Friday, December 08, 2006

Iraq Needs the USA

When the US invaded Iraq in 1991, I was saddened to see the US military and its allies bombing the country I was born in, and I thought that the only good thing that could come out of that war was the end of Saddam Hussein's regime. That didn't happen, and Saddam's regime continued to jail and murder Iraqi political opponents and their relatives after that war. Sanctions continued to make life very difficult for ordinary Iraqis. And the US continued to bomb Iraq, sometimes inexplicably bombing Basra, where the vast majority of residents hated the regime of Saddam Hussein. Every American should watch this short (15 min) documentary. Isra Abdul Amir lost her arm in a US cruise missile attack on Basra on January 25th, 1999. In case you do not know, Bill Clinton was President of the US in 1999. Why the US bombed Basra in 1999 is beyond my comprehension.

In 2003 the US again went to war with Iraq, and this time the aim was clear: Operation Iraqi Freedom. Bush & Co. also thought that Saddam's military had WMD, and that somehow Saddam was connected to 9/11. But for me and my family it was all about one thing: the end of Saddam's regime and the hopeful beginning of democracy in Iraq. I must admit that I felt joy when I saw President Bush tell Saddam, Uday and Qusay that they had 48 hours to leave Iraq. I wish I could have done that. George Bush must have fancied himself to be some kind of John Wayne who thought he could go into Iraq, catch the bad guys and turn the country into a prosperous democracy, a beacon of hope for the rest of the middle east. Well it didn't quite turn out that way. Saddam did not have WMD (thankfully, because he would have used them), there was no Iraqi connection to 9/11, the US military killed more innocent Iraqis (and many guilty ones), and all along I suspected that Bush and his crew might have ulterior motives. It is no coincidence that Halliburton, the company that Dick Cheney still owns stock options in, has profited enormously as a result of this war. Of course Halliburton could not have won those contracts without the aid of the Bush administration, the Congress and the Senate. The exploitation of Iraq and the war by Halliburton is an example of the corruption that can take place when the Congress, the Senate, and the White House are all controlled by one party. Voting Republican is just too damn scary these days. I think that as Americans we should be more careful with this abuse of power. We need to also take a serious look at US foreign policy, especially in the middle east. The Democrats have not exactly been benevolent to Iraq or Palestine either. The documentary by No More Victims is testimony to that fact. The 12 years of sanctions enforced by Clinton's administration actually made Saddam Hussein's regime stronger, and by 2003 there were fedayeen Saddam, there were Al Qaeda and Ansar al Sunna.

Still the Americans could do so much good in Iraq. To me the biggest irony in this conflict is that Iraq needs the US right now. The US has already trained Iraqi soldiers, but the Iraqi army does not have enough soldiers to defend the entire country. After watching this revealing video I was reminded that Iraq badly needs the assistance of the US military right now. Most of the insurgents who live in Anbar are harcore Baathists - the fedayeen type who are not new to murdering. Murder (often mass murder) and the threat of murder was the method used in governing Iraq for 25 years. The Iraqi mafia could not be changed overnight. Let us stop pretending that Iraqis will stop killing each other after the US leaves. And the US will leave, despite the cries from many Arabs who insist that the US wants troops there for the long term (the bases! the bases! the bases will belong to Iraq's military very soon!) At the end of the video the reporter explains that the US troops stationed in Anbar want to go home as soon as possible, and so do the Shia soldiers who are sent to Anbar to defend the Iraqi police. I understand why Iraqi Shia soldiers must go to Anbar to defend police stations there - the Iraqi army should be able to go anywhere in Iraq to defend Iraqi police. But in the end, Anbar should be defended by the people of Anbar. The US should support and train the Anbar Salvation Council and other groups in Anbar who are willing to protect the Iraqi police and army. This becomes more urgent for the people of Anbar when the Iraqi police and army are comprised of people from Anbar. One thing remains painfully clear after watching that video: without US troops in Anbar, the insurgents would easily overrun Iraqi police stations there. Also in the video I enjoyed CJ Chivers' narrating style and the way he referred to the Eye-racky Rambo.

In a viewpoint published in Time Magazine (December 11, 2006 edition), Time's correspondent in Baghdad, Aparisim Ghosh writes: "Can America save Iraq from itself? Yes, but it would require giving up the illusion that the Iraqis can fix their own problems. They can't. The Americans created this mess; it's their responsibility to fix it. They'd need 30,000 more coalition soldiers and a real willingness to thrash the Shi'ite militias, something they've avoided so far. Having foolishly dismantled the existing Iraqi army, the U.S. has the duty to create a genuinely proficient new one, instead of rushing recruits through Boy Scout lessons just to satisfy predetermined quotas. It may take five more years. But if the U.S. leaves sooner, Iraq will devolve into an even bigger mess. If the Americans insist on pulling out, they ought to park their hardware nearby, because like it or not, they'll be back."

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