After meeting today with Yoon Kwang Ung, South Korea’s Defense Minister, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told reporters that those darned Iraqis are just going to have to take matters in hand concerning their own security.
And the sooner the better.
Actually, he said, “sooner rather than later,” but provided no clue as to when such a turnover might happen. U.S. officials, like Gen. George Casey, the current top U.S. commander in Iraq, are, you know, working on it.
So how, exactly, is the Iraqi government supposed to take over its own country’s security? Beyond the fact that the government itself is only barely functional, it has no official military* – we fired everyone in the Iraqi Army during the giddy, free-for-all aftermath of Shock and Awe.
Most of those Iraqi soldiers – the ones who aren’t already dead or injured beyond any ability to serve – are likely today part of the sectarian religious militias which are so busily slaughtering their neighbors. Some may be in the Iraqi police force, which we’ve worked hard to build up, but which is riddled with so many of those sectarian militia members that people are as afraid of them as they are the militias themselves.
Outside of the artificial comforts of the Green Zone, electricity only works between two and four hours a day, intermittently. When people go out to buy gas for generators, or food, or go to work (if they have work) or to school, they risk being abducted and killed, or perhaps blown up by a car bomb or suicide bomber, or executed by people they used to live peacefully side-by-side with.
Nevertheless, Rummy wants the Iraqi government to take over. “When they stand up, we can stand down” and all that happy crappy. What are they supposed to take over with? Even if the Iraqi government had an army, the hard fact is that soldiers have to be fed and clothed and armed. They need medical care and vehicles, barracks and administrative support. The men need to know that their families are safe and cared for while they’re out there, fighting for their country, and they need to be paid a regular, decent wage.
Even the words “take over security” have the hollow ring of farce to them. No surprise there: Rumsfeld himself is a walking, talking farce, along with the rest of the Bush administration. (see the post about “character” below)
What’s to take over? U.S. troops certainly aren’t providing security. Instead, as Bush’s war dissolves into an Iraqi civil war our hapless soldiers hunker down in fortified hides, venturing out now and then to provide fodder for IEDs. As of today, U.S. deaths have surpassed 2,780, and there are more nearly every day. Many, many more U.S. soldiers are being terribly maimed and injured.
What a terrible, terrible joke. The U.S. isn’t providing any appreciable security for the Iraqi government to take over.
Riverbend, a young Iraqi woman living in Baghdad who writes the blog “Baghdad Burning,” posted the other day for the first time since early August. Her subject? The recent Lancet study, which estimates that more than 600,000 Iraqis have died since the U.S. attacked in March, 2003. She is understandably angry over Bush’s and other U.S. officials’ casual, even offhand denial of that number. She writes,
“We literally do not know a single Iraqi family that has not seen the violent death of a first or second-degree relative these last three years. Abductions, militias, sectarian violence, revenge killings, assassinations, car-bombs, suicide bombers, American military strikes, Iraqi military raids, death squads, extremists, armed robberies, executions, detentions, secret prisons, torture, mysterious weapons – with so many different ways to die, is the number so far fetched?”
Yet Rumsfeld said today,
“The biggest mistake would be to not pass things over to the Iraqis, create a dependency on their part, instead of developing strength and capacity and competence,” said Rumsfeld. “It’s their country, they’re going to have to govern it, they’re going to have to provide security for it, and they’re going to have to do it sooner rather than later. And that means they’ve got to take pieces of it as we go along.”
No, Mr. Rumsfeld. The biggest mistake was attacking Iraq in the first place. In fact, it was done so on the basis of lies and with no planning by a bunch of swaggering, balls-for-brains cowboys, including you, who thought attacking an Arab country which couldn’t defend itself militarily would be a cakewalk, since we had the bigger toys. You didn’t bother learning the history of Iraq or about her people, you didn’t bother learning the language, you didn’t bother to think about what might happen after the bang-bang of the airstrikes ended. You ignored everyone who brought up the specter of guerrilla warfare in Iraq, even though it was inevitable. Governments don’t win guerrilla wars with guns and bombs. They can only be ended through negotiation and diplomacy, something you and your buddies are still, to this day, rejecting as “soft.” Idiot.
Now, President Bush has been forced to concede “it’s tough” over in Iraq. Sounds concerned, doesn’t he? It’s tough. He thinks he might just have to “change tactics.” Mired in the middle of a civil war we started through our arrogance and stupidity, “changing tactics” is far too little, far too late.
Everyone knows the ‘official numbers’ about Iraqi deaths as a direct result of the war and occupation are far less than reality (yes — even you war hawks know this, in your minuscule heart of hearts). This latest report is probably closer to the truth than anything that’s been published yet. And what about American military deaths? When will someone do a study on the actual number of those? If the Bush administration is lying so vehemently about the number of dead Iraqis, one can only imagine the extent of lying about dead Americans…
She has a point there, that clear-eyed young woman.
What can be done? It’s time to admit that attacking Iraq was a monumental, horrifying, criminal fuck-up on the part of America’s leaders, nothing more than a blatant grab for power and lucre without regard for human lives, Iraqi or American. Those leaders should be relieved of power, locked up and tried as war criminals before a world court, and the American forces still serving in Iraq should come home before more of them are killed or injured. After all, they’re more than soldiers – they’re our family.
And then, the American tax dollars now being spent to keep the bloody war machine grinding out nightmarish destruction and to make criminal American corporations rich should be used to try to rebuild and restore peace to the region.
Will it work? Probably not. It surely won’t end the sectarian civil war now underway in Iraq, nor will it bring peace or prosperity to the rest of the world, which depends on the oil that comes from the Middle East. It won’t bring back the thousands and thousands of people we’ve killed, Iraqi and American alike, or be much comfort to their grieving families.
But it would be a damned good start.
*My mistake: There is indeed an Iraqi army (small “a”) which has been trained by U.S. forces, along with the Iraqi police. Together they form the Iraqi Security Force. According to U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Caldwell, who spoke during a press briefing on Oct. 19, the force numbers 312,000. Those forces were turned over to the Iraqi government on Sept. 6, 2006.
There are 26 million Iraqis.
According to a story posted on Catholic Online,
“‘The rising number of civilian casualties shows that civilians are the targets of this war,’ said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, which lobbies Congress on peace and justice issues.
‘I don’t know how we can square that with our Catholic Gospel values,’ she said.
Sister Simone, a Sister of Social Service, said Network maintains contact with 14 Iraqi women, several of whom came to the United States earlier this year to talk to lawmakers.
‘They don’t think this (601,000) [from the Lancet study] is a wrong number,’ she said.
Four of the women have lost close relatives, she added. ‘Often they don’t know what happens to the loved ones. They just disappear.’
A key problem in the civil strife is that different branches of the Iraqi military and police forces are infiltrated by militia members of rival political factions who use the security forces for partisan attacks, she said.
‘There is not a strong sense of identity to Iraq. Identity is more toward a sectarian militia or clan,’ she said. “
I think my point still stands.