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William Pfaff on Ending Occupations--12/22/07

Iraq Majority Believes Peace Requires Occupation's End*

*By William Pfaff*
*Date* 2007/12/22 15:50:00

Paris, December 20, 2007 – The American military command in Iraq is
regularly sponsoring 19 focus group consultations, conducted by outside
contractors, in five Iraqi cities. The findings are presented to General
David Petraeus as part of the Battle Update Assessment his staff
compiles daily.

They offer good news and bad news for the command. The latest one notes
the fall in roadside bombings and attacks on civilians. As reported by
The Washington Post (December 19), it also indicates increased
satisfaction with local government in Baghdad, and a rise in fuel
supplies, although in each case from a very low base: 25% now are
satisfied with their local authorities, and 15% say more fuel is available.

Much more important is something the American military sponsors report
as very good news, although it is objectively bad news for Bush
administration leaders. It’s also bad for those Democratic as well as
Republican presidential candidates who share the received wisdom of the
Washington policy community that says the United States must stay in
Iraq. Stay for years, even for decades (as the Pentagon now is
planning), with permanent bases there, supposedly to anchor Middle
Eastern stability and guard America’s oil supply.

The majority of Iraqis participating in these focus groups assert that
“the key to national reconciliation” in Iraq is departure of the
“occupying forces.”

The American military command analysts justifiably see this as evidence
of a “shared belief” among Iraqis that they can overcome the current
civil struggle in their country when the United States and its allies
leave the country.

The analysts say that until now they expected these focus groups to say
that “national reconciliation is neither anticipated nor possible.” They
are surprised that, as they say, “this survey provides very strong
evidence that the opposite is true.”

A sense of “optimistic possibility permeated all focus groups....”
However the analysis (dated this month) revealed that the Iraqi
participants thought that the present Baghdad government “has still made
no significant progress” towards national reconciliation. Worse, they
believe that “the negative elements of life in Iraq [began] with the
‘U.S. occupation’ in March 2003.” Moreover, the American presence in the
country “seems to have totally eclipsed any agonies or grievances many
Iraqis would have incurred from the [Saddam Hussein] regime.” The people
in the focus groups criticize Iran for meddling politically in Iraq,
while the U.S. is seen as “[wanting] to control Iraq’s oil.”

This flat contradiction of what most Americans want to believe about the
Iraq situation confirms what some of us have been saying from the start:
the Iraqis want us to go home. Invasion and occupation are the primary
causes of Iraq’s tragedy and violence, and if the U.S. will get out --
as the Iraqis in these focus groups believe - the Iraqi people will be
able to overcome its divisions and take charge of their own affairs.

Most of all, these findings again demonstrates the damage done by
foreign intervention into the internal affairs of other countries. There
is no solution for Iraq’s internal crisis possible that the Iraqis
themselves do not work out on their own.

Similarly, NATO is incapable of solving the problem in Afghanistan of
the Taliban return. The Taliban are not foreign invaders sponsored from
abroad. Whatever their extremist religious convictions, they are
Afghans, members of the Pathans (or Pashtuns), the largest ethnic
community inside Afghanistan and in the surrounding region. There has
always been tension between them and the minority Tajiks, Uzbeks, and
Hazaras, who all together make up less than 40% of the national community.

No foreign force is ever going to settle this struggle, whatever form it
takes – and plenty have tried, most recently the Soviet and British
empires, to their regret.

U.S Defense Secretary Robert Gates spoke to a NATO conference on
December 11, pleading for more NATO troops for Afghanistan. He said
NATO’s members should recognize that it’s “a post-Cold War world” and
the U.S. and NATO must “be ready to operate in distant locations against
insurgencies and terrorist networks.”

This is the latest strategic wisdom in Washington, and U.S. base
deployments are being changed to implement it. This view is echoed by
the European Atlanticists (but not by European voters -- or Canadians,
whose army has borne the brunt of the Afghan struggle). It’s the opinion
of most (not all, let us hope) the advisers to the U.S. presidential
candidates. They think we’re now in a vast struggle with global
radicalism. It’s exactly what President Bush has been saying all along.

But what is this strategy meant to do? To eradicate all the
fundamentalisms, if not all the fundamentalist Moslems? If the U.S. is
going to wage a worldwide war against “insurgencies and terrorist
networks” everywhere, then it has a big job ahead of it, and it is going
to lose. That is a dead certainty. Be serious. Just count.

Nationalism – the defense of national and religious identity and
national particularity, even in its extreme versions -- is the most
important force in the world. Anyone who goes uninvited into other
countries to stamp out other people’s extremisms puts itself into the
business of creating even more extremism, and this eventually will have
profoundly destructive effect upon the United States itself, as well as
on allies unwise enough to follow the U.S. into this Maelstrom.

© Copyright 2007 by Tribune Media Services International. All Rights

This article comes from William PFAFF <>
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