oldschool CxC

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Excuse this long post of excerpts from an interview with NYT reporter John Burns -- I think this is a clear-eyed assessment of the situation in Iraq:
Adamiya is a Sunni stronghold on the East side of the river in Baghdad. That places it within two miles of the principal Shiite stronghold of Sadr City. My friend who lives in Adamiya said to me a few weeks ago, after a major suicide bombing in Sadr City which killed 225 people and injured three or four hundred, a multiple suicide bombing, that American troops moved in between Adamiya and Sadr City, that’s to say between the Shiite stronghold and the Sunni stronghold, anticipating that Shiite sectarian death squads might come out of Sadr City to avenge the killing of Shiites in this multiple suicide bombing, and attack Adamiya. So there were tanks and other American military units placed between and Adamiya.

My friend said to me, if the United Nations is correct in saying that 3,700 Iraqi civilians died in October, and that’s a morgue’s count. It may be an underestimate, we don’t know. But he said if it’s correct that 3,700 people died in October across, think about this. You take the American troops away in this situation, leaving Shiite death squads to move into Adamiya in force without any kind of protection, he said it won’t be 3,700 dead in a month, it’ll be 3,700 dead in the night in Adamiya. Now that may be an exaggeration, but it reflects the kind of fears that are quite widespread, amongst Sunnis in particular, but also to some extent amongst Shiites in Iraq, about the consequences of an American troop withdrawal.

...As for what has happened since, and the American mistakes, when I said if it fails, it won’t be because of American mistakes, what did I mean by that? Of course, if there hadn’t been some of the mistakes that were made along the way, the situation might be somewhat better. But my sense of it is that if it fails, that history may say it was mission impossible from the beginning, which is to say that when you remove the carapace of terror that Saddam had imposed on that society, what was revealed underneath it was an extremely fractured society which had never resolved the question of power, political and economic power, and how it was going to be divided between the principal communities, mainly Sunni and Shiites.

...If you leave, there’s all likelihood if the United States withdraws its forces in a precipitous manner, the likelihood is it seems to me that there will be a great deal more killing. If you stay, of course, the counterargument, which we can also recognize, based in Baghdad, if you stay, what if you cannot stabilize the situation, and American blood and treasure continues to have to be poured into this situation, then it comes down to in an end, a calculation which only the American people can make between, if you will, of the Iraqi interest and the American interest, the American interest in bringing the boys home, and saving for the casualties, or leaving the enormous strain that there is on the American taxpayer, now $400 billion dollars already spent, that’s an extremely difficult issue to resolve. It’s across at the very core of the political debate in the United States.

We can recognize just how difficult that problem is, that if we’re…if I’m asked, as somebody who lives in Baghdad, and has been for five years, about the consequences, all I would say is if you’re going to do that, if you are going to pull back, you have to recognize that there is a very, very high price that’s going to be paid by Iraqis.


Blogger REkz said...

It's truly a bad situation, no doubt.

However, I personally doubt that US Troop presence helps the situation. It might briefly help stability, but so much of the funds the USA is sending goes to foreign contractors ...

When if the US aid went to Iraqi contractors, we would be bringing wealth to the country and (if you believe somewhat in capitalism) the wealthy groups would begin to pull the country towards stability.

Right now, it's just a rape & pillage by foreign contractors & US military -- and I don't use those words lightly.

Many Americans think it was a mistake to send troups into Iraq, and that Bush deliberately used erroneous info to be able to attack.

I believe it is a mistake to keep US troops there, b/c I don't believe it serves American interests (except that it gives US more oil leverage over other countries) OR Iraqi interests.

While I do think perhaps there will be escalating violence there as the power vacuum that the US made causes an implosion...

However when I look at the history of this country and how Americans looked at British soldiers as foreign soldiers, even though they shared common heritage, and the struggle for self-determination that people demanded, I find the irony of the war a bit hard to handle.

2:04 PM  
Blogger Erik said...

"The power vacuum the US made..." -- so, better off under Saddam, eh? Longing for the days of iron-fisted rule? Crushing of political dissent and all that? Ah, good times.

Say, those "wealthy groups"... how did they get wealthy? Was it hard work and good ideas, or connections within the Baath party? Not exactly a foundation for a multicultural success.

"Rape & pillage by foreign contractors & the US military.." -- what the hell? Do you get all your news from Al Jazeera? Or is it just a reflexive impulse of opposition to America? The only systematic raping of Iraq going on was by Saddam's sons, the only pillaging was by the Baath party. American aid may be going to primarily (though barely a majority) US contractors, but it's to build schools and roads and aqueducts in Iraq, not palaces, statues, prisons where *real* torture took place, and private rape rooms for the boys.

"Many Americans think it was a mistake..." -- an even bigger majority Americans believe that Jesus was the Living Incarnation of God, and the only path to true salvation. Since we're conceding points based on acceptance by the general population: suck it, Jews! You too, atheists!

I do agree with a point that you almost but did not quite make, that economic freedom should be our first priority. But that requires a modicum of security first, then rule of law including and especially enforceable contracts. Until then political and social freedom is of not much use.

You can certainly argue that it ain't worth it; just leave, and let the iraqis "struggle for self-determination" via Iran-backed Shia death squads committing genocide against any Sunnis dumb enough to stick around, which could likely lead to a wider regional war. That's the choice we have today, and I wouldn't cast aspersions on anyone arguing honestly for either side.

But as John Burns pointed out: we didn't create the problems that exist there today, and it remains to be seen whether we can be part of the solution. In any event, your tired leftist tropes of "no war for oil" and "haKKKiburton=evil" adds nothing to the debate except for exposing your inability to see past those blinders.

2:58 PM  
Blogger Sony said...

That guy's vignette shows that we are just policing a civil war. The Sunni's blast Shia and then we march in and protect Sunnis. I don't think that's a good use of our blood & treasure. Mostly though, we back the Shia combatants by our support of the Shia Gov't and armed forces.

The author thinks the murders will accelerate and he's right. But I think it'll come to an end faster if you let the murderers have at each other. The shock of civil can create a cultural memory that helps people get along. So, instead of 3700 a month for 10 years, have 10 days of 3700 a day.

At any rate, fixing that country is not our problem. We won the war we set out to fight, we took out a guy who deserved to be taken out, we stopped the inequitable harm from sanctions and all this pie-in-the-sky, nation-building in mesopotamia is not worth the effort. Let the Iranians deal with Sunni insurgents, that'll keep them occupied. We can maintain our bases in the soon to exist country of Kurdistan and be on hand to do what needs doing.

6:15 PM  
Blogger A. said...

Nothing much to add, but I gotta give props to Erik for his link way back (IIRC) to Get Your War on. He doesn't update them so much but I still check em out now and again. Are the crying baby comics a reference to some old previous war comic propaganda?

11:35 AM  
Blogger Erik said...

Thanks for that reminder AD... I'd forgotten about it. Some funny shit: "You know, for something so boring, you're gonna be surprised how much it costs."

8:12 AM  
Blogger REkz said...

I do agree with a point that you almost but did not quite make, that economic freedom should be our first priority.
Uh, I didn't make that point b/c it's not my issue. I think 'we' shouldn't be doing anything but stepping out and letting the country self-determine, however...
I guess if Haliburton & American contractors didn't get all the $$$ & instead they employed Iraqi workers, that'd be a step in the correct direction too.

But as John Burns pointed out: we didn't create the problems that exist there today, and it remains to be seen whether we can be part of the solution.

Erik, where do you get this stuff? We didn't create the problems? Uh, I believe the USA was giving Saddam Hussein $$$ and weapons for years, right?
If you're saying we didn't create differences btw Shiites & Sunnis I'll agree w/that.
But the history of the region is NOT (in ANY way) the USA just showed up b/c the USA was upset about 9/11 and oops -- we got the wrong country.
My view is that the USA went after a major enemy that the USA created to keep Iran down -- which it did effectively do.

In any event, your tired leftist tropes of "no war for oil" and "haKKKiburton=evil" adds nothing to the debate except for exposing your inability to see past those blinders.

Interesting. I don't think I've used those exact slogans, but ... If you can't focus on the core truths of the issue, what would you like to talk about?
The really creative discussion on whether the USA should stay and kill Iraqi "insurgents" (which some propoganda could call 'freedom fighters') or whether the USA should leave and cause the region to collapse b/c the USA destroyed the infrastructure?

You're saying this is the important discussion?

For me, it's not what I'm discussing b/c I'm opposed to the war machine based on principle. There's no debate for me about whether to send soldiers back to USA or not.

The beauty of this massive COLLOSSAL fuckup of the Bush regime, IMO, is that they invaded on false pretenses and did what they wanted to do:
a) take over the country,
b) kill Saddam Hussein b/c he had serious dirt on Bush Sr,
c) begin a massive Islamic civil war.

And now that we're at this point, they pretend to be innocent of all causes of this catastrophe ... and have no realistic exit strategy.

Why is that? B/c they had no need for an exit strategy, they want only an entrance strategy to expand militarism and the global military machine.

My guess is you agree with this as well? Or no?

Do you think Saudi Arabia has a nicer regime than Saddam Husseins? Do you think Bush is getting ready to invade Saudi Arabia?

I guess I do have blinders on --> unless a country is attacking the USA, I don't think the USA should invade it.

I also think Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfield should all be accountable for any torture and abuse that happens there, including being tried at the World Court for human rights crimes.

But we've already covered this material, I think.

6:02 PM  
Blogger Erik said...

The really creative discussion on whether the USA should stay and kill Iraqi "insurgents" (which some propoganda could call 'freedom fighters')

Of course you would never call them that, right? Because 'freedom fighters' should be fighting for, you know, freedom. These guys are not fighting FOR freedom but against it. They view the cultural assimilation that globalization brings as a mortal threat, and are working not just to throw the US out of the Middle East, but to keep the Middle East out of the world. Fine for them if that's what they want, but they are insisting on it for all of their fellow countrymen and muslims, like it our not. (See the latest news story of extremest Sunnis killing moderate Sunnis for having the audacity to meet with Shias and forge common political ground.)

As for us not creating the problems, Ari goes back to our support of Saddam in the 80s, and I'm referring to the political split of Sunni/Shia from the SIXTH century! (My Sunni friend gave me a wonderful overview of that, and said it's overwhelmingly a political split, not religious; Sunnis can worship in a Shiite mosque with not problem.)

I'm not disagreeing that we supported a dictator -- the cold war was full of "he may be a bastard but he's OUR bastard" thinking. The real world is full of least-worst choices (see Bush vs. Kerry... zing!, or any season of American Idol). But the cold war is over - we won, again - and now we're picking up the pieces of some of the more distasteful necessities from that era, while forging a new vision for how the world should operate. One could call that arrogance and say we should just keep to ourselves, I say fine, but that's a vision too, isolationism, and is not without its serious drawbacks. I would argue that promoting freedom (economic, political, religious, cultural) is worth the fight; certainly the eastern bloc countries are appreciative of our past efforts.

I CARE about Iraqi women being able to go to school; about Afghani gays not getting executed by stone wall crushing; about Egyptian bloggers being able to speak out about their political system without retribution; about Dutch Muslim women being able to walk outside without a veil; about Pakistani girls not getting killed for the crime of being raped. I think we all care about those things; the question is, what do we do about it?

Globalization will continue apace not matter what; it's driven mostly by technology. Sudanese men may believe that shaking hands with an Israeli will cause their penises to fall off, but they are spreading that rumor via text message. A Chinese woman can live with fucking chickens and pigs in her living room, then take a jet to Toronto and bring a nasty virus strain with her.

We can build walls, secure ourselves, and say fuck the rest of the world, we got ours and besides, those cultures aren't worse they are just different - let's celebrate the differences with quilts and interpretive dance. Or we can forge a policy that seeks to integrate the rest of the world into the prosperous, free, secure West (plus Japan). That was the brilliance of post-WWII planning; now we need that for post-Cold War and for the current fight against this latest strain of fascism.

8:42 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home