By Mike Whitney
Special to PalestineChronicle.com
“Everyday, under the pretext of either Al Qaeda, insurgents, militants, or whatever imaginary name you coined, you have not ceased, not even for one day, slaughtering our innocents.
For 4 years, you have not ceased for one single day. Not during holiday periods, not during religious celebrations, not even during the day your so called God was born…if you have a God that is.” Layla Anwar “A Perfect Baby Formula” An Arab Woman Blues
Retired Lt. Gen Ricardo Sanchez set off a firestorm recently when he described the occupation of Iraq as “a nightmare with no end in sight”. He added that US civilian leadership was “incompetent” and “corrupt” and that the best the US could hope for, given the present circumstances, would be to “stave off defeat.”
Naturally, Sanchez’s remarks were applauded by liberals and progressives who oppose the war, but their enthusiasm is unfounded. Sanchez is neither against the war nor for withdrawal. He simply doesn’t like losing—and the United States is losing.
It is foolish to look for support where there is none. Sanchez is just an embittered old soldier whose dream of pacifying the fiercely independent Iraqi people has fallen on hard times. He even admitted as much when he said:
“After more than four years of fighting, America continues its desperate struggle in Iraq without any concerted effort to devise a strategy that will achieve victory in that war-torn country or in the greater conflict against extremism.”
He’s right. There is no plan and the occupation has been a complete flop. But, it’s the “incompetence” that bothers Sanchez, not the decimation of a country that posed no threat to US national security. This is hardly a “principled stand”. But then why would we expect principles from a man who oversaw the activities at Abu Ghraib. A new book, “Administration of Torture”, by two American Civil Liberties Union attorneys, proves that military interrogators “abused, tortured or killed” scores of prisoners rounded up since 9-11. According to the report:
“The documents show that prisoner abuse like that found at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq was hardly the isolated incident that the Bush administration or US military claimed it was. By the time the prisoner abuse story broke in mid-2004 story the Army knew of at least 62 other allegations of abuse at different prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan, the authors report.”
Sanchez was in charge of Abu Ghraib in 2004 and is responsible for what took place there. He is not a man whose moral judgment on the war or anything else should be trusted. His recent comments should be dismissed as an empty tirade designed to distance himself from—what Lt Gen William Odom called—“the greatest strategic disaster in American history”.
Sanchez’s fundamental mistake is his belief that victory is possible in an immoral war. It is not; and the longevity of the occupation only amplifies the magnitude of the crime.
What’s particularly irksome about Sanchez’s remarks is that they perpetuate a myth about what is really taking place in Iraq and why the US effort has failed. It wasn’t Rumsfeld’s blundering that sunk the occupation. Nor was it the lack of soldiers, de’Bathification, lack of body-armour, or the steady rise in sectarian fighting. The US is losing in Iraq because it is locked in battle with a resourceful and tenacious adversary that has canceled out the US military’s technological advantages and superior firepower.
There’s a vast difference between incompetence and getting beaten. And, by every definition of guerilla warfare; the US is getting beaten. Is our opinion of ourselves so exaggerated that we cannot admit the truth?
Let’s stop making excuses. The war was doomed from the get-go; Falluja and Abu Ghraib just “sealed the deal”. After that, the resistance claimed the moral high-ground and won the support of the people. (Isn’t there anyone in the Pentagon who understands counterinsurgency?) A recent article by Ali al-Fadhily summed it up like this:
“The only factor the US did not calculate well was that Iraqis prefer starving to death to living under the dirty flag of occupiers.” (“Assassination of Sheikh Shakes US Claims”, Ali al-Fadhily)
No one wants to live under occupation and all of the surveys conducted since the invasion in 2003 indicate that more than 90% of the Iraqi people want to see the United States withdrawal. Given these results, it is obvious why the resistance has mushroomed. There will always be a growing pool of young nationalists eager to join the fray.
The US cannot prevail in Iraq nor can they impose a “political solution”—which is the other great myth currently in vogue. The only acceptable political solution to occupation is withdrawal—not puppet regimes, not “oil laws” not “benchmarks.” Withdrawal. Period.
But Bush will not withdrawal and apparently no one can force him to do so. So, the killing will continue unabated behind the media’s iron curtain while the overall situation on the ground continues to deteriorate. Eventually, after years of ethnic cleansing, sectarian fighting and stepped-up military operations; the position of the US will become untenable and the troops will come home. But the cost in human terms will be enormous. Already one million Iraqis have been killed in the war and four million others have become refugees. Credit the US media for concealing the real savagery of foreign occupation and its effects on Iraqi society. The country is in ruins.
There are only three problems in Iraq; occupation, occupation and occupation. Other than that, the Iraqi people are quite capable of resolving with their own problems and plotting their own future.
The US controls no ground in Iraq and has no popular base of support. Oil production is down, the Iraqi people are overwhelmingly against partition, and the Al Maliki government’s authority extends no further than the walls of the Green Zone. None of these bode well for the ongoing occupation. In fact, the US is doing everything in its power just to hang-on in Iraq. Baghdad has undergone massive campaign of ethnic cleansing which has transformed a city that was originally 70% Sunni to nearly 70% Shia. As journalist Nir Rosen stated, “The Shias own Iraq now. The Sunnis can never get it back. There’s Americans can do about this.”
“WE HAVE DESTROYED IRAQ AND AMERICANS NEED TO KNOW THAT”
In an interview with “Democracy Now’s” Amy Goodman, Rosen also made this sobering prediction:
“You’ll find a day when there are no Sunnis left in Baghdad. Saudi Arabia and Jordan are of course panicking about this, and they are hoping that the US will in some way arm or support Sunni militias. It’s hard for me to imagine that Sunni nations in the region will stand by and watch Sunnis pushed out of Baghdad. ..So you’ll see greater support from Saudi Arabia, from Jordan, perhaps from Yemin, from Egypt, for Sunni militias. Funding, things like that. And the civil war will spread and become a regional one.
There is no solution. We’ve destroyed Iraq and we’ve destroyed the region, and Americans need to know this. …There was no civil war in Iraq until we got there. And there was no civil war in Iraq, until we took certain steps to pit Sunnis against Shias. Now it is just too late. But, we need to know we are responsible for what’s happening in Iraq today. I don’t think Americans are aware of this….. This is going to spread and the region won’t recover from this for decades. And Americans are responsible”
Entire cities—Samarra, Tal Afar, Ramadi—have been surrounded with razor-wire so that entry and exit are limited to the heavily-guarded checkpoints. In Falluja–where 65% of the city was flattened in a brutal reprisal for the deaths of 4 mercenaries—all car traffic has been banned, residents must carry US-authorized IDs at all times, and the city cannot be entered without full-body searches and retinal scans. It’s a prison.
All of Iraq is under de-facto martial law consistent with Bush’s promise to “democratize” the Middle East. Another lie. US troops are engaged in a 5-year long low-intensity conflict against a loosely-configured nationalist army skilled at urban warfare. We won’t prevail.
As Rosen says, “Every single American who dies in Iraq, dies for nothing. He didn’t die for freedom; he didn’t die to defend his country. He died to occupy Iraq.”
Rosen’s analysis of the Iraqi nightmare is markedly different from Sanchez’s. He understands that victory was never possible and that the knock-on effects of the invasion-occupation will destabilize the entire region and upset the present balance of world power.
“Iraq has been changed irrevocably. I don’t think Iraq even—you can say it exists anymore….. What you’ll see is basically Mogadishu in Iraq—various warlords controlling small neighborhoods. And those who are by major resources, such as oil installations, obviously will be foreign-sponsored warlords who will be able to cut deals with us or the Chinese. But Iraq is destroyed, and I think we’ll see that this will spread throughout the region.”
While Nir Rosen has provided the most insightful and searing analysis of the Iraq war, Iraqi poet Layla Anwar has given voice to the war’s many victims. Anwar is a prolific blogger and her writings are not for the squeamish. Her web site, “An Arab Woman Blues, Reflections in a sealed Bottle” is frequently attacked. Her candor, cynicism, humor, intelligence and sensitivity makes her the Iraq’s finest blogger as well as an outstanding writer. Her observations give us what the media has taken away—a window into the suffering of average Iraqis who are being crushed by US aggression.
“My father (bless his soul) and my mother kept reminding me. They said:
”Layla, Iraq is the Backbone of the Arab World.”
To be honest, I did not quite understand the full implications of such a statement, then. Today, I do.
Iraq was not only the Cradle of Civilization; it was indeed the Pillar, the Column, The Spinal Vertebrae, the Backbone of the Arab world. Now that it has crumbled, now that it has broken up, the rest will follow…
One by one…the other countries will come tumbling down…one by one, a ripple effect from Baghdad…to the rest of the World.”
Anwar’s prediction is similar to Rosen’s. The destruction of Baghdad is just the beginning of a great unwinding that will topple Capitals across the Middle East creating an entirely new and unforeseeable world order. How stupid and vain our leaders are.
Anwar’s prose is frequently a mix of compassion and rage. No one is spared—particularly not Americans. She puts a face on the millions of people who’ve been either killed or displaced by the fighting:
“Come and see our overflowing morgues and find our little ones for us…
You may find them in this corner or the other, a little hand poking out, pointing out at you…
Come and search for them in the rubble of your "surgical" air raids, you may find a little leg or a little head…pleading for your attention.
Come and see them amassed in the garbage dumps, scavenging morsels of food…
Well over half of our little ones are under-nourished or dying from disease. Cholera, dysentery, infections of all sorts….
Under-nourished does not mean on a diet like your fat little kids….. It means starved.
Come and see, come….” (“Flying Kites” Layla Anwar)
Sanchez should accept Anwar’s invitation and visit the “overflowing morgues” that he helped to create. At least then we might be able to take his ranting more seriously.