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A look back and a look ahead

Subject:        A look back and a look ahead
Date:   Tue, 28 Mar 2006 17:06:24 EST
From:   Ray Close
To:  



Dear Friends:
Two years ago (on 14 April 2004, to be exact), I wrote the following
short essay concerning the political future of Iraq, pegged to the
scheduled official turnover of "sovereignty" to the Iraqis, a process
that actually took place promptly a few weeks later.

As you will see, I predicted at that time that sooner or later (I
guessed sooner) the majority of Iraqis would begin increasingly to
resent and oppose American neo-colonial tutelage and military occupation
---- even those who had been the principal beneficiaries of our regime
change operation in the first place.  It was soon going to dawn of those
Iraqis with political ambition that their own credibility and legitimacy
as leaders of the “new Iraq” would ultimately profit more from defiance
of the Americans than from cooperation with them.  That old-fashioned
commodity called nationalism would emerge, I was convinced  --- perhaps
more strongly than it has ever existed in modern Iraq.  It has taken
somewhat longer than I expected, but I now hear distinct rumbles of
precisely what I was certain would eventually happen.  It requires only
the reading of a few paragraphs of today's news stories from Baghdad to
see what I’m talking about.  First, take a look at what I said two years
ago, then read a summary of today’s news as reported in the press
today.  (Some of you may mutter: “Well, if the S.O.B. lives long enough,
he’s bound to be right eventually!”).

_04 April 2004_:  “I’d rather do it myself!”
*
*     1.  The political personalities around whom (United Nations envoy)
Lakhdar Brahimi will build a transitional governing authority in Iraq
after 30 June (whoever they may be; it doesn’t matter) have already
privately abandoned any expectation that the United States military will
be an appropriate or an effective force on which to rely for the
establishment of unity and stability in the country.  Where there is no
such expectation, there can no longer be any real trust, and where there
is a lack of trust, there will inevitably be conflict, first political,
soon violent.

    2.  The leadership group on which Lakhdar Brahimi bestows
"legitimacy" on 30 June 2004 will have the intention (perhaps not
publicly expressed at first) of transferring complete responsibility for
military and security decision-making to a strictly IRAQI command
authority just as quickly as they can. In the short term, this may seem
virtually impossible because of insufficient resources, but it has
become the clear objective of even the most moderate and reasonable
Iraqis of the leadership class.  The political imperative of
independence may very well trump the obviously high short-term risks of
chaos;  the Iraqi people place a very high value on stability, and
rightly so, but the force of national self-determination can become
irresistible in an atmosphere of foreign occupation, and reason is
sometimes the loser in that contest.  Ask the Hungarians of 1956.  Ask
the Palestinians today.

    3.   This means that the US Army will probably be obliged to leave
Iraq before Bush, Rumsfeld & Company are prepared to manage the retreat
as if it were a triumphant event for freedom.  The Americans will
therefore be seen by the rest of the world, and particularly the Muslim
world, in much the same light as were the Israelis when they departed
from Southern Lebanon ---as a frustrated and defeated occupation force
expelled by victorious nationalists. This will make many Americans who
supported the "liberation" of Iraq extremely angry and resentful;  the
British and other members of the glorious "coalition of the willing"
will effectively have to make the best of a bad situation --- if they
haven't wisely removed themselves from the scene in the meanwhile.

    4.  All of which makes the probabilities of chaos and civil war in
Iraq next year even higher than we pessimists have been predicting.
(UNLESS the "expulsion" of the American "occupiers" serves to unify
Iraqis and restore their sense of national unity and common purpose.  My
fear is that this would be only a temporary triumph at best;  historic
divisions and rivalries would very soon resurface, and chaos would pick
up where it left off.)

Washington Post --  Page One ---  Issue of 28 March 2006
[Text somewhat abbreviated]

  BAGHDAD, March 27 - Facing a scathing backlash from Shiite Muslim
leaders a day after a deadly U.S.-Iraqi raid in Baghdad, top U.S.
military officials defended the mission Monday, saying it was a “hugely
successful” operation against an insurgent hideout packed with weapons
used against soldiers and civilians. . . . . . . .
   Their version of events differed sharply from that of Shiite
officials and Baghdad residents near the site of the raid, who for a
second day voiced anger over the operation, saying U.S. and Iraqi troops
targeted a Shiite mosque and gunned down innocent worshipers in the
half-light of evening prayers. . . . . . . .
 Their comments also came as the American presence in Iraq -- long
hailed, or at least tolerated, by Iraqi Shiites as a bulwark against
factional violence -- faced its most precarious moment in months,
according to U.S. diplomats and military officers, political analysts
and Iraqi officials.
  On Monday, political leaders canceled a round of negotiations over
the formation of a new government and instead huddled with American
diplomats in an attempt to rein in the burgeoning crisis. Meanwhile, the
Shiite-led provincial government in Baghdad suspended all cooperation
with U.S.-led forces until an investigation into the Sunday raid is
conducted.
The rancorous standoff coincided with yet another devastating day of
violence, with as many as 60 people killed across Iraq, including dozens
of military recruits in a bombing in the northern city of Mosul. . . . . .
    While the enmity between U.S. and Shiite leaders may have peaked as
a result of the raid, relations have been souring for the past several
months. In late December, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad -- long
praised as an evenhanded broker by all of Iraq’s factions -- began
warning political leaders forming a new government to put the security
apparatus outside the control of Shiite militia leaders.
   Etc., etc.
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