“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

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Friday, February 23, 2007

good news (again) in Iraq

As LI has said before, there is something curiously hollow about the Bush administration’s policy stated aim of victory in Iraq. On the one hand, we already won – you will remember the Saddam Hussein hanging. On the other hand, we are still there, fighting for something. Often, that something is simply conflated with “defeating Al Qaeda.” It is an interesting policy – one perhaps stemming from Jesus’ Good Samaritan parable - that seeks to protect the Iraqis from Al Qaeda while allowing Al Qaeda to regroup and party in Pakistan. Is this due to the saintliness of our president? Bravely trying to wrestle the control of the White House plane away from the pilot on 9/11/2001 so he could go mano a mano with the terrorist fiends, did Bush’s thoughts drift to the potential danger to the Iraqis – in Kirkuk, Mosul, Basra, Baghdad and all of those cities he had difficulty finding on a map – from an Al Qaeda that didn’t exactly exist in Iraq, but could, if America didn’t challenge them by inviting them in and then fighting them interminably.

Well, that’s our president. Even when he was knee high to a grasshopper, he was always in a sweat about Iraqis. Were they happy? Was their burning yearning for liberty being satisfied? Were there enough of them happily vacationing (in that funny way Iraqis vacation – they bring all their money, as many possessions as they can, and their families) in Jordan and Syria? Even then, he knew that when he grew up, he would protect them against the terrorists that he invited into their country and win a big victory and go down in history as one of our great presidents, like George Washington – except with better teeth.

Now that the British have started to withdraw from Basra, our Vice President has remarked that this is good news. This is all about success in Iraq. So now, at least, we can catch a glimpse of what victory means – what the Iraq of our dreams is going to look like. That’s why readers should go to Patrick Cockburn’s report in the Independent. It is a heady thing, victory, and this is what we are fighting for:

The British forces had a lesson in the dangers of provoking the heavily armed local population when six British military police were killed in Majar al-Kabir on 24 June 2003. During the uprising of Mehdi Army militia of Muqtada al-Sadr in 2004, British units were victorious in several bloody clashes in Amara, the capital of Maysan province.

But in the elections in January 2005, lauded by Mr Blair this week, Sciri became the largest party in Basra followed by Fadhila, followers of the Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr, the father of Muqtada al-Sadr. The lat-ter’s supporters became the largest party in Maysan.
Mr Cordesman says the British suffered political defeat in the provincial elections of 2005, and lost at the military level in autumn of the same year when increased attacks meant they they could operate only through armoured patrols. Much-lauded military operations, such as “Corrode” in May 2006, did not alter the balance of forces.

Mr Cordesman’s gloomy conclusions about British defeat are confirmed by a study called “The Calm before the Storm: The British Experience in Southern Iraq” by Michael Knights and Ed Williams, published by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Comparing the original British ambitions with present reality the paper concludes that “instead of a stable, united, law-abiding region with a representative government and police primacy, the deep south is unstable, factionalised, lawless, ruled as a kleptocracy and subject to militia primacy”.

Local militias are often not only out of control of the Iraqi government, but of their supposed leaders in Baghdad. The big money earner for local factions is the diversion of oil and oil products, with the profits a continual source of rivalry and a cause of armed clashes. Mr Knights and Mr Williams say that control in the south is with a “well-armed political-criminal Mafiosi [who] have locked both the central government and the people out of power”.

The war’s supporters, of course, have reason to feel smug. Our long nightmare is over. As a people, Americans – rich and poor, black and white – have, for over a decade, been clamoring for an Iraq ruled by Sciri and Sadr. It is all that we talk about. Sometimes we entertain ourselves with a few celebrity deaths or haircuts, but here in the States – I’m writing this down so that readers overseas get a feel for the American reality – conversations about money, sex, jobs invariably drift to that dreamy moment when your average American says, I don’t care how much money it takes or how much blood, I want to see an Shi’a fundamentalism take control in Mesopotamia – it is a long held childhood dream, actually! Then Americans get all misty eyed, thinking about how they can die happy if only things go the right way in Kirkuk.

One thing you have to say about this country – we are willing to sacrifice any amount of Iraqi blood to make our dreams come true. It is the way we are. Morally superior to the rest of the world. Which is why GOD has promised us victory, damn it, and we are going to reach for it!

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