Today is the second anniversary of the first elections to be held in Iraq. Since then, Shi’ite death squads are running the streets and slaughtering Sunnis with virtual impunity and the men who run them are also running the government with the aid of a puppet of a Prime Minister who no longer wants the job or the stress. Civil War (or several of them) has not stalled democracy as much as it’s been the default choice of a tribal, sectarian people who are simply not ready for democracy.
Without snark, sarcasm, name-calling or trying to make funny, here’re the top five reasons as I see them for Congress to oppose George W. Bush’s surge of nearly 22,000 more troops. Obviously, I’m not a political scientist or Middle East expert but my necessarily layman perceptions, accrued over the last 24 months, have the heft of common sense that all too often eludes those on the Hill.
1) Contrary to initial fears by liberal bloggers and a small handful of journalists who foresaw an imperial American annexation of Iraq, what we’re seeing, instead, is an increasing firming up of an Iranian Annexation of Iraq.
Bush is publicly advocating diplomacy with Iran but the massive amount of evidence to the contrary proves otherwise. Admiral “Fox” Fallon, Gen. Abizaid’s wouldbe replacement, is a Reagan-era warrior who’s ideally suited to wage an arial/naval war with Iran. We have aircraft carrier groups positioned in the Persian Gulf off Iran’s coast.
By disingenuously ensuring us that the military (not diplomatic) response to Iranian Shi’ites aiding the Maliki government will be contained in Iraq, he’s still producing the very real and almost inevitable possibility that we will follow the thread right back to the Minotaur’s cave in Iran.
Then at least one liberal prophecy will be fulfilled: That our exit strategy will involve going through Iran.
2) Muqtada al Sadr, an ally of Iran, has only been empowered through Bush’s “democracy” in Iraq, Nouri al Maliki may be Bush’s puppet but the Shi’ite cleric holds most of his strings. And because al Sadr’s Shi’ites have a controlling majority in the Iraqi parliament (30 seats, I believe), the Sunnis, aided by al Qaeda, are the victims of this “Now You Know How It Feels”, Charles Bronson style of government. With al Sadr’s and Finance Minister Jabr’s death squads killing US troops as gleefully as they do Sunnis, a greater American presence will only instigate Ahmadinejad, Jabr and al Sadr on the side of the Shias and al Qaeda, who’s now not the main enemy and the Sunni insurgents.
3) It’s increasingly obvious by now that Israel is playing the US like Itzak Perlman. They had a vested interest in not joining the coalition of the willing in Iraq. Knowing their very presence would inflame al Qaeda in Iraq as well as Iran, they stood idly by, conserving their troops and resources to mop up the last pools of Palestinian resistance. They were quite happy to watch us “soften up” the Middle East for their own expansionist agenda.
However, even though they must know by now that our presence has had opposite the desired effect and have only made the Middle East more unstable for them as well as more dangerous for us here at home, increased American troop levels will only further embolden the cowardly and opportunistic Olmert into letting us “soften up” Iran.
4) Rattling 21,500 more sabers at Iran could similarly embolden Iran, embolden them to accelerate their embryonic nuclear weapons program. In 2005, North Korea’s government had publicly stated they were doing the same thing in response to the Bush administration’s belligerence toward them. Whether true or not (and I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t be), both escalations are a legitimate concern. And it would be tragic if an attack on Iran because of nonexistent WMD was actually the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy that couldn’t easily be disproved.
Unfortunately, our diplomatic corps has been tragically miscast and under-utilized the world over. Don’t forget where John Bolton came from.
5) The clerics and Mamoud Ahmedinejad (who does not have absolute power) are even more unpopular in Iran than George Bush and the US (especially among younger, more liberal Iranians). But a beefing up of US troops that are told to engage Iranian factions at the slightest provocation could turn the tide and make a brutally deposed Ahmedinejad a martyr among Iran’s Shi’ite majority.
Sort of the way Saddam was martyred for the Sunnis.
One of the few discernible advantages of being 48 is that I remember Vietnam. I was 16 when we’d finally pulled the last of our troops out of Saigon in late April of ‘75. And I don’t recall any national teeth-gnashing at our ignominious defeat at the hands of Charlie.
What I recall was, instead, a national sense of pure relief after 14 years of senseless, brutal warfare, not the sense of defeat that the neocons warn is awaiting us if we pull out of Iraq.
And they may point to the fact that it took 14 years to pull out our troops. Why is that?
Three words: Lack of context. Even in 1961, when Kennedy had sent in the first combat troops, only the very elderly recalled America’s last Yahoo imperial adventurism: McKinley’s Spanish American War of 1898. All succeeding wars and police actions at least had a plausible rationale and specific goal in mind: Stopping the equally expansionist Germans in World Wars I & II, doing the same thing to the red menace in North Korea.
Vietnam and its Kipling-esque White Man’s Burden bullshit had no precedence in most living memory, no context for most Americans. They’d yet to realize the mortal stakes of not heeding the lessons of history.
The neocons can’t say that about Iraq. Many tens of millions of Americans still recall Vietnam and are in prime position to see its lessons going unheeded in Iraq.
We’ve been west of Iran for less than four years and the turnaround time was virtually instantaneous. Remember the people who rallied to Cindy Sheehan’s side in 2005? Many of those old farts were slip-sliding in the mud at Max Yasgur’s farm.
We don’t need to see 55,000 more troops killed in the Middle East before we can reconcile ourselves to the “failure” of withdrawing. There was none of that in ‘75 and there would be none of that in ‘07.
(Crossposted at Pottersville)