Blaming The Iraqis


The Blame Game


The "central front" on the War on Terror (more commonly known as the fiasco in Iraq) has been going badly. So, Mr. Bush claimed this week to have opened another front in the War on Terror: Lebanon. Rumor has it that the new front in the War on Terror is not going well either.

Earlier this week after meetings at the Pentagon and State Department, Mr. Bush took out his "War on Terror" brush and once again painted broadly. In his remarks to reporters, he added a new front to his ever-widening war:

We discussed the global war on terror. We discussed the situation on the ground in three fronts of the global war on terror: in Lebanon and Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is probably a matter of time until Mr. Bush adds Syria and Iran to his list of fronts. As long as new fronts continue to be added, he can reasonably argue that the War on Terror is not lost. Perhaps the hope is that Iraq will get lost in an ocean of fronts and utter failure there will not be seen as humiliation.

While the definitions are fiddled with in Washington, the civil war in Iraq rages without pause. While we were away watching the collapse of Ehud Olmert’s political career at the cost of Lebanese and Israeli lives, the cadence of death in Iraq has accelerated. According to the Iraqi Health Ministry, July was the deadliest month in Iraq since George W Bush decided to do a photo op on a tax-payer financed aircraft carrier:

An average of more than 110 Iraqis were killed each day in July, according to the figures. The total number of civilian deaths last month — 3,438 — is a 9 percent increase over the tally in June, and nearly double the toll of January.

The rising numbers suggest that sectarian violence is spiraling out of control, and they seemed to bolster an assertion many senior Iraqi officials and U.S. military analysts have been making in recent months — that the country is already embroiled in a civil war, not just slipping into one, and that the U.S.-led forces are caught between Sunni Arab guerrillas and Shiite militias

The pace of killing is staggering and is on par with or exceeds the pace of death in other modern civil wars: notably the Lebanese Civil War and the Algerian Civil War. It has now become fashionable in Washington to use the "C" word when talking about Iraq. The shift in rhetoric and direction began in June after the Maliki government began to voice sentiment about an American pullout. It was a sure sign of a parting of the ways between the Iraqis and the Americans. Since that time, U.S. officials have started to edge the rhetoric toward "civil war" – a civil war that arguably began in March of this year. At that time, I wrote these words to mark what I saw as the beginning of the civil war in Iraq:

This week marks the beginning of the Iraqi Civil War. The American mission in Iraq is over. We can either stay and fight everyone, pick sides, or leave. No choice open to America now will improve the situation on the ground.

The events kicked off by the Samarra bombing have now been book-ended by the attack on the mosque in Baghdad. We have entered the fray in a big way with the attack on the mosque. Images of the dead lying in a prayer room in the mosque and reports that the 80-year-old imam of the mosque has also been killed are being beamed continuously to everyone with a TV and electricity in Iraq. The American military’s protestations that the mosque was not entered will fall on deaf ears. We have no credibility there – not only because we are not trusted, but also because we have been unable or unwilling to stop the bloodletting there.

The ingredient missing from Iraq’s slide into civil war was mainstream outrage and anger and an embracing of the sectarian militias as the only guarantors of security. We have, perhaps unwittingly, provided the last piece of the puzzle and now the civil war picture is complete.

In tandem with an admission that Iraq is either sliding into civil war or is in a civil war, there has been a shifting of the blame to the Iraqis for the failure of the Bush Administration’s mission in Iraq. There was always an element of this in the mantra: "We will stand down when the Iraqis stand up." After all if the Iraqis don’t "stand up", can it possibly be the fault of the Bush Administration? Lately, however, the blame potential has been cashed in for large helpings of blame. Last week our man in Baghdad mouthed the "blame the Iraqis" talking points:

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said in an interview last week that Iraq’s political leaders have failed to fully use their influence to rein in the soaring violence, and that people associated with the government are stoking the flames of sectarian hatred.

"I think the time has come for these leaders to take responsibility with regards to sectarian violence, to the security of Baghdad at the present time," Khalilzad said.  

Of course the Iraqi leaders should be able to "rein in" sectarian violence with their ill-equipped and ill-trained military forces where 130,000 American soldiers have failed. Even the President let it be known this week that he was disappointed with the Iraqis for failing to join his freedom parade:

“I sensed a frustration with the lack of progress on the bigger picture of Iraq generally — that we continue to lose a lot of lives, it continues to sap our budget,” said one person who attended the meeting. “The president wants the people in Iraq to get more on board to bring success.”

More generally, the participants said, the president expressed frustration that Iraqis had not come to appreciate the sacrifices the United States had made in Iraq, and was puzzled as to how a recent anti-American rally in support of Hezbollah in Baghdad could draw such a large crowd. “I do think he was frustrated about why 10,000 Shiites would go into the streets and demonstrate against the United States,” said another person who attended.

The President’s spokesman later denied that Mr. Bush had misgivings. Nonetheless, the rumor of Presidential disappointment was already laid and a rationale for washing our hands of Iraq had already been articulated.

Although it is politically convenient to blame the Iraqis for this Administration’s failures, it is also demonstrably false. The current sectarian violence is a direct result of the Bush Administration’s failure to secure Iraq after the initial invasion in 2003. Securing Iraq was not an optional part of the war plan – it was a required duty of the United States as the occupying power according to the Law of Occupation as codified by the Hague Regulations, the Fourth Geneva Conventions and the U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10, The Law of Land WarfareArticle 43 of the Hague Regulations state:

The authority of the legitimate power having in fact passed into the hands of the occupant, the latter shall take all the measures in his power to restore, and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety, while respecting, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country.

The United States failed to provide basic security to the civilians in Iraq. No amount of finger pointing will whitewash that fact. The Bush Administration not only failed to protect the Iraqi civilians, it also showed a callous disregard for their plight. As Iraq started to descend into chaos after the American invasion, that bumbling buffoon of a Defense Secretary had this to say:

Declaring that freedom is "untidy," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Friday the looting in Iraq was a result of "pent-up feelings" of oppression and that it would subside as Iraqis adjusted to life without Saddam Hussein.

He also asserted the looting was not as bad as some television and newspaper reports have indicated and said there was no major crisis in Baghdad, the capital city, which lacks a central governing authority. The looting, he suggested, was "part of the price" for what the United States and Britain have called the liberation of Iraq.

"Freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things," Rumsfeld said. "They’re also free to live their lives and do wonderful things. And that’s what’s going to happen here."

Looting, he added, was not uncommon for countries that experience significant social upheaval. "Stuff happens," Rumsfeld said.

Civil wars apparently happen too. Especially when those responsible for the protection of the civilian population fail to provide the necessary security.

I would venture that any major American city would descend into chaos if law enforcement decided to take a 3-year holiday and leave the citizens to fend for themselves. I would guess that rather quickly neighborhoods would start taking steps to protect themselves from thieves and other intruders, militias would form and start offering protection at a price to helpless civilians, tribalism would start to take hold, a steady disintegration of civil society would occur.

It may seem easy and convenient to blame the Iraqis for sectarian violence, but this violence became inevitable when this neo-con fantasy of an invasion was set in motion. Ever since this fiasco began, Mr. Bush has been blaming everyone but himself. Earlier this year, he famously and laughably blamed Saddam Hussein for the current violence. Now Mr. Bush’s finger of blame has moved on to the Iraqi leadership and the people. Perhaps it is time to place a mirror in front of Mr. Bush.

This entry was posted in Foreign Policy, Iraq, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Blaming The Iraqis

  1. Group Captain Mandrake says:

    Damn ingrates, those Iraqis. Don’t they realize what a favor we did them when we blew their country up? Hell, we rained freedom down on them in “liberty clusters” from 1,000-lb. care packages! And all this “untidyness” is the thanks we get. The NERVE! And our GI’s are still waiting for their candy and flowers! The fact that all the candy and flower shops have been blown up or turned into IED factories is NO excuse in my book. HELLO, ever heard of 1-800-FLOWERS? I guess we’ll have to go somewhere else where we’re more appreciated, like Iran or Syria. MUCH more “tidy” there. /:)

  2. AndyS says:

    Seriously, I’ve always thought that Bush’s Iraq invasion was a colossal blunder, but how can you so easily absolve the Iraqis of all blame?

    What can justify the sniping of pilgrims , the blowing up of mosques with worshippers inside and, on the other hand, the hundreds of Sunni youth picked up Shia militia, and tortured and killed with power drills.

    Whatever the faults of the invasion, the Iraqis are behaving like savages to each other.

  3. Mash says:

    AndyS, I am not sure I absolved anyone. I’ll give you two answers to why I blame the Bush Administration.

    Answer 1 (my position): When you occupy a country, you must provide basic security. Without security, a drift into tribalism, sectarian violence and then civil war is inevitable. Anyone who understands civil society, like the analysts at the CIA and the State Dept. who predicted this very thing, could and should have foreseen this. History is littered with many examples. As for the Iraqis “behaving like savages”, I suspect most societies would degenerate into that kind of insanity when civil society falls apart. Does that mean the perpetrators are not sadists – no. It just means that there is not a power strong enough to protect the civilians from these opportunists and sadists. So, when you say “the Iraqis” be a little more discriminating. Civil wars happen because there is no central authority who is able to maintain order. That is present day Iraq and the blame for that lies with George W Bush.

    Answer 2 (George W Bush’s logic): In Lebanon, Mr. Bush said that Hezbollah was to blame for starting the war and therefore responsible for all the civilian deaths caused by the Israelis. By similar logic, since the Bush Administration started the war, it would follow that all civilian deaths in Iraq is the responsibility of the Bush Administration.

    Oddly, both answers reach the same conclusion, although I prefer my position (answer 1) better.

  4. Miraj says:

    I totally agree with you with your first answer.

    Before the war and even though we were ruled by a dictator and a bunch of uneducated people whom their priorities were their personal interests, despite that fact , I haven’t witnessed what I am witnessing now. I am 30 years and lived in Baghdad for 26 years, spent most of my childhood and all my youth here, living among Iraqis . But now the Iraqis I am living with are so different from those of before the war.

    First of all , we are now living without law or order, the only ruler is the weapon holder.
    War changes people whether we liked it or not and if a war broke out in the US people would start killing each other for food or for money just like what happened during Katrina ‘s tragedy , mind you it was not a war so let alone it was.

    Secondly , as Mash mentioned, America’s first responsibility as invader or liberator as some call it, was to ensure security yet they encouraged looting and that was something I saw with my own eyes. After that they resolved all the old forces with the excuse they were bathists (mind you , under the Dictator Saddam we all had in some way or another to register ourselves as Bathists whether we liked it or not .A name with no activities just to keep our jobs) and opened the door to criminals, rapists and all kind of monsters to join the police and ING. On the other hand some of the big heads of ex-force members were kicked out with no rights and with their mentality they started their own illegal activities which we are all sure they would never go to that path had the Americans embraced their experience to preserve Iraq’s security.

    I add to that, the weak structure of the government we have which is based on radicalism when the ministers took their jobs based on their back grounds whether they were sunni or shia.

    And with the government being Shia, it opened the door for Iranians who are thirsty for Iraqi blood. Majority of the war prisoners of the eight years war with Iran in the eighties were brain washed to be with Iran, forming Badr thugs who came after the war killing with no one to stop them.
    We have now alos Almahdi militia who are the followers of Muqtada AlSaddar who is a Shia leader yet took another path than Badr for reasons related to power and who gets what in the first place, they are everywhere and they are scared only of the Americans especially and you can see how they escape during their booby traps ( faked check points to kill Sunnies) on the roads and suddenly know the American vehicles are on their way. Still America with all its power are doing nothing.

    How come Iraq has so many thugs , gangs and parties that call for killing each other when we have a government and America? You tell me.
    This government can not fart without permission from US Government and excuse me Mash for the term I used but it is the truth as we all here experienced it.

    Iraqis in general are quite rough and our history is filled with bloody revolutions, however the Iraqi people and throughout these 35 years were subjected to horrible horror that weekend its powers and abilities and majority of the killing happening in Iraq is done by external forces or Iraqis that were trained and lived outside Iraq.

    With all that, I want to give a simple example,. Three American militaries humvies are driving on the road when an explosive charge goes boooom, the American soldiers usually use their weapons randomly killing who ever his/her bad luck brought them on that road at that time, killing children and women. Just to protect them. That, what fear does to people ladies and gentlemen . It gives your brain vacation and the animal instinct start working. While these soldiers who are using their weapons randomly know that they will get back to their camp where everything is normal and do not have to live in that street, like we do every day.

  5. Miraj says:

    Sorry for the long post :-s

Comments are closed.