Ed Kinane's "critical analysis" of the Iraq Study Group Report
friends, opinion makers,
fyi, i attach and append a critical analysis of the _iraq study group
KILLING THE GOOSE THAT LAYS THE GOLDEN EGGS:
A Look at _The Iraq Study Group Report_*
/The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating. /With these terse
yet understated words the Iraq Study Group begins its Report. The
Group is a ten-person consensus committee headed by former
Congressman Lee H. Hamilton and former Secretary of State James A.
Baker III. Its Report was released to the world on December 6.
The Report is a quick read -- its 79 recommendations are introduced
and presented in about 100 pages. If Mr. Bush were to read it, he'd
find little new information about Iraq. Rather he would find a
counter-assessment of the war -- one he wouldn't hear from the yes
men and chickenhawks and ideologues with whom he surrounds himself.
The Report would reveal the thinking and anxieties of the U.S.
foreign policy establishment. It would reflect their disenchantment
with the President's Iraq "strategy."
Although convened in June 2006 under the auspices of the United
States Institute of Peace, the Iraq Study Group is no gaggle of
pacifists or humanitarians; check out the 18 pages -- about one
sixth of the entire text -- devoted to their respective curricula
vitae. The Group, while on a different page than Mr. Bush, is in the
same chapter: it perpetuates the denial and the imperial mindset
behind the U.S. invasion and protracted occupation of Iraq.
If Mr. Bush were winning in Iraq -- that is, if he somehow were
imposing his will on that unruly region and handing over control of
its vast oil reserves to U.S. corporations -- this Group would feel
no need to speak out.
The Group does acknowledge certain needs and realities. It notes the
plight of Iraq's millions of internal and external refugees.
Departing from the Bush blackball, it calls for diplomatic relations
with Syria and Iran. It emphasizes that the Iraq issue is
"inextricably linked" to a range of other Middle East crises --
The Group recommends -- though perfunctorily -- that the President
declare that the U.S. doesn't covet Iraq's oil and that the
President also declare that the U.S. doesn't seek permanent bases in
Iraq. [p.61] While the Report's maps do pinpoint oil fields, they
neglect to show the many U.S. bases established in Iraq and
throughout the region's oil lands. Nor do its maps give us any idea
of what Iraq territory the U.S. military, after nearly four years of
squandering hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of U.S.
lives, can claim to control.
The Group says, "U.S. forces seem to be caught in a mission that has
no foreseeable end." [p.12] While it provides no timetable for the
withdrawal of U.S. forces, the Group does provide a table of timed
"Milestones for Iraq" permitting, as they are achieved, some
Although the Group looks into possible, if not likely, near futures,
it has scant historical perspective. It notes Britain's longtime
involvement with Iraq in the days before Saddam Hussein, but the
Group says nothing about British colonialism, its exploiting Iraqi
oil, its role in cobbling together that artificial entity called
Iraq, or its inability to quell nationalist resistance.
The Group says nothing about U.S. financial and military support for
Saddam in the eighties, especially during his years-long war with
Iran. It says nothing of the 13 years of U.S./UN sanctions preceding
the 2003 invasion -- sanctions that led to the premature death of,
among others, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. These aren't
"merely" matters of justice and reparation; they bear directly on
how Iraqis might view the U.S. and hence might help explain the
Iraqis' fierce resistance to having U.S. forces in their land.
The Group never cites international law, much less acknowledges that
the invasion violated that law. It fails to acknowledge that the
invasion and occupation have made a shambles of Iraq's sovereignty.
The Group barely mentions the false premises and false intelligence
(9/11, al Qaeda, WMD) on which the invasion was sold. It treats Mr.
Bush with kid gloves: it avoids recalling that Bush Inc. repeatedly
and systematically lied to us all.
The Group's grasp of the present is no more based in reality than
its wishful forays into the future. /The Group fails to acknowledge
that the U.S. is occupying Iraq/. The Group is so allergic to the
"O" word that in those few places where it's used, it's in quotation
marks. By glossing over that overriding reality, the Group can't see
that in resisting the invaders, Iraqis, whether Sunni or Shia, may
see themselves as patriots defending their homeland. And, imagining
how we might react if the U.S. were invaded, how can we say they
aren 't patriots?
If there is no occupation, then the U.S. has no obligation --
required of occupiers by the Geneva Conventions -- to provide law
and order and to provide for the welfare of the people. Not only
does the Group not mention the Geneva Conventions and this
obligation, it repeatedly faults the current and "sovereign" Iraqi
government for not providing law and order.
As for welfare of the people, the Group could care less. Devotees of
tough love, they describe the essential government food subsidies as
a "burden." [p.22] The health issues -- products of the sanctions
and the war -- now plaguing the Iraqi people are ignored. There's no
mention of the carcinogenic and radioactive depleted uranium, used
in U.S. weaponry, that now contaminates Iraq's soil and water.
When listing (on p. 3) the multiple sources of violence in Iraq, the
Group specifies the "Sunni Arab insurgency, al Qaeda and affiliated
jihadist groups, Shiite militias and death squads, and organized
criminality." Unaccountably excluded from this list is the U.S.
Similarly, neighboring nations are cited for undercutting Iraq's
stability, but not the U.S. It is as if the U.S. had never invaded
Iraq. It is as if the U.S. had never killed tens or hundreds of
thousands of Iraqis.
The Group never mentions the role of the thousands of armed U.S.
mercenaries -- the so-called "civilian contractors"; these rogue
operators are accountable to no official chain of command. The
phrase "war crime" is never mentioned. The Group -- like most U.S.
media -- gives no hint of the untold numbers of Iraqis civilians who
have been killed by the U.S. Air Force. In fact while "air support"
is mentioned once, there is only a single oblique reference to the
massive U.S. Air Force in the Middle East.
The Group keeps calling for the recently installed Iraq government
to step up to the plate and do what the U.S. -- with all its
staggering might -- has been unable to do: quell the Sunni
insurgents and the Shia militias. In the unlikely event the Iraq
government is able to impose order, the Group suggests U.S. /ground
/forces could then withdraw. But here's the rub: many of our
soldiers wouldn't come home. They'd be /re-deployed/ nearby
(especially to Afghanistan). Nor would the Air Force vacate Iraqi
The Group proposes, as the way out for a U.S. military bogged down
in an admittedly unwinnable guerilla war in Iraq, a strategy similar
to the "Vietnamization" of another era. With its lack of historical
perspective, the Report ignores the painful and costly lessons of
"Vietnamization" -- that spectacularly failed U.S. policy of the
invaders recruiting and training locals as proxy cannon fodder.
The Group calls for U.S. trainers being "embedded" in Iraqi units on
an ongoing basis. The Group refuses to face the implications of such
units being heavily infiltrated by men hostile to their alien
trainers. It forgets about the fragging -- the killing of officers
by soldiers under their charge -- that flourished in Viet Nam.
The Group frequently invokes "terrorism" and "democracy." Yet it
never defines these spongy terms. (As the bumper sticker puts it,
/war is terrorism with a bigger budget./)
From its very first paragraph and often thereafter the Group
invokes "our interests and values." But it /never/ spells these out.
It assumes that of course its readers all understand the code…and
share the imperialist dream.
Thanks to their Iraq war-related contracts, the industrial/military
complex is laughing all the way to the bank. But the Study Group
ignores the profiteering that helps perpetuate the occupation.
Its key message -- its dominating anxiety -- is that, with the U.S.
bogged down in Iraq, the U.S. lacks the wherewithal to impose its
will elsewhere: "The American military has little reserve force to
call on if it needs ground forces to respond to other crises around
the world." [p.7] Or again, "/First, and most importantly/, the
United States faces other security dangers in the world, and a
continuing Iraqi commitment of /ground forces /at present levels
will leave no reserve available to meet other contingencies." [p.73,
The Study Group, unlike Mr. Bush, grasps that the Iraq war is
killing the goose that lays the golden eggs -- the imperial scheme.
With the U.S. now stretched so thin, it can no longer intimidate
rivals, other nationalists or anti-imperialists. It's having a
harder time extorting its customary highly profitable trade terms.
This is true whether in Afghanistan, elsewhere in the Middle East…or
in Latin America.
Hugo Chavez and the resurgent populists south of the Rio Grande are
surely well aware they owe an enormous debt to the tireless
resisters and the bloodied people of Iraq.
* Vintage, 2006, $10.95, paperback [or download free at
/In 2003 Kinane spent five months in Iraq with Voices in the
Wilderness. In late February he will visit Iran with a Fellowship
for Reconciliation delegation. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org./