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A Fool’s Errand in Baghdad

 

“There is no solution. We’ve destroyed Iraq and we’ve destroyed the region, and Americans need to know this.”

Nir Rosen; interview with Amy Goodman, “Democracy Now”

Let’s assume for a moment, that Dick Cheney is the driving force behind the plan to surge in Iraq. Does anyone really believe that the vice president is genuinely concerned about the safety of the Iraqi people?

And, yet, the media still insists that the purpose of the troop-increase is to improve security in Baghdad. Nothing could be further from the truth. The wellbeing of the Iraqi people has never been a factor in the administration’s decision-making and it isn’t now.

The real purpose of the surge is to pacify Baghdad in order to rebuild confidence among the supporters of the war. Bush needs to prove that he can restore security so the oil giants can make their move and begin developing the world’s second largest reserves of petroleum. In a matter of weeks, the al-Maliki government will pass the new hydrocarbon laws which will “issue tenders and signing contracts” to the major American oil companies. This will allow the looting of Iraq’s oil under internationally-recognized legal agreements. But if the fighting persists, it’ll all be for nothing. No one is going to invest capital to develop oil fields if the country is in the throes of a civil war. So Bush needs to put more boots on the ground and make one last-ditch effort to crush the resistance. And, he needs to do it fast.

It’s clearly an act of desperation and few believe he’ll be able to succeed. In fact, last week, a number of retired generals appeared before a senate sub-committee on Capital Hill and blasted the strategy as shortsighted and ill conceived. Marine General Joseph Hoar growled that, “The addition of 21,000 troops is too little too lateIt won’t work (The administration has shown) “a shocking failure to understand the social and political forces that influence events in the Middle East.”

Retired Generals’ William Odom and Barry McCaffrey were equally pessimistic. McCaffrey added dismissively that he believed the surge was a “fool’s errand”.

There’s no support among the members of the intelligence community either. In fact, Cheney didn’t even bother to have a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) drawn up because he knew the 16 US intelligence agencies would never rubber stamp his plans for escalation.

Nevertheless, Bush and Cheney are surging ahead despite the carping from the Top Brass, the objections of the congress, and the disapproval of the American people. They’ve shrugged off the opinions of everyone except a small cadre of neoconservatives who hale from the American Enterprise Institute. That appears to be Bush’s last bastion of support.

The administration is left with only two options; escalate or withdrawal. Iraq is a basket-case and getting worse by the day. The surge may be last chance to impose a political solution through military force. In another 6 months the wear and tear on the military will force the administration to negotiate some type of regional “grand bargain”, but that won’t happen until the army is hobbled and pushed to the breaking point.

For now, Bush can still hope that his measly 21,500 troops will achieve what 140,000 have been unable to for 3 and a half years.

But Bush’s expectations are unrealistic. Even his new field-marshal, General David Petraeus, has stated (in the Pentagon’s counterinsurgency manual which he authored) that it would take 4 times as many troops to pacify Baghdad than the military can provide. These figures are calculated to determine the appropriate ratio of occupation soldiers to residents. The ratio–according to Petraeus–should be 50 to 1. At the peak of the surge, when the US will have 30,000 troops in Baghdad, the ratio will be a 200 to 1. By Petraeus own standards, the plan is doomed from the get-go.

So why surge? Or is there, perhaps, another motive behind the troop increase?

Bush and Cheney have no intention of improving security; we know that. The surge is a cover for the impending crackdown on the Sunni neighborhoods which are the main strongholds of the Iraqi resistance. Bush is planning to “drain the sea in which they swim” as Mao noted. In a matter of weeks, tens of thousands of Sunnis will be forced to flee Baghdad to nearby Syria and Jordan. This is clear from recent military operations in the Haifa Street district near the Green Zone.

A few journalists have already begun to grasp the evil motive behind the surge. Just days ago, author Sidney Blumenthal offered these sobering observations in his article, “Washington’s Political Cleansing”:

“Bush’s surge, is a military plan that cannot produce its stated political outcome and will instead further unleash the forces he claims will be controlled. His offensive to subdue the Sunni insurgents is already accelerating the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad by the Shia militias, which, rather than being contained, are further empowered.”

Author Dahr Jamail has drawn the same conclusion in his latest article, “Southern Tribes are joining the Armed Resistance”:

“A political analyst in Baghdad told IPS that he believes occupation forces have been working in tandem with death squads. We have been observing American and British occupation forces supporting those death squads all over Iraq, but we are still hoping for reconciliation.'”

But “reconciliation” is off the table. That was clear when they hanged Saddam. The administration has broken off negotiations with the leaders of the resistance and they have no plans of returning to the bargaining table. “The New Way Forward” is Bush’s blueprint for a Shia-dominated Iraq; paving the way for ethnic cleansing and the (likely) rise of an Islamic regime.

The Ba’athist-led Sunnis resistance has fought fiercely, but they’ve lost in Iraq just as the US has lost. Author Nir Rosen makes this point out in a recent interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now:

“For Sunnis to ever imagine that the Ba’athists could be restored to power, or that the Americans really matter in Iraq anymore is naïve in the extreme The Shias own Iraq now. Sunnis can never get it back. There’s nothing Americans can do about this.”

Rosen’s dark-forecast for Iraq is even grimmer than Blumenthal’s or Jamail’s. He says:

“What you’re going to see in Iraq I think, in Baghdad especially, is a virtual genocide of the Sunnis. And the Americans are not going to be able to stop it.You’ll find a day when there are no Sunnis left in Baghdad.”

The question is whether Washington will assist in the slaughter or do something to try and stop it. We’ll know in the next few months.

We’ll also find out whether Bush plans to retain Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki or replace him with a strongman, like Ayad Allawi, who seems more eager to carry out Washington’s directives.

Either way, it makes no difference. The leadership in the Green Zone is irrelevant. Power in Baghdad is measured in terms of militias and neither leader controls a militia. That means they either have to ally themselves with Muqtada al-Sadr, Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, or the biggest militia of all, the US occupation. And, even then, their power will be limited to Baghdad; the surrounding cities have turned into city-states locally run by clan and tribal-based militias. Power is decentralized; no one militia controls Iraq. The prime minister is a meaningless figurehead who governs nothing and who will have no effect on the war’s outcome. Bush can appoint whoever he wants; it just doesn’t matter.

There’s bound to be a clash between the administration and the allies in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt and the other Gulf states when they see that Bush is unable (or unwilling) keep his promise to protect the Sunnis in Baghdad. Many Sunnis feel a moral obligation to provide material support for their co-religionists. This poses a grave danger for the entire region as the possibility of a wider war becomes more and more probable. Iraq is likely to become the battleground for proxy armies struggling to decide the future of the Middle East.

Also, nearly 2 million Iraqi refugees have fled the country and an estimated 1.5 million have been displaced within Iraq. The magnitude of the disaster is incalculable. To even think that Iraq could be turned into a “victory” shows how completely disconnected from reality Bush really is. Iraq is shaping up to be the greatest human catastrophe of our time and it gets bigger by the day.

There’s no way to undo the damage we have done. A nation is not like a coffee cup, where you break the handle and glue it back together again. Iraqi society has been decimated; it cannot be fixed. Nir Rosen said it best:

“There is no solution. We’ve destroyed Iraq and we’ve destroyed the region, and Americans need to know this. This isn’t Rwanda where we can just sit back and watch the Hutus and Tutsies kill each other, and be like wow, this is terrible should we do something?’ We destroyed Iraq. There was no civil war in Iraq until we got there. And there was no civil war until we took certain steps to pit Sunnis against Shias. And now, it is just too late. But, we need to know that we are responsible for what is happening in Iraq today. I don’t think Americans are aware of this. We’ve managed to make Saddam Hussein look good even to Shias at this point. And what we’ve managed to do is not only destabilize Iraq, but Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran. This is going to spread for decades, the region won’t recover from this, I think, for decades. And Americans are responsible.”

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He can be reached at: fergiewhitney@msn.com

 

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MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

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