It has been a while since I’ve written about the attack on Iraq because I’ve said almost everything I needed to say about Iraq far in advance of almost everyone else saying it, so I have little to do except repeat myself; from the start I believed Iraq would be a disaster.
For example, in December 2002 I wrote “Purity of opinion or voting record does not get you to humanist heaven. For example, voting for someone other than Al Gore if one vehemently opposed George W. Bush was reasonably expected to help elect George W. Bush, and it did. The difference in a number of states was smaller than the number of votes for various 3rd party candidates. As a consequence, Bush is president. As a consequence, we have a tattered wall of separation between church and state, a tax cut for the better off, no new social programs in sight, a ballooning budget and deficit, a weak economy, no answers for Wall Street abuses, and a potentially disastrous war in Iraq on our hands.” (Go to http://www.centerforinquiry.net/uploads/attachments/DEC%202002%20newsletter.pdf .)
Every thing that has since occurred, while not a certainty, has been very predictable, as I, and later on, Al Gore, in his book, “The Assault on Reason,” have pointed out. While pundits such as Chris Matthews of MSNBC (who make millions of $$) declared as Baghdad fell “that we are all Neocons,” I wrote at that very moment (May 2003) that “The days immediately following the symbolic toppling (of Saddam’s statue) brought sobering, if not distressing, news: No weapons of mass destruction had yet been found; suicide attacks on US soldiers had occurred, leading to US soldiers inadvertently killing innocent civilians as a reaction; rival Iraqi religious leaders were hacked to death by an angry mob at a meeting designed to bring about reconciliation; looting and lawlessness broke out in major cities in Iraq; hospitals were in crisis mode due to the problems caused by war; protestors demonstrated in the Shia-dominated area of Iraq over the British choice of former Baath Party leaders to head an interim authority in Basra; some exiled Shi’ite factions boycotted a meeting of Kurdish, Sunni and Shi’ites to discuss the future of Iraq; thousands of Iraqi civilians have perished, and many other troubling problems on the ground.” (Go to http://www.centerforinquiry.net/uploads/attachments/May%202003%2010pg.pdf .)
All of these doubts about the Iraq enterprise were the result of applying the values of secular humanism and scientific skepticism – nothing more complicated was involved than simply being conscientious enough to ask the relevant questions and rejecting fanciful conclusions.
So here we are today; Iraq is a mess with, most likely, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis now dead, who would not have been dead otherwise, plus close to 4,000 American soldiers dead plus countless others maimed and mentally injured for the following results:
1) More Islamic terrorists and terrorist sympathizers in Iraq and in the rest of the world
2) More than trillion dollars to be spent by US taxpayers resulting in a lowering of the quality of life (bombs tend to destroy not create)
3) Less security for US citizens because of less money available to be spent on Homeland Security
4) Less personal freedoms in the US
5) Less pride in America after understanding that the US started an unjustifiable war and used its military callously and recklessly
6) A resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the continued non-pursuit of bin Laden due to the diverting of military and other resources to Iraq
There is no equation that can balance the scale of lives spent and results obtained. This war is a disaster no matter what, and the reality is far worse. And what is the obvious reality?
The Shia see the potentialfor dominant power over Iraq and see little need to compromise; and they are not compromising - oil will pay for their future tyrrany and the security to defend it. Security for ordinary Iraqis obtained during the current surge in US forces is being accomplished primarily by ethnic cleansing – Sunnis are being chased out of Shiite enclaves, and the goal is a Shiite Bagdhad. The Bush Administration, being totally amoral, will cynically point to the increased security as proof of progress – and Americans will buy it. The media will not want to rub this fact too hard in American faces.
In Sunni dominated areas the US will pursue a different cynical tact: they will support non-Al Qaeda former Sunni insurgents; yes, the very same persons who were killing Americans not long ago, and enable them to create all Sunni areas in Anbar, etc. Of course, they will become insurgents to the Shia dominated Iraqi government, but that will be their problem.
The only saving grace to the program of ethnic cleansing, supporting insurgents and looking the other way to the vicious militias of all sorts is that it may allow us to withdraw during a period of relative calm while each ethnic territory is effectively cleansed. Of course, what happens after that is anyone’s guess but here’s mine: Iraq and Iran will get very chummy, Saudi Arabia will continue to support Sunni militias and Iran will support Shiite militias. Civil War will continue, and Iraq will become a failed state.
Even the division of Iraq is doomed. Such a division would create two land-locked countries, one for the Kurds and the other for the Sunnis, and their only routes of trade would be through enemy territory (the Shiite Iraq, Iran and Turkey.) Good luck!
Many argue that we have a moral obligation to the Iraqis - we started this and we ought to see it through. This argument has merit but here is the problem: we have helped them hold elections; we have spent lives and money ridding them of Saddam; we have tried to reconstruct their country. What can be done to fulfill our moral obligation that has not been tried? My suggestion is this: convict those in the US government that perpetrated this war under false pretenses and then ineptly prosecuted this war. At that point we will have admitted to the world that the US as a whole was duped and the dupers are being held accountable. We will have done everything possible; other than changing history, nothing will be truly sufficient, so why continue to make things worse?
The US should have had only one military goal before the war in Iraq; the control or neutralization of Al Qaeda and bin Laden. It abandoned that goal with the Iraq War and continues to shun this goal to the point where Al Qaeda has made a comeback. A withdrawal from Iraq should be designed with only one military component in mind; controlling Al Qaeda in Iraq, an organization inadvertently created by the inept Bush Administration.
Unfortunately, they are totally incapable of performing or even centering on this clear task. Nothing will resolve itself until the next Administration takes office, and it would not be surprising if this Administration does everything in its ability to avoid being affixed the blame for the disaster that is Iraq, even if it makes things worse in the long run.