Last Chance For Sanity In Iraq
By Ramzy Baroud
09 January, 2007
President George W Bush's new war strategy due to be officially announced
on Wednesday, which will likely meet an uphill battle at the now Democrat-controlled
Congress, is a slap in the face of the majority of American voters,
and indeed the democratic process.
The majority of American
voters made their voices heard loud and clear in November when they
voted out Bush's archaic thinking, a mixture of old imperialist ideas,
bent on territorial accumulation and strategic positioning, notwithstanding
misguided religious beliefs.
According to the latest public
opinion polls, nearly three out of four US respondents now say they
disapprove of Bush's handling of Iraq, while confidence in his overall
leadership has fallen to record lows.
Bush is yet to learn, however,
that the Untied States is not Rome, and strengths and weakness are no
longer measured alone by a nation's number of combatants. The past three
and a half years of utter failure in Iraq should have been the sign
any rational leader would need to change course; but few ever argued
that the president is an icon of leadership or even-headedness; thus
the "new" Iraq strategy.
Just one day after the leadership
of the US Congress was handed over to the victorious Democrats, after
many years of absence, Bush began to reshuffle his war generals in a
way that is consistent with neither the wishes of the American people
nor the majority of Congress.
Though the Iraq strategy
was scheduled to be laid out officially on Wednesday, early signs show
that the president intends to beef up his war efforts and perhaps prepare
for a new showdown, this time with Iran.
An early ominous sign came
when Bush signaled his intentions for a troop surge in Iraq, with an
additional 20,000-40,000 soldiers to bolster the 140,000 already on
the ground. Bush insists that such a dramatic increase is temporary
and will only come about when he receives guarantees from the current
Iraqi government - a puppet government by any standards - that it is
willing to take charge and play its part.
Expectedly, many Democratic
members of Congress, and even some members of Bush's own Republican
Party, are opposed to such a move. That rejection was articulated in
an open letter released on Friday, written by the new leaders of Congress,
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "Adding
more combat troops will only endanger more Americans and stretch our
military to the breaking point for no strategic gain. And it would undermine
our efforts to get the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own future,"
Pelosi and Reid wrote.
Bush is also expected to
request US$100 billion in addition to the $75 billion already approved
by last year's Republican-led Congress, to fund US military operations
in Iraq and Afghanistan in fiscal 2007.
Disgruntled Democrats are
not alone in objecting to Bush's imprudent proposal; the military leadership
also finds it reckless and futile. Therefore, top army brass Generals
George Casey and John Abizaid, who are deeply skeptical regarding increasing
troop numbers in Iraq, are on their way to be replaced by war supporters.
General David Petraeus, a
war supporter who participated in the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, is
set to take over from Casey as the top ground commander.
Moreover, the president reportedly
intends to endorse William Fallon to head US Central Command. The choice
of Fallon, according to Tim Reid, The Times of London's reporter in
Washington, as the top military commander in the Middle East - to replace
Abizaid - came as a big surprise to the Pentagon, for the former is
a naval officer with little experience in that region.
But things will fall neatly
in place when one considers that Bush's choice has more to do with Iran
than repairing the damage done in Iraq: "Any mission against Tehran
would rely heavily on carrier-based aircraft and missiles from the Persian
Gulf," according to The Times, and the expertise of Fallon is most
needed in that type of military scenario.
But boosting the number of
US troops at a time when the US Army seems to be stretched to its maximum
is not an easy job, even for the can-do president. Military analysts
suggest that Bush can only successfully make up his force surge by extending
tours and resorting to the reserve. Both moves will likely increase
the number of US casualties at a higher rate than the present - keeping
in mind that to date more than 3,000 US soldiers have been killed in
the war - and will make the war bill a whole lot more expensive - about
$350 billion has been spent without even an emblematic constructive
Most of the new troops will
be positioned in Sunni areas in
Baghdad and al-Anbar province,
seen as the heart of the resistance. Only a naive person would argue
that such a stratagem would lead to anything other than greater bloodshed
and further enlivening and validating the so-called insurgents.
Although the "Sunni
insurgency" remains the prime target of the US military in Iraq,
there is a growing realization among US officials and war generals that
the unruly Shi'ite militias and their death squads are a greater cause
of instability and violence.
Ironically, the rise of the
Shi'ite militias was an early US strategy that put the many Shi'ite
factions on a crash course with the Sunni resistance: thus dividing
and weakening the Iraqis and lowering the risk of American casualties.
Now that the Iraqi army and
police are composed mostly from those same militant thugs, many Iraqis
find themselves victimized by their supposed national army and police
force. Those who are expecting Iraqis to "take responsibility for
their future" seem oblivious to the fact that the future of Iraq
is most bleak under the current US-devised sectarianism where Sunnis
are murdered with impunity and Shi'ites are blown up in their markets.
The humiliating execution
of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein at the hands of masked Shi'ite
guards purporting to be an executive arm of a legitimate government
was indeed the last attestation that will forever categorize the ongoing
strife in Iraq as one between Shi'ite and Sunni, the former allied to
invading foreigners and the latter fighting for mere survival.
The fact that the inner Iraqi
strife is now categorically defined according to sectarian lines, Bush
must realize that the situation in Iraq has reached a point of unprecedented
sensitivity, and his macho politics and infamous stubbornness can lead
only to further disasters. His actions this week and expected moves
to follow will lead to a situation that neither his party nor the Democrats
with their blurred policy outlook can repair.
Bush must immediately provide
a roadmap for withdrawal from Iraq to be carried out in stages to allow
for synchronized, constructive regional and international roles that
will engage the United Nations, the Arab League and, most important,
all Iraqi social groups; otherwise, a divided Iraq with all the ills
and regional mayhem it will bring about will remain an inescapable last
Ramzy Baroud's latest book,
The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle
(Pluto Press), is available at Amazon.com and also from the University
of Michigan Press.
(Copyright 2007 Ramzy Baroud.)
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