The nightmare in Iraq
Ever since I started this blog in 2005, I have been lambasting the Bush Administration for the Iraq invasion and occupation.
As the war goes into its sixth year, I have become more frustrated and angrier as I see the disastrous results of the monumental Bush blunder: the unnecessary death of at least 4,000 brave American soldiers; the waste of a trillion or more dollars that could have been spent to bolster Medicare and Social Security and to cope with other domestic problems; the weakening of American military capabilities; the serious damage to the nation's international prestige and diplomatic power; the increased threat of Islamic terrorism because of the military diversion from fighting Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Iraq's emergence as a new terrorist breeding ground for radical Muslim extremists.
Despite this nightmare, President George W. Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney continue to claim that we are "making progress and making sure that we achieve victory" in Iraq. Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate, insists that "we are succeeding...and are on the precipice of winning a major victory against radical Islamic extremism."
But there is no victory and success in sight in Iraq. The U.S. invasion and occupation have proven to be a disaster.
The Administration and its supporters argue that we must remain in Iraq to help the country defend itself against a foreign enemy, presumably Iran. With an Iraqi Shiite regime now in power, however, that claim is absurd. The American presence in Iraq has actually increased Shiite Iran's influence in the country. For Iraqi's majority Shiite population, Iran is now a Shiite ally, not an enemy. For most Shiites, the U.S. occupation force is the enemy.
Al-Maliki, Iraq's U.S.-backed leader, recently gave Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a public, red-carpet welcome on his visit to Baghdad. But when Bush, Cheney, McCain and other American political dignitaries visit Baghdad, they have to arrive secretly, protected by a military shield. Iran, incidentally, is now supplying the bulk of electric power to Basra, Iraq's second largest city, and to much of the surrounding southern region.
The absurdity of the American presence in Iraq is underscored by our role playing referee in the string of civil wars plaguing the country. Sunnis, who as a minority ruled Iraq for centuries, are battling the Shiite regime while rival Shiite militias are fighting each other and the al-Maliki regime.
Meantime, Sunni insurgents continue to war against the U.S. occupation forces. In a bizarre tactical move, the U.S. has begun to pay some Sunni tribes to desert the anti-U.S. insurgency campaign and to fight their fellow Sunnis. But American troops, unable to distinguish friends from foes, recently attacked and killed Sunni gunmen who are on our payroll.
Such is the nightmare that is Iraq.
Sen. McCain, on a recent visit to Iraq, claimed that Iran is training and equipping Al-Qaeda fighters and shipping them to Iraq. Until Sen. Joe Lieberman, who accompanied McCain on his visit, corrected him, McCain was apparently unaware that there is deep-rooted religious hostility between the fundamentalist Shiites of Iran and Al-Qaeda, the extremist Sunni Muslim movement based in Afghanistan and the neighboring Pakistani frontier provinces.
I would not be surprised if President Bush himself and some of his top advisers did not know the difference between Muslim Sunnis and Shiites when the Iraq invasion began.
There is a small insurgent group within Iraq that calls itself "Al-Qaeda in Mesopatemia." But American military commanders regard it as a homegrown force led by foreign Arabs and not a major threat. The "Al-Qaeda" name is being adopted by indigenous terrorist groups in various Arab territories. It has evidently become a Muslim terrorist franchise name--like Kentucky Fried Chicken in the fast-food business.
The Bush Administration's much-touted "surge"--shipping about 30,000 additional troops to Iraq last year--reduced violence for a few months. But both the attacks on U.S forces and sectarian strife between rival militias are now on the rise again. Even Baghdad's Green Zone, the capital city's fortress-like, heavily defended neighborhood that houses U.S. military headquarters and the U.S. embassy, is now under attack from the Mahdi army, the major anti-American Shiite militia.
Most important, al-Maliki and his fundamentalist Shiite supporters have yet to meet U.S. demands that they bridge political divisions and establish a "national unity" government. Bush's goal to "bring American-style democracy" to Iraq has proven to be a joke.
In short, the Bush Administration's invasion and occupation of Iraq has been a dismal failure. The most bitter aspect of that failure is the nonsensical insistence by the Bush Administration that the Iraq war has made the U.S. safer from terrorist attacks. Actually, we and other Western democracies are now more vulnerable to Islamic terrorism because Iraq has been turned into a recruitment center and training ground for anti-American Muslim extremists. Iraq has assumed a role that was Afghanistan's two decades ago when there was a Islamic struggle against the invasion by the former Soviet Union and its subsequent brutal occupation.
To justify the war, the Administration--and particularly Vice-President Cheney--continues to imply that there was a link between the 9/11 attack and Saddam Hussein, the deposed Iraqi leader, disregarding evidence that this is a myth.
So is there a solution to the Iraq nightmare?
I see no alternative but to withdraw the approximate 160,000 U.S. troops from Iraq. Obviously, because of logistics problems, this would have to be a phased withdrawal. But we can begin to deploy them out in such a fashion that we are no longer operationally involved in refereeing a civil war and training Iraqi troops to defend their country against both local anti-government forces and the phantom foreign enemy, Shiite Iran.