Last summer it was Bush’s "Operation Forward Together." Today it’s "We’re not winning, we’re not losing." Huh? Additionally, whatever name you give it, no matter how it is accomplished, the Iraq Study Group‘s “The Way Forward” is merely the way out. The group took nine months to tell us what we already knew: "The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating."
One of the ISG members, Vernon Jordan, said, “We didn’t talk about how we got here," which must have been exceedingly difficult, considering the majority of Americans can hardly think about anything else. Which means, from the ISG point of view, we must not look back. We must only look ahead, away from the negative. Away from American dissenters accused of being traitors. Away from Cheney lying again and again about Saddam’s connection with Al-Qaeda. Away from Cheney’s secret energy meetings and his no-bid contracts to cronies. Away from torture and the loss of habeas corpus, and away from America’s loss of its moral high ground in the eyes of the world.
No, don’t look at all that. Forget how imperfectly better we were before the toxic Bush administration came into power. Forget that Bush, with his usual total disrespect for the rest of us, said, “We’re absolutely winning," and in his mean-spirited way told us just before the mid-term elections that a vote for Democrats is a vote for terrorists which was the same as giving us the finger. No, don’t look back, Baker tells us. Only look forward to the least damaging resolution to our entrapment in a foreign civil war, and away from the worst foreign policy disaster in this country’s history.
The President is currently thinking of reversing and expanding the military for the “long struggle,” a new term along with “surge” in his lexicon of words and phases meant to blow another smokescreen to hide the latest bait and switch, while the new Secretary of Defense Gates is seen on television in Iraq, in a staged setting, being told by a non-commissioned soldier that we need more troops. Well if I were a soldier there, I too would want as much help as I could get and would respond in kind. The generals until now have been steady in their opposition to more soldiers without a “well-defined mission,” whatever that means; but is it possible that Bush, in another reversal, is bribing them into compliance with a big military budget boost? Huh? Wish I knew.
The problem with any military solution in Iraq is that during all of the drawn-out political considerations determining the how and the when, our troops will continue to suffer horrific casualties. A suggestion to withdraw 70 percent of our combat troops to places like Kuwait, while embedding the rest as advisors with untrustworthy Iraqi forces, to perfect their training, is based on delusional thinking. The remaining troops will be vulnerable targets, not only to insurgents and al-Qaeda, but to any American-hating militia infiltrating “official” Iraqi forces, especially the so-called “police.” And Kuwait is much too distant for immediate crisis support.
To insert up to 30,000 more troops into Iraq, as Senator McCain (exhibiting presidential machismo) and the hawkish Senator Lieberman suggest, is also a bad idea. Is this insertion creating a new kind of mission? No. The enemy our troops will continue to face is still the same fanatical hit-and-run Al Qaeda, the Sunni insurgency, and possibly an angry Shiite militia, with those who are not killed slipping away, as usual, returning to hector and slaughter wherever our troops have thinned.
McCain told the Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to break with the militias of the radical cleric Mugtada Sadr — a wishful idea considering Sadr controls 30 of the 275 seats in the Iraqi parliament, and al-Maliki needs his support. Sadr has 60,000 militia members who are more dedicated, and often better armed, than the Iraqi police, a fact I’m certain is often in al-Miliki’s thoughts.
To truly overwhelm, take down, and actually control insurgent and militia enemies in a city of millions, entailing house-to-house and door-to-door engagements in labyrinthian streets and alleys, one needs an army of a few hundred thousand; and then what? Stay the course for years? We cannot remain as long-term occupiers without increasing American casualties and the enmity of the entire Middle East, and encouraging an exponential growth of insurgencies and terror groups and sleeper cells the world over.
On the other hand, to highlight Bush’s (and our) dilemma, we know of V.P. Cheney being warned by Saudi King Abdullah that if our troops are withdrawn from Iraq, in effect jeopardizing the survival of the Sunni minority, Saudi Arabia would have to rescue them from the angry and vengeful Shiite majority, with money, arms, and perhaps men to boot; not to mention in what manner Sunni Syria, Sunni Jordan, and Sunni Egypt might feel compelled to act as well. And of course we can’t leave out how the center of the Shiite Muslim world, Iran, might respond in that situation. And yet, with all of that, we must soon reach the point where we consider the limits of our military, their sacrifices, their families, our finite resources, and withdraw.
Add to this mess the notion of a whacky Cheney considering the option of taking sides, of going all the way with the majority Shia, and to hell with the Sunnis, letting the chips fall. Great idea? Apparently it slipped Mr. Cheney’s mind that Sunnis make up 85% of the world’s billion-plus Muslims, and although they can’t organize into a single vengeful unit, why make them angry? We need more friends, not more enemies. Some might say that abandoning the Sunnis in Iraq is a surefire way of turning the existing chaos into an unwinnable clash of civilizations; the idea of such a clash, I should mention here, is not mine, though our cynical President Bush has thoroughly engaged in his deceptive scenarios of good and evil civilizations to scare us into his shock and awe.
In regard to the Sunnis, let us set aside Baker’s counsel to only look forward, while I take you back to portions of an article I published on September 28, 2005:
The Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, a son of the late King Faisal, came to Washington recently to meet with administration officials including Bush and Condoleezza Rice. The Prince offered some very unpleasant predictions on Iraq, which were in direct opposition to the administration's usual positive spin.
Enormously disappointed by the president's tepid response, Prince Faisal invited a bunch of reporters to the Saudi embassy and told them in no uncertain terms: "There is no dynamic move pulling the nation (Iraq) together." And: "All the dynamics are pulling the country apart," which was an important part of the message he gave to Bush who apparently was not impressed, or who was at least irritated by such disagreeable news. A specific complaint made by the prince was that the U.S. had described "…every Sunni as a Baathist criminal," a problem for the Prince of a country that has a Sunni majority. "Unless something is done to bring Iraqi's together," he went on, "elections alone won't do it. A constitution alone won't do it." The Prince emphasized, "This is a very dangerous situation, a very threatening situation."
What Prince Faisal is telling us via a media which did not make this the major story it actually is, is that if the constitution is not ratified, things could get worse. If it is ratified, things could get worse anyway, with the Sunnis intensifying their efforts to regain the loss of power they enjoyed under Saddam. Unless the Sunnis are included, he said, "Iraq will be finished forever!" The Sunni prince was a Saudi foreign minister for 30 years and knew what he was talking about; but Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, and all the W.H. neo-cons crazies, chose not to hear it.
Yes, the ISG tells us we must look forward, to not look back at the deviousness of Bush and his administration’s condescending arrogance, it’s whopping incompetence, and it’s apparent desire to unmake our Constitution. But heck, let’s look back again, anyway, to a mind boggling Bush observed hatching his plans, and the revelation of “The Brit Memos,” both of which I wrote of on March 27 of this year, referring to a New York Times article of the same date:
An "extremely sensitive," confidential memo, reviewed by the Times, which was written by David Manning, a top British foreign policy advisor, revealed that before the invasion of Iraq, President Bush had a closed door discussion in the oval office with the P.M. of Britain, Tony Blair. It was during this Jan. 31 2003 meeting that Bush said he was determined to invade Iraq without a 2nd resolution at the U.N., even if the inspectors did not find WMDs.
The memo states the invasion bombing was to begin on Mar. 10/03. The meeting occurred 5 days before Sec. State Colin Powell was to make his (Bush’s) phony pitch at the U.N., that Iraq posed a major threat to the world. Bush/Blair envisioned a quick victory with no internecine warfare between the various ethnic groups. Bush, the memo stated, explored ways to provoke a confrontation with Iraq, including painting a U.S. aircraft, using U.N. colors, to invite hostile fire. (I'm not kidding) And hey, how about assassinating Saddam? (still not kidding).
You may recall the 2002 Downing Street Memo which expressed concern the U.S. "was determined to invade Iraq and that the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy by the Bush administration to fit it's desire to go to war."
Sorry, Mr. Baker, old news, I know. But to keep looking back:
Most recently reported: On December 15, 2006 a Mr. Carne Ross, Britain’s key negotiator at the UN, gave testimony referring to a previously suppressed document which made clear that PM Tony Blair knew Saddam Hussein did not possess dangerous WMDs; that while he, Ross, was posted to the UN, “At no time did Her Majesty’s government assess that Iraq’s WMDs posed a threat to the UK or its interests.” Ross further stated “…we would frequently argue when the US raised the subject, that regime change was inadvisable, primarily on the grounds that Iraq would collapse into chaos.”
And yes, still looking back:
In regard to Bush’s alluding to his evil empires and a clash of civilizations, let us refer to one of the more interesting administration scare tactics that was fostering a caliphate myth, an idea that had been bandied about from time to time. (Read the relevant in-depth view by Tom Porteous)
In early February 2006, Secretary Rumsfeld speaking at a conference in Munich, said that Islamic radicals “…seek to take over governments from North Africa to Southeast Asia and to re-establish a caliphate they hope, one day, will include every continent. They have designed and distributed a map where national borders are erased and replaced by a global extremist Islamic empire.”
Scary, isn’t it? Much stronger than orange alerts, no? Bush offered this notion of a resurgent caliphate with a straight face in his 2006 State of the Union speech, and his pal Tony Blair had spoken of it in 2005.
The truth of it is that this kind of terrorist caliphate is an al-Qaeda dreamscape, impossible to bring into existence; unabashed nonsense put forth by Bush and Blair, who apparently would resort to any snow job to reinforce their endless list of distortions and lies. To quote Mr. Porteuos: “…the early Muslim caliphate is highly venerated by most Muslims as a golden age of Islam.” And from another source, the Caliphate Blog: The caliphate is “…built upon the concept of citizenship regardless of ethnicity, gender or creed and is totally opposed to the oppression of any religious or ethnic grouping. Non-Muslims…are referred to as dhimmi. The Prophet Muhammad said: ‘Whoever harms a dhimmi has harmed me.’”
The Al-Aqaeda terrorist interpretation is a suicidal perversion which requires the killing of infidels, us, an agenda that will never take root with the saner life-affirming Muslim majority, especially if we learn to converse with those who have had a bad history with us, to try to mend fences, and ultimately reduce our presence in their territories. I am not for a second suggesting diplomatic explorations in the Muslim/non-Muslim world will result in all of us coming together in a Kumbaya songfest; but talk while carrying the big stick never killed anyone. Bullets and bombs is another matter in the hands of itchy trigger-fingered people like Bush and Cheney and their Islamic-fanatic counterparts. Anyway, the fact remains, caliphate terrorism has been referred to as an endless and all encompassing menace by the Bush gang for their own miserable purposes.
But family friend Baker tells us we must take the Way Forward and not look back; a family friend sent to rescue the son, his reputation, and hopefully the country; a friend who doesn’t want people thinking about ugly things like investigative commissions calling certain people to account, or any thought of impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors. Though he shouldn’t worry since Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi has already taken impeachment off the table. But still, just thinking of it is a negative. Get past it, please. Look forward!
President Bush has presented us with a wobbly central government in what now amounts to a non-country that is totally unfamiliar with democratic principals; and with no firm united will of the people at his disposal, one should not be surprised by Prime Minister al-Maliki’s inability to exact control over an ethnically fractured society unraveling daily in civil war. Bush would like us to recall that Iraq was a patched-together country under the heel of Saddam Hussein, a dictator who directed a ruthless minority to dominate and subjugate a majority through intimidation and torture. So very true.
But he would like us to forget that under Saddam’s Baath Party, there was structure and infrastructure, that secular nationalism strongly advocated women’s rights. Women dressed as they pleased, drove their cars, and were encouraged to secure an education and to enter the workforce. Today they hardly leave their homes, and when they do they fear being raped or killed, and are harassed if they are not thoroughly covered with a confining clothing. Ironic and sad, this echo of the Taliban, after so many spent lives.
From a purely emotional standpoint, I would derive satisfaction from seeing Bush and Cheney being called to account and impeached for the way they have dishonored us. But from a more practical point of view, having investigative hearings is correct and necessary, but impeachment is a bad idea. Pelosi is right. Impeachment is long, quite public, and agonizingly damaging to a country trying to emerge from the chaos of a war and the loss of the world’s respect. Observing the trial of an American president is, in the end, a great tragedy that would drag us depressingly down and impede our recovery. No, not now. Believe me. Read impeachment to understand its full impact. The Democrats have a lot of mending to accomplish in the coming years.
Our history of the day before yesterday can teach us as much or more as does history that is distant, which itself may be somewhat prettied up for those few who still read it. The successful way forward must always require looking back to avoid the same deadly mistakes. What we have learned from all this is that an invasion is expensive in money and lives, that for a favored few there is cold cash to be made in war, that there are limits to our military power, and that a solid foreign policy requires energetic diplomacy.
t’s easy for someone like me to comment, not in harm’s way, not burdened with the decisions those in charge will have to make. But logic tells me we have to start talking to the countries surrounding Iraq, including Iran, irregardless of Iran’s nuclear energy ambitions. Logic tells me that in the end, there is no good way out of Iraq; tells me there must be a timetable for 2008, whether or not it informs Al-Qaeda and allows them to make their own plans. Naming the date for full withdrawal should compel the Iraqis to develop the will they needs to take control of their own destiny. If the will isn’t there — well, our young men and women have already paid too high a price for the malfeasance of Bush and Cheney.
Meanwhile, President Bush has told us to go shopping.Powered by Sidelines