By Mike Whitney
There are three things wrong with the current policy in Iraq.
Occupation, occupation and occupation.
Foreign occupation is the reason why over 90% of Iraqis want the Americans to leave their country. It is the reason why nearly 50% of Iraqis believe that it is justifiable to shoot American troops and why nearly 70% of attacks are on occupation forces. Representative John Murtha was correct when he said, "We are inciting the problem;" our presence is a lightening rod for violence.
Bush’s promise to establish security in Baghdad is foolish and doomed to failure. Security cannot be achieved under occupation because the foreign troops are perceived as the enemy. This is not hard to grasp. We need only to imagine how we would react if Iraqi soldiers were maintaining checkpoints or arresting our people on the streets of America.
There’s no point in recriminations. There will be plenty of time to examine what went wrong after American forces are withdrawn from the theater. But certainly there have been events which galvanized Iraqis against the occupation; the destruction of Falluja and the abuses at Abu Ghraib are perhaps on top on the list.
More important, we must recognize where we are now in a conflict that is progressively intensifying and will not let up until the occupation ends.
The security plan for Baghdad is short-sighted and will not succeed. We already know that many of the Iraqis feel threatened by foreign troops on their streets and that a considerable number of the resistance fighters live in Baghdad. They are Baghdadis, this is their home. They are not leaving.
Will we destroy the city to liberate it? How many doors will be kicked in? How many buildings will be reduced to rubble? How many innocent people will be dragged off to interrogation-centers and filthy prisons? How many tens of thousands of people will be killed?
This is not liberation; it is "pacification".
Liberation is not living in fear for one’s life every minute of the day. Martial law is not democracy.
There is no "government" under occupation, just foreign-military rule. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has no power and he governs nothing beyond the walls of America’s the Green Zone.
The Bush administration has begun to criticize al-Maliki for not stopping the sectarian violence, but no one is paying attention. Al Maliki follows in the long progression of American stooges; al-Allawi, al-Jaafari, al Maliki; none of them have any bearing on events, nor will they have any part to play in the final outcome. No one is fooled by the actions or pronouncements of Washington’s puppets. It is a public relations scam that has outlived its usefulness.
If we are serious about concluding the war in Iraq, we must deal directly with the leaders of the Iraqi resistance, many of whom were part of the former Ba’athist regime. There are rumors that talks are currently taking place in Amman, Jordan between representatives of the resistance and American officials, but there is no solid confirmation of this.
Negotiations between the warring parties will not succeed under the guidance of Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld has shown repeatedly that he is incapable of understanding strategic or political objectives. Even now, he insists that we should stay the course and persist on the same disastrous path. The administration’s newly-adopted language; "timetable for benchmarks" is meaningless. It offers no quantifiable difference from the present policy.
We cannot expect to succeed by merely intensifying the violence while eliminating media coverage. Iraq is not the Gaza Strip. It is not possible to surround the entire country in concertina-wire and fire rockets at anyone who looks suspicious. This is not a serious approach.
Western elites are increasingly worried about the long-term effects that the Iraq war will have on America’s global-primacy. The US has sacrificed of its "soft power" and moral authority in an adventure that has produced no positive results.
The army is gravely overextended and morale has begun to plummet. Soldiers’ are tired of tour after tour with no end in sight and nothing to show for the risks they take every day.
Force-readiness has also begun to erode as vital military equipment is being devoured by harsh desert conditions. In a recent article by Andrew Bacevich, "On the Offense" the author says:
"The once crack Third Infantry Division, preparing for its third Iraq tour, has two of its four brigades without tanks or other heavy equipment. The Army’s chief of staff complains that army depots are clogged with 600 battle-damaged and worn-out Abrams tanks and 1,000 Bradley Fighting Vehicles awaiting repair. The army lacks the money to fix them"this despite the fact that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have now cost an estimated $500 billion".
The army is steadily wearing down while Rumsfeld clings to the vain hope that he will snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. This unrealistic dream of victory is a phantom that is perpetuating the violence and putting Americans at risk.
As defense expert Harlan Ullman (the author of "shock and awe") noted in the Washington Times, "our policies are failing or foundering and, unless we take new directions, events in East Asia could follow the disastrous trajectory of what is happening in the greater Middle East."
This is what really concerns western elites who, up until a few months ago, fully supported the Bush agenda. The attention devoted to Iraq is loosening America’s grip on the rest of the empire, and our influence around the world is in sharp decline. As we become further mired in an unwinnable war; there is growing sense that we may have already turned the corner and are headed for an impending tragedy.
The criticism of the Bush’s Iraq policy is now coming from all sides of the "reality-based" community. Recently, Senator Lindsey Graham’s blasted away saying, "We’re on the verge of chaos, and the current plan is not working." Just hours earlier, former Intelligence official Wayne White who said, "We are not winning. It’s getting worse. The effort cannot be sustained over the long-haul."
As the criticism continues to mount, the administration gets more embattled and mistrustful. Bush equates stubbornness with steely-resolve, and remains impervious to reason. He is still in the clutches of his key advisors, Cheney and Rumsfeld who refuse to entertain the notion of early withdrawal. They have already indicated that the recommendations of the James Baker "Iraq Survey Group" will be ignored. There stubbornness paves the way for an even greater tragedy in the very near future.
What happens when the war is lost but the fighting continues?
We are about to find out.
There are now 650,000 reasons for withdrawing from Iraq and for allowing events to take their course. Iraq’s militias are presently locked in mortal combat to determine the ultimate political make-up of the future Iraq. We should stand down and let that process unfold. The belief that we need to supervise the transition is just more paternalistic claptrap intended to support the ongoing occupation. The Iraqis want us out of their affairs and out of their country.
We’ve turned Iraq into a charnel house; unleashing the full-force of the world’s most powerful military on a small country that never posed a threat to our national security. That’s enough. It’s time to end the occupation and bring the troops home.
-Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at: email@example.com