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August 29, 2005

Does Anyone Know What We Are Doing in Iraq?


by Paul Craig Roberts

President Bush is out of touch with the American people, the U.S. military, and international political reality.

With every poll showing smaller and smaller minorities approving of Bush and his war in Iraq, with top U.S. generals sending signals that they want to reduce U.S. troops in Iraq, and with the world at large viewing Bush as a fanatic who cannot acknowledge his blunders and mistakes, Bush announced in his weekly radio address that "our efforts in Iraq and the broader Middle East will require more time, more sacrifice, and continued resolve."

Does Bush think he is a dictator?

The polls show that it is the American people's resolve that Bush bring his Iraq venture to an end, an orderly end if possible, but to an end. Every explanation Bush has given for his invasion of Iraq has proved to be false. Yet Bush still speaks of "our noble cause," while taking great care to avoid Cindy Sheehan and her question, "What is the noble cause?"

Perhaps Bush supplied the answer in his reference in his weekly radio address to "our efforts in … the broader Middle East."

What are our efforts "in the broader Middle East"?

The only American efforts "in the broader Middle East" that have been defined are in the policy writings of Bush's neoconservative advisers who cooked up the invasion of Iraq. For the neocons, our efforts are in behalf of Israel's security.

The neocons' belief that Israel is made more secure by U.S. military aggression in the Middle East is delusional. How is Israel made secure by an invasion that turns the Muslim world against America as all polls show and Iraq into a training ground for al-Qaeda, as the CIA says has happened?

The U.S. has been defeated in Iraq, both militarily by a limited insurgency drawn from only 20 percent of the population and politically by Iraqi divisions as the "constitutional process" demonstrates.

As Knight Ridder reported on Aug. 25: "Insurgents in Anbar province, the center of guerrilla resistance in Iraq, have fought the U.S. military to a stalemate. After repeated major combat offensives in Fallujah and Ramadi, and after losing hundreds of soldiers and Marines in Anbar during the past two years – including 75 since June 1 – many American officers and enlisted men assigned to Anbar have stopped talking about winning a military victory in Iraq's Sunni heartland."

"'I don't think of this in terms of winning,' said Col. Stephen Davis, who commands a task force of about 5,000 Marines. … 'The frustrating part for the [home] audience, if you will, is they want finality. They want a fight for the town and in the end the guy with the white hat wins.'"

That's unlikely in Anbar, Col. Davis said.

Frustrated by a determined insurgency, Bush administration officials predict that improvements will follow the Iraq constitution. However, the constitution may be leading to civil war.

Sunnis say they will reject the constitution because it leaves them out of the oil wealth, which goes to the Kurds in the north and the Shi'ites in the south, and because it is punitive toward the old ruling party, that is, toward Sunnis.

Perhaps it is the neocon plan for Shi'ites and Kurds to join the U.S. military in a war to the death against Sunnis.

But what comes next? How would Turkey regard a largely autonomous oil rich Kurdistan on the border of its own Kurdish province?

And how would a war in Iraq between Shi'ites and Sunnis play out in the Middle East divided along those lines? Does the U.S. want to wed itself to Iranian Shi'ites against Saudi Sunnis?

It sounds like a lot of long term instability. Perhaps the old Islamic divisions are what the U.S. government is relying on to enable it to continue to rule the Middle East. Muslims might consume themselves in their internal hatreds while the U.S. builds its bases to control the oil.

That's been the tried and true practice of Western colonialists since the fall of the Turkish empire after World War I.

Can it work this time? U.S. ambitions are too much of a threat to other countries that are well positioned to cause us grief. Will the world be able to resist the opportunities to undermine an overextended and self-righteous United States?

Sooner or later, too, Shi'ite and Sunni leaders will realize that they are pawns in American hands bleeding themselves in behalf of American power. Sooner or later, Muslim humiliation at the hands of the U.S. and Israel will permit an Osama bin Laden to reunify the Muslim world.

These are, of course, speculations. But history has few events without unintended and unrecognized consequences.


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    Paul Craig Roberts wrote the Kemp-Roth bill and was assistant secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was associate editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and contributing editor of National Review. He is author or co-author of eight books, including The Supply-Side Revolution (Harvard University Press). He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon chair in political economy, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and senior research fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He has contributed to numerous scholarly journals and testified before Congress on 30 occasions. He has been awarded the U.S. Treasury's Meritorious Service Award and the French Legion of Honor. He was a reviewer for the Journal of Political Economy under editor Robert Mundell.

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