Thursday, January 31, 2008

America is winning in Iraq

Here, from Juan Cole is a description of how the invasion of Iraq and the removal of Saddam are benefiting the Iraqi people:

A new professional poll carried out by a British firm in Iraq concludes that excess deaths from violence since March 19, 2003 through summer 2007 came to just over 1 million. Note that excess deaths from violence do not necessarily imply that they are directly war-related. Thus, murders of a criminal sort, tribal feuding, and so forth would be included. Since Bush interfered with the establishment of a strong new government after his invasion, he promoted the sort of insecurity that permitted high rates of violence, whether political, criminal or war-related. This poll tracks with the findings of the studies of Gilbert Burnham and Les Roberts, published in the Lancet and disputes lower numbers found by a recent WHO study (which, however, only ran through June 2006 and was limited solely to civilians--this British study goes to 2007 and seems to include everyone.)

The British findings are also consistent with estimates of between 1 million and 2 million widows in Iraq. These widows, many of them young, face extreme poverty without a breadwinner. As the Iraqi street has been captured by religious parties and militias, gender segregation and female seclusion have increased, which prevents single young women from going out to work in mixed-gender settings like stores and workshops. In short, Iraq is being Talibanized by Bush's war.
If this means we are winning the war in Iraq, I wonder what losing looks like?

There are two different responses to these reports. The first one is to question why we remain in Iraq and what we are doing. Are we actually trying to stop the violence and allow the Iraqis to return to some form of stability as a nation? Will we turn Iraq over to a Taliban-level Islamic state as long as the killing of American soldiers is reduced? Why? What does America get out of such interference in that poor benighted state?

The second response is pure "ostrich." Those who choose the "ostrich option" simply ignore any reports that contradict their faith in ultimate victory, They have faith in the redemption of their "conservative principles."

It is possible to refuse to recognize the truth of these reports, at least for Americans who do nothing more active in the occupation of Iraq than sit back and cheer it on, gaining some kind of sports fan satisfaction that our team is playing well. Unfortunately the occupation of Iraq is not a game. There are no rules and there is no goal line that can be crossed to symbolize victory. While there is no vision of what winning would consist of, the game can still be played as long as the Bush administration does not define victory and refuses to admit the on-going loss in Iraq, while continuing to shovel manure in hopes that a pony might be discovered.

It really looks as though the Bush administration believed after 9/11 that if they flexed the power of the clearly most powerful military in the world that they could awe the ignorant Islamic denizens of the Middle East into political passivity. Conservative ideology supported the idea that removing "the yoke of the dead hand of government from the necks of the people" would release a massive explosion of creative economic growth and democratic political activity that would cause peace to break out and create a level of wealth for those middle eastern nations who have previously been blocked from it. It was this strange faith in conservatism and military power that led Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld to declare that he was unleashing to power of "Shock and Awe."

The idea behind the invasion of Iraq appears to have been that by applying American military "shock and awe" it would be possible to remove the socialist-style government of Iraq and then the application of conservative free market principles to the Iraqi economy would release the pent-up energies of the Iraqi people. The result would be a new, westernized and much more powerful Iraqi nation that would be an effective counterweight to the hide-bound Iranians and which would demonstrate to Palestinians and Islamic extremists that they should put their efforts into creating economic wealth instead of bombing and shooting others.

The invasion of Iraq became a massive experiment to prove the validity of those conservative and militaristic beliefs. As an experiment, it was completely successful - in debunking those beliefs within weeks of the initial invasion and the fall of Baghdad. The conservative theories that the invasion and the CPA under Jerry Bremer were to test were totally debunked.

Instead of creating an economic free market paradise in Iraq, the Iraqi nation was destroyed as a single entity and as a regional power that was a counterweight to Iraq. The Kurds to the north have demonstrated that being released from the Iraqi dictatorship has permitted some economic improvement, but the international political repercussions have required America to defend them. They will not become a middle east superpower, any more than Lebanon has. They are, and will remain, a thorn in the side of our ally Turkey and of Iran, and they will remain opposed to rejoining a greater Iraqi nation. The Iraqi Shiites have, of necessity, become closely allied to the Shiites of Iran, while the Iraqi Sunnis are protected by the American military and are provided support by the Sunni nations of the Middle East as a counterweight to the Iraqi and Iranian Shiites. Overall, Iran has come out of the mess created by the American invasion of Iraq as the great Middle Eastern Superpower.

In short, the invasion of Iraq - the great experiment of American militarism and the application of American conservative free market principles after the military removal of the Baathist socialist government has failed in every respect.

Such utter failure was predictable, and the expectation of failure was widely expressed before the invasion. But those true believers who committed themselves to the Iraqi invasion cannot now abandon their commitment. Now they can only search for excuses for their failure while continuing the occupation, because there are clearly predictable bad expectations from our departure from Iraq. Once you have grabbed the tiger's tail, how do you let it go?

But that's all the American military occupation of Iraq has left to offer. There is no upside to be expected from keeping American troops in Iraq, nor can America continue to afford to do so.

The Bush administration and the entire conservative movement has chosen option two, the "ostrich option." Winning the occupation of Iraq has been redefined as "We are now in Iraq, and we cannot leave without losing." So we continue to shovel the manure in hopes of finding the imaginary pony of victory.

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