Events in Iraq are giving the lie to administration claims that all it wants to do is create a stable, democratic Iraq, and then leave.
The U.S. assault on the Mustafa Mosque, and the deaths of, variously, 16 insurgents or 37 unarmed worshippers (depending upon whether you believe the Pentagon or Iraqi police), has prompted calls from the Iraqi government for the U.S. to hand over control of security in Iraq to the local government.
Now, if this is what the U.S. government is trying to do anyway, the Bush administration and the Pentagon should be very happy. They’ve just been told, pretty clearly, that they’re no longer wanted and they can pack up and go home, right?
But they’re not doing it.
Because the Bush administration has no intention of leaving Iraq, particularly in the hands of its elected Shi’ia-led leadership.
Note also that the Iraqi "government," supposedly sovereign (remember all that talk of handing over sovereignty two years ago?), is asking the US to turn over control of security in the country to it, not telling it to. Note also that Bush and the U.S. ambassador to Iraq have told the country’s Shi’ia leaders that they don’t want the elected prime minister-designate, Ibrahim al-Jafari, to be prime minister.
The truth is that the U.S. is running Iraq from the giant U.S. Embassy compound in the Green Zone, and the Iraqi "government" remains a puppet regime. The truth is also that the U.S. has been spending billions of dollars not on Iraq reconstruction, which in any case is not being phased out if it ever was being attempted, but on building several large, permanent military bases inside Iraq, from which the U.S. has no intention of budging in the foreseeable future. (Want to guess where some of that "missing" $9 billion in U.S. reconstruction money has really gone?).
The Mosque attack also shows the terrible morass that American troops have been dumped into. They’re getting shot at from all over the place–probably from mosques as much as anywhere–but if they shoot back, they end up killing innocents. And even when they kill people who were actually shooting at them, those people have families and friends who consider their deaths to be heroic and patriotic. So a blood feud against the American occupiers is made all the more bitter.
Senate visitors like Russ Feingold (D-WI) and John McCain (R-AZ) don’t seem to get it. They see that the U.S. has become the focus of Iraqi hatred, and correctly argue that therefore the U.S. should leave as soon as possible, but they miss the point that the Bush administration has no intention of leaving.
President Bush doesn’t have the political huevos to tell the American people this fact, and instead just continues the deception, saying that U.S. troops will be in Iraq until at least 2009, when the Iraq War will still be our and their problem, but not his. In reality, unless the impeachment movement and a reincarnated Democratic opposition drives him out before the end of his term in 2008, Bush will be simply handing the next president a hostile, occupied country with several islands of huge military outposts to maintain indefinitely.
Let’s be clear: the attack on the Mustafa mosque was no accident, nor was it some stupid move by a low-ranking officer who didn’t know the implications of what he was doing. The attack was a deliberate act of intimidation and provocation directed against the Shi’ia majority by U.S. occupation authorities. It will not be the last.
The U.S. has no interest in a successful Iraq government, since it is now clear that such a government will be Shi’ia led, and close to Iran politically. Therefore, my guess is that the fallback strategy is to rev up the Shi’ia militants, stir up civil strife, and perhaps even to get the Sunni minority, long the heart of opposition to the U.S., to turn to the U.S. for help, as the Kurds did years back.
Any way you look at it, this is a horrible mess–one that at $500 billion and counting, is bankrupting this country, destroying its image around the world, and killing hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis.
U.S. troops have had a bit of a respite as Iraqi fighters were focused on other Iraqis in recent months, but the mosque attack, and word of several other massacres of innocents by U.S. forces, is sure to bring a renewed focus by Iraqi fighters on American soldiers. We can expect the body count, already past the 2300 mark, to start soaring.
DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled "This Can’t be Happening!" is published by Common Courage Press. Lindorff’s new book, "The Case for Impeachment",
co-authored by Barbara Olshansky, is due out May 1.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org