Sunday, November 26, 2006

Cut and Run? Withdraw? Redeploy? Stay the Course?

The Democratic win in the 2006 elections has changed the discussion about the war in Iraq. Part of the mandate won by the Democrats was to change, radically, the direction we, the U.S.A., will approach the situation in Iraq. Clearly I believe we should have not gone into Iraq in the first place, but we are there and it's a very interesting question what should be done given the situation that exists today.

There are echo's of Vietnam and other U.S. failures of the recent years. Some of the Republican talking points have, for decades, been about renewing America's honor, honor that we've lost from "losing" the Vietnam war and having had to withdraw from other conflicts. The Bush Administration has been playing this card, in saying we must stay the course. Now, the phrase "stay the course" can mean to keep at a given strategy even though it's clearly failing, or it can mean staying focussed on a goal and shifting strategies and ideas until you reach the goal.

Which raises the question of just what the heck is the goal, anyway?

For example, the goal we were given in 2002 and 2003, used to justify the war, was the Iraqi connection to the September 11, 2001 attack, the connections between the Iraqi regime and Al Qaeda, the danger of Iraq gaining weapons of mass destruction up to and including nuclear weapons. My earlier article, The "case" for war, goes over the claims made by Colin Powell in the Feb 2003 speech to the United Nations Security Council. By the summer of 2003 I was able to show all their claims at that time were poppycock. So just what the heck is the goal, anyway?

The Bush Administration has changed tactics and now says the goal is the introduction of Democracy. That just harkens back to the plans concocted by the Project For a New American Century, which I wrote about in Background material for the second Gulf "War". Basically the PNAC is a think tank run by the Neocons who are now in positions of high power all through the Bush Administration. Their plans for the Middle East was to make a wave of change by "introducing" moderate democracies in the center of the middle east, which would then influence neighboring countries to moderate democracy.

Sounds nice in a way, but there are several flies in the ointment. For example how can you "introduce" democracy? Isn't that a choice that a population makes for themselves? In particular how can you force a country to become democratic when you're pointing guns at them? Especially when the culture in question has a long non-democratic history? So just what the heck is the goal, anyway?

I happen to think it's about the Oil. GW Bush may as well have had a sign in his campaign headquarters reading "It's about the Oil, stupid". Iraq has the second highest reserves of Oil in the world, and Iran, one of the targets of the PNAC plan for reshaping the Middle East, has significant oil reserves as well. Further, Venezuela, another country which the U.S. has been targeting, against which the U.S. launched a Coup a couple years ago, they have significant oil reserves as well, especially if you count their tar-sands oil reserves.

The November 17, 2006 episode of On The Media has an interesting discussion of the way this debate is spinning in the news media. Somehow the word "Withdraw" has been made to equate with "Cut And Run" which the Republicans have successfully made out to be cowardice. As a political tactic it makes anyone talking of Withdrawal out to be a Coward, who can then be Swift-Boat'ed to death.

For that matter one of the troubling considerations is, would a withdrawal send Iraq into a tailspin of violence between the various factions. It would create a power vacuum, which might well cause the various parties to struggle among each other to be the top dog. But can we really foretell the future well enough to say for certainty that's what would happen?

Since this whole mess is based on preventative war .. the idea that you can foretell that a given country is planning on attacking another country, so therefore you have the right to attack the first country to prevent their attack on the second country .. well, to continue fighting the war in Iraq means you are continuing this preventative war strategy, and in this case it's about preempting a civil war.

Cut and Run, the Only Brave Thing to Do ...a letter from Michael Moore .. well, it's about his explanation why "Cut And Run" is exactly what we should do, and that it probably won't result in the horror story we've been fed. An interesting factoid to consider is that we have now been in Iraq fighting this war for longer than U.S. forces were fighting in World War II. Yup, beginning in 1942 we built up an armaments industry, trained a large army, went to war, and defeated Japan, Italy and Germany, sweeping enemy forces from North Africa, the Middle East, Europe and the Pacific. And that took the U.S. less time than the time we have spent mired in Iraq.

Something is wrong with this picture.

He points out that a country can successfully be liberated only when the populace themselves rises up in some form. It hearkens back to the U.S. Revolutionary war, or the non-violent uprising in India, etc. The Iraqi's did not do so against Saddam Hussein, he claims. Except that, after the first Gulf War, President Bush (the other one, not the current one) told the Shia and Kurds to rise up and we will support you, but when they did our "support" did not come through, and the Hussein government crushed their rebellion. Somehow Michael Moore fails to mention this.

But it does given an interesting spin with which to interpret the current mess. To an extent the fighting in Iraq is against U.S. forces, because they want US to be GONE. Michael Moore does quote some polling statistics showing heavy Iraqi support for insurgency against U.S. forces. And that does make it look very bad for the U.S. plan in that if the population you're supposedly liberating wants nothing to do with the liberators, then how can the liberators hope to be of any use?

There are many who are saying we should send in more troops. I suppose the idea is that to "win" you must "crush" opposition, and that if a given number of troops hasn't been successful in crushing the opposition then more troops is what's needed. Hmm...

If the will of the people is strong enough, is there any number of troops that are enough?

And, consider that we have zero justification to be there in the first place. The proof? The rebellion against our presence should be enough proof. But if you go back to the discussion I laid out above, both of the stories we've been told justifying this war have been proved to be false. WMD? Al Qaeda? All false. The hope for democracy? A ridiculous quest in the first place, and fading quickly anyway.

Michael Moore does present an interesting argument.

If you were to drive drunk down the road and you killed a child, there would be nothing you could do to bring that child back to life. If you invade and destroy a country, plunging it into a civil war, there isn’t much you can do ‘til the smoke settles and blood is mopped up. Then maybe you can atone for the atrocity you have committed and help the living come back to a better life.

And he goes on to point out the Soviet Union was able to withdraw from Afghanistan in 36 weeks, relatively painlessly.

But is there any hope of this happening? The Republicans will fight this tooth and nail. Their whole reputation is based on succeeding at this war. They are not about to admit defeat, and offering atonement is very foreign to them since they are bound to see it as defeatist.

It will remain to be seen what will come from the Democrats versus the Republicans in this regard. One thing that's clear is the power has shifted dramatically in Washington.

The last thing I want to point to is: Howard Zinn on The Uses of History and the War on Terrorism. This is a speech he gave in Madison Wisconsin, and rebroadcast on Democracy Now on November 24, 2006.

It is a long speech full of ideas. I think the thrust of it is that for any country the political leadership is not of the people of that country. Even the U.S. where we have government By The People and For The People. Instead political leadership is this insular group who sees their role as convincing the population to following agenda's decided by the political leadership.

He tells of an interview of Hermann Göring during the Nuremberg trials. He was asked how the Nazi's were able to convince their people to do those horrendous things.

Göring said, “Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war? But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy. The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. All you have to do is tell them they’re being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism. It works the same way in any country.”

It works the same in any country. In the U.S. the Republicans have been telling us for years this same story line. The Terrorists are coming to get us, and anybody who argues against this obvious truth gets demonized and shouted down for lack of patriotism.

It is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. But should that be the way things occur? In this country Of the People and By the People and For the People, who should be determining the agenda? The leaders or the people? And what about when the leaders are so completely isolated from the people, as are our leaders?