Who Lost Iraq?
WHO LOST IRAQ?
In the two and a half years since the US became involved in Iraq, it has become clear that Iraqis are too traumatized by the disorder of the country and/or are too tangled in their own tribal traditions and/or their religious allegiances to embrace a democratic society. Torn by post-war strife and previous associations, the most powerful people in Iraq today show little interest in a pluralistic society where individual allegiances must give way to compromise. It did not have to be this way. Perhaps if the Bush administration had had a plan for the peace and had committed enough troops to prevent the chaos following the fall of Sadaam Hussein and his Baathist government, the US might have been able to achieve the goal it fashioned for itself – the flowering of a Middle East democracy. But the neoconservatives who pushed for and planned the war never were interested in what they called nation-building. They were more interested in demonstrating that the US had the capacity to wage a quickly victorious hot war. They were more interested in asserting American muscularity and aggressiveness. They, in fact ridiculed the Clintonian nation-building ambitions and the balanced diplomacy favored by Bush père.
In the chaotic aftermath of the fall of Sadaam, deposed Baathists who had been summarily ejected from all levels of Iraq government and bureaucracy and both Shi’a and Sunni Islamists reacted against the American presence in Iraq. They began a terror campaign that attempted to fill the power vacuum left by an ineffective American sponsored civilian administration which failed to prevent growing criminal activity as well as acts of terror. A major terrorist objective has clearly been to destabilize Iraq’s political class by targeting Iraqis who cooperate in the formation of a constitutional government, and by attacking Iraqis who are working or looking for work in the new Iraqi government. They also have sought to spread terror generally by attacking people where they shop and where they pray in order to make clear that neither the Americans nor the governing Iraqis are capable of stabilizing the country. Equally, the terror campaign is designed to drive Americans from Iraq so that the doors will be open for one of the competing power groups to take control. Think of Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation.
Of course the perpetrators of terror are responsible for the mayhem and death that they cause, but the US bears responsibility here as well. The reckless de-baathification of Iraq following the fall of Sadaam left a vacuum at the center of government and created conditions that encouraged the post-war looting and criminality. The failure to hand Iraqis contracts for rebuilding of the country has left many of its citizens paupers, and the initial failure to involve Iraqis in post-Sadaam recovery left the Iraqis feeling, not unjustly, that they had been occupied, not liberated.
It is truly hard to say what the Bushies hoped to accomplish in Iraq when they went to war. Clearly there was no imminent threat; clearly, democracy has not flourished; clearly terrorism waxes in Iraq rather than waning; and clearly, the US is less safe now from terror than it was before 9/11. Of course, it is terrorists who perpetrate terrorism, but the Bushies bear some of the burden. Before George W. Bush, Iraq was Sadaam Hussein’s to lose; now it is the Bushies who have lost Iraq and who are dragging us further in the terrorist miasma.