Dissent On Iraq

I spend more time writing about Iraq than I do anything else these days while to be completely honest, I would rather be spending at least some of that time on other things.  We are not, contrary to what the news coverage might suggest, a nation simply at war on the other side of the globe, complete with our own issues, and problems that need to be solved within our own borders.

It occurs to me that the reason for this should probably be made a little more clear.

At this point, it should be known that I’ve been called everything.  I’m a traitor and sedition, I’m anti-American, I hate the troops, I’m a defeatist, a Defeat-o-crat, a cutter and runner, please if I’ve forgotten any let me know.

What I find most curious about all of this is that in 99.9% of my actual published posts do I anywhere actually hope for defeat, or even express any opinion at all as far as attaining an amicable outcome in Iraq.  Such musings are typically left for comments posted here and elsewhere when I find that my patriotic bona fides are in question, and my dedication to America is cast in a shadow of doubt.

I find it curious that so many people are so quick to assume my official stance on Iraq War when I myself have been so scarce to offer it.  It’s like a lot of these people are psychic, deriving from my plentiful criticisms how I feel America should proceed in regards to the Iraqi conflict.

Amazing, actually.

The first question that should be asked is why I am so highly critical of the Iraq war.  Is it because I hate America?  Of course not.  Is it because I believe we should cut and run, or am wishing for defeat?  I wouldn’t put it that way.

No, the reason why I criticize virtually everything in regards to the Iraq War stems from occurrences that began in the days and hours following the terrorist attacks that happened six years ago tomorrow.

If you want to be really nitpicky, I suppose it actually began before then.

But on the morning of September 11th, 2001, 19 men hijacked four commercial US flights.  Two of those flights were deliberately flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center located in New York City.  One of them was flown into the Pentagon.  As for the final one, brave citizens stood up against their hijackers and managed to avoid allowing the final plane to reach its final destination, instead crashing to the ground in Pennsylvania.

In the aftermath that followed, US intelligence did not have to take long to ascertain who was responsible.  A little known (at the time) terrorist organization fronted by Osama bin Laden was, by most accounts, the culprit, however, this narrative would quickly fail to remain this simple.

Almost immediately, despite the fact that all intelligence pointed to bin Laden’s al Qaeda as the sole culprit, the highest level administration officials seemed bound and determined to find a way to tie the attacks in with Saddam Hussein’s secular Iraq.

This despite common sense among the intelligence community.  Donald Rumsfeld had been quoted as saying in one meeting that bombing should occur in Iraq vice Afghanistan where Osama bin Laden and integral parts of the al Qaeda organization resided because it had “better targets.”  Meanwhile, Bush had pulled Richard Clarke aside and insisted that he take his people and go back over the intelligence to “See if Saddam did this.”

That would prove to be merely the tip of the iceberg.  While it may not have necessarily been the first in total, it was the first direct example of the administration divorcing itself from reality in order to pursue its own agenda, in this instance, regime change of Iraq.

A year and a half later, we would eventually find ourselves at war with Iraq, this despite virtually every bit of evidence that was used to make the case for war turning out to be wrong.  And not merely wrong after the fact.  This was no mistake where we went off of the best possible intelligence and it turned out the intelligence was wrong.

No, the opposing views were there from the beginning.  Just last week we learned that George Tenet himself had said, to Bush, that there were no WMD’s in Iraq.  Members of the DOE, at the time aluminum tubes were being used to make a case that Saddam was building nuclear centrifuges, were ready, willing, and able to debunk that particular theory.  As for the yellow cake Saddam was ready to purchase in Niger, that was what the entire flap over Joe Wilson was about.

From the supposed links between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, to the claims that Saddam was reconstituting his nuclear program, it was all wrong, and worse, the information to know that it was all wrong was available to the president before he set us on a collision course with disaster in Iraq.

This would set a precedent within the administration for the next four years of divorcing itself from reality in order to continue its policies.  Trusting Chalabi, believing we would be greeted with sweets and flowers as liberators, failing to create a post Saddam plan for Iraq, and when some people actually did so, failing to adhere or even consider these plans.  All of it has come to where we are now.

Well over three thousand soldiers dead.

Depending on your metric, anywhere from 65,000 to 650,000 Iraqi civillians dead.

Iraq is still, four years after the fact, without a functioning government.

Major infrastructure failures leave millions of Iraqis with intermittent power supply and minimal fresh water.

An increase in the global threats of terrorism.

al Qaeda, nor Osama bin Laden have been brought to justice.

In fact, it’s hard to find anything good that has come of Bush’s policies.  There is the toppling of Saddam, but even that is a double edged sword considering that many Iraqis see that as a good thing, but also many Iraqis believe that what came afterwards is worse in so many ways.

And this is all the doing of my America.  A place I am proud to call home.  A place I’m lucky to call home.  I look upon our history of this new millenium, and find myself riddled with shame and dissappointment.  This ideal that I swore to defend with my life twice has been so misused.

And what has been the cause?  Looking at the big picture there are two causes.

The first is that the people who weild the most power in this country have divorced themselves from reality.  They have stifled dissent, and highlighted those opinions and bits of data that support their world view.  We talk of the now famed conversation wherein a Bushite claimed that they were History’s actors, that they made reality while the rest of us watched.

But this was not true.  What actually happened was that they thought this was what was going on, when in truth all they were doing was taking those bits of reality that suited them, and discarded the rest.  Unfortunately for all of us, what was discarded actually turned about to be vitally important.

The second cause came in the nature of the treatment towards those that provided the dissent.  Those who pled for prudence, and to look at the many situations that faced us from all angles were shouted down, called un-patriotic, and ostracized from the debate.

Elected officials feared standing up to what was going on because at the time to do so meant sure political death as you were apt to be painted as weak on terrorism, and eager to hand America over to the terrorists that attacked us.

The two causes combined to create a national instance of “group think” where everyone agreed with each other straight towards disaster.

Which brings me to why I write what I write.  Do I want our role in Iraq to be disastrous and defeated?  No.  I consider myself a voice of dissent, and often times I feel as though I’m screaming into the void.

I see how this administration has acted in the past, and see them doing it again with the “surge”.  While Patraeus is delivering the perfect measure of slow but tangible progress, there are numerous reports outside of the White House control that show otherwise; that Anbar occurred in an isolated community and occurred under questionable means, while violence in Iraq has gone down by some metrics, but these metrics have to be calibrated to avoid counting IEDs while at the same time ignoring violence because it is no longer sectarian in nature.

As it has done time and again, the administration is only taking bits of reality and acting upon those, as opposed to what it should be doing, and taking the entire picture, and asking questions, and seeking not only answers, but solutions.

What, for instance, do we do with Anbar and make the progress there translatable throughout the country?  If sectarian violence is giving way to factional violence with, how do we get that to stop?

And most importantly, how the hell are we supposed to get true political progress in Iraq?

These aren’t the questions that are being asked.  In fact, one thing I find highly important is that the focus of the White House over the past few months has been defending the “surge”.  Where is the introspective criticism?  Why are these people not asking themselves what they can do better?

The ultimate question is, why do the appear more concerned with the PR blitz as opposed to finding better and more viable strategies in regard to Iraq?

To be dead honest, I really don’t know.  Sure there is the main line anti-war left that Bush wants war forever, but I do not embrace this answer so readily.  I think maybe it’s just not in him.  I think it’s not in him to succumb to total reality.  I think it is in him to succumb totally to the neoconservative ideology, and the problem is, no ideology, not even my own has all the answers.

So what to do about Iraq?  I honestly don’t know, but I can’t put my faith in an administration that has behaved, and continues to behave as this one has.

I do know that the surge is not working as well as advertized.  I do believe that I think our presence in Iraq is holding it under hostile stasis.  I think that while you may or may not be willing to call it a civil war (and to be honest I think to conclude otherwise is simply delusional), there is a civil war in the country waiting to happen.

We’re just postponing it, if Bush were to have his way, that would be indefinitely.  Meanwhile, no true progress can occur.  The divisions between Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds will remain, and in some cases, their own internal struggles will continue to fester.  Political progress will be hampered not only by a winner take all strategy, but also by the fact that American ties to any one side, such as our ties to Shia politicians, greatly reduce the credibility of an Iraqi solution for Iraqis.

Again, I don’t know the right answer.  I’m not trained, and not paid to come up with one.  But I think one vital part of the solution is that we remove ourselves from the process to a degree.  Ultimately, this is their country, and they have to have the final say in how it is resolved.

When we fought our revolution, no other country declared war for us.  The French came to our aid, but this was only after we sent our Declaration of Independence to the King of England.  We had shown the will to be free of our oppressors.

Then, generations later, when the South, under feelings of duress by the politically powerful Northern states, decided to attempt to abandon the union, no one came in to help us fight our civil war.  We did that on our own, and had France, or England, or any other country attempted to interfere, no peace that we had eventually come to would have done so without great animosity, and ultimately failed.

Much between Iraq and America is not analogous.  We are of two seperate cultures.  But this I think is true.  In a way it is about sovereignty and self determination, and for as long as we meddle in the affairs of Iraqis on how they are to be determined from here on out, there can be no true stability.

This is something I truly think they have to do on their own.  Not that we can’t still play our parts.  We can redeploy, we can still act as referees, and should one faction come to significant power and abuse that power at the detriment of others within the nation, we can make a case to stifle that occurrence, but in our capacity now, I feel that all we are doing is hindering progress.

Not helping it along.

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