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William Pfaff: "Iraq Majority Believes Peace Requires Occupation's End"

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TO: Distinguished Recipients
FM: John Whitbeck
In the article transmitted below, Bill Pfaff provides timeless wisdom as to why the American and NATO invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan were doomed to failure from the start. (A conclusive book-length exposition on this theme is provided by Bill Polk's "Violent Politics".)
Put most simply, no people like being invaded and occupied by foreigners. They never have, and they never will -- and they hate it most intensely when their invaders and occupiers come from different civilizations, cultures and religions. This should be a "no-brainer", obvious to anyone with an ounce of intelligence or a rudimentary acquaintance with either human nature or world history.
In the absence of an effective genocide or ethnic cleansing, the invaders coming from afar always go back where they came from eventually, after which the conquered people restructure their lives and their society as they (or the most ambitious and powerful among them) see fit. Only settler-colonial invasions and occupations, in which the invaders intend to replace the indigenous population and make the invaded country their own new home, are potential "successes" in the long term -- and, with one notable exception, settler-colonial enterprises, necessarily accompanied by genocide, ethnic cleansing and/or racial-supremicist oppression, have been unthinkable since the 19th century.
t is in everyone's best interests that the ongoing Western wars against Iraq and Afghanistan should end, that ALL occupation forces and "contractor" mercenaries should withdraw completely and entirely as rapidly as it is physically possible for them to do so, that the Iraqi and Afghan people should be permitted to solve the problems caused by the invasions and occupations of their countries and restructure their lives and societies in their own way and in a way that best serves their own interests and cultural preferences (not the interests or cultural preferences of their invaders and occupiers), that the United States should abandon its megalomaniacal obsession with imposing its full-spectrum domination over all mankind, the planet and outer space, close the vast majority of its more than 700 military bases in other countries and refocus its attention, resources and talents on dealing constructively with the many problems it faces in its own society and, finally, that NATO, whose reason to exist long ago ceased to exist and which no longer has any benign or constructive role to play, should be dissolved.
A few modest wishes, in addition to justice for Palestine, for a better world in the new year...

Iraq Majority Believes Peace Requires Occupation's End

By William Pfaff

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.

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