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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Iraq: Still Not "Getting It"

Now that the pyramid of powder kegs Bush’s Iraqi adventure has built (symbolizing nicely the Sunni Triange) is sitting with their fuses fully exposed ready to be lit, the American electorate is left to wonder what the final act will be to ignite them precipitating the civil war most students of Iraqi history knew would be likely as the outcome of our subsequent invasion/occupation. As Daily Kos’ SusanG points out this morning, the Pentagon has downgraded all Iraqi battalions to non-ready status leaving the entire mess in the lap of the American military.

While Bush still sings harmonies to his Dulcinea of Iraqi Jeffersonian Democracy, John Murtha’s role of Cassandra channeling the Pentagon’s Iraqi theatre brass goes unheeded. What is even more troubling is the conservative intelligencia, who ably played the part of Pancho Sanchez, and their most recent sudden realization of the folly of Bush’s Quixotian mission. Now that William F. Buckley, Jr. finds himself in the latest exodus heading off the WH reservation we find Senor Fellow and former advisor to the Coalition government Larry Diamond of the Hoover Institute and author of “Squandered Victory: The American Occupation and the Bungled Effort to Bring Democracy to Iraq” giving a formidable demonstration of how the American conservative movement still does not “get it.”

Atrios over at Eschaton recently had a post that excerpted an article by Mr. Diamond in the San Jose Mercury News:

[…]
One young political appointee (a 24-year-old Ivy League graduate) argued that Iraq should not enshrine judicial review in its constitution because it might lead to the legalization of abortion. A much more senior Iraqi interlocutor (a widely experienced Iraqi-American lawyer) became so exasperated with the young man's audacity that he finally challenged him:``You must have thoroughly studied the history of the British occupation of Iraq.''

``Yes, I did,'' the young American replied proudly.

``I thought so,'' said the Iraqi, ``because you seem determined to repeat every one of their mistakes.

Unfortunately Mr. Diamond’s article, though astutely pointing out in telling detail with this little exchange the arrogance and hubris of the American occupation, demonstrates his inability to understand the crux of the Iraqi population’s hatred for it’s occupiers when one examines his article a little closer. First, he points out his understanding of the main problem,

“Even though the Bush administration now is trying to dig out, most notably by supporting the incorporation of Sunnis into the political process, it will take years to terminate the violence and build a viable democracy. Moreover, if America is to regain the trust of Iraqis and cultivate a true partnership, we must demonstrate that it really is democracy we care about in Iraq -- not permanent American military bases."

Then, after reminding us of some of the “gains,” such as a new interim constitution, elections, a jailed Saddam and new currency he gives a quick outline of the consequences of this mistrust of American policy,

[...]
"From the moment that Baghdad fell in April 2003 and much of the public infrastructure was systematically destroyed, the United States failed to fulfill the first overriding obligation of an occupying power: to establish and maintain order. Coalition (mainly American) forces failed to secure Iraq's cities, roads, electricity grids, oil pipelines and borders. The tenacious insurgency, fed and emboldened by an escalating influx of foreign jihadist terrorists, sabotaged roads and crucial facilities as rapidly as they were repaired.”

Then he fools us into thinking maybe he DOES get it:

“We never had nearly enough translators and interpreters, nor enough civilians who knew Iraq's culture, history and language.
[…]
But America occupied anyway, in a way that was often filled with an ill-informed hubris, leading it for many months to misread the importance of Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani; to underestimate the depth of Iraqi resentment of American military and political dominance; to marginalize the United Nations' mission in postwar Iraq, despite its considerable knowledge and expertise; and to impose 100 colonial-like decrees.” [emphasis mine].

He was almost there. Almost. Then he quickly reverts back to the paternal benevolence of the conservative movements view of the Mid East and how they simply misunderstand the guiding hand of those with superior wisdom and the benefit of governing experience:

[…]
Clearly, if Iraq is going to become a democracy, or even a reasonably stable and effective state, it must get control of the insurgency, which is based largely among Iraq's Sunnis. Defeating it will require a sophisticated, patient and incremental effort for many years, combining military, intelligence, policing and political efforts.

There is no magic solution, because the insurgency consists of multiple social strands, and some of these -- especially the foreign fighters (such as Al-Qaida) and the surviving Saddam loyalists -- can only be defeated and killed in combat, arrested, or expelled.

What an insult to the average Iraqi on the street. Even the most unsophisticated and uneducated Iraqi citizen understands this and they don’t need people like Larry Diamond telling them. Then Mr. Diamond insults the American electorate’s intelligence playing the interlocutor of the profound:

“To achieve lasting peace in Iraq, America will have to make concessions, including an explicit commitment not to seek permanent military bases in Iraq. Perhaps no issue in the coming years will more clearly expose the real purpose of the Bush administration's postwar mission in Iraq: to build democracy or to obtain a new, regional military platform in the heart of the Arab world.

Make no mistake about it: While Iraqis are glad to be rid of Saddam, they also want their country back. Only if we make it clear that we will withdraw our military forces when Iraq is stable will we create the political context in which Iraq can once again become secure. The alternative would leave us mired indefinitely in a violent quagmire in Iraq.”

Gee thanks, Larry. I’m glad you are here to inform the busy soccer mom who doesn’t have the time to think these things through during her busy day and the short attention span hampered NASCAR dad worrying about what corporate sponsor will pick up his favorite driver what the relevant issues are and what we need to do.

Well, for Mr. Diamond and the rest of his conservative movement friends I have a bit of profundity for him. The crux of Iraqi hated of their occupiers comes down to one simple raw emotion regarding the Iraqi citizen and their view of American ‘values’ as presented to them by their occupiers: equality as human beings with those of westerners. It’s that simple. As David Fromkin points out in his “A Peace To End All Peace” in 1914 the Ottoman Empire, which included today’s Iraq despised what they called “the Capitulations.” This was a common colonial law said local and Ottoman authority was not recognized to have any authority over westerners, especially American and British citizens. The only authority that was recognized to deal with them was through their respective consulates. This only served to fuel unbounded enmity and hatred among the local citizens for western governments and their citizens. Bremer and the coalition government initiating the very same decrees only reinforced those memories and prejudices and sealed the doom of any foreign intervention no matter how benevolent. This is even more heavily reinforced through the WH’s treatment of American casualties vs. those of Iraqi casualties. Our mainstream media and the American government hardly ever brings up the issue of Iraqi casualties while the main concern always seems to be centered on “coalition force” casualties. Somehow the Iraqi dead and wounded just aren’t worthy as human beings on the same level to be considered.

All the other issues Mr. Diamond wrung hands over are minor compared to this basic, raw emotional feeling. Until the conservative movement understands this, Iraq will continue to remain an elusive, uncomprehending, and bewildering issue for them. For the liberal and progressives among us, it couldn’t be simpler.

1 Comment:

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