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About The North Coast times-eagle. (Wheeler, Oregon) 1971-2007 | View Entire Issue (Jan. 1, 2007)
PARSING THE SURGE
members o f Congress from both parties, allies abroad, and
distinguished outside experts. We benefited from the thoughtful
recommendations of the Iraq Study Group — a bipartisan panel
led by former Secretary of State James Baker and former
Congressman Lee Hamilton. In our discussions, we all agreed
that there is no magic formula for success in Iraq. And one
message came through loud and clear: Failure in Iraq would
be a disaster for the United States..."
BY STEVEN ZUÑES
The following is an annotation of President
George W. Bush’s speech to the American public
on January 10 in which he ordered an escalation of
21,500 more U.S. soldiers to Iraq.
“Tonight in Iraq, the armed forces of the United States
are engaged in a struggle that will determine the direction of the
global war on terror— and our safety here at home. The new
strategy I outline tonight will change America's course in Iraq,
and help us succeed in the fight against terror..."
The broad consensus among strategic analysts,
including those in the U.S. military and intelligence agencies,
is that the struggle engaged by the U.S. armed forces, despite
their enormous sacrifices, has compromised efforts to counter
international terrorism and has made America less safe If
succeeding in the fight against terrorism was really the admin
istration's goal, President Bush would call for the withdrawal
of troops from Iraq.
“When I addressed you just over a year ago, nearly 12
million Iraqis had cast their ballots for a unified and democratic
nation. The elections o f 2005 were a stunning achievement. We
thought that these elections would bring the Iraqis together —
and that as we trained Iraqi security forces, we could accomplish
our mission with fewer American troops..."
As many analysts pointed out at the time, the timing and
circumstances of the U.S.-organized elections actually strength
ened sectarian divisions and the mere training of Iraqi armed
forces — large elements of which are more loyal to various
political, ethnic, and sectarian factions than they are to a unified
Iraq — would not result in a stable and democratic society.
“But in 2006, the opposite happened. The violence in
Iraq — particularly in Baghdad — overwhelmed the political
gains the Iraqis had made. Al-Qaida terrorists and Sunni
insurgents recognized the mortal danger that Iraq's elections
posed for their cause. And they responded with outrageous
acts o f murder aimed at innocent Iraqis. They blew up one of the
holiest shrines in Shiia Islam — the Golden Mosque of Samara
— in a calculated effort to provoke Iraq's Shiia population to
retaliate Their strategy worked. Radical Shiia elements, some
supported by Iran, formed death squads. And the result was a
vicious cycle of sectarian violence that continues today..."
1287 COMMERCIAL ST.
Elements of the insurgency have indeed deliberately
provoked sectarian conflict. However, it is important to remember
that until the 2003 U.S. invasion and occupation, Iraq had main
tained a longstanding history of secularism and a strong national
identity among its Arab population despite sectarian differences.
Top analysts in the CIA and State Department, as well as large
numbers of Middle East experts, warned that a U.S. invasion of
Iraq could result in a violent ethnic and sectarian conflict, but this
apparently did not seem to bother the Bush administration. U.S.
occupation authorities — in an apparent effort to divide and rule
— encouraged sectarianism by dividing up authority based not
on technical skills or ideological affiliation but ethnic and religious
identity. As with Lebanon, however, such efforts have actually
exacerbated divisions, with virtually every political question
debated not on its merits but on which group it potentially
benefits or harms. This has led to great instability, with political
parties, parliamentary blocs, and government ministries breaking
down along sectarian lines.
Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority, regardless of their feelings
about Saddam Hussein’s regime, has long identified with Arab
nationalism and distrusts the pro-Iranian links of much of the
Shiite leadership. These affiliations have led many Sunni Arabs
to support the insurgency. Seeing their government faced with a
growing insurgency and their community falling victim to terrorist
violence, the Shiites have responded with aggressive counter
insurgency and counter-terrorist operations against the Sunni
community, primarily targeting civilians, with U.S. forces unable
or unwilling to stop it. In short, President Bush is essentially
blaming the victims rather than acknowledging the U.S. role
in the country’s disintegration along sectarian lines.
“The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American
people — and it is unacceptable to me. Our troops in Iraq have
fought bravely. They have done everything we have asked them
to do. Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests
It is refreshing for President Bush to finally acknowledge
that he has made mistakes and to take responsibility. However,
based on his proposed plans to address the situation he is
primarily responsible for causing, it is obvious that he has not
learned from those mistakes. The key lesson not learned is that
the invasion by Western forces of an Arab country has always
led to violent resistance. The larger the force, the greater the
“It is clear that we need to change our strategy in Iraq.
So my national security team, military commanders, and
diplomats conducted a comprehensive review. We consulted
The message from the vast majority of military com
manders, diplomats, members of Congress, allied governments,
and outside experts, as well as the Iraq Study Group, was also
loud and clear that escalation was a very bad idea and would
increase the likelihood of failure. And President Bush appears
to have simply ignored the vast majority of the Iraq Study
“The consequences of failure are clear: Radical Islamic
extremists would grow in strength and gain new recruits. ."
It is the ongoing presence of U.S. occupation forces and
their bloody counter-insurgency war that has strengthened the
hand of radical Islamic extremists and helped them gain new
recruits. Radical Islamic extremists were not a significant factor
in Iraq until after the United States invaded and occupied that
country in 2003, setting off a nationalist reaction taken advan
tage of by extremist elements. But Bush overemphasizes their
importance. Numbering only 1000-2000 out of a total of 20,000-
30,000 insurgents, the radicals are a small part of the problem
in Iraq. Additional U.S. forces will make it even easier for them
to further take advantage of popular Iraqi discontent over Ameri
can military operations in their country.
“They would be in a better position to topple moderate
governments, create chaos in the region, and use oil revenues
to fund their ambitions..."
It has been the popular reaction in the Arab world to
the U.S. invasion of Iraq, along with U.S. support for pro-Western
Arab dictatorships, and U.S. support for the Israeli occupation
of the West Bank and this summer’s attack on Lebanon that is
primarily responsible for stirring up the instability and extremism
threatening moderate governments. The phenomenon of radical
Islamic extremism does not occur in a vacuum but is a reaction
to perceived injustices and violence against Muslim peoples. The
prospects of increased chaos in the region, then, does not come
from some kind of centralized Radical Islam International being
set up in Iraq to stir up trouble elsewhere. Rather, it comes from
sectarian conflict and anti-American extremism resulting from the
indefinite continuation of the U.S. war and occupation. In addition
the prospects of Islamic extremists controlling Iraq’s oil revenues
are pretty far-fetched. Currently, they are busy blowing up pipe
lines and other parts of the country’s petroleum infrastructure.
Finally, the irony is that the funding for most of al-Qaida’s oper
ations has come, at least indirectly, through oil revenues, not
from Iraq, but from the U.S.-backed regime in Saudi Arabia.
“Iran would be emboldened in its pursuit o f nuclear
Iran’s nuclear program started with U.S. support in the
1950s, and its possible nuclear weapons ambitions predate the
rise of the Iraqi insurgency. Whether Iran does develop nuclear
weapons will depend far more on the policies pursued by the
United States and Israel — nuclear states that Iran sees as
threatening its national security — than what happens in Iraq.
“Our enemies would have a safe haven from which to
plan and launch attacks on the American people. On September
11, 2001, we saw what a refuge for extremists on the other side
o f the world could bring to the streets of our own cities..."
Except for a tiny enclave in the autonomous Kurdish
region outside of Baghdad's control, there were virtually no
al-Qaida affiliated activities in Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion in
2003. If preventing the establishment of a safe haven for extre
mists groups that could attack the United States was really his
goal, Bush would have never ordered the invasion of Iraq in
the first place. In any case, elements allied with al-Qaeda only
represent a tiny fraction of the Iraq insurgency. Finally, it should
also be noted that the 9/11 hijackers largely came from cells
based in Germany and learned how to fly planes in the United
States. They did not come from a Middle Eastern sanctuary.
“For the safety o f our people, America must succeed
in Iraq. The most urgent priority for success in Iraq is security,
especially in Baghdad. Eighty percent o f Iraq's sectarian violence
occurs within 30 miles o f the capital. This violence is splitting
Baghdad into sectarian enclaves and shaking the confidence
o f all Iraqis. Only the Iraqis can end the sectarian violence and
secure their people. And their government has put forward an
aggressive plan to do it..."
It is highly dubious whether the U.S.-backed Iraqi
government's current “plan” will be any more successful than
previously announced plans. And the splitting of the capital into
sectarian divisions is in part the fault of the U.S. trained and
supported army, with parts of western Baghdad being patrolled
by army units dominated by Sunnis while eastern Baghdad is
being patrolled by Shiite-dominated units.
“Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two
principle reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American
troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared o f
terrorists and insurgents. And there were too many restrictions
on the troops we did have. Our military commanders reviewed