Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search

 

One Last Chance for Sanity in Iraq

One Last Chance for Sanity in Iraq

By Ramzy Baroud

US President George W Bush's new war strategy due to be officially announced on Wednesday, which will likely meet an uphill battle at the now Democrat-controlled Congress, is a slap in the face of the majority of American voters, and indeed the democratic process.

The majority of American voters made their voices heard loud and clear in November when they voted out Bush's archaic thinking, a mixture of old imperialist ideas, bent on territorial accumulation and strategic positioning, notwithstanding misguided religious beliefs.

According to the latest public opinion polls, nearly three out of four US respondents now say they disapprove of Bush's handling of Iraq, while confidence in his overall leadership has fallen to record lows.

Bush is yet to learn, however, that the United States is not Rome, and strengths and weakness are no longer measured alone by a nation's number of combatants. The past three and a half years of utter failure in Iraq should have been the sign any rational leader would need to change course; but few ever argued that the president is an icon of leadership or even-headedness; thus the "new" Iraq strategy.

Just one day after the leadership of the US Congress was handed over to the victorious Democrats, after many years of absence, Bush began to reshuffle his war generals in a way that is consistent with neither the wishes of the American people nor the majority of Congress.

Though the Iraq strategy was scheduled to be laid out officially on Wednesday, early signs show that the president intends to beef up his war efforts and perhaps prepare for a new showdown, this time with Iran.

An early ominous sign came when Bush signaled his intentions for a troop surge in Iraq, with an additional 20,000-40,000 soldiers to bolster the 140,000 already on the ground. Bush insists that such a dramatic increase is temporary and will only come about when he receives guarantees from the current Iraqi government - a puppet government by any standards - that it is willing to take charge and play its part.

Expectedly, many Democratic members of Congress, and even some members of Bush's own Republican Party, are opposed to such a move. That rejection was articulated in an open letter released on Friday, written by the new leaders of Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "Adding more combat troops will only endanger more Americans and stretch our military to the breaking point for no strategic gain. And it would undermine our efforts to get the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own future," Pelosi and Reid wrote.

Bush is also expected to request US$100 billion in addition to the $75 billion already approved by last year's Republican-led Congress, to fund US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in fiscal 2007.

Disgruntled Democrats are not alone in objecting to Bush's imprudent proposal; the military leadership also finds it reckless and futile. Therefore, top army brass Generals George Casey and John Abizaid, who are deeply skeptical regarding increasing troop numbers in Iraq, are on their way to be replaced by war supporters.

General David Petraeus, a war supporter who participated in the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, is set to take over from Casey as the top ground commander.

Moreover, the president reportedly intends to endorse William Fallon to head US Central Command. The choice of Fallon, according to Tim Reid, The Times of London's reporter in Washington, as the top military commander in the Middle East - to replace Abizaid - came as a big surprise to the Pentagon, for the former is a naval officer with little experience in that region.

But things will fall neatly in place when one considers that Bush's choice has more to do with Iran than repairing the damage done in Iraq: "Any mission against Tehran would rely heavily on carrier-based aircraft and missiles from the Persian Gulf," according to The Times, and the expertise of Fallon is most needed in that type of military scenario.

But boosting the number of US troops at a time when the US Army seems to be stretched to its maximum is not an easy job, even for the can-do president. Military analysts suggest that Bush can only successfully make up his force surge by extending tours and resorting to the reserve. Both moves will likely increase the number of US casualties at a higher rate than the present - keeping in mind that to date more than 3,000 US soldiers have been killed in the war - and will make the war bill a whole lot more expensive - about $350 billion has been spent without even an emblematic constructive outcome.

Most of the new troops will be positioned in Sunni areas in Baghdad and al-Anbar province, seen as the heart of the resistance. Only a naive person would argue that such a stratagem would lead to anything other than greater bloodshed and further enlivening and validating the so-called insurgents.

Although the "Sunni insurgency" remains the prime target of the US military in Iraq, there is a growing realization among US officials and war generals that the unruly Shi'ite militias and their death squads are a greater cause of instability and violence.

Ironically, the rise of the Shi'ite militias was an early US strategy that put the many Shi'ite factions on a crash course with the Sunni resistance: thus dividing and weakening the Iraqis and lowering the risk of American casualties.

Now that the Iraqi army and police are composed mostly from those same militant thugs, many Iraqis find themselves victimized by their supposed national army and police force. Those who are expecting Iraqis to "take responsibility for their future" seem oblivious to the fact that the future of Iraq is most bleak under the current US-devised sectarianism where Sunnis are murdered with impunity and Shi'ites are blown up in their markets.

The humiliating execution of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein at the hands of masked Shi'ite guards purporting to be an executive arm of a legitimate government was indeed the last attestation that will forever categorize the ongoing strife in Iraq as one between Shi'ite and Sunni, the former allied to invading foreigners and the latter fighting for mere survival.

The fact that the inner Iraqi strife is now categorically defined according to sectarian lines, Bush must realize that the situation in Iraq has reached a point of unprecedented sensitivity, and his macho politics and infamous stubbornness can lead only to further disasters. His actions this week and expected moves to follow will lead to a situation that neither his party nor the Democrats with their blurred policy outlook can repair.

Bush must immediately provide a roadmap for withdrawal from Iraq to be carried out in stages to allow for synchronized, constructive regional and international roles that will engage the United Nations, the Arab League and, most important, all Iraqi social groups; otherwise, a divided Iraq with all the ills and regional mayhem it will bring about will remain an inescapable last option.

**********

--Ramzy Baroud's latest book, The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle (Pluto Press), is available at Amazon.com and also from the University of Michigan Press. His website is ramzybaroud.net

ENDS


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 


Ian Powell: Are we happy living in Handy's Age of Unreason?

On 19 June the Sunday Star Times published my column on the relationship between the Labour government’s stewardship of Aotearoa New Zealand’s health system and the outcome of the next general election expected to be around September-October 2023: Is the health system an electoral sword of Damocles for Labour... More>>


The First Attack On The Independents: Albanese Hobbles The Crossbench
It did not take long for the new Australian Labor government to flex its muscle foolishly in response to the large crossbench of independents and small party members of Parliament. Despite promising a new age of transparency and accountability after the election of May 21, one of the first notable acts of the Albanese government was to attack the very people who gave voice to that movement. Dangerously, old party rule, however slim, is again found boneheaded and wanting... More>>


Binoy Kampmark: Predictable Monstrosities: Priti Patel Approves Assange’s Extradition
The only shock about the UK Home Secretary’s decision regarding Julian Assange was that it did not come sooner. In April, Chief Magistrate Senior District Judge Paul Goldspring expressed the view that he was “duty-bound” to send the case to Priti Patel to decide on whether to extradite the WikiLeaks founder to the United States to face 18 charges, 17 grafted from the US Espionage Act of 1917... More>>


Dunne Speaks: Roe V. Wade Blindsides National

Momentum is everything in politics, but it is very fragile. There are times when unexpected actions can produce big shifts and changes in the political landscape. In 2017, for example, the Labour Party appeared headed for another hefty defeat in that year’s election until the abrupt decision of its then leader to step aside just weeks before the election. That decision changed the political landscape and set in train the events which led to Labour being anointed by New Zealand First to form a coalition government just a few weeks later... More>>

Digitl: Infrastructure Commission wants digital strategy
Earlier this month Te Waihanga, New Zealand’s infrastructure commission, tabled its first Infrastructure Strategy: Rautaki Hanganga o Aotearoa. Te Waihanga describes its document as a road map for a thriving New Zealand... More>>


Binoy Kampmark: Leaking For Roe V Wade
The US Supreme Court Chief Justice was furious. For the first time in history, the raw judicial process of one of the most powerful, and opaque arms of government, had been exposed via media – at least in preliminary form. It resembled, in no negligible way, the publication by WikiLeaks of various drafts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership... More>>