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Thu

27

Sep

2007

Ninth Circle: The Widening Gyre of Iraq's Death Spiral
Thursday, 27 September 2007 16:23
by Chris Floyd

If you would like a glimpse of the raging, death-clotted hell that George W. Bush and his willing executioners in the bipartisan American Establishment have created in Iraq, then steel yourself and plunge into Nir Rosen's shattering report in the latest issue of Boston Review: No Going Back.

Rosen, long one of the most dogged and fearless truth-tellers about Iraq, portrays a reality light-years away from the obscenely mendacious and ignorant American "debate" over Bush's rapine and its consequences. He takes as his theme the millions of Iraqis driven from their homes by the invasion and occupation – and by the Iraqi "government's" own "security forces." These ruthless militias – armed, trained, funded and empowered by the United States – are, as Rosen rightly terms them, death squads, carrying out a savage ethnic cleansing – with American connivance – while waging a multi-sided civil war, again with the eager assistance of the White House and its myrmidons.

You should read the whole piece – a deftly-woven tapestry of individual stories of the actual human beings whose lives and families have been ravaged by this war crime carried out in your name – but below are some excerpts, mostly drawn from Rosen's devastating conclusion:
For the U.S. to acknowledge the size and seriousness of the humanitarian disaster in Iraq would be to admit that the recent troop “surge” is not working. According to a senior UN official, “the U.S. government doesn’t want to admit there is a refugee problem because it is a sign of failure.” It would also mean acknowledging that a massive process of ethnic cleansing has taken place under the watch of the U.S.-backed government—indeed, that it has been perpetrated by the Iraqi government’s own security forces...
What will happen to Iraq? Think Mogadishu, small warlords controlling various neighborhoods, militias preying on those left behind, more powerful warlords controlling areas with resources, such as oil fields, ports, and lucrative pilgrimage routes and shrines. Irredentist Sunni militias will attempt to retake their lost land, but they will be pushed into the Anbar Province, Jordan, and Syria, where they may link up with local Islamist militants to destabilize Amman and Damascus. Some will look to fight elsewhere; unable to continue the jihad in Iraq they will find common cause with Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrians, and others alienated from their societies and hateful of Shias. The new rump Shia statelet, including Baghdad and the South, will be quarantined by the Sunni states in the region and pushed inexorably into Iranian hands whether Shia Iraqis want this or not. It will be isolated and radicalized, and Shia militias loyal to Muqtada al Sadr, Abdul Aziz al Hakim, Muhamad al Yaqubi, and others will battle for power.

There is no “surge.” At best it can be called an ooze, a slow increase of American occupying forces by a mere 15 percent, consisting of few new soldiers and many whose terms of service have been merely extended. Yet the U.S. has doubled the size of its mission, announcing it will also take on the Shia militias as well as the Sunni ones. On the ground, that means American soldiers secure areas and then hand them over to Iraqi security forces who impose a reign of terror on the inhabitants. In the Iraqi civil war the army and police are not the solution; they are combatants, fighting on behalf of Shia-sectarian Islamist parties. The vaunted efforts to train Iraqi security forces have merely trained better death squads. The Americans continue to imprison thousands of Iraqis, and kill many others. Meanwhile, humanitarian organizations that would normally demand that the United States comply with international law and hand over imprisoned Iraqis to the “sovereign” Iraqi government are not doing so, knowing that their treatment at the hands of the government would be far worse than anything they would endure while in American captivity. The occupation is not benign. It is profoundly painful, humiliating, and lethal.

An American withdrawal would certainly lead other countries in the region, whether Turkey, Jordan, Iran, Syria, or Saudi Arabia, to increase their involvement in Iraq. It would also mean an expedited removal of Sunnis in Baghdad. But all this is happening anyway, so it doesn’t make much difference in terms of the fate of Iraq whether American military forces stay or leave.

The truth is that the American military will remain in Iraq for a long time. The large bases in Anbar Province, such as al Assad and Taqaddum are built to last, “an enduring presence,” as one Marine officer told me. Located in the remote desert, impregnable and only occasionally targeted by mortars, these bases will remain for decades. The Americans may eventually withdraw from the urban areas of Iraq, but full withdrawal, through the treacherous roads of the Anbar to Jordan, through the south past Shia militias on the way to Kuwait or even through the so-called Sunni Triangle, Samarra, and Tikrit or through Mosul to Kurdistan or Turkey, would be a withdrawal under fire and involve slaughter for the Iraqis.

The American occupation has been more disastrous than the Mongols’ sack of Baghdad in the 13th century. Iraq’s human capital has fled, its intellectuals and professionals, the educated, the moneyed classes, the political elite. They will not return. And the government is nonexistent at best. After finally succumbing to Iraqi pressure, the Americans submitted to elections but deliberately emasculated the central government and the office of the prime minister. Now Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki is the scapegoat for American failure in Iraq, and there are calls to remove him or overthrow him. But talk of a coup to replace Maliki fails to understand that he is irrelevant. Gone are the days when Baghdad was the only major city in Iraq, and whoever controlled Baghdad controlled the country. The continued focus on the theater in the Green Zone ignores the reality that events there have never determined what happens outside of it. Iraq is a collection of city states such as Baghdad, Mosul, Basra, Ramadi, Erbil, and others, each controlled by various warlords with their own militias. And the villages are entirely unprotected. Maliki will be the last prime minister of Iraq. When he is run out there will be no new elections, since they can’t be run safely and fairly anymore, and the pretense of an Iraqi state will be over.

It has become popular with former supporters of the war to blame the Iraqis for the Americans’ failure. The Iraqis did not choose democracy or the Iraqis did not choose freedom, Americans like to say, or the Iraqis have to decide to stop killing each other or Iraqis have to “step up.” But such complaints misplace the blame. Sunni and Shia Iraqis protested the American occupation as soon as it began, and demanded elections and sovereignty. The U.S. ignored their demands and instead imposed a dictator on them, Paul Bremer, hoping he would pave the way for an Iraqi strongman to rule in our stead. Other former supporters of the war, echoing the simplistic sentiments heard during the Balkan wars, now blame the alleged “ancient hatred” between Sunnis and Shias, who have been fighting each other for “thousands of years.” But Iraq had no history of civil war or sectarian violence even approaching this scale until the Americans arrived. Iraq is not Rwanda, where Hutus and Tutsis slaughtered each other and America could pretend it had no role. We did this to Iraq. And it is time the U.S and the international community “step up” to the resulting humanitarian nightmare.
One follow-up note. As Arthur Silber has noted, Hillary Clinton is prominent among those "former supporters of the war [who] blame the Iraqis for the Americans’ failure." As Arthur puts it:
Consider the unforgivable inhumanity of Hillary Clinton proclaiming:
"Our troops did the job they were asked to do. They got rid of Saddam Hussein. They conducted the search for weapons of mass destruction. They gave the Iraqi people a chance for elections and to have a government. It is the Iraqis who have failed to take advantage of that opportunity."
Inhumanity indeed. This astonishing statement bespeaks a depraved and dangerous mind, addled by long exposure to imperial power and privilege. Read the stories that Rosen tells of ordinary people being chewed to pieces by the engine that Clinton helped set in motion, then see if you too, like the honorable senator from New York, believe they are just ungrateful wretches "who have failed to take advantage" of the wonderful opportunity Bush and Clinton have given them.
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