Friday, July 21, 2006

The reality that US wants to shroud

June 18, 2006

THE US contends that foreign extremists are waging a hatred-based blind war against it in Iraq. It deliberately underplays the reality that it is the American and allied foreign military presence there is the main cause for the insecurity and instability that have become part of life in the beleaguered country.
Iraq did not go to the US. The US came to Iraq on its free will and now finds itself having caught a tiger by the tail. Washington is now hoping that something dramatic could happen that would ease the pressure it is finding itself under in Iraq. In the meantime, it continues to argue that international terrorists bent upon inflicting as much damage to the US for the sake of doing it are behind the insurgency in Iraq.
The US military has never released an accurate account of the insurgents killed and detained in the more than three-year guerrilla war, but experts accounts say that less than 10 per cent of them were non-Iraqi. That would clearly establish that it is a home-grown insurgency that is raging in Iraq against foreign presence.
Washington would never accept it. It would never agree that the people of Iraq no longer see the US forces there as liberators and are anxious to see the back of foreign soldiers. Instead, it would continue to insist that battling the insurgency is central to the US-led international war against terror and turning away from it would mean giving ground to terrorists.
Never mind that Iraq was never or is a breeding ground for terrorists going around the world staging or even threatening to carry out terror attacks.
Never mind that a large number of Iraqis resent the "jihadist" presence among them as much as they resent the foreign military presence in their country.
Never mind that the people of post-war Iraq have seen and are living through worse atrocities than they suffered under the Baathist regime.
Never mind that the people of Iraq are living in perpetual terror, and are scraping through adverse living conditions —  minimal supplies of water, food and power — and with little employment opportunities except in the security forces (with all the dangers the job carries).
Never mind that the people of Iraq could not step out of their homes without fear of getting shot or arrested for whatever reason, and they could not have peace at home since a military or extremist knock could come anytime. Their homes could be stormed anytime by gunmen in government uniforms, with men being taken away, only to be discovered tortured and murdered the next day in the streets The average for May was 45). They could even be shot to death for simply being Iraqis (as we have seen in Haditha, Ishaqi and other towns) or be hauled away and tortured under detention (as we have seen in Abu Ghraib and other US-run prisons in post-war Iraq).
Washington continues to argue that freeing Iraq from the Saddam Hussein regime in April 2003 and installing an elected government there more than three years later was the best thing that could ever happen to the people of Iraq and they should remain eternally grateful to the US; and they should also accep that whatever the US does is for their good, democracy, freedom, dignity and human rights — in whatever order Washington finds fit.
However, ending the US-led foreign presence at this point in time would only herald massive bloodshed and loss of life among the people of Iraq because rival groups would immediately engage each other in open warfare in a bitter battle for supremacy.
What impact did the death of Abu Musab Al Zarqawi have on the situation on the ground in Iraq?
Well, for one thing, experts agree, it is a relief for Iraqis since Zarqawi's departure from the scene could result in a scaling down of "jihadist" attacks targeting Iraqis. Most of Zarqawi-engineered attacks had targeted Iraqis. The number of Iraqis killed in the suicide bombings attributed to Zarqawi is at least 25 to 30 times more than the number of American soldiers who died in Zarqawi's operations.
However, hospital figures show that there has been no let-up in the number of dead bodies reaching them on a daily basis. Nor is there a decline in suicide bombings and ambushes.
As reports from Iraq indicate, Sunni groups are hoping that Zarqawi's elimination would expose to the world that the insurgency was limited to Al Qaeda.
The US, and indeed the Arab World and the broader world community find themselves in a catch-22 situation:
As long as the US military presence continues in Iraq, there would not be an end to the insurgency directed at creating instability and making the country ungovernable for the US-backed Shiite-majority government (The results of any election would not be much different to make a real difference than those of the polls held in December). And if the US quits Iraq (which is highly unlikely), then there would be open civil war in the country pitting the 17-to-20 per cent Sunnis against the 58-per-cent-to-60-per-cent Shiites, with external forces from within the region and afar seeking to exploit the chaos.
What is going on Iraq now is a civil war indeed but by any other name, given the number of daily deaths and frequency of attacks even in the face of a massive security crackdown launched last week. The US military presence is perhaps even a check against the situation degenerating into a free-for-all settling of scores in the streets, a definite possiblity if American and other foreign soldiers start leaving the country without firming up a popular system of governance and a strong security system with enough force to back up the system (Indeed, that is one of the justifications and reasons cited by the US to explain its continued presence in the country).
On the surface and under the geopolitical imperatives, there does not seem to be any way out except that dictated by the US at whatever cost to itself and the people of Iraq. However, ways could present themselves if there is a political will in Washington to accept without reservation that the neoconservative designs for Iraq have gone dreadfully wrong and that the US has to make compromises over its pre-war objectives in Iraq. More importantly, the US will have to agree to be transparent in all its future dealing with the crisis and accept a prominent role for the regional and international community in working out a solution. Simply put, the US has to let go of Iraq as a strategic prize and let the world take the lead in trying to solve the crisis in the interest of peace and stability not only in Iraq but in the region at large, and Washington should be ready to pay the costs of repairing the damage it did when it ordered its military into Iraq.
It is wishful thinking. The US will never be amenable to any such idea simply because the US believes in itself too much. However, that should not be a dampner for the rest of the world to come up with ideas — unprecedented and dramatic as they might be because the situation in Iraq is also unprecedented and dramatic —  and go public with them so that no one could argue they were not told there were ways out of the quagmire.