Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Posts Tagged ‘Iraq’

Missing the point of Iraq election

Posted by sanityinjection on March 11, 2010

The diplomatic world awaits with baited breath today the announcement of the results of Iraq’s election. Columnists are in a tizzy over what outcome would be best for Iraq or for Western interests.

But all the speculation is missing the essential point: Nobody knows who is going to win. That in itself is the key victory for democracy – a hotly contested election whose outcome is not a foregone conclusion. What other Arab country can boast of this? Lebanon, perhaps, no other. And it’s a far cry from the days when Saddam Hussein used to be “re-elected” with 98% of the vote. And don’t think that the significance of this is lost on Iraqis themselves. With all the hardships they have faced over the last seven years, this at least is one tangible benefit: proof that the destiny of their country lies in their own hands.

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Iraqi election snapshots: Baghdad

Posted by sanityinjection on March 9, 2010

I recommend to you this piece in the New York Times by veteran Iraq journalist Bartle Bull. Mr. Bull’s interviews suggest that there is – at least in Baghdad – a movement in this election away from sectarianism. If that’s true, it’s the most positive sign yet of a potentially stable and peaceful future for Iraq.

One of the things that seems to stand out in the interviews is the Baghdadis’ sense of pride in their democratic elections as putting them far ahead of their Arab brethren or even their Iranian neighbors. Of course, Iraqis have long viewed themselves as being more educated and modern than other Arabs. But it bodes well if Baghdadis’ attitudes gradually spread across the rest of the country.

I’m not sure why this piece was buried by the Times in their Op-Ed section, unless it simply wasn’t anti-American enough to qualify as “news”.

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Haiti’s government is AWOL – and that might be a good thing

Posted by sanityinjection on January 15, 2010

AP reports that the United States has essentially taken over Haiti because the national government has effectively ceased to exist and there is nobody else capable of running the country.

For example, the international airport is now under the control of, and being manned by, US Armed Forces in order to manage the extreme logjam of relief flights trying to take off and land. Thousands of US ground troops are landing as we speak to try to create some order amidst the chaos. Haiti’s waters are under the complete control of the US Navy and Coast Guard. Some readers may recall there is a UN mission in Haiti, but it was affected by the earthquake as well and is focused on its own rescue operations at the moment.

The US swears it is not trying to sideline the elected government or undermine Haitian President Rene Preval. But you have to wonder whether doing so would actually be good for Haiti, considering that the quality of life of most Haitian people has shown no significant improvement in decades. The only public statement I have heard from Preval so far was him whining that his palace has been wrecked and he has nowhere to live.

Aid agencies are complaining that the Haitian organizations they normally work with are out of commission. Might that not be a good thing? Being able to sidestep corrupt Haitian officials for once may mean that international aid may be more effective, not less. Get your own people in there and get the job done properly this time.

What better lesson for this than Iraq? After the quick war in 2003, the US was concerned about appearing like a conqueror and moved quickly to turn over power to an Iraqi civilian interim government. That government proved to be hopelessly inept and corrupt, and the result was more American and Iraqi lives lost as the US military found itself having to divert from security missions to clean up the government’s messes. The Iraqi people would have been far better off had we placed the country under a formal US occupation government. World opinion would have howled and screamed, but we could have cleaned the place up a lot more efficiently and then presided over elections, leading to a full withdrawal and a stable country as early as 2006.

Is it now the Haitian people’s turn to be sacrificed – yet again – on the altar of national sovereignty and anti-imperialism? Let’s hope not.

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Irony, thy name is Al-Qaeda in Iraq

Posted by sanityinjection on June 22, 2009

Al Qaeda and other Sunni extremist groups in Iraq have said all along that they are fighting to end the American occupation of Iraq. This is the excuse they use to justify their barbaric terrorist attacks not only on US soldiers but on Iraqis themselves (the lives of the innocent are equally to be sacrificed for their glorious cause.)

So, with US troops on schedule to pull out of Iraqi urban areas by June 30 as part of the larger withdrawal plan, one might logically assume that the bombings and attacks would decrease with the removal of the provocative US presence. Indeed, this has been the essence of the anti-war argument offered by Western liberals: The US is to blame for terrorism because of its presence in the Middle East, and if we would just pull out and leave the region undefended, everyone would be happy and play nice. And Al Qaeda has echoed that line of thinking in their statements, since it works to their advantage.

In fact, though, we are more likely to see an increase in terrorist attacks in Iraq accompanying the US pullback. There are two reasons for this. One is that the removal of US forces simply makes it easier for the terrorists to carry out their attacks, and it’s only natural for them to take advantage of the opportunity. But the second, and more fundamental reason, is that in fact the last thing Al Qaeda in Iraq wants is for the US to leave – because it would remove their excuse for existing there. With the US gone, Iraqis will have little sympathy for Al Qaeda attacks on Iraqis. But in fact, Al Qaeda still wants to bring down the democratic government of Iraq and replace it with an Islamofascist theocracy.

The hope of Al Qaeda and their allies is that by increasing their attacks, they will force the US to reverse its pullback and keep our troops in Iraq, so they can continue to justify their existence and kill more of us and more Iraqis. Precisely the opposite of what they claim to want.

This is important for the Western defeatists to understand. Yes, the terrorists hate the US because of our presence in the Middle East, but not because it offends them. They hate us because we are the only force that has both the capability and the will to prevent them from establishing their Muslim caliphate. If we were to shrink back into our shell and leave the Middle East, the terrorists wouldn’t pack up and go home. They would renew their struggle with greater energy, knowing that the path to victory and the religious enslavement of the Middle East was now clear.

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On the ground in Baghdad

Posted by sanityinjection on May 12, 2009

I commend to you this piece from Michael J. Totten, an independent journalist in Baghdad trying to get a feel for what conditions are like in Iraq now and what the future holds. Totten’s writing style is informal and engaging, and he offers an interesting comparison between Shia militias in Iraq and Hezbollah in Lebanon – and a possible connection between the two. He also explores Iran’s role in Iraq and how a US withdrawal is likely to impact the balance of power in Iraq.

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Afghanistan: What the Left really thinks

Posted by sanityinjection on April 2, 2009

There is a common misperception that most of the Left in America supports the war on Afghanistan, and that it was only the war in Iraq they opposed. While this is true of some Democrats, most of the Left only focused on Iraq as the more obvious target. With the Iraq issue now essentially resolved, hardcore leftists are now turning their sights to Afghanistan in opposition to President Obama’s plan to slightly increase US forces there.

There is no more hallowed or respected liberal political journal than The Nation. And there is no left-winger with credentials more solid than Tom Hayden – founder of Students for a Democratic Society, member of the Chicago Seven, and former state legislator from California. Hayden is intelligent and articulate, and he cannot be dismissed as a crackpot of the Cindy Sheehan/Code Pink variety. Thus, his piece in The Nation last week deserves some attention as an authentic representation of the thinking of a sizable chunk of the American Left.

Hayden makes a number of interesting points, the first of which is his assertion that adding 20,000 American troops in Afghanistan will not prevent additional terrorist attacks. I have to say that I agree with Hayden, but only in the sense that I could agree with him that the earth will continue to revolve around the sun. The purpose of the troop buildup is not to eliminate Al Qaeda’s ability to plan a terrorist attack – there is no way to do that completely. The purpose of the buildup is to stabilize Afghanistan so that it will no longer be a haven for Al Qaeda or any other adical groups. Hayden actually undercuts his case by suggesting that Al Qaeda may be spurred by the buildup to launch an attack or “risk complete destruction, an American objective that has not been achieved for eight years. ” So Tom, if you believe that the troop buildup could finally result in the complete destruction of Al Qaeda, isn’t that a great argument for doing  it?

Apparently not. Hayden argues that the US should maintain a “deterrent posture” – whatever that is – “while immediately accelerating diplomacy to meet legitimate Muslim goals, from a Palestinian state to genuine progress on Kashmir. ” That’s a dumbfounding statement. First of all, it suggests that Al Qaeda exists in order to pursue “legitimate Muslim goals”. Al Qaeda’s objective is a worldwide Islamic state under sharia law, and even Hayden wouldn’t call that a legitimate goal. Second, it suggests that the Palestinian quest for statehood is fundamentally a Muslim issue, which it isn’t – many Palestinians are Christians. Finally, the idea that there is a unified “Muslim” political agenda – can you imagine if someone started talking about a “Christian” or “Jewish” foreign policy agenda? Ye Gods!

Fundamentally, Hayden’s position is that Al Qaeda’s terrorist attacks are provoked by our actions, so we should stop provoking them and giving them what they want – the total withdrawal of US military and economic interests in the Middle East. With bold naivete, Hayden actually suggests that this would make the world more stable than it is today.

He goes on to drag out the usual “Afghanistan is Vietnam” analogy, unfazed by having made the same argument about Iraq and having been proven wrong. He ends by asserting that the war in Afghanistan is likely to last throughout Obama’s Presidency, which I also agree with. (Hayden is way too smart to be wrong about *everything*.)

Again, let me reiterate: Hayden is not some wacko DailyKos type with no credibility. He’s practically the Godfather of the Left. So don’t be fooled – now that they have proven wrong on Iraq, the Left is undauntedly pushing the same tired arguments on the next most opportune target, Afghanistan.

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Iraq elections: Good news for Iraq and US

Posted by sanityinjection on February 5, 2009

I’ve been waiting to post about this until the first official results were released today. Iraq has completed its first local elections since 2005. The elections were free of violence and certified free and fair by international observers. Security for the elections was handled entirely by the Iraqis themselves, a major accomplishment.

The big news is that of the 14 provinces at stake, more than half resulted in victory for the Dawa party of Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki. This represents a major political shift. al-Maliki had been a compromise choice for Prime Minister from a small Shiite party. The results will be a major boost to his power and credibility. The big losers were the two other Shiite parties which are widely seen as being under Iranian influence. Sunni parties did well in other provinces, adding legitimacy to the government among Sunnis that it lacked when Sunnis boycotted the elections in 2005. Overall, secular and nationalist parties did well; religious parties and those seen as dominated by foreign powers did poorly. 

All of this is very good for the US.  For the last five years, Iraq has been the centerpiece of our foreign policy, and arguably of our politics here at home too. President Bush told Americans that the goal of our occupation was to develop Iraq into a stable democracy that would become an example for the rest of the Middle East. For this he was roundly scorned and mocked by those who said such a goal was impossible. Iraq could never fucntion as a Western-style democracy, they said. Shiites and Sunnis could never cooperate, they said. The only way to keep them from killing each other is to partition the country, said then-Senator, now-Vice President Joe Biden. All agreed that Bush was an idiot.

So who turned out to be right? Well, it is still too early to say whether Iraq will become stable. But there is no question that Iraq has become a real democracy of the kind that was considered impossible in the Arab world. And that fact has not been lost on the authoritarian Arab regimes and their people, nor on the leaders of Iran, whose bid to dominate Iraq has, for the moment, failed, and who now have an example on their borders that must seem attractive to the massive youth population of Iran.

If you ask me, perhaps the biggest winner of all in this Iraqi election is George W. Bush. Oh, wait, except for, you know, the people of Iraq.

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Goodbye, George Bush

Posted by sanityinjection on January 20, 2009

Today is also the day that America says good bye to President George Bush. Some have been waiting for this day breathlessly for eight years.

It is hard to know how history will judge Bush’s Presidency. It seems unlikely that he will ever be considered a great President. But perhaps the passage of time will allow some of the positive aspects of his Presidency to be considered along with the negatives.

Much may depend on the future of Iraq. Should Iraq develop into a stable democracy, Bush’s legacy will surely reap the credit. If it sinks into a quagmire of ethnic and sectarian conflict, he will just as surely bear the brunt of the blame.

Bush’s strong leadership in the aftermath of 9/11 is perhaps balanced by his failure of leadership during Hurricane Katrina. Perhaps his biggest failure, though, has been his philosophy that admitting mistakes is a sign of weakness. On multiple occasions this has prevented him from switching course when needed, until much damage had already been done.

I did not vote for George Bush in 2000; I did vote for him in 2004, mainly on the war issue. But I think that it is time for him to pass from the world stage, and that it will be healthy for Bush’s supporters, detractors, and middle-ground folks like me to turn the page and enter a new era, which if not free of partisan polarization, at least will find some other focus for it.

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More good news for US troops in Iraq

Posted by sanityinjection on January 9, 2009

US troops serving in Iraq will be allowed to participate in a time-honored American tradition – they will be allowed to drink beer while watching the Super Bowl.

In addition to the standard military prohibition on drinking alcohol in a combat zone, all troops in Iraq fall under a specific order banning them from the possession of alcohol and pornography, in deference to the Islamic values of most Iraqis. Those who violate this prohibition can be fined, demoted or even court-martialed.

However, commanding General Odierno has issued a special waiver of these rules for the night of Feb. 1-2 (The Super Bowl is broadcast live at 2 AM local time on February 2.) Soldiers gathered at military bases to watch the big game will be allowed up to two 12-ounce beers each.

Although it may seem like a small thing to us, measures like this can have a significant impact on morale for military members. When troops feel that their commanders care about the conditions in which they serve, they respond with dedication.

Although it’s still three weeks away, let me be among the first to say to our fighting men and women in Iraq: This Bud’s for you.

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If the shoe fits…

Posted by sanityinjection on December 16, 2008

World reaction to the shoe assault on President Bush by a disgruntled Iraqi journalist has run the gamut from amusement to hero worship of the assailant. However, the New York Daily News has the right perspective on the incident:

Here is mushheadedness in the extreme. Shoe-hurler Muntathar al-Zaidi works for an independent Iraqi television station. Think about that. During Saddam Hussein’s 35-year nightmare, there were no journalists, only mouthpieces like Baghdad Bob. And Iraqi viewing choices extended to the offerings of the Saddam Propaganda Channel.

Consider also the fate of Zaidi. He’ll likely be charged with assault. Had he pulled such a stunt under Saddam, his whole village might have been put to death in gruesome fashion. Following a show trial.

And consider that an elected prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, stood beside Bush as head of a democratic government that is Shiite-led. Saddam’s Sunni clan had ground the Shiites, who compose about two-thirds of Iraq’s population, into powerlessness.

Yes, indeed, Iraqis andAmericans alike have grounds for anger that Bush badly botched the war for far too long. But now the U.S. is looking toward a successful withdrawal that leaves Iraq as a stable representative democracy, where citizens are free to be rude enough to throw a shoe in protest without fear of execution.

Zaidi should count himself lucky.

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