We Are The Problem

Every time Iraqi soldiers and policemen boogie away from combat, the standard answer that comes out of the U.S. government is that they need to be “trained up” better.

That’s nonsense. Training teaches technique; it does not teach the will to fight. Given the history of Iraq and its culture, nobody can say that the Iraqis are cowards. In fact, in the Middle East, they have a reputation for fierceness.

Therefore, if it’s not lack of training and if it’s not cowardice, then there must be another reason so many Iraqis, while desperate for a paycheck, nevertheless decide in moments of conflict that it is not in their interest to fight.

I believe the reason is that most of them do not believe that the U.S. occupation is going to end, and in Iraq it is certainly not in the rational self-interest to be seen as someone who fights to maintain the American occupation.

To say that occupation ended when we transferred sovereignty to a government we selected and appointed is to play word games. Anybody who believes the interim government is actually independent and could do anything without our permission is living in a dream world.

To hint that we will leave after the January elections – assuming they take place – is another deception. Only recently, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld speculated that U.S. forces would remain in Iraq for at least four years. That’s four years after the election. And in my opinion, the U.S. government plans to maintain a military presence in Iraq indefinitely.

Therefore, in the minds of many Iraqis, if you fight with the Americans, you are not fighting for Iraq, but for American occupation. I don’t believe many Iraqis feel that maintaining our presence in their country is worth the risk of their lives and possibly those of their families.

The answer, of course, is to give the Iraqi people a hard and firm time and date when we will leave their country. If the Iraqis believed that, say, in March 2005, the last American soldier would leave the country, then I think we would see Iraqis not only volunteering in droves but going after the insurgents like a hungry bear after honey. The Iraqis know how to fight. They don’t need training so much as they need equipment and an incentive to use it.

Our policy toward Iraq has been constructed entirely out of deceptions. Deceptions about weapons of mass destruction, deceptions about the danger an elderly dictator represented to the world, deceptions about his link with al-Qaeda, and deceptions about our own intentions.

If the government that’s elected in January cannot tell us to get out of the country, then it will not be an independent government of a sovereign nation. It will be a government of stooges. Naturally the plan is for the new government to sign an agreement “asking” us to stay. That will be the same as the agreements Eastern European countries signed with the Soviet Union “asking” the Red Army to stay.
So, just as handing over titular sovereignty didn’t stop the insurgency, having elections will not stop it either if the people perceive the new government to be made up of quislings beholden to the United States. So long as we maintain a military presence in Iraq, there will be an insurgency. In the long run, we will be forced out. It’s just a question of how many people will die before that result is achieved.

President Bush – or at least his speechwriter – is a master of sophistry. At first, if you disagreed with his Iraqi plan, you were unpatriotic. Now, if you disagree, you are a racist who doesn’t believe Arabs can have a democracy. Well, I for one have never said that. I have said they might not choose to have a democracy, which involves a great deal more than having an election. One thing required is for the losers not to shoot the winners.

But never mind; no matter how disastrous the situation becomes, President Bush will declare it a great triumph. After all, he sees a warlord-ruled, heroin-supplying Afghanistan as a great triumph of democracy even though the elected president is holed up in a fortified palace surrounded by foreign guards.