Friday, March 20, 2009

Another Iraq War Anniversary Passes

(Portions of this post were published on November 18, 2008)
Shock and Awe . . . Toppled statue . . . Mission Accomplished . . . Coalition of the Willing . . . Not enough troops . . .

I sometimes wonder what Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Richard Perle feel when they see a photograph like the one above. Silly of me, I guess, but it's my own way of trying to imagine whether they have the faintest understanding -- even as grandfathers if not as grand deceivers -- of the evil that their little adventure in Iraq unleashed.

As the sixth anniversary of that adventure passes this week well off of the national radar screen, I suspect that they do understand in an abstract-ish sort of way. It must be hard to ignore news stories noting that some 4,300 Americans have been killed since the invasion, as well as hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Oh, and roughly 4 million have been displaced.

The victims include the little girl in the photograph, whom my friend Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Est├ęs has christened the Little Iraqi Madonna. She was was murdered as the Iraqi cabinet was endorsing the Status of Forces Agreement with the U.S. as a consequence of a suicide bomber who blew himself up at a checkpoint in Diyala Province, but the real assassin was neoconservative hubris.

. . . Judith Miller embeds . . . Home by Christmas . . . No WMD
. . . Stuff happens . . . Liberators become occupiers . . . Not enough troops . . .

Unless you read the foreign press, you are not likely to know that Diyala is a hotbed that continues to seethe with sectarian animosity unlike walled-off Baghdad, which has morphed from being a pan-Arab city under Saddam to a Shiite city under Al-Maliki.

The news blackout is a result of the "success" of the Surge strategy and consequent drop in U.S. casualties, so the stateside media has assiduously ignored the still tumultuous state of affairs in Iraq, reducing their staffs and closing their bureaus.

Ironically, most American troops are now engaged in nation-building tasks, something that George Bush had initially sought to discredit when he declared "Mission Accomplished" in May 2003 when those troops were expected to be home by Christmas.

. . . Saddam captured . . . Liberators become occupiers . . . Abu Ghraib . . . More stuff happens . . . Training ground for terrorists . . . Not enough troops . . .

There will be no breaking out the party hats and the good stuff at Kiko's House over the beginning of the end game in Iraq.

There will be no chortling over Bush the Coward having had to back back down on a troop withdrawal timetable that he so adamantly opposed in a slap to the Iraqi sovereignty that his invasion was supposed to assure. Nor that in the end that the feckless Al-Maliki played Bush and not the other way around.

An Iraqi blogger notes that it was "Republican leaders who liberated my people from tyranny," but that the ascendancy of Barack Obama was a victory for Americans who demonstrated that country matters more than party.

It remains to be seen if that too is true of Iraqis since none of those fundamental country-ish questions, be they divvying up oil revenues or joint governance, have been resolved. In other words, the stuff that was supposed to happen because of the breathing room that the military gains of the Surge provided but hasn't.

. . . Still more stuff happens . . . Purple fingers . . . Fallujah lost . . . The Decider . . . Fallujah retaken . . . Civil war . . . Not enough troops . . .

Because the Status of Forces Agreement has a December 31, 2011 troop withdrawal deadline, there is much spilling of ink among the punditocracy over whether it ties Obama's hands since he hewed to a 16-month withdrawal deadline during a campaign in which poor John McCain floundered from position to position on the war like a fish on the deck of a trawler.

Obama's hands are not tied. He has said that most U.S. troops will be out of Iraq by August 2010, but that the deadline is not written in stone.

In any event, there are no winners in this game, certainly not the Little Iraqi Madonna, and I am repelled by the people who are high-fiving over the beginning of the end game because they know that the probable bloodshed as the U.S. begins drawing down its troops will be on the Iraqis' hands and not Obama's.

. . . Haditha massacre . . . Ethnic cleanings . . . Missing billions . . . Militias rule . . . Morale never better . . . The Surge . . .

The signal failure of neoconservatism, which translates into the second greatest failure of the Age of Bush (stewardship of the economy of course being the first), is that its foreign policy precepts were based on a misreading of history. This combined with years of accumulated grudges and most especially Bush 41's failure to march all the way to Baghdad in 1991, was a recipe for disaster in 2003 and subsequent years.

Obama will not commit a folly of this enormity because, among other reasons, he has no intention of refighting the Vietnam War as the neocons have. Still, he cannot shrink from the real possibility that there will have to be new U.S. military interventions abroad on his watch beyond committing more American boots to Afghanistan.

But isn't it ironic that after eight years of neocon vitriol that American power is likely to diminish but American influence is likely to grow?

Top Photograph by STR/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

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