A Strategy for Iraq
by Stephen Notley
reprinted without permission
I wrote about this a while ago in my Thumbnail Solution back in September but it bears revisiting as Bush and Kerry both flail around talking escalation and course-staying and phony sovereignty off-handing. They're having a bit of trouble figuring out who to hand power over to not just because they don't actually have control of the country to hand over in the first place but because the only proper recipient of that power is a body selected by a free and fair election. Y'know, like in a democracy?
The problem is that although the Bushites *say* they're trying to build a democracy in Iraq, the truth is that democracy is the one thing they won't abide. The Iraqis have been yelling for elections for months and the US has been dragging its feet the whole way. The number-one political priority in Iraq right now should be completing the census necessary to hold elections but the Iraqi Governing Council suspended its census-taking late last year on the behest of the Americans. This whole "sovereignty" handoff is just another stall, and a transparent one; do they actually think the Iraqis are going to fall for it? Are the American forces in Iraq going to be taking orders from the new sovereign government on July 1? Of course not, so talk of sovereignty is meaningless.
Back in February Bush was asked on Meet the Press how he'd respond to the Iraqis electing a Shi'ite theocratic government. His statement was basically a flat "they're not going to", with "we won't let them" as the unstated corollary. Now, Bush himself actually probably believes all the B.S. Chalabi and his stooges have been shovelling him but aside from Bush's delusions the plain fact is that the current US government will not permit the election of any government that insists on US troop withdrawal or refuses to honor all the phony contracts and government sell-offs signed by the occupation authorities -- no matter how popular any or all of those policies may be with Iraqis. So the "democracy" angle is a sham.
The solution, simply, is to make it not a sham. Make elections the priority, hold them freely and fairly and commit publicly to abiding by the outcome. That means no restrictions on who can run, no shutting down of newspapers, the whole bit. That means accepting that most of the government is going to be made up of clerics because those are the people who have political power in Iraq. And it means accepting that the new government is proably gonna be Shi'ite-heavy and friendly to Iran. And it means that, yeah, they may well tear up all the illegitimate contracts the US occupational authorities signed. We don't like it? Too bad. The only thing that has any legitimacy in this otherwise illegal, immoral, unprovoked war of agression was the supposed good deed of knocking Saddam off. They didn't ask us to do it, but whatever, it's done. Now we got no reason to stay and every reason to split because right now *we're* the problem there.
America, at least under the Bushites, is much like the monkey who reaches into the jar, grabs a handful of chestnuts and then finds its hand is stuck. The harder he pulls the more stuck he gets and the only way out is to let go. Bush and his cronies fought this war for this territory and those contracts and those bases and that oil and there's no damn way they're gonna let them go, no matter what the Iraqi people say. At the same time they're trapped into insisting they're trying to build a democracy even though it is obvious to the Iraqis that they intend no such thing. A collision course if I ever saw one.
The ironic thing is that the very democracy that Bush is struggling to prevent while claiming to support may come about, in the end, by the Iraqi people uniting to *eject* the Americans. The Iraqis are gonna get what they want sooner or later and the only thing we're gonna get from trying to keep it from them is failure and a much angrier and more hostile Iraq government that we would have had if we'd played fair.