Some Light Reading
By: Mark W Adams

Thanks to TRex, I knew the gist of the Maclean's article, a frank, impartial, eye-opening perspective on the Iraq situation, and I had a link to the six page analysis.

It's the weekend, and I made some time to read it all the way through. Fascinating to say the least. From this point on, if you have not read Patrick Graham's in depth article from inside Anbar, I don't want to hear your opinions of the Surge, tribal negotiations, Sunni vs. Shiah vs. so-called al Qaeda in Iraq, Fallujah, Ramadi, the "brilliance" of Gen. Petraeus, the corruption, the militias, the fictional government, the real power, what's true, what's propaganda and anything to do with the geopolitical pressures of the region. Go read it.

You get the feeling that the neocon's had this grand idea, that once we were fully in control of the country we'd be in a position to stage the ultimate battle for supremacy in the Middle East by bombing Iran into oblivion while Israel covered our back, taking out Syria. I think they still believe this grand scheme is on track. Unfortunately, I doubt they counted on the magnitude of the dysfunctional disaster they created:

"Iraq was a disaster under Saddam, but it has turned into Nigeria."
That's the problem with most Utopians, be they those damn dirty hippies of my youth wearing all those flowers in their hair, or the Authoritarians of today. The dream clouds reason and obscures reality. Yet even when faced with the reality they created, daring to spark Armageddon itself, they cling to their vision with what can only be termed a religious fervor.

Neocons dream big. The nightmare they've created is monumental, both there and the wreck of things they're responsible for here. The Fertile Crescent is burning while we go bankrupt. You and I will never, ever benefit from this. Not in the least. But these people are banking on some kind of success, as are these folks. In one way or another, these well connected, interlocked movers and shakers shape our world and decide our fate.

Why else would we continue "investing" treasure and blood into this cesspool, propping up a government that is sick of our methods and a people that want us gone. Graham adds additional thoughts on this:
The great irony of Maliki is that under other circumstances a government like his—one that is: a) accused by the U.S. of close relations with an American enemy (Iran); b) running a strategically important country (like Iraq); c) involved in the oppression and murder of one of its minorities (the Sunnis), which is closely linked to an important U.S. ally (the Saudis)—is an administration that many Americans would want to eliminate. There is a good chance that if the U.S. Army wasn’t there already, Washington would have invaded to get rid of Maliki. But having toppled Saddam, lost thousands of soldiers, and so far spent some US$500 billion on combat operations alone, the U.S. is now in too weak of a position to do much.
However, the article is ultimately fair. A refreshing change of pace from most American media. The Iranian infiltration into Iraq is real and posses a true challenge, if not a threat to the occupation.
Just as one is accused of being a pro-Saddam, Baathist sympathizer if you crit­icize the government in Baghdad, so one is accused of being a neo-con if you point out how deeply in­­volved Iran has become in Iraq. The role Iran plays is as complex and shady as can be expected in a situation that is so murky on so many different levels, from neighbourhood turf wars to world oil strate­­gies and a proxy war with America. But the U.S. government is right to be concerned, al­though it’s not clear they can do much except protest, threaten loudly, and fight a secret, dirty war.

Iraq, Iran’s neighbour to the west, is Tehran’s self-declared security zone. Iran has already been attacked once from Iraq—by a then-American ally, Saddam—and won’t let it happen again. Nor do the Iranians want, as the West does, a secular Iraqi government that could destabilize their own theocracy. For them, Iraq is a survival issue. U.S.-led invasions have conquered not only Iraq but Afghanistan on Iran’s eastern flank. The U.S. Navy is floating off Iranian shores. Every few weeks, Washington debates whether to bomb Iran. How could Iran afford not to be involved in Iraq? Following the American example, the Iranians have learned that it’s bet­­­ter to fight the U.S. on the streets of Baghdad than the streets of Tehran.
And al Qaeda in Iraq is also very real, despite the fact that it didn't exist until we got there. In fact, it's a natural offspring of the typical modus operandi of the modern conservatives: create a strawman "enemy" to justify your belligerent ways, then anyone who challenges your methods must be part of that evil entity. They do it to liberals every day. It's one thing to label centrist, moderate, Hillary Clinton, (who's conservative by netroots standards) as some kind of Marxist. Now they did it to people who don't have any compunction using automatic weapons.
America’s other main enemy is al-Qaeda in Iraq, which is to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda what a cheap watch is to a Swiss timepiece—effective, easily reproduced, and disposable. Al-Qaeda did not exist in Iraq before the invasion, but today it, along with Iran, are the two strongest arguments the U.S. makes for “staying the course.” Al-Qaeda in Iraq is essentially a religious criminal gang that kills anyone who threatens its power or differs from its Salafist views on establishing a perverse form of an Islamic state. Its death squads and enormously destructive truck bombs have killed thousands of Shias, but Sunnis, too, have suffered al-Qaeda’s violent nihilism. Car bombs, assassinations and “religious punishments,” including decapitations and cutting off the fingers of smokers, have put Sunni Iraq under a Mordor-like shadow of terror and justified collective punishment from the Shias. In his testimony to Congress, Gen. Petraeus pointed out the lethal threat of al-Qaeda. But this should come as no surprise to an American general—because the U.S. Army helped create al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The American role in the promotion of the terrorist organization is not some mad conspiracy theory, but a well-documented attempt by the U.S. government to demonize the insurgency and make it appear to be the central front in the war on terror. This was as great a mistake as disbanding the Iraqi army, which the U.S. did in May 2003, or perhaps even greater, since it led to the sectarian downward spiral that has destroyed the country.

When the insurgency started in the summer of 2003, it was made up primarily of the same class of alienated Sunnis who are now part of the tribal Anbar Awakening. The insurgents I spent time with in 2003 and 2004 were, in essence, nationalists who didn’t like the U.S. Army driving around their villages, kicking down their doors and shooting their cousins at checkpoints. They were also deeply suspicious of American plans for democracy, because they feared it would lead to Iran taking over the government. Some hated Saddam, some liked him, but Saddam wasn’t the issue. For want of a better term, they are the equivalent of rednecks who believe in God, their country, and the right to bear arms.
Great. Just great.

No wonder the "Dubya Youth," clinging desperately to their crackpot schemes finally got in bed with the Sunnis in Anbar. They're both nationalist authoritarians with more ideological kinship to Mussolini than Jefferson.

Delusional Orwellians.
"But rather than come up with an intelligent counter-insurgency policy, reach out to traditional tribal social structures and try to understand why American soldiers were getting killed, U.S. military leaders did what Americans have gotten very good at doing in the last few years. They made up a story, which they repeated on the news for U.S. domestic consumption—and then started to believe themselves."
It's almost as if the Americans had to create a sinister terrorists organization out of whole cloth to prove their flypaper theory. The propaganda used to demonize the indigenous resistance -- something any occupier can expect -- became a self-fulfilling prophecy, attracting and radicalizing every nutjob and fundamentalist religious fanatic within a week's ride of Fallujah. The more we blamed al Qaeda for everything, whether they deserved it or not, the more successful (and thus attractive) they looked because they stood up to the imperialist infidel.
Local Iraqis were drawn to al-Qaeda’s Salafist fundamentalism because it freed them from the conservative, tribal oppression that governed their lives. Al-Qaeda was able to take over some of the insurgency—and still controls chunks of Iraq—precisely because it was revolutionary, not conservative, and offered poor people in An­­bar a chance to kick some rich sheik and Baathist ass, as well as kill Americans and Shias. In part, al-Qaeda was part of a class war fuelled by profound anger and so­­cial resentment.
When conservatives here accuse liberals of spouting the same rhetoric as Osama bin Laden when we fight for a more populist, egalitarian society (as they used to compare us to Castro), it's no coincidence. Bin Laden purposely directs his movement towards the poor and disadvantaged, appealing to a basic sense of unfairness anywhere wealth and power is concentrated in a few select cliques with no regard for merit. After all, there is little ideological separation between a Saudi prince and most AEI fellows. However, American liberals usually draw the line at maiming, beheading and mass murder to advance our cause.

We also have a much better attitude towards women's rights than the Taliban types. Plus, we are more likely to keep an old tie-die t-shirt in our dresser than a firearm.

Graham has disabused me of the myth that Iraq is a fictional nation-state, an artificial colonial creation doomed to disintegrate. Although it was indeed cobbled together from disparate tribes, a mere province of other people's empires as I alluded to below, there does seem to be a profound sense of national identity among the Iraqi people. Ultimately a nation is more than lines on a map, but an idea, a shared belief system. Except for the Kurds who's idea of autonomy is so entrenched they don't even bother with the fight for dominence destroying the rest of the country, Graham's observation are hopeful in that they see themselves as Iraqis first with religious and ethnic considerations fueling discord and rivalries -- on a violent scale to be sure -- but never to the point where they envision themselves a divided country or a mere satellite of Shia Iran, Sunni Saudia Arabia, or a tool of America.

Small wonder that American G.I.'s have been targeted by both factions, and the apparent switching sides from Maliki's Shia government to the former Baathist Sunnis in Anbar has seen no appreciable change in our casualty numbers. It also explains why so many, including myself, were unaware of the degree of animosity under the surface and held in check by Saddam's regime. Even those of us (unlike, apparently, President Bush) who knew of the Shia's in the South and Kurds in the North as the primary beneficiaries of our No Fly Zones, we accepted the Iraqi people's own perception that they were all simply Iraqis, not part of a Shia Caliphate or Sunni international confederation.

Why this gives me hope is that it exposes the lie that when we stop refereeing this civil war, nothing can bring these people together. Bush was wrong about there being no Mandelas there, (or that the real one was dead). The neocons never wanted a Mandela, a true popular figure who could unite the people, inspire them to resolved their internal problems and focus on becoming independent and standing up to the real outside force that is trying to control their country -- which is not Teheran or Riyahd, but Washington D.C.

The neocons wanted a strongman, another Noriega, Marcos or Diem, controllable, beholden to us, and ultimately disposable. They thought they had one in Chalabi, but were thrown a Curveball as we all know. Without a doubt, a truly popular leader is more problematic for us than the civil war, which keeps them distracted and fractured.

Someone like Muqtada al Sadr could become their Mandela if he can make appropriate overtures to the Sunnis, distancing himself enough from Iranian influence to become palpable. (Granted, it may be much too late for him to make peace with the Sunnis his people have been "cleansing" out of Baghdad. He might have shot his wad in 2004 when it comes to a popular uprising.) Surely one of the first things he or someone like him want to do, something appealing to the culture's sense of revenge, is to settle the score with America.

A united Iraq would certainly try to punish us where it hurts, our wallets. After all, it is all about oil. As much as we hear rhetoric desiring a political solution with a "national unity government" as a cure for our ills, an Iraq Government that is united against us (a distinct probability) would be an economic disaster here in the States -- as if the war wasn't that already.


TRex said...

I spoke with Patrick Graham today. We're going to try to have him in for a live chat on Tuesday night for Late Nite. You should come by.

I also highly recommend this piece by him from Harpers:


Mark W Adams said...


Thank you for the heads up.