The Ironies of Bush and Iraq

On a personal note I have written very little on Iraq since 2006. There is good reason-nothing has changed. The same abusers of human rights exercise power with impunity, however incompetently. The democrats took office but they seemed poised to continue to support the war. And, of course, the year went out with a bang with the execution of Saddam Hussein, which was nothing less than an exhibition of Iraqi (and American) incompetence and stupidity. I personally was left wondering if this is how the Iraqi government kills someone when the whole world is watching imagine the final moments of the countless, nameless Iraqis who are found dead on Baghdad’s streets everyday. In fact, little is left to the imagination, as the hundreds upon hundreds of dead tortured bodies found each month in Iraq are found blind folded and tied we can imagine those tragic last moments. Indeed, what could be left to the imagination? We know the current regime in Iraq is corrupt, incompetent and brutal; just as we know the current regime in Washington is corrupt, incompetent and brutal. Yet, the war machine rolls on and President Bush has announced that it will roll on with greater vigor.

Tragedy often involves irony and Bush’s latest ploy to send more troops to Iraq is, perhaps, the most ironic twist of this war since the elections. If you are wondering whether I mean the US or Iraqi elections-let me be clear-I mean both. The elections of 2005 were hailed as “milestones” in Middle Eastern history. Do you recall the elation, not just amongst this administration, or even commentators who supported the war, but even amongst supposed “ordinary” Iraqis who held up their ink stained fingers in pride. The fact that most Iraqis were voting the occupation out in the early election of 2005 was little mentioned in the mainstream media. As you may recall, some of the major “winners” in those elections ran on a platform to end the occupation, including Hizb’dawa, the party to which the current Prime Minster of Iraq, Nuri al-Maliki belongs. After those “elected” assumed power, they position vis-à-vis the occupation quickly changed. The Americans convinced the Iraqi government that they needed the Americans there to protect the nascent government.

Then the bombing of the Samarra Mosque in February of 2006 happened. This bombing served as a centerpiece for Bush’s speech regarding sending more troops to Iraq. As Bush put it: “They blew up one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam – the Golden Mosque of Samarra – in a calculated effort to provoke Iraq’s Shia population to retaliate. Their strategy worked.” The “they” that Bush is referring to is al-Qaeda and Sunni insurgents. Yet, which one is it? Is it al-Qaeda or the Sunni insurgents? If either term means anything anymore they are certainly not one and the same thing in Iraq. By Sunni insurgents does he mean those secular Ba’athists that de-emphasized sectarian differences? Or by al-Qaeda does he mean anybody who bombs anything? Well a look at the current situation in Somalia should confirm for us that, in fact, US missile tips now define who is and is not al-Qaeda-look under the rubble of any US air strike and there you will find al-Qaeda, they may look a lot like innocent women and children to you but Bush knows better. Ironically, after the Sammarra bombing, Bush convinced the Sunnis-who supposedly make up the bulk of the resistance-that they too needed American protection. The truth is sectarian violence has served as a convenient pretext for continuing American involvement in Iraq.

This war has been fraught with irony. Fareed Zakaria, whose column is a mouthpiece for American imperialism, wrote last November that Iraq’s Sunnis need to realize that America is there to “protect” them. I thought America was there to liberate the Shi’a from the oppressive clutches of the Sunni? Should it matter what the “Sunni of Iraq” actually think I suggest Zakaria campaign American protectionism in Falluja and Ramadi, cities devastated by American “protection.” Dexter Filkins of the New York Times commented on a radio broadcast that Sunni’s have realized that “the Americans are not their real enemies but the Shi’a are.” What is ironic, of course, is that the Sunni and Shi’a were not the “real enemies” of one another until the Americans showed up. This sectarian narrative directed much of Bush’s speech. The idea is that sectarian violence is now the threat to Bush’s “democratic” vision in the Middle East.

Bush’s speech had little to do with the reality in Iraq it was just another spin at the end (I hope) of a long list of spins. How else could this president justify the continued presence of American forces in Iraq, by citing the long list of American successes? You would almost have the impression that things were moving along well in Iraq before the bombing occurred. What non-sense. Fact: Before the Samarra bombing and after $4 billions dollars Iraqis had, and continue to have, less electricity than before the invasion. Fact: Throughout much of the tenure of the CPA, Robert J. Stein Jr. was put in charge of reconstruction finances, in spite of his being convicted of felony fraud in the 1990’s. Fact: Private security contractors have been guilty of committing acts of murder, fraud and negligence throughout Iraq but are immune from prosecution in Iraq. Fact: By the end of 2005, roughly only half of Iraq’s supposed reconstruction projects were completed. And, finally, fact: by the end of 2005 hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were dead as a result of this war-the actual number is difficult to determine because, as General Tommy Franks so famously once said, the U.S. “don’t do body counts.” These statistics and facts are only those most readily available, and yet it is clear that Iraq was a huge mess before the Sammarra bombing and the sectarian violence.

There is something deeply troubling about having to point these blatant facts out time and time again in opposition to his war. President Bush is an ass and a criminal ass at that; at what point do the American people who support this war cease becoming mere asses and begin to recognize their political antipathy as criminal? The democrats who ran on a platform opposed to the war seem likely to lead America into the criminal camp. Bush’s plan depends a great deal on Iraqi forces to commit to securing Baghdad’s many neighborhoods, yet sadly the fact that Iraq’s security forces are responsible for a great deal of the violence was touched upon by Dick Durbin-but did Durbin suggest ending the occupation? The democrats position vis-à-vis the war has been it’s a bad habit but here is more money for it Mr. President. It goes without saying that this policy is analogous to condemning the addiction but giving many to the addict, an exercise in irony.