The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

James Wolcott - Chaos Is Come Again

Chaos Is Come Again

Watching that presidential press conference this afternoon was like listening to the world's most boring seminar on semantics, everyone acting as if the most important determinant of success or failure in Iraq is what comes out of the president's yap. It's idiotic for the press to let themselves get suckered into badmitton games of "benchmarks" versus "timetables" or "stay the course" versus "tactical adjustments" when this back and forth bears no relation to the reality of what's happening in Iraq. We're long past the point when Bush or Ken the undead Mehlman could craft a new catchphrase on their labelmaker that arrest the four horsemen of the apocalypse from making their appointed rounds. As John Robb points out at Global Guerrillas, the U.S. opened the stable doors, committing two fatal errors.

The first was outsourcing security, particularly in the British controlled south and Baghdad to "loyalist" paramilitaries. The second was incorporating paramilitary members into the new Iraqi security forces, particularly since they were more willing to fight than the general population. In classic US fashion (a reflection of the paucity of strategic thinking in our general staff), training to the numbers (quantity) and the early effectiveness of the unit in a fire fight (expediency) was deemed more important than loyalty of the unit to the government. The long term implications were not considered.

The result is that over the last two years the US military has actually created an environment that is conducive to a bloody and chaotic civil war. By partnering with paramilitaries, we accelerated the development of those forces that would take the war to the Sunnis.


Tactical adjustments, greater flexibility, bringing in a new choreographer to jazz up the finale, none of this can retrieve the irretrievable, according to Robb.

What can we do? Nothing but leave. We can neither expect the leadership of US military to develop sound strategies for mitigating the damage done, nor can we reverse drivers of chaos that have been initiated over the last three years. This chaotic system is now running smoothly under the power of its own internal dynamics and continued intervention will only continue to worsen it. Withdrawal is the only option. The faster the better.



This is not the "Faster, please" Michael Ledeen had in mind.

Bush can continue to claim that nothing less than victory will avail, but the backward tightrope walk has begun, according to the Guardian's Simon Jenkins.

...Where there is no hope of victory, the necessity for victory must be asserted ever more strongly. This was the theme of yesterday's unreal US press conference in Baghdad, identical in substance to one I attended there three years ago. There is talk of staying the course, of sticking by friends and of not cutting and running. Every day some general or diplomat hints at ultimatums, timelines and even failure - as did the British foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, on Monday. But officially denial is all. For retreat to be tolerable it must be called victory. [my emphasis]


The US and British are covering their retreat. Operation Together Forward II has been an attempt, now failed, to pacify Baghdad during Ramadan. In Basra, Britain is pursuing Operation Sinbad to win hearts and minds that it contrives constantly to lose. This may be an advance on Kissinger's bombing of Laos to cover defeat in Vietnam and Reagan's shelling of the Shouf mountains to cover his 1984 Beirut "redeployment" (two days after he had pledged not to cut and run). But retreat is retreat, even if it is called redeployment. Every exit strategy is unhappy in its own way.

Over Iraq the spin doctors are already at work. They are telling the world that the occupation will have failed only through the ingratitude and uselessness of the Iraqis themselves. The rubbishing of the prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, has begun in Washington, coupled with much talk of lowered ambitions and seeking out that foreign policy paradigm, 'a new strongman'. In May, Maliki signalled to Iraq's governors, commanders and militia leaders the need to sort out local differences and take control of their provincial destinies. This has failed. Maliki is only as strong as the militias he can control, which is precious few. He does not rule Baghdad, let alone Iraq. As for the militias, they are the natural outcome of the lawlessness caused by foreign occupation [Robb's point again]. They represent Iraqis desperately defending themselves from anarchy. It is now they who will decide Iraq's fate.


While fate waits to be decided, a moral verdict can be rendered.

This country has been turned by two of the most powerful and civilised nations on Earth into the most hellish place on Earth. Armies claiming to bring democracy and prosperity have brought bloodshed and a misery worse than under the most ruthless modern dictator. This must be the stupidest paradox in modern history. Neither America nor Britain has the guts to rule Iraq properly, yet they lack the guts to leave.

Blair speaks of staying until the job is finished. What job? The only job he can mean is his own.


Likewise with Bush, who doesn't even have the guts to fire Rumsfeld.

http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/blogs/wolcott/2006/10/its_idiotic_for.html

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