I’m picturing an old silent movie – Keystone Cops – running in all the wrong directions, miscreants sneering with joy. How ‘bout this? Circus cops chasing red-nosed clown-bandits in never-ending circles. And U.S. troops – “Mission Accomplished” – chasing all over Iraq to “make the bad man stop.” It seems as if the wonderful political system we set up in Iraq after we toppled another “bad man” – sad, sad Saddam – to force three clear factions (Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites), who truly hate each other to pretend that an artificial border set by a French-British treaty with no reference to anything but pretty lines could define a viable nation… surprise… just doesn’t work. Let’s see if we can get our troops out before the whole place implodes!
The New York Times (July 28th) summarized the problem: “As the top American military officer [Admr. Mike Mullen] arrived [in Baghdad] to press Iraq’s leaders for a resolution to their political impasse, the country’s new Parliament canceled an already postponed session on [July 27th] and announced that it would not even try to meet again until further notice… Nearly five months after elections in March ended without a decisive winner, [Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki] and the leaders of the other political blocs are divided over his efforts to stay in power for a second term.” In short, Iraq is rudderless with no captain and no clear path to find one either. While opposition leaders eagerly met with Mullen, al-Maliki – obviously sensing a shove was imminent – suggested that Mullen should meet with his military counterpart, but hardly was important enough to meet with a head of state (sort of, I guess).
Will we let this get us out of Dodge? Will our troops continue to evacuate this sinking ship? You bet! ““We don’t see anything right now that will affect the transition and the continued troop drawdown,’ the admiral said, adding, ‘Certainly sooner is better in terms of government formation.’” The Times. My mind is picturing the last U.S. forces leaving Saigon in March of 1973… locals desperate to find a way to hitch a ride on a departing helicopter crammed with fleeing Americans.
With any political resolution literally months away, at the earliest, Iraq is unraveling: “This summer, Iraqis took to the streets to protest the government's inability to deliver more than a few hours of electricity per day. Iraqis increasingly speak disparagingly about their leaders, and imams around the country have spoken out against poor governance at Friday prayers… ‘Now, everything is stopped,’ said Nadjha Khadum, the editor of the Ur News agency Web site. ‘There's no work, no jobs. People are waiting. People are just buying food and saving money because they are afraid the situation will get worse in the future -- worse than in 2006 and 2007,’ years marked by a brutal insurgency… ‘Right now, if you ask any Iraqi: What do you think of democracy? They will say it’s blood, stagnation, unemployment, refugees, cheating,’ [former prime minister Ayad ] Allawi said. ‘If democracy does not succeed in Iraq and tyranny is replaced by another tyranny, there will be no legacy.’” Washington Post (August 1st)
Yeah, we haven’t done particularly well in large-scale military actions since that war. I won’t even dwell on the loss of billions of dollars that slipped through our fingers according to a recent government audit. Alright, I know you really want me to… So: “The audit said that the Department of Defense had failed to account adequately for $8.7 billion of the $9.1 billion it received from 2004 to 2007 from a fund authorized by the United Nations to redistribute Iraq’s oil revenue…. Investigators blamed weak financial and management practices among several agencies within the department that had received the funds and had released them for reconstruction projects. While the report did not address the question of whether money had been wasted, it said the Pentagon ‘could not provide documentation to substantiate how it spent $2.6 billion.’” The Times. Ah yes, a trifle of the trillions sunk down those military holes.
Must have brought some peace and stability to this nation, right? The August 1st LBN-Alert begs to differ: “A double bombing that killed four people in Baghdad [July 31st] added to an already record-breaking month for the civilian death toll in Iraq. Officials announced that 396 civilians were killed in July, nearly doubling the number for June (204) and marking the highest total since June 2008. July also saw an additional 680 Iraqi civilians wounded, while 50 soldiers and 89 police officers died. Along with that data, the Iraqi government published the number of detentions in July and that too seems on the rise. Security forces made roughly 700 arrests last month, surpassing the highest mark for 2010 of 685.” Ugh!
But hey, there’s always hope that we will prevail in Afghanistan, right? That’s what the Bush administration told us, and we’ve pretty much got that impression from President Obama too. Okay, okay, there’re these 90,000+ documents (200,000+ pages) “leaked” from military sources that document, rather convincingly, that the Taliban forces (not exactly loved by anyone) have never been stronger, that Pakistan’s intelligence agency and military (funded in no small way by U.S. aid) have been actively supporting the Taliban against U.S. forces, and that there are no real serious measures of progress anywhere in the entire nation, led by one of the least-like, most corrupt individuals – Hamid Karzai – we’ve ever supported. The government didn’t even deny any of the reports, just saying that it’s nothing that should surprise us. Particularly if they have been reading the Peter Dekom blogs on the subject for the past few years (obviously neither President Bush nor President Obama seems to have noticed… very frustrating, but then I could say “toldyaso!” directly to them).
What exactly are we expecting that the longer-term outcome will be in either Iraq or Afghanistan? We set goals, sent troops and aid missions, lost thousands of American lives and have inflicted a multiple of that in civilian casualties, spent trillions and we are going to leave unstable corrupt governments that are likely to topple and suffer bloody civil wars, leaving the militant extremists in vastly better position than when we arrived. If this were an isolated failure on the part of American foreign policy, perhaps we could look at this as a valuable lesson. But when this is the consistent result of consistently failed American military incursions brought on in unthinking rash responses to emotionally distraught moments, we really need to look deeper. We really must stop setting goals that history has clearly established as unreachable, particularly when the result is a strengthening of our real enemies and resentment amongst our purported allies.
I’m Peter Dekom, and I once thought Americans were smarter than that.