Fiddling While Baghdad Burns
Side thought, before getting to the current problems inside Iraq:
I can’t help but comment on former President Ford’s Friday support of Rumsfeld against his military critics. Looking for champions to their cause, Rummy, Cheney and Bush no doubt tried to find the ‘latest and greatest.’ They came up empty. Beating the bushes (oops) all the way back through Dad and Reagan, nary a voice could be found this side of the discredited Nixon administration. 84 year-old Melvin Laird and 92 year-old Jerry Ford are appropriate bookends for Donald Rumsfeld, swinging in the wind.
Leaving that, I suppose it’s unfair to criticize the democratic experiment in Iraq for not getting its shit together over four and a half months while their country skewers itself on the twin swords of Shiite-Sunni rivalry. But then maybe not. Maybe Ambassador Zalmay Khalizad needs to rub their nose in it. What we’re seeing unfold isn’t unexpected, but it’s demoralizing and merely proves that there’s no early way out without leaving a civilian massacre in our wake.
The secular, autocratic dictatorship of Saddam Hussein is devolving into an Iranian-Taliban style mullocracy. Throwing a bone or two to Sunnis and Kurds, the Shiite majority has let loose the dogs of religious war, this time on their terms and the pay-back is both bloody and relentless. Khalizad and George Bush need to lean very heavily on the bickering Iraqis and Zalmay knows how to do it. He's very tough and very able if left to the work.
But of course there’s a price. The price is staying and, without squaring with the American public about why that price is worth paying, the president could pay another price in the November elections. He will pay the former or surely pay the latter. But that would be the honorable rather than the political solution and he is, above all else, a political president.
The supposed difficulty with which an Iraqi Prime Minister has been chosen is no more than an excuse to let the blood run sufficiently to chase out whatever Iraqi intellectuals and middle class remain. They are impediments to a Shiite Sharia blanket, drawn from Tehran to Baghdad. The Iraqi Interior Ministry dictated in 2003 that anyone found eating in public during the fasting month of Ramadan would be detained three days and fined. Does that sound like Iran, or what? Secular Iraqis were livid.
Under this new 'democratic' government, secular Iraqis will be gone or suffer the consequences.
The Interior Ministry can only be impartial if it is under secular control, but there’s precious little chance of that happening when it affords such productive killing fields. The “Wolf Brigade,” exists within the ministry, a semi-legitimate death squad. How’s that for a cultural reference back to Hitler's days in pre-war Germany?
Interior Ministries in Muslim countries don’t run the parks and sea shores, they enforce the law of the Mullah, no matter what the professed law of the country may be.
Death squads. Torture cells in more than a thousand lockups across Iraq. You take your choice in the Middle East; there’s the dictatorships of Saddam Hussein, the Shah of Iran, the ‘President’ of Pakistan and the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia or the mullocracies of Afghanistan and Iran. And now, it seems, Iraq. The unelected, who call the shots. No wonder Saddam was such a tough guy.
Iraq may be a place we should never have gone, but it is now a place we cannot leave.
Not if we ever hope for accommodation with the Muslim world. Ultimately, we make it here or there will be fewer and fewer options open to us. If civil and semi-democratic society fails in Iraq, it’s a not-so-slow slide into less and less Middle East oil and an ultimate confrontation with Asia centered on energy as well as commerce. Muslim oil will turn more and more toward Muslim Asia.
So this wrench George Bush has so disingenuously thrown into the Muslim machinery isn’t about to be retrieved by ‘bringing the troops home’ any time soon. Bush and Rummy, Condi and Dick have shit in the American pants in Iraq and the stench is there for everyone to smell. It’s not enough to say ‘excuse me’ and run on home to change their underwear. The problem, not the face-saving problem, but the real problem is how to assure a lasting democratic legacy in Iraq.
I’m very much afraid that isn’t going to be achieved by turning over peace-keeping responsibilities to an Interior Ministry that boasts of a Wolf Brigade allied with Shiite militias. The truth that no one talks of is not a political truth, it’s a humanitarian truth. Walking away, limping away or merely waving goodbye and getting out is to put a Shiite majority at the throats of a well-armed and desperate Sunni minority population who became used to running things.
Cleaning George Bush’s underwear may take ten years of boots on the ground, many more boots than are there today. The alternative is a hell-hole of America-haters, a power-vacuum that will probably bring down Lebanon, Israel, Saudi Arabia and our oil sources of supply.
Which will ultimately bring a war of annihilation, because it’s the only kind we know how to fight anymore. The world that once believed in American-style democracy and opportunity for all, no longer believes. The tragic direction this administration has taken America since 9-11 laid all our cards on the Iraqi table, a bluff-bet with a losing hand.