Iraq, Five Years On
In recognition of the fifth anniversary of the U. S.-led and mostly U. S.-conducted invasion of Iraq and removal of the regime of Saddam Hussein, there have been a number of articles in the New York Times and elsewhere that have an odd sort of synergy to them. For example, there’s this interview from the Times of London with a former military officer under Saddam Hussein who continued his fight against the Americans after the fall of Saddam’s government, but changed to fight alongside the Americans when he found Al Qaeda in Iraq to be the greater threat:
“I could not tolerate or accept how they were working [Ed. Al Qaeda in Iraq], so in the end I fled to Syria. I felt quite disappointed with the way that the resistance had become.” After only a week Mr Abdullah returned to Iraq and took his family to Baghdad, where he used his car to work as a taxi driver. Leaving al-Qaeda meant that his life was in constant danger. Twice gunmen tried to shoot him and he was forced to move house four times.
Still opposed to the US military and increasingly against the Shia-led Government of Iraq, Mr Abdullah dreamt of starting up a fresh resistance. But in late 2007 he was approached by two uncles and a cousin who had joined a new security movement, which was established by Sunni Arab tribes who had turned against al-Qaeda in Anbar province, once the heart of the insurgency. The concept — arming local people and charging them with security for their neighbourhood — appealed to Mr Abdullah even though the group’s members, which number at least 90,000, were under the payroll of the US military.
“I started to feel that the Americans were better than the Iraqi Government at that moment. I still look at them as occupiers. My feelings towards them have not changed. But my main concern is to stop the Iraqi people’s suffering,” he said.
Hat tip: Ed Morrissey
You can see a similar sort of thing only in reverse in the writings of Shi’ite Iraqi blogger, Hammorabi. Here’s part of a pretty typical post of his from early 2004:
Thanks to GWB the junior who liberated the Iraqis from Saddam regime and thanks to the Americans who supported that. The coalition soldiers who were killed in Iraq are Iraqi martyrs. This doesn’t mean that we accept occupation but we consider it as liberation and we hope there will be a system to give birth to full democracy, after which the coalition forces will go back to their homes and loved ones safe and with flowers and friendship forever. Iraq will need the American support even after that. We think what happened to Saddam regime is the will of God by the hands of the US and its allies. The new Iraq will be a member in this coalition.
That continued as long as the American forces were seen as the agency of Shi’ite hegemony. When Americans began going after Shi’ite militias as well as Sunni, his tone changed abruptly to what it is now:
In Iraq though the American direct genocide started in 1991 when the war-criminal George W Bush waged its war against Iraq the actual interferences were started many years before that and since the Iran Iraq war when the USA and the West supported that war. Indeed the American genocide is another kind of major Terrorism. Not to forget the genocide of the UN sanction which was lead by the USA which killed at least one million Iraqi children.
From the point of view of at least one American soldier serving in Iraq, the surge is working. Sgt. Anthony Diaz writes:
The efforts being carried out by Iraqis, the coalition and nongovernmental organizations focus on essential services, economic development and reconciliation. Restoring services such as electricity, a dependable sewage system, trash collection, and access to fuels and potable water are at the top of the agenda. Initiatives to bring all of these services to a satisfactory level have met with some success. The local economy has benefited from the lull in violence. Market areas that were once desolate are teeming with life, consumers are out and shops are open. Coalition initiatives to develop local market councils and provide micro-grants and micro-loans to small-business owners are providing a much-needed economic spark to Baghdad’s neighborhoods.
The troop surge has contributed more soldiers to this small but critical area of Baghdad. But the building of the Adhamiyah wall, coupled with the sea change in the population’s attitude toward the coalition, also contributed greatly to the decline in violence. And our squadron’s ability to capitalize on these changes has been equally powerful. Building a local security force has been a slow, painful process. The people’s change in attitude toward the coalition has led to more citizens providing soldiers with information on crime suspects and potential locations of roadside explosives and weapons caches. All these things have shaped the successes we are seeing daily.
Even the Iraqi army has taken a turn for the better here. Not long ago its troops were seen as an obstacle to reconciliation and were accused of arresting locals without evidence, only to request ransoms for their release. There are still occasional incidents of graft and abuse, but now Iraqi troops provide security and make efforts to build rapport with the populace.
Contrariwise, at Democrats,com Bob Fertik writes:
March 19 marks the 5th Anniversary of Bush’s disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq – yet there is no end in sight.
The costs so far are staggering: 4,000 young Americans killed, tens of thousands maimed… 1 million Iraqis killed, millions maimed… $562 billion in tax dollars stolen from our children… $3 trillion cost to our economy through veterans care, weapons replacement, higher oil prices, and the collapsing dollar. All that in just 5 years!
We elected a Democratic Congress in 2006 to bring our troops home, but they keep giving Bush blank checks. Incredibly, Congress will soon vote on another $102 billion blank check.
Yesterday the New York Times published a collection of reflections from nine notables, a number of whom were substantially involved in the decision-making that’s brought us to where we are now. They’re short and well worth reading. John Cole’s reaction to these short pieces was so intemperate I won’t quote it here. The finger-pointing self-pitying tone of many of the pieces got my Irish up (Happy St. Patrick’s Day!) and I summarized the entire collection as Who Knew? To his credit (and virtually alone in this respect) Anthony Cordesman accepts some of the blame for the poor analysis on the part of the experts on Iraq.
There’s a point that I think we really need to get our minds around: we’re going to have troops in Iraq for the foreseeable future. Sens. Clinton, McCain, and Obama are all running on that. Check the current deployment to Iraq. The current number of U. S. troops in Iraq is roughly 160,000 and it’s my understanding that includes about 20 combat brigades. President Bush has already announced plans to withdraw about a brigade per month (it’s what’s logistically required).
If Sen. Obama becomes president in 2009 and holds firm to his plan to withdraw one combat brigade per month from Iraq (not necessarily what will happen as Samantha Power got in part of her hot water for noting), he’ll be following President Bush’s plan, showing the same talent for putting lipstick on a pig that President Clinton had, baptizing a policy that he’s opposed rhetorically, claiming it as his own, and announcing a transformative breakthrough. At the end of the withdrawals we’ll still have 60,000 to 80,000 troops in Iraq.