Some hard facts about Iraq

It has got to the point where reading the news is a Herculean struggle to filter out bullshit, ignorance, and outright lies from anything useful. In the interests of general edification, I will present some hard facts that people should consider accepting about the US occupation of Iraq. These points are critical of both the developed Right ideology (i.e., the motivations, strategy, and goals of the dickheads who got us into this mess) and the emerging position of the "Left", an example of which we see in this column by Tariq Ali. Observations along these lines might provide a preliminary step to solving the disaster that Americans, Iraqis, and everyone else now has their hands.

1) US politicians and generals have no clue about the security situation in Iraq. Either that, or all of these fluff pieces by gullible journalists that we keep seeing are propaganda designed for the American public. How else does one explain this spread of articles on who's behind the guerilla attacks: Syrians, foreign fighters, religious extremists, Saddam-loyalists, Al Qaeda, Kurdish Islamists, or all of them at once. Nowhere in these genius assessments do we see a place for ordinary Iraqis - i.e., Iraqis who do not want to see Saddam come back, are not religious zealots, and who do not follow OBL but want to get rid of the Americans - for the simple fact that ordinary Iraqis do not have any apparent "big man" to serve as a leader.

It is for this reason that I think it is more likely that Bushco and the generals really do not understand what is happening in Iraq. The idea that "Arabs" can function and are capable of autonomous action without a "big man" is foreign to them, as Ali points out. All descriptions of Arab politics and action (both friendly and hostile) in their world are pyramid-shaped, with despots like OBL, Saddam, Mubarak, King Abdullah, Qadhafi etc. invariably at the top. Racist illusions may play well with a brainwashed mass like the American public, but when confronted with people who do not share this ideology (like the Iraqi guerrillas), the results may be deadly. The US is incapable of confronting the challenge that the Iraqi guerrillas present, for the simple fact that it cannot admit that many Iraqis are suspicious, at best, of the US. It is impossible to admit this fact, without also admitting the two reasons why Iraqis may feel this way: the US's mindless support for Israel and the US-supported sanctions (the latter of which, oddly, we hardly ever hear about in discussions of the "neglect" of Iraq's infrastructure and oil installations).

Lower-ranking field commanders and regular soldiers are almost certainly aware of what the situation is. These personnel, however, lack the authority and intelligence (military intelligence, not brainpower) to carry out effective countermeasures against the guerrillas, most of which in any even concern political and not military policy. They will be forced to continue carrying out largely ineffective military measures, while the guerilla movement grows and becomes more deadly.

2) The UN is the only way to achieving a unified stable Iraq. The American discourse on the future of Iraq is going in two directions: the "we broke it, we brought it" approach, in which US soldiers must stay there as long as "necessary", or the pull-out approach, in which the US either dumps Iraq on someone else or leaves it up to the Iraqis to rebuild their country. Neither is tenable at this point.

The former provides a retroactive justification of the Bushco war of aggression project. As long as US soldiers stay there under US command, Bush and robber band will keep attempting to turn Iraq into their little version of colonial paradise, with such policies as the new 15% flat tax rate and across-the-board privatization. Iraqis are not stupid - they know what the US is doing to their country, and they know it is not to their benefit. This route will not lead to stability. The more people see their country being turned into a fiefdom of Chalabi and his fellow travelers, the more support the guerrillas will receive. The US occupation authority, goaded on by thick-headed and thick ideologues, will be trapped by attempting to institute policies that find little support among the population and a lot of resistance from armed groups that will make sure they never get properly carried out.

The latter course would be a disaster. Iraq would slide into a civil war if US soldiers were to leave at short notice without any kind of real political framework that enjoys widespread popular support. This would almost certainly lead to a breakup of the country, a wider regional war, or both. The results would be disastrous for the people of the Middle East. In this respect, I must disagree strongly with Ali. His view that a successful guerilla war which drove out the occupation forces would lead to a happy, peaceful Iraq where everyone comes together and gets along nicely ("One can hope that this will combine democracy and social justice...") is completely idealized. At the very least, such optimism does not address the plans that other external powers in the region (Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Israel) have for Iraq. Does Ali believe that these countries would happily stand aside and watch Iraq do whatever it pleased, regardless of the consequences for their states?

The only way to convince the guerrillas to stop the attacks, and thus to begin the rebuilding of Iraq, is to demonstrate that the political process is not a complete, US-orchestrated sham. The following measures might convince the guerrillas to move their struggle to the completely political plane:

- US soldiers trade their camouflage helmets for the blue helmets of the UN; a broad UN command is established, with the participation of Egypt (the leading member of the Arab League and a state which does not immediately border Iraq); the US will continue to supply the bulk of the interim force soldiers (because, hey, their country "broke it", and it would also serve as a deterrent to further adventures in the Middle East).
- the US reverses all of the illegal measures it has instituted concerning the economy; the direction of the economy will be determined by a legitimate Iraqi government.
- under UN supervision, steps are taken towards establishing a provisional Iraqi government and constitutional congress. Constitutional scholars from foreign countries, who would act as as an advisory board, would be appointed by the UN secretary general. As suggested by Juan Cole, elections for a provisional government could be held in short order based on the 1925 Constitution, with a few points changed (e.g., references to the monarchy). Elections are held under strict UN supervision, which will have the ability to annul outcomes if large-scale irregularities are reported. The drawing up of the constitution would follow after this over time.

Needless to say, it is apparent that the Bush regime would never adopt any course at all resembling this. So the attacks will continue and the US's self-appointed role will become more difficult.

3) The Iraqi resistance is the only thing that has kept the US from invading other countries. Even now, with US soldiers pinned down by a gathering guerilla war, shitheads like Perle are threatening military action against Syria, from a conference in occupied Jerusalem no less. And, of course, there's Clark's statement that he had heard of wars against seven countries in the offing, with Syria and Iran near the top of the list. But, thanks to the Iraqi guerillas, a sizable chunk of the US military is tied down and the public is, finally, growing more skeptical about further wars of aggression.

Does it sound like I am praising the guerillas? In a way, I am. If it had not been for the immediate and increasingly deadly attacks against the US forces in Iraq, the United States by now would have invaded and been occupying another country in the Middle East, most likely Syria.

Do you feel bad or upset when you hear about young Johnnies being incinerated or blown to bits in Falluja or Baghdad? Well, then you should appreciate the fact that it would be 10 times worse if American soldiers were walking around Damascus or Aleppo or some small village near the Lebanese border, where Hizbollah could demonstrate what real, hard-core guerilla warfare is like. Think I'm not "supporting the troops"? Think again. If you want to blame someone for the dead soldiers, blame Bush - the asshole who sent them there, who is the same asshole cutting their benefits, providing them with intolerable medical treatment when they are wounded, and who can't be bothered to give up a game of golf to attend their funerals when they die.

The only thing more disgusting than this prick using the slogan "support the troops" is the uncritical acceptance of it by people who think that they are supporting the troops by letting Bush use them as his private army, all the while giving them the middle finger.

4) Every justification about the war was a lie. It is clear that there are no WMD. Bush and his friends lied about this. They may not have known with certainty that there was no WMD - but they knew that large parts of their case (like the nuclear allegations) were false. They also knew that they had no secure evidence of WMD in Iraq, but they presented their case as if they did. There is no other way to describe that other than "lie".

This administration also cares nothing about human rights. Many of its members - Rumsfeld, Powell, Cheney, to name a few - had dealings with the Saddam regime, in the full knowledge that he was gassing Iranians and "his own people" by the thousands. It didn't stop them from going to Baghdad with a smile on their faces. People who bought the human rights argument for invasion can only be pitied as utterly ignorant tools in the service of profoundly hypocritical and unscrupulous people. Take a good look in the mirror, and take a good look at the people who are leading your "human rights crusade": these are people working against war crimes courts, people setting up gulags, supporting dictators who boil their enemies alive, and god knows what else. Does this at all bother you? And for people who can only bleat that the "US is better than Saddam", all I can say is "no shit; and you have a pretty low standard for human rights".

5) The Iraq war has shown the need for an overhaul of the UN. This is one good point made by David Aaronovitch, perhaps the most humanistic and well-meaning person with the worst opinions in the world. But my ideas on a UN overhaul will have to wait for another post.

6) The Iraq war has also shown the need for major changes in the US. Smug liberals, usually Democrats, who see this whole episode as simply an instance where one man, George W. Bush, ran amok as president miss the point. The fact that he was able to do so and use the US military as his private army indicates a serious problem with American governance. This is a constitutional issue. The Constitution reserves war-making powers for Congress and Congress alone. So Bush both abused his powers under the Constitution and, more importantly for our purposes, Congress allowed him to do it. Simply putting Dean, Gephardt, Moseley-Braun, or whoever in the White House will not fix this problem, as these liberals seem to think. It will do nothing to prevent another president down the line from doing the same thing Bush did. The whole point of the separation of powers, etc., of the US is defeated if the will of one person overrides Congressional and judicial authority or if Congress does not provide a critical and credible counterweight. Simply pretending that Bush is the only problem and that a Democrat in the White House will make everything just fine and dandy again is delusional.

(NOTE: Point 6 added from original post)

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