cheney's "nickname inside the CIA [being] "Edgar" (as in Edgar Bergen), casting President Bush in the puppet role of Charlie McCarthy."

Evidently he believes that troops are like puppets too. Or, as Kurt Vonnegut put it in "A Man without a Country:"

"By saying that our leaders are power-drunk chimpanzees, am I in danger of wrecking the morale of our soldiers fighting and dying in the Middle East? Their morale, like so many lifeless bodies, is already shot to pieces. They are being treated, as I never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas."

No comments: