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how many times do I have to tell you, America?

“A dry wind of the high places in the wilderness toward the
daughter of my people, not to fan, nor to cleanse,

Even a full wind from those places shall come unto me: now
also will I give sentence against them.”

The escalation in all its glory:

“The two men showed up on Tuesday afternoon to evict Suaada Saadoun’s family. One was carrying a shiny black pistol.

Ms. Saadoun was a Sunni Arab living in a Shiite enclave of western Baghdad. A widowed mother of seven, she and her family had been chased out once before. This time, she called American and Kurdish soldiers at a base less than a mile to the east.
The men tried to drive away, but the soldiers had blocked the street. They pulled the men out of the car.

“If anything happens to us, they’re the ones responsible,” said Ms. Saadoun, 49, a burly, boisterous woman in a black robe and lavender-blue head scarf.

The Americans shoved the men into a Humvee. Neighbors clapped and cheered as if their soccer team had just won a title.

The next morning, Ms. Saadoun was shot dead while walking by a bakery in the local market.”

No amount of salty water, or of blood, or of bile, will ever be enough to clean the stain of this war from this fuckin generation. The sentence has been given about America. The arrogance that cheerfulness once balanced has become unbalanced, while the cheerfulness has become, increasingly, the manic expression of a national carbs and proteins overload; the mad lust for power that showed itself in winds, indeed, winds full of fallout, budgets full of death, sixty years of them, webs of filth woven across the face of the continent, and the children of lynch parties voting in those who proposed lynching on a wider scale, world class lynchings, this is the Old Found Land where the milk soured on our tongues.

What is to be done, then?

I was more than happy to see the Democrats pass an appropriation bill with a pull out date. But as LI has said before, the demand for an immediate pull out shouldn’t hypnotize those who demand it into paying no attention to the occupation as it is – which, in effect, has happened. Year by year, the occupation has been allowed to drift by, in America, while the conversation revolves around the beginning of the invasion and the putative future pullout. No cry for justice, for a ceasefire, for peace.

LI hopes that those who read this site do read the Iraqi bloggers. On March 19, Treasure of Baghdad published an excellent survey of Iraqi bloggers asking about the state of the war. One of the respondents stood out, in my mind: Zeyad, from Healing Iraq. Even though I think his response depends, too much, on a rule enforcing mechanism that doesn’t exist, he floats two crucial ideas: amnesty and reconciliation, which need to be part of a ceasefire process (which will, in fact, recognize that the rule enforcing mechanisms that now exist – government, militia, insurgent – must come to a point where they can create the rule enforcing mechanism – the state – in Iraq. The state does not exist in Iraq right now - since a real state can't depend on a foreign power to enforce its writ, or allow that power to dictate its policies).

“What was your opinion when the US decided to invade Iraq in 2003?
I was supportive of the war. I was living a meaningless life of despair under Saddam's regime and I naiively believed that the U.S. was sincere and had a viable plan to improve our lives and bring us "freedom and democracy." I was mistaken, of course, and those terms only bring a wry smile to my face now.
It has been four years since the invasion. Has your opinion changed since then? Why?
My opinion started gradually changing not long after the invasion. It was a combination of reasons: The U.S. mishandling of the war, the destruction and the looting, the vengeful steps taken against a large portion of the population by both the U.S. and returning exiles, the growing insurgency, the empowerment of Islamic fundamentalists, the establishment of a political system based on sectarian and ethnic quotas, building security forces that are more loyal to sectarian warlords than the state, the sectarian violence, the huge toll on Iraqi lives, the massive and underreported refugee crisis, the displacement and breakup of families, the division of once harmonious communities, the mistrust between Iraqis, etc.
Whom do you blame for the insecurity in Iraq? Why?
It is very popular these days to blame the victim, but I believe that everyone shares some of the blame. The U.S., the international community, the U.N., Iraqi politicians, power-hungry clerics, the Iraqi people, the former regime, Iran, Saudi Arabia. Instead of assigning blame, I think it is better to work out solutions.
What do you think should be done to quell the violence there?
1- The U.S. should immediately work with regional countries (including Syria and Iran, yes) and the international community to broker an agreement between the warring factions to find agreeable methods on sharing power, wealth and resources. The current government can continue to operate meanwhile as a caretaker government until such an agreement is reached. Corrupt politicians who want to work from London or Teheran should be relieved of their positions.
2- An unconditional amnesty should be offered for all militant groups and militias in the country. An effective campaign to completely disarm the population should follow immediately. Militias and paramilitary forces, including the small private militias of politicians and religious leaders, should be disbanded. No exceptions. No "red lines." No excuses.
3- Former Ba'athists, bureaucrats, and military officers should be pardoned and brought back into the fold as part of a country-wide national reconciliation effort. The Iraqi security forces that the U.S. has recruited should be investigated thoroughly and purged. Reintroducing military conscription could be a solution to limit the infiltration of rogue elements that do not work for the state.
4- Then, schedule a new date for parliamentary elections with direct international supervision. No sectarian or ethnic slates should be allowed. No clerics should be allowed to give spiritual "blessings" for any candidates or lists. A new constitution should be written after that. Postpone all contentious issues until after that. No sneaky U.S.-sponsored privatization and oil laws should be passed until that period.
5- The U.S. should clearly announce a timetable for withdrawal of its troops. No excuses.

Do you think the US should withdraw its forces from Iraq now or not? Why?

The U.S. should at least set a timetable for withdrawal but not after the above steps are made. The occupation can not go on forever, because it is obvious that its presence is fueling further chaos and violence. Military solutions have proven their futility.

Do you think the war was worth it? Why?

It will not be readily obvious if the war was worth it or not. The toll in lives has been enormous so far. Future generations will be scarred forever as a result of this war, and they are the ones who are supposed to make a change for the better.”


Arkady said…
"No cry for justice, for a ceasefire, for peace. "

Every proposal along those lines has been shot down, Roger, repeatedly. There's no point to asking for them anymore. Every time there's something along those lines, it gets nibbled to death as "unrealistic". Then a fakery of them is promoted. Then they're forgotten. It's too "nuanced" a position to hold up under the fire of cruise missile liberals, with their mild regrets and a brand managment agenda. It's too wussified for the jingos in the home audience.
Roger Gathmann said…
Mr. Scruggs, did you read Jonathan Schwartz today? I loved this intro graf:

"With the current revival of the 2002 Arab League plan for peace with Israel, the U.S. and Israeli governments face a difficult challenge: how can they continue pretending they want peace, while avoiding it at all costs?"

Anyway, I disagree with you on some points. I don't think ceasefire is just an idealistic suggestion - I actually think it is an inevitable reality, with the question being when it happens and whether it happens as a last gasp American effort to save face. The U.S. has pretty much telegraphed its intentions in this war, in spite of the pundit scrim. It was obvious two years ago that the new strategy was to make Shi'ites attack Sunnis as a strategy of intimidating the insurgency; it was obvious at that time that the strategy would blow up in their face; while less obvious, I've always been of the opinion that the lefties who have been warning that next week, the U.S. will invade/bomb Iran have severely underestimated the huge limits the U.S. empire has encountered. It is one thing to believe Cheney is wicked, it is another thing to think he has a magic machine.

When Petraeus made his comments about a political solution, he was signaling, once again, what I think has been pretty obvious: the establishment has turned against the terms in which the Bush people want to run the war - i.e., American hegemony in the Middle East. It costs too much, the enterprise seems too risky, and the Bakers of the world, who are on the boards of the corporations that the U.S. government needs in order to govern at all, don't like it. Not that I have respect for the reality principle vis a vis the Bakers - I think they also overestimate American power right now. Which is due to habit. Habit is where we mostly think.

So, hell, I'm going to do my puny bit and cast out as many posts about ceasefire as I can - seeding the clouds.
northanger said…
has anybody called Bush, Jr. the sorcerer's apprentice yet? like father like son [+].
Arkady said…
Roger, I don't think a ceasefire is idealistic! I never said it was and I do think one will come about whether the cretinous Bushists want it or not. The main conflict is over, after all and as you say the power brokers have had enough. A plausibly sovereign government is going to give the oil majors what they want. All that's left is killing enough people to make the home audience so heartily sick of even hearing the work "Iraq" that they'll ignore the next twenty years of rapacious litigation.
Roger Gathmann said…
North, I love protean hauntology! even though hauntology does sorta grate on the purist ear. Myself, I am laying agoge spells on this site for my muse!
Paul craddick said…

I know that quoting someone in a somewhat approving vein doesn't entail anything approaching complete agreement, but I'm surprised that you didn't specifically criticize Zeyad for the following assertion:

"... I believe that everyone shares some of the blame. The U.S., the international community, the U.N., Iraqi politicians, power-hungry clerics, the Iraqi people, the former regime, Iran, Saudi Arabia."

Surely not "the international community" and, even worse, "Iran"! I thought it was only "President Backbone," and his puppeteer (the baleful Cheney) who imagined that Iran had some role in bedeviling effective governance in Iraq? And surely Pakistan is to blame, somehow!?

Regarding your theory that Petraeus' remarks signal that "the establishment" has come to agree with LI on the folly of American empire, do you believe that Petraeus is a member of said establishment, or simply the messenger? If the former, do you find it odd that "the surge" - which, qua "escalation," you deride in your post's opening paragraphs - is his handiwork?

I think you'll find, as well, that when the American military does raze various targets within Iranian territory - yes, when, not 'if' - Petraeus will be very much on board with such an "Imperial" effort. I'm undecided as to the wisdom of such a course, but anyone who doubts that Iran is a dangerous enemy is guilty of folly.
Roger Gathmann said…
Paul, because I want detente with Iran doesn't mean I like Iran's government. And of course, haven't I had howling, shriekin' posts about the Dawa government with which we are allied in Iraq? Pointed out that this is an insane thing for American servicemen to be dying for.

That list is comprehensive, and I don't have a problem with it, although I'd disagree with you, probably, about assigning weights to the blameworthy.

As for your prophecy - we will see. You and I have prophesized on this before. I feel, Paul, that we are like the Knight and the Devil playing chess in the Seventh Seal - although I bet we have different ideas whose side is the knight's, and whose the devil's!

So you didn't say what you made of Petraeus' remarks. What do you think is up with that? And with the recent Saudi welcome to Iran's President Razzmatazz, and their condemnation of America's illegal war in Iraq? Interesting, don't you think?
Roger Gathmann said…
ps - you know, it is funny, Paul, when I wrote this I was hoping you'd read it. But I also thought, it is a little much for me to expect you to read someone whose opinion is so opposite of your own - it requires a good deal of patience. So I have to take my hat off to you, M. Craddick!
Paul craddick said…

Thanks or praise is unnecessary - I give ear to the most creditable voices on all sides, and yours is amongst the best.

Re: Petraeus' remarks, I'm not sure they entail a back-down on any 'Imperial' project. In the 19th century, British Imperialism was effected as much by 'political' solutions - buying off potentates, turning local antagonisms to advantage, etc - as by resorting to naked force. (It shows, I think, the poverty of the modern imagination that it can only conceive Imperialism in the Soviet style). What the talk of a "political solution" does betoken, in my view, is the deep acceptance that conditions in Iraq are not favorable to the emergence of a modern, Liberal political order. The point now is to achieve some kind of stability, while avoiding a return to Ba'athism, or the advent of either a Talibanesque Sharia state, or a revolutionary Khomeneist one.

One of the best, tacit goals of dethroning Saddam was that it allowed a withdrawal of our troops from Saudi. But I can't make out what kind of political calculations are driving King Abdullah's posture - whether, like you, he thinks that an American strike against Iranian targets is unlikely and therefore he'd better suck up to the emerging regional hegemon; whether he actually does think such a strike is likely, and needs to establish some rhetorical distance between the Saudi regime and the US; or whether he's just an asshole.

If I could collect my thoughts and arrange them coherently, I would blog my emerging view that the lesson from Iraq may be the timeliness of a thorough-going isolationism. I mean complete - no official "engagement" with any of the region's losers. And yes, end the special relationship with Israel - not because the Israelis are on the same moral plane as the others (they emphatically are not), but because we have exhausted every alternative for engaging the region constructively. War and more war are what we can look forward to, otherwise; we just have too many enemies, and annihilating them is not an option, morally or practically. But, if we ever did undertake such a complete withdrawal, stay tuned for Israeli-Arab/Muslim wars the likes of which we haven't seen before.

And thus the notion of a "cease-fire" in Iraq, I'm sorry to say, strikes me as wrongheaded to the point of being silly. As ever, that means giving your enemy time to prepare for the next battle, under cover of a truce.
Anonymous said…
Paul, one of your best sentences! "But I can't make out what kind of political calculations are driving King Abdullah's posture - whether, like you, he thinks that an American strike against Iranian targets is unlikely and therefore he'd better suck up to the emerging regional hegemon; whether he actually does think such a strike is likely, and needs to establish some rhetorical distance between the Saudi regime and the US; or whether he's just an asshole." I think I'd say we hit the trifecta, except I don't think he thinks there is going to be a strike - the distancing is precisely cause he's judged the limit of American power.

From your response, it seems to me that your dismissal of a ceasefire doesn't really derive from your analysis of the situation. If you think the British colonial experience is relevant, well then, look at what the Brits did when they realize they were not going to subdue Afghanistan. Ceasefire was disguised under glib diplomatic cover, but that is what it was.

In truth, I'm not really concerned with America's enemies in Iraq - I'm concerned with mitigating violence in Iraq, which is connected to the willingness of the Americans to accept the defeat of their exaggerated aims, and the end of their occupation. And more generally, I do hope that we can put the keebosh to the Carter doctrine that thrust the U.S. into the Persian Gulf for no good end. Isn't that the sugar around the bitter pill? That we can bash Carter with it?
-hey, I'm signing in as anonymous, as this haloscan thing won't let me in as Roger, goddamn it!
northanger said…
Roger, aren't you in Austin? i've been meaning to say: when it rains it pours. hope you're safe & well in texas today.

in the who knew? department (or, what google spits up when you're not looking): Why Does The Saudi Family Have “Our Flag”? :: The Symbol of the Moorish Flag is embedded on the walls of the Royal Palace of The Saudi Family in Saudi Arabia. So, why do the Saudi family have “Our Flag”. Answer: the Arabians have been stealing pure Africans since they have claimed to be the seed of Hagar. Who have been capturing and enslaving Africans longer and with more business like efficiency than Arabians? From a view point of a professional Slaver, no man enslaves another without knowing his value. What nation of African People would know the true history of the so-called NBC [Negro, Blacks and Colored People] better than those who have been stealing and selling them for over 3,000 years?
Roger Gathmann said…
North, thanks for the kind thoughts. But texas is a big as Jehovah's broad chest, and we didn't have to lasso any stray tornadoes and show them whose boss, thank God. We had a little dribble.