The American Failure In Iraq


Failure in Iraq


The conversation in Washington is about the consequences of withdrawal. The Surgin’ General, David Petraeus, warns that an early withdrawal would lead to an "increase in sectarian violence". Small businessman and House Minority Leader John Boehner pleads for more time for the surge – he suggests we will see results in the "next three to four months." Ayman al-Zawahiri endorses President Bush’s strategy in Iraq. The White House sets the record straight by agreeing with al Qaeda that Iraq is the "central front of al Qaeda’s global campaign."

There is consensus between the Bush administration and al Qaeda that the United States should continue its fiasco in Iraq – but for different reasons. In Washington, there seems to be a general consensus that withdrawal from Iraq will have catastrophic consequences. On the one hand, this argument is used by the war advocates to justify prolonged involvement; while on the other hand, this argument causes the opponents of the war to mute their calls for withdrawal. Everyone wants to look tough and not lose their "national security" credentials by sounding weak. I am reminded of the same kind of group think that took place when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003.

A few days ago CNN posted an article on the front page of their web site with the blaring title "No safe way for the U.S. to leave Iraq, experts warn". Enter the fear mongering:

"Everyone wants the troops home — the Iraqis, the U.S., the world — but no one wants a precipitous withdrawal that produces a civil war, a bloodbath, nor a wider war in an unstable Mideast," Shepperd said, adding that the image of the United States was important too.

"And we do not want a U.S that is perceived as having been badly defeated in the global war on terror or as an unreliable future ally or coalition partner."

Shepperd said Iraq’s neighbors would be drawn into the all-out civil war likely if U.S. forces left too quickly. Iran could move in to further strengthen its influence in southern Iraq; Turkey likely would move against the Kurds in the north; and Saudi Arabia would be inclined to take action to protect Sunnis in western Iraq, he said.

The oil sector could also get hit hard, with Iran potentially mining the Persian Gulf and attempting to close the Straits of Hormuz, putting a stranglehold on oil flow, Shepperd says.

"Oil prices would skyrocket," he said — perhaps soaring from current prices of about $60 a barrel to more than $100 a barrel, with consequent rises at the gas pump.

And that could bring further trouble, Shepperd added. "Saudi Arabia will not allow increasing Iranian dominance to endanger its regime and oil economy."

On top of that, Iran could speed up its nuclear ambitions, causing a "daunting and depressing scenario" of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East with Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt and Turkey trying to get a nuclear bomb, Shepperd says.

The above is the "kitchen sink" argument. It is the same kind of argument used by Cheney, Rice, Bush and the rest to get us into Iraq. It is now being used to keep us in Iraq. It is Cheney’s "One Percent Doctrine" – but I like my phrase better.

I would like to put forward a different thesis. It is not a new thesis (I, as well as others, have made this case numerous times in the past). However, it is a view that has been pushed to the side since the so-called surge debate took control of Washington. In a sense, the "surge" has succeeded – it has succeeded politically in Washington by changing the nature of the debate. A cynic would say Americans and Iraqis are dying because the politicians in Washington are either trying to keep their drapes or measure for new ones.

Here is how I see it: The continued military presence of the United States in Iraq is creating the conditions for instability in the region. The nightmare scenario that everyone warns against if the U.S. withdraws becomes more likely the longer the United States remains in Iraq. The United States has been an enabler of ethnic cleansing in Iraq. Our presence has been the prime mover in tearing Iraqi societal structure apart. We have balkanized Iraq and continue to do so. Under our protection, rival forces in Iraq have armed themselves and organized under sectarian and tribal factions. We have introduced tools of ethnic cleansing, like the Baghdad Wall, to try to bring order to chaos. In doing so, we are underwriting the collapse of Iraqi society along ethnic lines.

The Bush Administration’s failure in Iraq has been comprehensive. Two million Iraqis have fled the country and now live as refugees, primarily in Syria and Jordan. Another two million have fled their homes and relocated along sectarian lines within Iraq. The United Nations estimates that about 50,000 Iraqis flee their homes every month in what has now become one of the biggest population shifts in recent times.

Iraq is a continuing tragedy. The massive death toll in Iraq continues to rise daily. The steady flood of refugees from Iraq continues to destabilize neighboring countries. Like it or not, Syria is already a party to the conflict – and it is not because terrorists are flooding Iraq from Syria, it is because refugees are flooding Syria from Iraq and overwhelming its economy. Chaos is being spread outward from Iraq.

The failure in Iraq is so immense that it becomes difficult to grasp its scope. Sometimes it helps to focus the mind by considering the barbarity at its most basic level. Consider the following story from Iraq tucked into a larger article about the Baghdad Wall as reported by the New York Times two weeks ago:


Mr. Maliki’s announcement came as sectarian violence continued across Iraq, with a horrific execution by Sunni Arabs in Mosul of 23 members of a small religious sect, known as Yezidis.

The Yezidis, who are most numerous in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq, practice an offshoot of Islam that combines some Muslim teachings with those of ancient Persian religion.

But the most chilling attack was the one in Mosul. It followed the marriage in early April of a Sunni Arab man and a woman from the Yezidi faith, the police said.

The police said that when the woman married, she converted to Islam, which angered some of the Yezidis. She was kidnapped and as she was being brought back to her tribe, a crowd gathered and stoned her to death, said Brig. Gen. Muhammad al-Waqa of the Mosul police.

The Sunni Arabs in the area demanded that the Yezidis turn over the killers, and the police also put out a warrant for their arrest. In one Yezidi-majority town east of Mosul, residents found leaflets saying, ”Unless you turn them over, we will never let any Yezidi breathe the air.”

The Yezidis refused. On Sunday afternoon, armed men stopped minibuses traveling from a government textile factory in Mosul, where many Yezidis and Christians were known to work. The men dragged the passengers off the buses, checked their identity cards and lined the Yezidis up against a wall and shot them, killing 23 people and wounding three, General Waqa said.

Iraq is disintegrating. Our continuing presence furthers this disintegration. The Bush administration is responsible for creating and then enabling the chaos. Hanging one’s hat on a "surge" in Baghdad seems to miss the totality of the collapse that has been wrought on Iraq.

America will withdraw from Iraq, either now or sometime in the future – that much is certain. The strategic and moral question that faces the United States is this: Does remaining longer in Iraq help or hurt stability in Iraq, stability in the region, and American national security when the eventual pullout occurs? I think the answer is clear.

We can continue to listen to "experts" spin stories about the turning point coming in the "next three or four months" or after another Friedman Unit, or we can begin to prepare the ground for an orderly withdrawal. Just know that with each passing Friedman Unit, the inevitable withdrawal will leave a more unstable wake.


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

4 Responses to The American Failure In Iraq

  1. Asif says:

    Excellent piece as always. Just to add a bit more flavour to the Syria-destablization worry: Syria is approxiamtely 74% Sunni, but the ruling elite are disproportionately Alawi, Assad’s sect, with Sunnis in a few key posts. They have already had to crush one predominantly Sunni-Islamist insurrection in 82. Assad did so in the most ruthless manner possible, by flattening an entire city, Hama.

    If radicalised Sunnis cross the border and start making noises (tinged with Islamist rhetoric) about disproportional influence and inequality a la Bengal circa 1947, we may have another civil war on our hands. Yes it will destroy the Assad-Baath regime, but will the U.S. like what replaces it? I sure won’t!

    I read about your Iraqi blogger friend from the other post. Very touching story. Keep us updated if/when you hear from her.

  2. Mash says:

    Asif, excellent point. It appears that Mr. Bush is well on his way to taking out the two most secular regimes in the Arab world – Iraq and Syria (one down, perhaps one to go).

    Asif, I watch Miraj’s blog almost daily looking for any signs of activity. There has been none. She had previously written about trying to go to Jordan – I am hoping that she has made it to Jordan.

  3. Alfredo says:

    Very well put, Mash. As further evidence of our failure in Iraq, the online version of a Spanish paper, ABC, reported yesterday that six Iraqi children were killed, and others injured, as a result of a U.S.-led bombing operation gone wrong — the operation hit the victims’ school. (I ran a search for the article today and could no longer find it. ABC’s home page is

    The Associated Press reported today that the U.S. Embassy in Iraq has issued a strict new order to its employees to wear flak vests and helmets — while inside the Green Zone. Anyone who still maintains that we are “making progress” is, frankly, beyond delusional, if not outright stupidly dishonest.

  4. deadissue says:

    Nice job! I’m splintering a bit with my own criticism.

    Decapitated Slave Army

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