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June 04, 2007

Crazy Republicans and Clueless Democrats Foster the "Hobbesian State of Chaos" in Iraq

The New York Times' David Sanger reported yesterday that the Bush Gang is finally fessing up to something a lot of us already had figured out: they're planning on keeping troops at permanent bases inside Iraq for years to come -- at least 50 years, if you're prepared to believe the latest meme that Iraq is really just Korea all over again. Too bad for the Bushies that hardly anyone with real expertise is buying it:

"It's not that Iraq isn't vital," said Leslie Gelb, the former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, and one of the many experts organized by groups opposing Mr. Bush's strategy to shoot back in the analogy war. "It's just that Korea bears no resemblance to Iraq. There's no strategy that can create victory."


The core problem with the Korea comparison, many Asia experts note, is that when the war ended in 1953, there were bright lines drawn across the 38th Parallel, separating the warring parties. That hardened into the formal Demilitarized Zone, exactly the kind of division that the Bush administration has said it wants to avoid in Iraq.


As in Korea, the bases may be an effort to prevent calamity and invasion. The question is whether, in the firestorm of Iraq, their contribution to security would outweigh their roles as symbols of occupation or targets of terrorism.

Just before the 2003 invasion, administration officials proposed that Iraq could be modeled after Japan's and Germany's post-WWll occupations. This notion was roundly derided as an historically inaccurate comparison, due partly to the fact that Japan and Germany had been cohesive societies. Sanger notes that Iraq, on the other hand, is fractured and plagued by internal violence -- something that could easily have been predicted in the aftermath of Saddam's defeat. He characterizes major parts of the country as being in a "state of Hobbesian chaos".

Everything this administration touches turns to sewage, particularly with regard to Iraq. Now that all the lies that led to the illegal, immoral invasion have been exposed, the desperate men of BushCo are grasping at straws for something, anything, that will justify the crime and provide cover for an indefinite, extended occupation. Rah-rah McCain has bought it hook, line and sinker -- only feeding into growing fears for his sanity -- with statements like this:

"We have had troops in South Korea for 60 years and nobody minds," McCain said. "If you stay a long, long time, but have the Iraqis doing the fighting, and your people are back in the bases and away from the firing line, I think Americans would be satisfied."

Which Americans would those be? The 70% that say "we want our troops the hell out of Iraq"? I've been to South Korea, and living under martial law and nighttime curfews ain't all it's cracked up to be. But then McCrazy is the same guy who's been cheerleading the escalation (falsely dubbed the "surge") from the very first, despite all evidence to the contrary that it's not working:

The American assessment, completed in May, found that American and Iraqi forces were able to "protect the population" and "maintain physical influence over" only 146 of the 457 Baghdad neighborhoods.

The commanders on the ground are busy blaming the Iraqi forces for not having their act together (wasn't that supposed to be achieved sometime in 2004 2005 2006? Never mind, Talabani now claims the Iraqis will be at fighting-weight sometime within the next two years or so...) and the Bush Gang is, typically, blaming Democrats and the American people for not showing enough blind fealty and faith.

In the interest of bi-partisanship, Bush should be grinning ear-to-ear after an early Iraq War apologist, Bob Kerrey, stepped into the fray on Bill Moyers Journal last Friday evening. Kerrey sputtered, fumbled and stumbled his way through a rhetorical minefield of his own making, proving, once again, that it's hard work talking out of both sides of your mouth. Forgetting the fact that he never really answered Moyers' questions regarding how many more troops our nation should be prepared to lose before we can say "enough is enough", or what Kerrey would tell the parents of dead soldiers in justifying their losses, the ex-senator merely pretended to perceive the unconditional demand of Americans who voted for a Democratic-controlled congress last November. Here's Kerrey on the toothless supplemental vote:

The president vetoes the supplemental that calls for timetables. And what do they do? Send him another bill that he vetoes? That supplemental funds the troops. So, at some point, you either just keep sending him bills that he vetoes and score points with your base, or you do the right thing. And I think they did the right thing by sending the president a bill that he will sign. They made their point, that they would prefer to have timetables.

That was enough to convince me that it's a damn good thing we don't have to tolerate the likes of Bob Kerrey in the Senate anymore. He says we should end the occupation, but still keep our troops there, continuing to support the Iraqis. Huh? His personal demons from Vietnam, where he lost a leg and was accused of committing atrocities, won't allow him to see the reality on the ground in Iraq OR the reality on the ground here at home -- where the so-called "base" that he so patronizingly dismisses is actually constitued by the majority of Americans. He and McCain, both tragic and cartoonish, make up a strange tag-team. Since even some of our current Democratic representatives (I'm talking to you, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell) don't seem to have gleaned the message of the election, the great responsibilities must fall to us alone. Apparently, the meaning of our votes isn't ringing loudly enough in the ear drums of the two tone-deaf senators. We are already  -- 17 months before the next election -- receiving pleas for campaign contributions. These pleas, overflowing with dishonest claims of congressional courage, should be shredded and dumped into the recycling bin. Any representative who fakes left and throws right on the Iraqi occupation deserves to have to go and observe first-hand the horrors of militarized violence. I'd like to see them come back here and beg for my dollars after witnessing what really happens in the brutal, bloody mayhem humankind calls "war". In harkening back to Paddy Chayevsky's The Americanization of Emily, and taking aim at our political leaders, the timidity of those in the corporate-controlled media, and the powerful minority of voices for empire, the brilliant and uncompromising Arthur Silber formulates the remedy for this willful ignorance, rather searingly:

Our national media remain cowed and intimidated, and they refuse, a few honorable exceptions aside, to provide details of the daily and hourly horrors in Iraq to the public. A single major newspaper could provide a noble and invaluable service: if they gave a damn at all about unnecessary death and suffering, they would select the most awful and horrifying picture they could find -- a body with its guts falling out, a bloody corpse shorn of arms and legs, a mutilated face made unrecognizable -- and fill up their entire front page with it, a new one everyday. Perhaps after a month or two, enough Americans would demand that their government stop butchering people who never harmed us. [To achieve the sought-for-effect, the pictures obviously should be of Iraqis, and only Iraqis. The Iraqis had no choice about our criminal war of aggression, and the endless destruction we have unleashed; the United States did -- and does even today. We could leave, as we quickly would if we had any remaining decency, but we won't.]


So the myths prevail. Our wars are always noble, fought for the purest of motives. Our warriors are similarly noble, engaged in a high-minded crusade. They butcher and slaughter, and are butchered and slaughtered themselves, so that "civilization" might be preserved. Never mind that many of the warriors themselves would not agree. Never mind that the front-line soldiers know that war is insanity, and only insanity. Never mind the overwhelming, senseless, futile, endless horror of what actually happens in combat, and the details that never reach the public.

Chayevsky rejects the myths in their totality. He implores us to embrace cowardice. I beg you to follow his advice. You can be certain the cries for war will rise again, if not against Iran, then against North Korea, or in ten years' time against China, or against a country not now in the news, but which will fill the role required by the vast machinery of war. And when those cries overwhelm all facts and make reasonable argument impossible, and when they are amplified once again by an ever-compliant, always docile and obedient media, plead cowardice. If you value the sanctity of a single life, it is the only sane course to take, and the bravest.

Posted by shoephone on June 4, 2007 at 11:55 PM in Iraq, Media, National and International Politics, Policy | Permalink


I think the problem - one of them, anyway - in trying to figure out what the next step should be is that people don't begin that exercise at the beginning, but start somewhere in the middle, which means that nothing they say makes sense in the end.

The beginning, for me, is that we should never have invaded Iraq in the first place, which means we should not be there now. The military knows how to redeploy safely, and it's simply a matter of actually doing it.

This is where the questions start - you know, the ones that should have been asked before March of 2003..."But, how can we just leave when things are so bad? Won't it get worse? Won't Iran and Syria jump in and really make a mess of things?"

They are good questions, but we no more have the answers now than we did 4 years ago, but the difference between now and then, is that the administration could just create a scenario out of thin air and sell it as truth.

We don't have that luxury, now that the quagmire is deepening, and Petraues is now saying that these last 4 months of the surge can't be assessed as working or not working because the full operation is still not in place. What? Are we on Iraqi time now? The one where it apparently takes a decade to train military and police?

So, we start from the premise that we should never have been there, but even so, we managed to get rid of Saddam, determine there were no WMD, and assist in free elections. The next step is: "Here's your country, Iraq. There will be some advisors on call if you need them, we'll be on your borders trying to keep the bad guys out while you get your act together. Oh, and as soon as you all quite destroying everything that we try to rebuild, we'll give you some help with that, too."

And then we head for the exits in an orderly fashion. Condi quits worrying about whether she's wearing the right shoes, and we start listening to the career diplomats, and we start doing what we used to know how to do - exert the right kinds of pressure to help stabilize things.

Oh, I know it's more complex than that - but those are the details. That the details were ignored at the beginning makes things more problematic at the end, but there are ways to deal with the details that maximize our ability to keep our men and women alive and get them out of harm's way.

Posted by: Anne | Jun 5, 2007 5:51:33 AM

Bush has no intention of ever getting out of Iraq. Ever. Military occupation of that real estate was the true goal fron the get go.

Now I'm guessing that perhaps his Iraqi puppets are showing signs of rebelling and "asking us to leave," so Bush has to try to mitigate his previous faux pas where he said we would do just that. He didn't consider that Iraq would ever actually invite us to leave. So the Korean equivalence is to establish a rationale for his eventual refusal to take the hint when Iraq tries to hand us our hat.

Posted by: op99 | Jun 5, 2007 3:44:42 PM

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