The suggestion that it is up to U.S. military forces to “win the peace” in Iraq is an absurdity.
The violence that has plagued Iraq is a direct consequence of the U.S. invasion and continuing occupation. It is preposterous to suggest that continuing to engage in the very behaviors that are the cause of the thing will result in bringing it to an end.
The Iraqi people themselves are not so deceived about the facts on the ground in their country. Polls consistently show that they view the U.S. war as imperialistic, and the U.S. presence the principle reason for the violence. The Washington Post, for instance, noted last December that “Iraqis of all sectarian and ethnic groups believe that the U.S. military invasion is the primary root of the violent differences among them, and see the departure of ‘occupying forces’ as the key to national reconciliation”.
The prevailing belief among many Americans that it is up to the U.S. to bring “peace” and democracy” to the Iraqi people, who are incapable of achieving such goals on their own, reveals an astounding level of ignorance, and of arrogance.
One hardly need to elaborate on this elementary observation, but it’s useful to recognize how the Bush administration continues to lie and deceive about Iraq after waging a war of aggression, “the supreme international crime” as defined at Nuremberg, based on a false pretext with the claim, contrary to all evidence at the time, that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and ties to al Qaeda.
Take the example of the 2005 elections in Iraq, which the Bush administration touted as a great achievement for the U.S. and a landmark step towards bringing stability back to the country. There was just one problem with this self-praise; the U.S. had firmly opposed the elections, wanting rather to hand pick members of the assembly that would draft the Iraqi constitution.
It would thus be only be after the U.S. had rewritten Iraq’s new founding document that the Iraqi people would be granted a small measure of self-determination, had everything gone according to the plan of the Bush administration. It was only after the highly influential Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani used his power to pressure the U.S. to hold the elections. It was only massive public pressure from the Iraqi people themselves that the elections were held prior to the drafting of the constitution.
Though limited (Iraqis didn’t even know who was on the ballot until they went to vote), this was indeed a major achievement – not for the U.S., but for the Iraqi people.
Or take the claim that it is the U.S. presence that has helped to reduce the level of violence over the last couple years. The Bush administration has credited the “surge” of troops to Iraq with being the cause of this reduction, and that this is true has become conventional wisdom in an uncritical media – the same media that parroted U.S. propaganda that led to the war without critical analysis or context.
There’s just one problem with this claim; it isn’t true. The level of violence reached its peak in 2005 and had begun to abate well before the “surge” last year. This was in no small part due to the increasing trend of Sunni militias that had been engaged in armed resistance to the U.S. occupation beginning to concentrate instead on other Sunni groups engaging in terrorism, such as al Qaeda in Iraq.
The U.S. military command in Iraq noticed this trend and sought to encourage it and thus began arming the same groups it had so long been fighting to help them root out the terrorist elements that had so long plagued the country – a predicted consequence of the U.S. invasion. Such Sunni groups became known as the “Awakening Councils”, but, contrary to the view popularly given, they were not a creation of the U.S. Nor did they act on the U.S.’s behest to counter terrorism, but on their own.
Again, the achievement that this trend led to belongs to the Iraqis, not the Americans.
The Shiites also played a major role in helping to bring about the great reduction in violence when the influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr ordered his Mehdi Army and other groups under his sway to stand down.
The withdraw of foreign occupying forces from the south of Iraq also led to a considerable drop in violence. After British troops left Basra, as U.S. Gen. David Petraeus noted at the time, the level of violence in the city dropped considerably. The British commander explained the decision for the withdrawal in simple terms. If 90% of the violence is directed against foreign forces, then if those foreign forces leave, the level of violence will be mitigated.
That’s precisely what occurred. The British expected at the same time that there would be an accompanying spike in inter-milita violence, but, as the British commander also happily reported, this did not occur. He attributed this largely to the fact that the city was under the control of al-Sadr and his followers, who kept the peace.
The United States is no friend of the Iraqi people. During the 80s and throughout the period of time Saddam Hussein committed his most heinous crimes, the U.S. government supported the dictator. After Saddam “gassed his own people”, killing 5,000 Kurds in the village of Halabjah in 1988, U.S. support increased.
The U.S.-Iraqi alliance ended when Saddam invaded Kuwait, threatening Western oil supplies. In a complete reversal, Saddam became enemy number one, complete with comparisons to Hitler and Stalin. The Gulf War was followed by twelve years of draconian sanctions that, according to the United Nations’ own figures, resulted in the deaths of more than a million Iraqis, including half a million children.
Throughout this period, the U.S. periodically bombed Iraq. The violence escalated in 1998 when President Clinton launched a bombing campaign against the country that resulted in the end of U.N. mission in Iraq to verify the disarmament of its WMD programs.
Iraq allowed inspectors back in in 2002, but, again, when the U.N. and IAEA threatened to find that Iraq had been totally disarmed, the U.S. intervened once again to prevent this from happening, launching its “shock and awe” bombing campaign and invasion in 2003.
The numbers of civilian deaths that have occurred are unknown, but the most comprehensive scientific survey published in the prestigious Lancet medical journal in 2006 found that the number of excess deaths as a result of the U.S. war was well over half a million. The figure has grown since then under the ongoing occupation.
Happily, the level of violence is dropping. Americans should recognize this as an achievement not by U.S. forces, but in spite of the force presence. Americans should recognize this as an achievement of the Iraqi people themselves who have so long sought peace and democracy, and who have so long been denied it by the world’s most powerful nation seeking hegemony over the energy-rich Middle East.
A final note; when Iraq finally becomes free of foreign military occupation, this, too, will be a major achievement – a significant step towards self-determination and true democracy obtained only through the efforts of the proud and honorable people of the nation of Iraq.
Only when that occurs will this war be won.