Saturday, January 10, 2009

Leave Iraq? Plan A1

Gadfly
by Mort Malkin

Leave Iraq? Plan A1.

Barack Obama came out against the war in Iraq early on. He promised that if elected he would get our troops out promptly, but also orderly and responsibly. So, he was selected against war hawk Hillary Clinton and then elected against John McCain the forever warrior. Everyone seems to forget that the administration’s Plan A was that the Iraqis would welcome the Americans with sweets and flowers, we would depose Saddam Hussein, Achmed Chalabi would be anointed President, and we would promptly depart secure in the knowledge that Iraq would privatize the oil industry for Exxon and the other multinationals based in Texas. There was no Plan B.

Even before January 16, when he moves into the White House, Obama was acting like he owned the keys to the front door and the Oval Office. Right after Thanksgiving he named key members of his Cabinet. First named were members of the war cabinet: Rahm Emanuel as Chief of Staff, General James Jones as National Security Counselor, Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, and Robert Gates to continue as Secretary of War (er, Defense). No one was nominated to be Secretary of a Department of Peace.

Everyone from Bush to Obama view the Iraqi as small children who need US guidance until they grow up. That’s the same Iraq whose history goes back at least 8,000 years in the Fertile Crescent where civilization was born, city states grew, writing was invented, law codes were carved in stone, and all the rest. The Iraqis, poor children, would not be able to defend themselves against terrorists, or Saddam’s ghost, if we left precipitously.

Gadfly avers that no bloodbath would occur. The Iraqis, both Sunni and Shia, are first of all Iraqis. Before 2003 when the US came to take their once and future oil, intermarriage was commonplace and mixed neighborhoods were the norm. The Shia, though the majority religious group, are not monolithic. There is President Nouri al-Maliki and the religious leader, Moqtada al Sadr, backed by the Mahdi Army. In the South, the Marsh Arabs are an ancient people, Shia by history. The Oil Workers, a politically strong group centered in the South, may be mostly Shia, but they are more interested in keeping the oil for Iraq than in family values such as religion. Floating over all the Shia differences is the Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani who lets all the faithful know what’s on his mind.

The Sunni, the original insurgents, settled in Anbar Province in the West of Iraq and needed no instruction from the Americans in how to mount military operations against foreign occupiers, especially Americans. To promote "The Surge" the US public was sold the idea that the Sunnis would clean out Al Qaeda for the good of Iraq. In Iraq, the Sunnis were sold the same idea by being placed on the State Department payroll along with Blackwater et al. When the money stopped for a few weeks, the “awakening” went back to sleep.

So much for basic background. A few events are offered to support the thesis of the title of this essay, “Leave Iraq? Plan A1.” The odds makers of the Gadfly Revelry & Research gang predict that we could safely leave right now. They say the Iraqis are competent to take care of themselves — there will be no blood. Back in April 2007, Moqtada al-Sadr, who has nothing good to say about the occupation, organized a giant rally of all Iraqis — Shia, Sunni, and secular persuasions. The rally, held in Najaf, attracted 600,000 from all parts of the country. They carried Iraq flags and signs saying “No, No to Occupation.” It was entirely peaceful. The US military wisely stayed far away.

Then in June 2008, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to Baghdad for a meeting with Iraqi leaders. He drove from the airport — a usually dangerous route — quite safely. In Baghdad, he met with President Jalal Talibani in the Presidential Palace. It was a full state welcome, red carpet and all. They shared food and conversation while guarded by Iraqis. Not an American soldier was in sight. Afterward, Ahmadinejad met Nouri al-Maliki for further discussions. The two day visit was welcomed by almost all Iraqi leaders and went off without incident.

Most recently, in November 2008, Moqtada al-Sadr organized a demonstration of many thousands of Iraqis to oppose a pact with the US which would continue the US occupation, maintain “enduring” bases, and establish an oil law that would give multinational corporations the right to explore undeveloped oil fields. The huge rally was attended by all religious factions, who considered themselves, first and foremost, Iraqi. The Iraqi flag was much in evidence as were the signs condemning the “agreement of humiliation.” George Bush attended in effigy and was pelted by every convenient missile, from rocks to shoes, and set afire. The protest was peaceful, but the Iraqi subtlety was not mistaken for a “Have a nice day” message.

Most Americans oppose “precipitous” withdrawal. They say it will result in anarchy and civil war, and we must stay there till we train the Iraqi Army to provide security. But the “security” skills of the Iraqis have been on display since 2003. Without an air force, navy, or tank corps, they have been able to tie down the greatest military force in the world. All they had were pickup trucks, rifles, roadside bombs, and rocket propelled grenades. Moreover, each of the Iraqi factions wants to participate in ruling the entire nation. They know of their great natural wealth. They remember that even under Saddam Hussein, Iraq was counted as an advanced Arab nation. They were considered number one in many disciplines. Women occupied many professional positions. Especially, they are aware of the history of Mesopotamia from the first cities of Sumer to Babylon and Assyria, old as the civilizations of Egypt and China. The Iraqis are a proud people.

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