Wednesday, May 31, 2006

A rant occasioned by Haditha: Iraq is lost

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It's not over yet? Too soon to judge? That's so cute.

But okay, I'll play along. Let's say that after some number of years, though no time soon, Iraq manages to staunch the increasing and increasingly horrific internecine violence, manages not explode into constituent parts, manages to establish a viable government, manages to become a somewhat peaceful and more-or-less secular state (at least by the standards of Iranian ayatollahs and Jerry Falwell), manages even to establish some form of quasi-democracy. Not a lot of people think this is really going to happen, but let's say that it does, sometime after 2010. The US has still lost.

The surest and latest nail in the coffin of any real hope of US "victory" in Iraq--though the administration still seems not to have a very clear definition of what "victory" comprises--is the mild reaction both within Iraq and throughout the greater Middle East to what appears to be upcoming revelations about the Haditha massacre. The Iraqis don't think this is a big deal at all. There’s More... Expand PostUnlike our domestic warmongering apologists for US military atrocity and misconduct, however, it's not because they think that we're a swell bunch of guys, but that occasionally bad stuff happens while we're there to help them out. Rather, it's because they think that this behavior is just par for our occupational course. They don't think this is the first such massacre, don't think it's the last, and don't think it's the worst. From Reuters:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Word that U.S. Marines may have killed two dozen Iraqi civilians in "cold-blooded" revenge after an insurgent attack has shocked Americans but many Iraqis shrug it off as an every day fact of life under occupation.

Despite U.S. military denials, many Iraqis believe killing of men, women and children at the hands of careless or angry American soldiers is common. No reliable statistics are available.

Since U.S. officials said last week that charges including murder were possible after an investigation into the deaths at Haditha last November, Iraqi media and politicians have paid scant attention to details leaking out in Washington.
And so on. No matter how Iraq ultimately shakes out, the US is going to be remembered throughout the region as a bad guy, except perhaps by the Kurds. (Unless of course we manage somehow to screw them over in an attempt to salvage a unified Iraq.) Self-justifying stories that some Americans tell themselves about how we had no choice, or how the Iraqis are so much better off than they were before, or how it was just an honest mistake, just doesn't cut it. We've pretty much confirmed, or at least have provided reasonable grounds for inferring as true or plausible, the worst that anti-Americans have claimed about us. That doesn't bode well for any "war on terrorism" or create the kind of conditions that would tend to make us safer, either.

That we would make Iraq a nifty "free" place and that they would at least be a nice reasonable and--more to the foreign-policy point--friendly pro-Western nation was pretty much the last shred of justification or hope of success for the Iraqi invasion. As of now it's crumbled to dust and scattered across the desert like Humphrey Bogart's gold at the end of "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre."

In fact, except for the original Captain-Ahabesque goal of removing Saddam Hussein from power, the Iraq invasion has been a disaster by pretty much every measure one can think of. No WMDs were found. (Maybe they're still hidden in the same warehouse as the mounds of flowers that the cheering Iraqis were supposed to shower on their American liberators. Someone should check.) In the end, there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and The Terrorists who supposedly threatened our very existence. Iraqis are dying at a faster rate than could happen even in a Saddam Hussein wet dream. We've got 2500 dead American soldiers and counting. (At 10 dead per week, we'll equal the toll from the WTC attacks by this time next year.) Conservative estimates of the cost of the invasion are running at half a trillion dollars--yes, that's trillion with a "tr." (FWIW, that's equivalent to the entire non-military discretionary federal budget for 2006.) The actual economic cost is probably much higher. The reservoir of post-9/11 good will and solidarity that we enjoyed through most of the world has been squandered, along with our credibility. (Go ahead, try saying "US moral authority" with a straight face.)

Put a fork in Iraq, folks, it's done. As for all you who bought into and flogged the war from the beginning, damning opponents as traitors and cowards and America-haters and pro-terrorists, and screeched that was all just about Bush-hating: well, you know who you are, though you hope the rest of don't. There are a few honest and reflective souls among you, and all kudos to you guys. But as usual, the formerly most vociferous warongers haven't got the balls or honesty to admit either to being wrong or even duped, much less admit their shameful polemic.

But it's okay, because we can generally recognize you. You're mostly hiding in the weeds, popping up occasionally to condone torture and massacres of civilians and NSA spying. Or, to the extent you engage in discussion about the wider catastrophe of Iraq at all, it's to insist plaintively that we should now all put aside our differences and take the high road. You know how that goes: "Let's not play the blame game or argue about the rights and wrongs of the invasion: the important thing is to make a success of it going forward!"

As the title admits, this is a rant. But it's still right.