US President George W. Bush still believes in democracy in Iraq and dismisses “pessimistic” readings of the country. One wonders what his advisers are telling him and how insulated from reality he has become.
Patrick Cockburn is the Independent’s Middle East correspondent and author of the recently released, The Occupation. His newspaper published his special report yesterday that painted a devastating picture of present-day Iraq. Some “highlights” follow:
Iraq may be getting close to what Americans call ‘the Saigon moment’, the time when it becomes evident to all that the government is expiring. “They say that the killings and kidnappings are being carried our by men in police uniforms and with police vehicles,” said the Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari with a despairing laugh to me earlier this summer. “But everybody in Baghdad knows that the killers and kidnappers are real policemen.”
It is getting worse. The Iraqi army and police are not loyal to the state. If the US army decides to confront the Shia militias it could well find Shia military units from the Iraqi army cutting the main American supply route between Kuwait and Baghdad. One convoy was stopped at a supposedly fake police checkpoint near the Kuwait border earlier this month and four American security men and an Austrian taken away.
The US and British position in Iraq is far more of a house built on sand than is realized in Washington or London despite the disasters of the last three-and-a-half years. President Bush and Tony Blair show a unique inability to learn from their mistakes, largely because they do not want to admit having committed any errors in the first place…
Everything in Iraq is dominated by what in Belfast we used to call “the politics of the last atrocity”. All three Iraqi communities – Shia, Sunni and Kurdish – see themselves as victims and seldom sympathize with the tragedies of others. Every day brings its gruesome discoveries. Earlier this month I visited Mosul, the capital of northern Iraq that has a population of 1.7 million people of whom about two thirds are Sunni Arabs and one third Kurds. It not the most dangerous city in Iraq but it is still a place drenched in violence. A local tribal leader called Sayid Tewfiq from the nearby city of Tal Afar told me of a man from there who went to recover the tortured body of his 16-year old son. The corpse was wired to explosives that blew up killing the father so their two bodies were buried together…
An expert on the politics of Iraq and Lebanon recently said to me: “The most dangerous error in the Middle East today is to believe that the Shia communities in Iraq and Lebanon are pawns of Iran.”
But this is exactly what the prime minister does believe. The fact that the largest Shia militia in Iraq – the Mehdi Army of Muqtada al- Sadr – is anti-Iranian and Iraqi nationalist is conveniently ignored. These misconceptions are important in terms of practical policy because they give support to the dangerous myth that if the US and Britain could only frighten or square the Iranians and Syrians then all would come right as their Shia cats-paws in Iraq and Lebanon would inevitably fall into line. In a very British way [and American too, of course. Editors] opponents of the war in Iraq have focused not on current events but on the past sins of the government in getting us into the war. No doubt it was all very wrong for Downing Street to pretend that Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction and was a threat to the world when they knew he was not. But this emphasis on the origins of the war in Iraq has diverted attention from the fact that, going by official statements, the British government knows no more about what was going on in Iraq in 2006 than it did in 2003. The picture Blair paints of Iraq seldom touches reality at any point. For instance he says Iraqis ‘voted or an explicitly non-sectarian government,’ but every Iraqi knows that the vote in two parliamentary elections in 2005 went wholly along sectarian and ethnic lines. The polls were the starting pistol for the start of the civil war.
Blair [and Howard and Bush] steadfastly refuses to accept the fact that opposition to the American and British occupation of Iraq has been the main cause of the insurgency.
Read the whole thing.