Thursday, February 16, 2006

Cindy's War


The amazing thing is that it has taken this long. More than 1,800 American soldiers have died since the Iraq war began and ten thousand have been left with terrible wounds. Yet only now is a significant anti-war movement getting off the ground in the US, with Cindy Sheehan’s highly publicised vigil outside President Bush’s Texas ranch on behalf of her dead soldier son, Casey.
Some sixty thousand anti-war activists have registered support for Ms Sheehan. That may not seem a lot - after all, hundreds of thousands of Americans marched against the war before the invasion of Baghdad. But in USA it is seen as deeply unpatriotic to question a war while American soldiers are still fighting it. However, Sheehan's heartfelt call for Bush to explain what her son died for has captured the imagination of the nation's media.
Comparisons are inevitably being drawn with Vietnam., not least because President Bush’s popularity ratings have sunk to levels unseen since the days of Lyndon Johnson. One difference is that the anti war movement in the sixties was driven, not by service moms, but by young men who didn’t want to be drafted. There is no prospect of a return to the draft in Iraq, even though the military is finding it extremely hard to recruit soldiers. It is unprecedented for a war fought by professional soldiers to arouse such vocal public opposition.
As the death toll climbs inexorably toward 2,000 there are now serious doubts about whether America has the stomach for a protracted occupation lasting six to ten years, which is what military planners have been talking about. That could mean another 6,000 bereaved mothers taking their grief to the President’s doorstep.
It seems incredible now, but Americans were told that there would be no casualties at all in Iraq. This was to be a new kind of war, where smart weapons and overwhelming military strength would make resistance futile. This was why America deployed so few troops and gave little thought to how the run Iraq after it was ‘liberated’. On May 1st 2003, George W Bush declared that all major combat operations had ceased, in what must rank as the most premature declaration of victory in the history of human conflict.
But this is a war no one wants to fight any more, not even the military. Pentagon chiefs have already said that they hope to bring 30,000 home next spring. Britain is planning to cut troop strength in Iraq from 9,000 to 3,500 in the next year. It looks like a withdrawal and has led some to speculate that the coalition intends to ‘cut and run’.
Chance would be a fine thing. There seems little prospect of any early disengagement, even if the Iraqi ethnic groups agree a new constitution tomorrow when the second deadline expires. America was clearly hoping that the Middle East would turn the corner this summer. The withdrawal of Israeli troops from occupied Gaza was carefully choreographed to coincide with the new constitution in Iraq.
With progress over Palestine (not that the Palestinians in the still Israeli-occupied West Bank would recognise it as such) and a democratic constitution in place for Iraq, the Americans could have returned claiming some sort of victory and announced the job done.
However, right now, a withdrawal from Iraq would look like a victory for the insurgents. The lightly-armed militias have proved terrifyingly effective in keeping up the pressure with suicide bombs and, increasingly, with more sophisticated remotely-controlled detonations. The mujahideen are better organised and trained than they were last year, and unlike America, there seems no shortage of recruits to the cause of Jihad.
But it isn’t just the insurgency that could keep America in this quagmire for years. If America pulled out tomorrow, there would very likely be civil war. The Kurds in the North are determined to have an autonomous Kurdistan, and have demanded that the oil-rich region of Kirkuk should be part of it.
Unlike the Sunni Muslims in the centre of Iraq and the Shia in the south, the Kurds are intensely pro-American and want nothing of the Islamic theocracy that is likely to emerge in most of the country. It’s a little like Ulster in the 1920s after the creation of the Irish Free State. Like the Ulstermen, the Kurds are also determined to keep their Peshmerga armed forces.
If American troops withdrew tomorrow, the insecurity on both sides would be difficult to contain, especially since most of the country remains shattered and filled with armed Islamic fundamentalists. The suicide bombers who have been targeting the Americans would likely turn to the secular Kurds. The Sunnis and the Shia, meanwhile, would no doubt pursue their own theological dispute on the streets in the traditional bloody manner.
There is no escaping the obvious. The invasion of Iraq was a massive miscalculation by right wing ideologues in the Republican Party who believed that America had to assert its military hegemony. They were intoxicated by the sales talk of the arms industry which told them that it was possible now to win wars without casualties and that Iraq would instantly become a beacon of democracy in the Middle East. Wrong on both counts.
Whatever government finally emerges, it’s clear that most of the country will become an introverted Islamic Republic, closer to Iran than America. In Basra, fundamentalism already has a power base. What will the service moms say when they discover their boys sacrificed their lives to create another Islamic dictatorship which loathes America and everything it stands for? Which treats women as second-class citizens and persecutes non believers? Which regards Christianity as evil?
The Project for a New American Century is in ruins. The neo-conservatives, who dreamed up the new American imperialism, and inspired Bush on his reckless military adventures, have achieve precisely the reverse of what they intended. Instead of America assuming the role of invincible world policeman, the greatest military power on the planet has been shown to be extremely vulnerable. A handful of mujahideen have been able to nail America down, just as they nailed down the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. America is looking isolated, unable to look to support from its traditional allies in Europe (Blair excepted), and now faced with defeatism at home.
Even those of us who opposed the war from the start cannot but feel worried about the consequences of America’s imminent humiliation. It could mean a return to US isolationism. Who in future is going to challenge Serbian Fascists, North Korean expansionists, African dictators? America’s stumble could make us all fall on our faces.
Which is why America needs to act now. It should go to the United Nations and invite the international community to organise a phased withdrawal from Iraq. Only the united forces of Europe, Asia and most importantly the Islamic world, can help America out of this mess now.
Unless an exit strategy is found, George W. Bush faces a rapid descent into chaos followed by a military rout and an epoch-making defeat of the Republican Party at the Presidential elections in 2008. Condoleezza Rice, who is emerging as the most likely to succeed Bush, has little chance of becoming the first black woman in the White House unless she finds a way to withdraw with dignity.
If Tony Blair wasn’t so deeply implicated in this fiasco, he might have been the one to help America out of the hole of its own making. The PM promised that, with America’s help, he could rid the world of tyrants, failed states, facist regimes. Instead, the world’s dictators are sleeping more easily in their beds. And angry mothers are shouting at Bush’s bedroom window.

1 comment:

sevenpointman said...

I am sending you my independently formulated exit strategy for Iraq-please send your comments
and feel free to read my blog:sevenpointman

Howard Roberts

A Seven-point plan for an Exit Strategy in Iraq

1) A timetable for the complete withdrawal of American and British forces must be announced.
I envision the following procedure, but suitable fine-tuning can be applied by all the people involved.

A) A ceasefire should be offered by the Occupying side to representatives of both the Sunni insurgency and the Shiite community. These representatives would be guaranteed safe passage, to any meetings. The individual insurgency groups would designate who would attend.
At this meeting a written document declaring a one-month ceasefire, witnessed by a United Nations authority, will be fashioned and eventually signed. This document will be released in full, to all Iraqi newspapers, the foreign press, and the Internet.
B) US and British command will make public its withdrawal, within sixth-months of 80 % of their troops.

C) Every month, a team of United Nations observers will verify the effectiveness of the ceasefire.
All incidences on both sides will be reported.

D) Combined representative armed forces of both the Occupying nations and the insurgency organizations that agreed to the cease fire will protect the Iraqi people from actions by terrorist cells.

E) Combined representative armed forces from both the Occupying nations and the insurgency organizations will begin creating a new military and police force. Those who served, without extenuating circumstances, in the previous Iraqi military or police, will be given the first option to serve.

F) After the second month of the ceasefire, and thereafter, in increments of 10-20% ,a total of 80% will be withdrawn, to enclaves in Qatar and Bahrain. The governments of these countries will work out a temporary land-lease housing arrangement for these troops. During the time the troops will be in these countries they will not stand down, and can be re-activated in the theater, if both the chain of the command still in Iraq, the newly formed Iraqi military, the leaders of the insurgency, and two international ombudsman (one from the Arab League, one from the United Nations), as a majority, deem it necessary.

G) One-half of those troops in enclaves will leave three-months after they arrive, for the United States or other locations, not including Iraq.

H) The other half of the troops in enclaves will leave after six-months.

I) The remaining 20 % of the Occupying troops will, during this six month interval, be used as peace-keepers, and will work with all the designated organizations, to aid in reconstruction and nation-building.

J) After four months they will be moved to enclaves in the above mentioned countries.
They will remain, still active, for two month, until their return to the States, Britain and the other involved nations.

2) At the beginning of this period the United States will file a letter with the Secretary General of the Security Council of the United Nations, making null and void all written and proscribed orders by the CPA, under R. Paul Bremer. This will be announced and duly noted.

3) At the beginning of this period all contracts signed by foreign countries will be considered in abeyance until a system of fair bidding, by both Iraqi and foreign countries, will be implemented ,by an interim Productivity and Investment Board, chosen from pertinent sectors of the Iraqi economy.
Local representatives of the 18 provinces of Iraq will put this board together, in local elections.

4) At the beginning of this period, the United Nations will declare that Iraq is a sovereign state again, and will be forming a Union of 18 autonomous regions. Each region will, with the help of international experts, and local bureaucrats, do a census as a first step toward the creation of a municipal government for all 18 provinces. After the census, a voting roll will be completed. Any group that gets a list of 15% of the names on this census will be able to nominate a slate of representatives. When all the parties have chosen their slates, a period of one-month will be allowed for campaigning.
Then in a popular election the group with the most votes will represent that province.
When the voters choose a slate, they will also be asked to choose five individual members of any of the slates.
The individuals who have the five highest vote counts will represent a National government.
This whole process, in every province, will be watched by international observers as well as the local bureaucrats.

During this process of local elections, a central governing board, made up of United Nations, election governing experts, insurgency organizations, US and British peacekeepers, and Arab league representatives, will assume the temporary duties of administering Baghdad, and the central duties of governing.

When the ninety representatives are elected they will assume the legislative duties of Iraq for two years.

Within three months the parties that have at least 15% of the representatives will nominate candidates for President and Prime Minister.

A national wide election for these offices will be held within three months from their nomination.

The President and the Vice President and the Prime Minister will choose their cabinet, after the election.

5) All debts accrued by Iraq will be rescheduled to begin payment, on the principal after one year, and on the interest after two years. If Iraq is able to handle another loan during this period she should be given a grace period of two years, from the taking of the loan, to comply with any structural adjustments.

6) The United States and the United Kingdom shall pay Iraq reparations for its invasion in the total of 120 billion dollars over a period of twenty years for damages to its infrastructure. This money can be defrayed as investment, if the return does not exceed 6.5 %.

7) During the beginning period Saddam Hussein and any other prisoners who are deemed by a Council of Iraqi Judges, elected by the National representative body, as having committed crimes will be put up for trial.
The trial of Saddam Hussein will be before seven judges, chosen from this Council of Judges.
One judge, one jury, again chosen by this Council, will try all other prisoners.
All defendants will have the right to present any evidence they want, and to choose freely their own lawyers.