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August 28, 2005 - Congratulations, It's a Theocracy!

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David Sarno reviewed the news as the week ended with that headline: Congratulations, It's a Theocracy!

Why?  Because both the New York Times and Los Angeles Times led with the tale of the collapse of constitution talks in Iraq.  (You can find that here and here, respectively.)  The Shiite and Kurdish representatives simply called negotiations to a halt when they could find "nothing remotely approaching common ground."  The Sunni folks lose.  The Sunnis have some problems with the federalism stuff - as Sarno notes, "under the current draft, the Shiites would be able to create an autonomous region in southern Iraq that would contain nearly half the country's population - and all of its best oil fields."  Oh well.

We're told, "the Sunni representatives also objected strongly to Shiite stances on the fate of former Baath party members, including Shiite refusal to constitutionally outlaw de-Baathification - the process by which former Baathists are banned from public office. In addition, some Sunnis were deeply suspicious of the theocratic tenets built into the constitution and the resulting similarity the new government might bear to Iran: 'Islam will reign as the official state religion and as a main source of Iraqi law.'"

The New York Times adds - "Clerics will in all likelihood have seats on the Supreme Court, where they will be empowered to examine legislation to make sure it does not conflict with Islam."  Sunni leaders saying they'll organize to defeat the new "screw you" constitution at the polls in October.  Of course to defeat it requires two-thirds of the votes in all three Sunni-controlled provinces and that might not be possible.

Out here the Los Angeles Times says this looks bad for Bush.  No kidding.  The whole mess carries "the seeds that could finally destroy the Bush administration's beleaguered strategy" - that would be establishing stability in Iraq.  Yep, support for the whole enterprise is falling like a rock.  The polls are miserable.  This might nail it.

Sarno points to a Knight-Ridder story - "an up-front look at the ramshackle Iraqi security forces. Badly trained, poorly equipped, rarely paid, and in constant danger from insurgents who fiercely despise them, it comes as no surprise that these men aren't up to a mission that even the U.S. Marines are having difficulty with."


What Sarno missed?  Try this from the BBC –


Thousands of Sunni Muslims have demonstrated in the Iraqi city of Baquba to protest against the draft constitution being debated in Baghdad.

Some carried pictures of Iraq's Sunni former leader, Saddam Hussein.


Not good.  Like old times.  But not civil war, of course, yet.

The former CIA guy, Larry Johnson says this


A hard, clear-eyed look at the current situation in Iraq reveals that we are confronted with equally bad choices. If we stay we are facilitating the creation of an Islamic state that will be a client of Iran. If we pull out we are likely to leave the various ethnic groups of Iraq to escalate the civil war already underway. In my judgment we have no alternative but to pull our forces out of Iraq. Like it or not, such a move will be viewed as a defeat of the United States and will create some very serious foreign policy and security problems for us for years to come. However, we are unwilling to make the sacrifices required to achieve something approximating victory. And, what would victory look like? At a minimum we should expect a secular society where the average Iraqi can move around the country without fear of being killed or kidnapped. That is not the case nor is it on the horizon.

We may even be past the point of no return where we could impose changes that would put Iraq back on course to be a secular, democratic nation without sparking a major Shiite counteroffensive. Therefore the time has come to minimize further unnecessary loss of life by our troops and re-craft a new foreign and security policy for the Middle East.


That's not going to happen.

And there's this historical perspective from Bill Montgomery:


If success really is defined as "putting Iraq back on course to be a secular, democratic nation," then we passed that particular fail-safe point a long time ago - maybe in the early 7th century, when the armies of the Caliphate conquered Mesopotamia. Or at the battle of Karbala in 680, when the prophet's grandson was betrayed and slaughtered, laying the emotional foundation for the Shi'aism. Or when the Abbasids overthrew the Umayyads and moved the caliphate to Baghdad. Or in 1258, when Baghdad fell to the Mongols and the most magnificant flower of Arabic civilization was destroyed. Or in 1533, when the Ottomans moved in. Or 1917, when the British conquered the place and tried to turn it into a branch office of the government of India - a colony of a colony. Or maybe in 1958, when the Hashemite monarchy was overthrown. Or '68, when the Baathists finally came to power and stayed there. Or '91, when we betrayed the Shi'a to Saddam's tender mercies.

The point is, the land of the two rivers is filled to the brim with historical turning points - ones which most Americans, including the idiots who created this mess, know little or nothing about. And that ignorance, maybe more than anything else, is why the "point of no return" for failure in Iraq was reached before the invasion even started. This has been, and always was, a fool's errand.


Someone's been doing his homework. Should have been someone in DC, it seems.

Larry Johnson again:


We could potentially defeat the Sunni insurgents if we were willing and able to deploy sufficient troops to control the key infiltration routes that run along the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys … It would require at least 380,000 troops devoted exclusively to that mission. Part of that mission would entail killing anyone who moved into controlled areas, such as roadways. In adopting those kinds of rules of engagement we would certainly increase the risk of killing innocent civilians. But, we would impose effective control over those routes. That is a prerequisite to gaining control over the insurgency.


Also not going to happen, as that might make things worse, and anyway, we don't have the troops.



Which leaves "Iraqization" as the only viable alternative to withdrawal. But Iraqization is as doomed to failure as Vietnamization, although for different reasons. In Vietnam, it failed because it asked ordinary Vietnamese soldiers to die for a corrupt regime that had virtually no popular support outside the Catholic community and a Frenchified neocolonial elite. In Iraq, it will fail because Kurdish and Shi'a militiamen are willing to die for their own ethnic or sectarian leaders, but not for a country called Iraq. (The Sunnis will die for an Iraq, as long as they get to control it.)

It's all quite hopeless, in other words - in which case withdrawal is not only the correct strategic choice but also the moral one. …


The administration will now provide the counterargument, of course.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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