The belated self-evident, from the Iraq Study Group
Thu Dec 7, 2006 13:52

The belated self-evident, from the Iraq Study Group
by margieburns on Thu 07 Dec 2006 09:20 AM EST |
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From the report of the Iraq Study Group: “Both Iraqi and American leaders told us that, as Baghdad goes, so goes Iraq."

"The results of Operation Together Forward II [to control Baghdad] are disheartening . . . Security efforts will fail unless the Iraqis have both the capability to hold areas that have been cleared and the will to clear neighborhoods that are home to Shiite militias. U.S. forces can “clear” any neighborhood, but there are neither enough U.S. troops present nor enough support from Iraqi security forces to “hold” neighborhoods so cleared. The same holds true for the rest of Iraq. Because none of the operations conducted by U.S. and Iraqi military forces are fundamentally changing the conditions encouraging the sectarian violence, U.S. forces seem to be caught in a mission that has no foreseeable end.” (15)

“As Baghdad goes, so goes Iraq.”

This is a statement of breathtaking self-evidence. It was always true that Baghdad dominated Iraq. Baghdad was the hub and brainpan of practically the entire resources of Iraq. Most of Iraq outside of Baghdad is desert. Only 13% of Iraq is arable land; its principal waterways, the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, run through Baghdad. In a national population of about 27 million people, a sizeable plurality of 5 million lived in Baghdad, one of the more progressive and secular cities in the Middle East and one of the oldest cities in the world. Baghdad is and was the Iraqi national capital and the hub and control center for communications, health, and imports and exports, including oil, which provided 95% of Iraqi government revenues.

Everybody engaged in planning to invade Iraq knew this simple fact. (I commented on it myself in radio interviews on the Louie Free radio show in Cleveland.) Anyone who looked at a map knew it. Anyone who read the “Iraq” entry in the CIA World FactBook knew it. Anyone who looked up Iraq in any standard, respected encyclopedia knew it. Anyone who checked the World Almanac and Book of Facts knew it. The White House itself acknowledged this blatantly obvious disproportion between Baghdad and the rest of Iraq, in harping on the known evils of Saddam Hussein’s consolidation of internal power.

Back to the ISG report: “U.S. forces can “clear” any neighborhood, but there are neither enough U.S. troops present nor enough support from Iraqi security forces to “hold” neighborhoods so cleared. The same holds true for the rest of Iraq.”

Another statement of breathtaking, if belated, lucidity: there was never any doubt that Iraq could be crushed by the USA. (Among other commentators, I also said that on air.) Iraq is smaller than Italy, Kenya, Malaysia, North or South Korea, and Poland; less than one-twentieth the land area of America; less than one-tenth the population of America. It had less than one-third the population of Vietnam. Iraqis had already been wasted by two wars in two decades that depleted their population, debilitated their industry and agriculture and retarded any potential for national unity or popular resistance to Saddam. Without allies, or Kuwait, they hardly have a port.

As those of us knew who were not influenced by Orientalist fantasies about the strange magical powers of Middle Easterners, Bush administration efforts to instill fear did everything but accuse the Iraqis of having magic carpets to fly (yet unknown) weapons across the Atlantic.

Not that every utterance by every Bush appointee, on the topic of Iraq, was deliberate lying. Genuine ignorance was also part of the mix. But ignorance can be strategic -- within the solipsistic confines of intra-administration politics. Bush-Cheney policy has been to keep genuine ignorance unchallenged, within the administration, as much as possible. This White House has made a practice of hiring personnel without genuine expertise in their fields, of leaving sensitive positions pertaining to the Near East or to intelligence unfilled, and of undermining or retaliating against career intelligence and foreign service personnel whose information could have derailed White House war-boosting. Several prominent Bush insiders, like the current Secretary of State, were professional militarists whose careers of artificial prominence were built by corporate donors in the Cold War and who had to find another insider career of contract-generating bellicosity after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The same mavens are now in the process of either leaving government or distancing themselves from their previous arguments. They continue to try to cover up the shameful fact that Iraq was in a condition of pitiful weakness, partly to distance themselves from the horrors visited on the Iraqi people and partly to avoid blame for the cost in American lives and treasure in Iraq. But accurate memory on this point is a civic obligation. The question was never whether the U.S. could crush Iraq. That was a given. The question (for anyone determined to go to war; that is, setting aside the illegitimacy of the war itself) was how the U.S. could keep Iraq – or even Baghdad – once conquered; and by what means or how far this nation would be willing to go, to do so.
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Date: Thu, 7 Dec 2006 14:25:51 +0000 (GMT)
From: Tippi Maravala

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