It is becoming increasingly clear that regardless of who wins the election in 2008, the United States government is not going to withdraw from Iraq. It is just not going to happen. This is the awful, gut-wrenching, frightening truth we must face. The only way that American forces will ever leave Iraq is the same way they left Vietnam: at gunpoint, forced into a precipitous and catastrophic retreat. And how many thousands upon thousands of needless deaths we will see before that terrible denouement?
While Congressional leaders and George W. Bush start "negotiations" on ways to prolong the war crime in Iraq for another year or two (at least), on the ground in Baghdad, the situation is worsening by the day, as Patrick Cockburn reports in The Independent:
The so-called "surge", the dispatch of 20,000 extra American troops to Iraq with the prime mission of getting control of Baghdad, is visibly failing. There are army and police checkpoints everywhere but Iraqis are terrified because they do not know if the men in uniform they see there are, in reality, death squad members.
Omar, the 15-year-old brother-in-law of a friend, was driving with two other boys through al-Mansur in west Baghdad a fortnight ago. Their car was stopped at a police checkpoint. Most of the police in Baghdad are Shia. They took him away saying they suspected that his ID card was a fake. The real reason was probably that only Sunnis use the name Omar. Three days later he was found dead...
The problem about the US security plan is that it does not provide security. It had some impact to begin with and the number of bodies found in the street went down. This was mainly because the Shia Mehdi Army was stood down by its leader, Muqtada al-Sadr. But the Sunni insurgent groups increased the number of sectarian suicide bombings against Shia markets. The US was unable to stop this and now the sectarian body count is on the rise again. Some 30 bodies, each shot in the head, were found on Wednesday alone.
The main new American tactic is proving counter-productive. This is the sealing-off of entire neighbourhoods, either by concrete walls or barriers of rubbish, so there is only a single entrance and exit. Speaking of Sunni districts such as al-Adhamiyah, a government official said: "We are creating mini-Islamic republics."
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Um Doraid, a middle-aged housewife, said: "We here inside the wall are still as vulnerable as ever."
And so the transformation of Baghdad -- one of the great cities of the world for more than a thousand years -- into a squalid open-air prison continues apace. This, we are told, is "liberation." And the American Establishment, despite a good deal of thus far non-signifying sound and fury from the Democrats, seem content to let this murderous horror run on. They tinker on the margins -- should we demand that a certain portion of troops begin to be withdrawn at a certain, ever-receding date? -- when it is plain that the only thing the United States can do at this point to mitigate the suffering of the Iraqis is leave -- and pay reparations for the criminal ruin and death we have caused.
The American elites seem paralyzed by this notion, frozen in place as the bloody quagmire rises around them. But one pillar of the British elite -- the knighted general Michael Rose -- is speaking plainly. In addition to the book excerpt we quoted earlier, he has also been talking to the press, uttering truths that no "serious" figure in American politics and media would dare utter. From the Guardian:
Asked if that meant admitting defeat, the general replied: "Of course we have to admit defeat. The British admitted defeat in North America and the catastrophes that were predicted at the time never happened.The catastrophes that were predicted after Vietnam never happened. The same thing will occur after we leave Iraq."
Bill Blum -- who is decidedly not a pillar of any Establishment -- has more on this theme in his latest Anti-Empire report:
To better understand this argument, it helps to keep in mind the following about the daily horror that is life in Iraq: It did not exist before the US occupation. The insurgency violence began as, and remains, a reaction to the occupation; like almost all insurgencies in occupied countries -- from the American Revolution to the Vietcong -- it's a fight directed toward getting foreign forces to leave.
By way, General Rose agrees with Blum on this point, as the Guardian notes:
Back to Blum:
The occupation's abolishment of most jobs in the military and in Saddam Hussein's government, and the chaos that is Iraqi society under the occupation, have left many destitute; kidnapings for ransom and other acts of criminal violence have become popular ways to make a living, or at least survive.
US-trained, financed, and armed Iraqi forces have killed large numbers of people designated as "terrorists" by someone official, or perhaps someone unofficial, or by someone unknown, or by chance. The US military itself has been a main perpetrator of violence, killing individually and en masse, killing any number, any day, for any reason, anyone, any place, often in mindless retaliation against anyone nearby for an insurgent attack...
And here is James Baker, establishment eminence, co-chair of the Iraq Study Group, on CNN with Anderson Cooper:
Cooper: And is it possible that getting the U.S. troops out will actually lessen that violence, that it will at least take away the motivation of nationalist insurgents?
Baker: Many people have argued that to us. Many people in Iraq made that case.
Cooper: Do you buy it?
Baker: Yes, I think there is some validity to it, absolutely. Then we are no longer seen to be the occupiers.
In spite of all of the above we are told that the presence of the United States military has been and will continue to be a buffer against violence. Iraqis themselves do not believe this. A poll published in September found that Iraqis believe, by a margin of 78 to 21 percent, that the US military presence is "provoking more conflict that it is preventing"....
If the United States leaves -- meaning all its troops and bases -- it will remove the very foundation, origin, and inspiration of most of the hate and violence. Iraqis will have a chance to reclaim their land and their life. They have a right to be given that opportunity. Let America's deadly "love" embrace of the Iraqi people come to an end. Let the healing begin.
But as wise man Blum doubtless knows, the healing will not begin. Not even if the Republicans are ousted from office. Witness the "bold" new plan by leading Democratic contender Hillary Clinton: her proposal to "withdraw authorization" for the war in Iraq -- the same authorization she "boldly" supported back in 2002. Clinton told reporters that her bill "would mean that troops would be out as of October ," the NYT reports. "'They have no authority to continue,' she said. 'That is the point.'"
Ah, but it was not really the point, as her aides hastened to assure the press:
In other words, Clinton proposes to enshrine a permanent military presence in Iraq, reduced in size by some unspecified measure from the current levels. This is, of course, precisely the goal that the Bush Administration has sought all along: a permanent military presence in Iraq. And all the Democrat plans on withdrawing a portion of American troops hinge on Iraqi compliance with "benchmarks" that also dovetail exactly with the Bush war aims: the creation of American-trained, American-armed army and security forces (a bonanza for U.S. arms peddlers), a government that will do what the United States wants, and, of course, the approval of that written-in-Washington "Oil Law," as Blum notes.
In what way is any of this significantly different from Bush has been pursuing ruthlessly over the past four years?
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