Our text for today is from the New York Times:
Even as they call for an end to the war and pledge to bring the troops home, the Democratic presidential candidates are setting out positions that could leave the United States engaged in Iraq for years. John Edwards, the former North Carolina senator, would keep troops in the region to intervene in an Iraqi genocide and be prepared for military action if violence spills into other countries. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York would leave residual forces to fight terrorism and to stabilize the Kurdish region in the north. And Senator Barack Obama of Illinois would leave a military presence of as-yet unspecified size in Iraq to provide security for American personnel, fight terrorism and train Iraqis.
My word, this is certainly a surprise! Who ever would have thought that the most "serious" Democratic candidates would take such a position? Why, I suppose this means that if a "serious" Democrat gets elected president, the war crime in Iraq (which is what the old-timers used to call it when you aggressively invaded a country that hadn't attacked you and occupied their land with your troops) will go on — just the same as if a "serious" Republican gets elected!
And they say there is no unity in our politics, no bipartisan consensus in Washington!
The NYT article is a hoot and a half — or it would be, if the farce was not spattered with so much blood. Dig, if you will, this serious knitting of analytical brows:
Among the challenges the next president could face in Iraq, three seem to be resonating the most: What to do if there is a genocide? What to do if chaos in Iraq threatens to engulf the region in a wider war? And what to do if Iraq descends into further lawlessness and becomes the staging ground for terrorist attacks elsewhere, including in the United States?
Grave challenges, indeed. But why do they await the next president, when they are happening right now — when, in fact, they were guaranteed to happen as soon as the criminal action was launched?
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The very serious John Edwards says, seriously, that he would keep an unspecified number of troops on hand because "we have to be prepared for the worst possibility that you never hear anyone talking about, which is the possibility that genocide breaks out and the Shi’a try to systematically eliminate the Sunni." But of course, Mr. Edwards himself is noticeably reticent on the subject of the genocide that's going on over there right now: the genocide against the Iraqi people. The number of deaths caused by the war that Bush launched is nearing or has surpassed one million. At least 4 million have fled their homes (an equivalent number in the US would be around 50 million), with most of them living in great hardship in places where they are not wanted. (But not in the United States, of course, which has allowed in the barest trickle of Iraqis since we destroyed their country.)
The nation is nearing a state of collapse as a direct result of the war that was launched by Bush, approved by Congress, countenanced by the American people and set to continue under every "serious" Democratic candidate running for president. Oxfam's recent study of the humanitarian catastrophe put in plainly:
While horrific violence dominates the lives of millions of ordinary people inside Iraq, another kind of crisis, also due to the impact of war, has been slowly unfolding. Up to eight million people are now in need of emergency assistance. This figure includes:
• four million people who are ‘food-insecure and in dire need of different types of humanitarian assistance’
• more than two million displaced people inside Iraq
• over two million Iraqis in neighbouring countries, mainly Syria and Jordan, making this the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world....
Iraqis are suffering from a growing lack of food, shelter, water and sanitation, health care, education, and employment. Of the four million Iraqis who are dependent on food assistance, only 60 per cent currently have access to rations through the government-run Public Distribution System (PDS), down from 96 per cent in 2004.
Forty-three per cent of Iraqis suffer from ‘absolute poverty’. According to some estimates, over half the population are now without work. Children are hit the hardest by the decline in living standards. Child malnutrition rates have risen from 19 per cent before the US-led invasion in 2003 to 28 per cent now.
The situation is particularly hard for families driven from their homes by violence. The two million internally displaced people (IDPs) have no incomes to rely on and are running out of coping mechanisms. In 2006, 32 per cent of IDPs had no access to PDS food rations, while 51 per cent reported receiving food rations only sometimes.
The number of Iraqis without access to adequate water supplies has risen from 50 per cent to 70 per cent since 2003, while 80 per cent lack effective sanitation. The ‘brain drain’ that Iraq is experiencing is further stretching already inadequate public services, as thousands of medical staff, teachers, water engineers, and other professionals are forced to leave the country. At the end of 2006, perhaps 40 per cent had left already.
What's more, the national power grid is breaking down — in the midst of summer temperatures that make the US heat wave look like a wintry chill, as the BBC reports:
Iraq's national power grid is on the brink of collapse, the country's electricity ministry has warned. Water supplies to Baghdad have also been cut off for days at a time, with summertime pressures on key systems said to be more intense than ever. The ministry blamed poor maintenance, fuel shortages, sabotage by insurgents and rising demand for the problems, and said some provinces hold onto supplies.
And what is the answer of the occupying power to this crisis? Not surprisingly, it is an echo of Vice President Cheney's famous remarks to Senator Pat Leahy on the floor of the Senate: GFY.
The US Army told the BBC that Iraq must now take charge of fixing the problems. The general in charge of helping Iraq rebuild its infrastructure, Michael Walsh, said that although Iraqi authorities only have one-quarter of the money needed for reconstruction, solving the problem was now up to them.
So the Iraqis don't have the money to rebuild the infrastructure destroyed by the war launched by the Americans — doubtless because billions upon billions of reconstruction dollars have been looted by the crony conquistadors and their local bagmen. The Pentagon knows the Iraqis don't have the money to rebuild the infrastructure destroyed by the war launched by the Americans; but they don't care. Bush doesn't care. The Democratic leaders in Congress don't care. The "serious" Democratic candidates don't care. Thousands of innocent Iraqis — the young, the sick, the injured, the poor, the abandoned — will be added to the death count this summer from this collapse of basic services. But none of this is an American responsibility. Not the collapse of the state, not the collapse of the society, not the plunge into wholesale sectarian violence by forces being armed on all sides by the Americans. No, it's all the Iraqis' responsibility now.
This unspeakably hideous attitude is not just the stance of the Pentagon, of course; it's also the credo the most serious Democratic candidate of all, the breakaway leader for the nomination, Hillary Clinton. As the Times tells us:
In February, [Clinton] said her message to the Iraqi government would be simple: "I would say ‘I'm sorry, it’s over. We are not going to baby-sit a civil war.'"
We invaded your country. We occupied your country. We wrote your constitution, in which the arbitrary decrees of our colonial viceroy were imposed as fundamental law. We looted your money. We armed your sectarians. And we are going to keep a large number of troops in your country, come what may. But we aren't going to baby-sit you anymore. No, if you don't get your act together — and sign the goddamned Oil Law already — we are just going to withdraw to our permanent bases and watch you kill each other. — That is the sum total of the leading Democratic candidate's position on Iraq.
It is of course an incoherent mish-mash, because it is just a smokescreen to obscure Clinton's true policy: to continue the war, largely as it is being fought now. Such a course is absolutely inevitable if you leave American forces in Iraq, to "fight terrorism," to "keep the civil war from spilling across the border," to "protect American personnel" (including, er, the troops you have left in the country), and so on. How will you "fight terrorism" in Iraq without raiding residential areas where "terrorist units" are located and launching airstrikes on "terrorist targets" and rounding up "suspected terrorists" and subjecting them to "strenuous interrogation" without charges in mass prisons and mounting checkpoints to check for terrorists and wreaking the usual "collateral damage" from "force protection" incidents? In other words, how you will operate any differently than the Bush-led operation in Iraq right now? The only difference under Clinton and her "serious" rivals is that there will be fewer troops — which will actually mean an increased reliance on airstrikes, and hair-trigger "force protection," and even more mercenaries to fill the gaps.
And if the mission of your "residual force" is to "prevent genocide" (that is, a different genocide from the one going on now), how will you do that without intervening — with airstrikes, troops, checkpoints, arrests, interrogations, "force protection," the whole schmeer — on behalf of one side or the other? Or both sides? And again, how will this be different from what's going on now?
We've said it before and we'll say it again: anyone who advocates leaving even a "residual force" of American troops is Iraq is actually supporting the continuation of the war, on largely the same terms as it is being waged now. There is no "middle way," there is no magic, bipartisan compromise. There is only no war, or more war.
American troops were sent into Iraq on a criminal mission, an act of aggression that was the moral and legal equivalent of the Nazi invasion of Poland or the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Their continued presence in Iraq only exacerbates all the evils that the "serious" people say will happen if America withdraws. (As if these things weren't happening in Iraq right now.) The Iraqis will never hammer out any kind of political accommodation as long as American troops are in the country, dividing the nation into "collaborators" and "insurgents" just by their very presence (much less by their alliance with one faction or another). The Iraqis will never come to any kind of fair agreement on the distribution of the nation's oil wealth as long as American troop are in the country, emblems of the nearly universal (and certainly correct) belief among Iraqis that the West is out to steal their oil.
It may be too late for any kind of accommodation or agreement now. The ruination that Bush and his willing executioners in Congress have brought to Iraq may be irreparable. As for "destabilizing the region," the war crime has already done that. (Indeed, it was one of the aims of the invasion, as its architects and champions once boasted. "Creative destruction" was the phrase used by the very serious Michael Leeden, I believe.) There will be an inevitable escalation of the proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia that is now going on the country; but that will happen no matter what. Sectarian violence will also continue to spiral no matter what, with one possible exception: if the Americans leave the country and are no longer there arming the factions, stirring them up, setting one against the other, and killing and imprisoning civilians, thereby radicalizing more and more Iraqis every day. The only possible chance Iraq has to see a lessening of sectarian violence lies in the complete withdrawal of American troops.
What would happen next? Well, I think a windfall profits tax on the oil companies and the weapons peddlers — and the private equity sharks like Carlyle and Wall Street firms and investment banks who have gorged themselves with blood money like big ole ticks on a hand — would produce a very sizable fund for the massive reparations the United States should pay to the Iraqis for destroying their country and murdering their people. Special prosecutors investigating the origins and conduct of the war would also be in order: a Homeland Nuremberg, on national TV — bigger and better than the Watergate hearings!
But we all know that none of that is going to happen. Certainly not the reparations, the investigations and prosecutions — not in a million years, not in the "shining city on a hill." Nor will an American withdrawal — which, as I said, is the only hope Iraq has of lessening the hell that now rages there. The sainted General Petraeus — who has been one of the most egregiously mendacious blowhards touting the war's "success" for years — is now telling U.S. lawmakers that his "surge" strategy will take 9-10 years to work. So anyone relying on Petraeus — as Bush and all the "serious" Republicans are doing — is buying into at least 10 more years of the present situation. And as we outlined above, anyone touting a "residual force" is essentially doing the same thing.
Moreover, the same strategic and economic concerns that motivated the invasion in the first place will still obtain for the next president. In order to "preserve America's sacred way of life," the United States must have privileged access to the world's oil heartlands. The latter will not only allow America to continue using a vastly disproportionate share of the world's energy resources but also be a vital asset in containing the growth of any potential rivals and putting the squeeze on recalcitrant client states (or allies) who get out of line. No president dedicated to maintaining America's global dominance — via a worldwide empire of military bases, a gargantuan war machine surpassing that of any other nation by several magnitudes — can afford to willingly give up control of Iraq to a Shiite majority closely allied with Iran. (Unless of course there is a favorable "regime change" in Tehran.) This is part of the evil genius behind the Bush Regime's invasion of Iraq: it essentially commits any Establishment candidate — one pledged to the aforesaid military-based global dominance (as all of the "serious" candidates of both parties are) — to continuing the Bushists' policies. Now that the Rubicon of invading Iraq has been crossed, there is no going back. Saddam Hussein was a neutral in the war for energy supremacy: he could be counted on to sell his oil to anyone — indeed, the United States was his best customer, even during the sanctions regime, even as Bush was building up his invasion force. But a sectarian-based Iraqi government allied with Iran — or some other unknown quantity seizing power in the vacuum created by the invasion — could very well curtail or cut off the flow to America for ideological reasons. If you are committed to American hegemony, American empire, then you will have to stay militarily involved in Iraq, now that Bush has led America into it. What's more, the logic of imperial geopolitics will lead inexorably to an attack on Iran as well, to secure the now-necessary dominion over Iraq.
Most people persist in believing that the Bush Administration has "mishandled" or "bungled" the war in Iraq, when in fact they have achieved almost all of their goals. (A reality that we have examined here, here and here, among other places.) They have vastly enriched their cronies. They have installed a U.S. military presence in Iraq. They have expanded the size, power and scope of the armed forces and the intelligence services (which now have their own secret armies) beyond the wildest dreams of the most hawkish Cold War militarist. They have not only gutted the Constitution but proved that you can get away with it — an invaluable lesson for dictators to come. And, as noted, they have committed the American Establishment to continuing the radical course they have set in motion — because the Establishment will never allow the election of any candidate who would seek to institute the rollback of the empire and the restoration of genuine constitutional government. Especially as the latter would entail bringing justice to the war makers and the war profiteers, all of them honored stalwarts of the Establishment.
Thus turning over ostensible authority to a "sovereign" Iraqi government was another masterstroke by the Bushists, a truly audacious scam. While still occupying the country and controlling its affairs, the United States has divested itself of the legal responsibilities of an occupying power. The leaders of both parties in Washington are now busy washing their hands of the blood they have shed, putting the onus on the occupied, co-opted and controlled nation to "put its own house in order." But of course, the Iraqis don't own their house anymore; the largest and most powerful armed force in the world is squatting there, and will keep squatting there for years to come, if the "serious" leaders of both parties have their way.
And they will.
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