October 26, 2006

A Genuine Mission Impossible

Patrick Cockburn, whose important work I've noted here and here, writes about the causes of the impossible situation we've created in Iraq, a situation with no "good" solution whatsoever. I recommend the entire column, but these excerpts capture the heart of the matter:
There is still a hopeless lack of realism in statements from senior American officials. It is as if the taste of defeat is too bitter.


Where did the US go wrong? Saddam Hussein's government collapsed almost without a fight. Iraqis would not fight for him. Iraqis may not have welcomed American tanks with sweets and rose petals but they were very glad to see the back of their own disaster-prone leader.

The greatest American mistake was to turn what could have been presented as liberation into an occupation. The US effectively dissolved the Iraqi state. It has since been said by US generals - many of whom now claim to have been opponents of the invasion all along - that given a larger US army and a more competent occupation regime, all might still have been well. This is doubtful.


One theme has been constant throughout the past three-and-a-half years - the Iraqi government has always been weak. For this, the US and Britain were largely responsible. They wanted an Iraqi government which was strong towards the insurgents but otherwise compliant to what the White House and Downing Street wanted. All Iraqi governments, unelected and elected, have been tainted and de-legitimised by being dependent on the US. This is as true of the government of the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki today as it was when sovereignty was supposedly handed back to Iraq under the prime minister Iyad Allawi in June 2004. Real authority had remained in the hands of the US. The result was a government whose ministers could not move outside the Green Zone. They showed great enthusiasm for press conferences abroad where they breathed defiance at the insurgents and agreed with everything said by Mr Bush or Tony Blair.

The government can do nothing because it only came into existence after ministries were divided up between the political parties after prolonged negotiations. Each ministry is a bastion of that party, a source of jobs and money. The government can implement no policy because of these deep divisions. The government cannot turn on the militias because they are too strong.
As Cockburn notes at the end of his piece, the U.S. could leave Iraq, but only with a "great loss of face" that is intolerable to this administration. Thus, the chaos, destruction and death will continue -- because our leaders refuse to admit they were grievously wrong. That is the entire truth, and it is entirely awful.

More from Cockburn here: Give Up the Fantasies.

And so, still one more time: Get Out Now. Just Do It.