Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Let's Blame It On the Iraqis

Now that the year is almost over, the mood is weary ... weary of a Congress that has failed in its constitutional obligations, weary of an administration seemingly answerable to no one including reason, weary of the extremist fringes whether in the US or abroad, weary of increasing terrorist fears, and ... weary of Iraq - especially the cost in life, limb and treasure here and there. We look to 2007 to see changes on all of these and other fronts. Americans spoke up in November and now we expect change.

Yet, what does change mean? Does it mean that we shrug our shoulders and dust off our hands and pretend like the mess out there is in fact out there and not in here? Do we look ahead and pretend that the past will not eventually come back to bite us?

Or does change mean that we hold those who created this mess accountable and make sure they do everything they can to "fix it"?

Iraq is a good case in point, since it appears to be the fulcrum around which all our weariness revolves - Congress' abdication of its responsibilities, the Administration's sheer audacity and stubbornness, loss of life and treasure here and abroad, and a revitalization of the terrorist threat.

The new mantra coming out of Washington is that Iraqis have to step up to the plate and take charge of their country. Very few would actually disagree with that. However, what is especially jarring is when that sentiment is followed by claims that the US has done all it can to give the Iraqis the hope of a brighter future! Since we have done all that we can and the Iraqis, instead of being grateful and holding on to this golden opportunity (imagine that?), want instead to kill each other, well, what can the US do? Iraq is Iraq's problem and they have to fix it, right?

That logic is not only deficient; it is immoral.

Iraq was broken by the United States of America. That is not to say that it was in good shape before March 2003, but it is to say that Iraq is much worse off today then before the US, unprovoked and based on false pretenses, invaded the country - dismantled its institutions, allowed wanton plundering, dispersed its army, and allowed century old rivalries just enough oxygen to awaken smoldering embers.

It is also to say that if the objective was, as it is now claimed, that Saddam's repressive regime had to go so as to allow the march of liberty... well, there were and are better ways to achieve that then military invasion and ill-sighted occupation. Whether we like it or not, democracy does not come at the end of a soldiers gun. But that is not the reason the US invaded the country. At least, that is not what this Administration claimed at the time. Accordingly, there was no plan for what was not the objective to begin with!

That was then and this is now. Today, Iraq is broken. Hundreds of people are dying every day. Thousands of people are fleeing their homes and becoming refugees whether in Iraq or neighboring countries. Life for the average Iraqi, especially Arab Sunni or Shia, is pure hell between the lack of jobs and basic amenities to constant fear of death squads, insurgents and terrorists.

Ironically, Iran has achieved, despite itself and through no effort of its own, what it had failed to achieve for hundreds of years since before and during the days of the Ottoman Empire - control over the Shia-dominated lands of southern Iraq. What is also truly regrettable and as bumper-stickeresque as it sounds - the US went to war in Iraq and Iran won.

I am reminded of the wise words, despite his misplaced notion of loyalty, of Colin Powell - "If you break it, you own it." Yet, when you hear TV talking heads, senators, congressmen, and read the endless op-eds, the message is the same. The US has no option but to leave Iraq to the Iraqis.

But there are other options... and not the one the President is talking about. Iraq does not need more US troops in Baghdad, as his military commanders on the ground are telling him. Today, the new Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, is in Baghdad talking to the top brass, and already we are hearing that General John Abizaid is going to resign. For years now we have heard the President declare that the military commanders are the ones who call the shots on the ground. Well, either that was not true either, or it was the military commanders' fault all along. Secretary Gates is on a mission to change - change those who would dissent from Bush.

Is that the change we need? Blame it on the Iraqis, blame it on the military commanders, blame it on Iran, blame it on Syria, blame it on the terrorists, blame it on Saddam loyalists, blame it on them ...... How about blaming it on the leaders and policymakers who broke Iraq? How about blaming it on US?

Yet, blame is meaningless and a wasted energy if it does not yield redemption. Redemption will come only when we fix Iraq - and not by sending more troops to possible death. Redemption will come when we realize that we won't succeed if we continue to go it alone - or by continuing our sledgehammer foreign policy.

The Iraq Study Group report gave us important options. The bottom line is that we have to reach out - to all Iraqis, Iraq's neighbors, the region and the world. That means we have to work in partnership - not run away or fight away.

That is what I will be reflecting on as we enter 2007... because I too am weary.

See you in January, and may this be a happy and new year for all.

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Blogger CB said...

I agree, although the Iraqis do need to step up, it is impolitic for Congressional leaders to publicly say so. It is our responsibility. It is the moral equivalent of James Baker making promises to the Kurds that neither he, nor Bush Sr. intended to keep.

I don't agree that the attack was unprovoked or that there was pretense, false or otherwise. There were 14 U.N. Resolutions to which Saddam failed to respond. There was a full year where we made our intentions clear when the regime could have moved evidence of programs to its fellow Baathist neighbor's Bakka Valley.

There is no blueprint for doing what we're attempting to do, it is difficult and worthwhile. We will figure it out. My own feeling is that we should be listening not to some bi-partisan mishmash, nor to diplomats and reporters insided the green zone, but to those who regularly operate outside of that politically stygmatized fortress.

If we are telling Syria and telling Iran what the consequences of their continued interference with Iraq will be, I have no problem "working" with them. However, if we are making concilliatory gestures toward them, history has shown this approach to be naive, even dangerous.

Merry Christmas to you and Happy New Year!

8:34 PM  
Blogger Renegade Eye said...

Now even Chalabi has disassociated himself from the war.

There is no good solution. I think the worse is yet to come. I think the Kurdish situation is not being addressed.

Any rational solution with these players, is utopian.

Seasons Greetings

7:18 PM  

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