Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Victory or Fubar

By now you've probably heard about this Macleans article, mostly because of its provocative photo. But the article itself also cuts neatly to the nature of the problems with Junior's ongoing folly.

Instead of polls and data mining, the governing Shia parties have taken control by using militias to “sectarian cleanse” Baghdad, a retaliation against al-Qaeda’s spectacular car bombing campaign. By one estimate, Baghdad was once 65 per cent Sunni; today it is 75 per cent Shia. Deaths from sectarian killings are reportedly down, in large measure because there are few mixed neighbourhoods left. Almost the entire Sunni middle class lives in Jordan or Syria. If you are named Omar, a traditional Sunni name, chances are you are dead or living abroad. Under Saddam, no one on the streets of the capital ever uttered the word mukhabarat, mean­ing the feared security police. Today, no one says maktab, meaning “office,” but in fact referring to radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army’s bases from which members control neighbourhoods. Their preferred method of torture is the electric drill.

Qualitatively, how exactly is this substantially different from life under Saddam, from the ordinary Iraqi's perspective? If you ask this question, the usual fart-knockers rejoinder obtusely that you're equating American efforts (which are cynically touted as "coalition" efforts when convenient) with the Stalinist tactics of Hussein's psychotic mafia. This has the effect of getting one caught up in explaining the distinction, which is a complete waste of time. They know the difference, just like they know what the stupid MoveOn ad actually means. Everything's a ploy with these people, regardless of how many civilians get murdered with power tools because of chronic neotard bungling.

The discussion in Washington and New York has always drowned out the reality of Iraq. One of the terrifying aspects of the war is the monumental failure of analysis and action on the part of America’s political, military, journalistic and even business elites.

That problem may be systemic—the result of a “fact-based” America confronting a society it did not understand and simply making up an alternate reality, guns ablaze. So far, the Republicans have done an impressive job at failing in Iraq. Soon it may be the Democrats’ turn to fail, albeit in a different way.

I think so too. It seems that the Democrats will benefit electorally from the sheer number of retiring rats and remaining empty suits on the other side. The truly sorry lineup for preznitential contenders on the Republican side speaks volumes; there are cartoon characters that could beat bozos like Tom Tancredo in an election. And he has to know that, but he stays in because either he enjoys the sound of his own voice, or there's money in it. See Thompson, Fred.

But if this past year is any indication, it seems that even another resounding message at the voting booth will ultimately fall on deaf Democratic ears, possessed by people lacking even more in spine. They seem to be remarkably unready for what may, in its denouement, turn out to be a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Peter Galbraith has sufficient insight, on the off chance anyone has the balls to read it to Mister Man before sleepy time some night.

Since 2005, Iraq's Shiite-led government has concluded numerous economic, political, and military agreements with Iran. The most important would link the two countries' strategic oil reserves by building a pipeline from southern Iraq to Iran, while another commits Iran to providing extensive military assistance to the Iraqi government. According to a senior official in Iraq's Oil Ministry, smugglers divert at least 150,000 barrels of Iraq's daily oil exports through Iran, a figure that approaches 10 percent of Iraq's production. Iran has yet to provide the military support it promised to the Iraqi army. With the US supplying 160,000 troops and hundreds of billions of dollars to support a pro-Iranian Iraqi government, Iran has no reason to invest its own resources.


The scale of the American miscalculation is striking. Before the Iraq war began, its neoconservative architects argued that conferring power on Iraq's Shiites would serve to undermine Iran because Iraq's Shiites, controlling the faith's two holiest cities, would, in the words of then Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, be "an independent source of authority for the Shia religion emerging in a country that is democratic and pro-Western." Further, they argued, Iran could never dominate Iraq, because the Iraqi Shiites are Arabs and the Iranian Shiites Persian. It was a theory that, unfortunately, had no connection to reality.

Iran's bond with the Iraqi Shiites goes far beyond the support Iran gave Shiite leaders in their struggle with Saddam Hussein. Decades of oppression have made their religious identity more important to Iraqi Shiites than their Arab ethnic identity. (Also, many Iraqi Shiites have Turcoman, Persian, or Kurdish ancestors.) While Sunnis identify with the Arab world, Iraqi Shiites identify with the Shiite world, and for many this means Iran.

But hey, what really matters is that the latest administration patsy to show up and lie with a straight face to Congress and to the American people, had a snappy uniform on. No criticism allowed, ungrateful rabble!

The identity of Iranian recipients of US funding is secret but the administration's neoconservative allies have loudly promoted US military and financial support for Iranian opposition groups as diverse as the son of the late Shah, Iranian Kurdish separatists, and the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), which is on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations. Some of the Los Angeles exiles now being funded are associated with the son of the Shah but it is unlikely that either the MEK or the Kurdish separatists would receive any of the $75 million. US secrecy—and that the administration treats the MEK differently from other terrorist organizations—has roused Iranian suspicions that the US is supporting these groups either through the democracy program or a separate covert action.

Here's the thing -- even if the Iranians suddenly became so brazen and stupid as to announce publicly that they were finishing their nuke program tomorrow, and pointing missiles at Tel Aviv, it would still be impossible to trust the current oafs to take the right steps to deal with the crisis comprehensively. They know how to start wars, but have no idea how to end them, which is much more important to success.

One of the main reasons we regard World War 2 as the great, justified war is that we went the extra mile to end it correctly, insofar as rebuilding and investing in conquered enemies, even for rational self-interest rather than altruistic motives, is far better than plundering the ruins and salting the earth. And as long as there's a buck to be made in Iraq's oil reserves, we'll never exactly salt the earth, but we've shot our wad.

Everything here on out, just like everything for the past two years or so, has been pure damage control and risk management. There's not a charitable way to look at this any longer, we're going to spend more money next year than any other year so far in Iraq, and our representatives are playing grab-ass over goddamned newspaper ads.

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