Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Chatham Report is a Sadrist Screed

And that's okay by me! I'm down with that!!

What has provoked this sudden impulse for reviewing my thinking is actually having sat down and reading the much-ballyhooed Chatham House Report on Iraq-Nam. At once I recognized the inchoate thoughts which had been causing me to sleep-walk through too many posts in these pages.

The following observations are intended only as my personal spin on the Chatham Report. Readers are invited to follow the above link to check me for misrepresenting the thrust of this white paper.

It's extremely important how well both houses of Congress, Republicans (hopefully) and Democrats, succeed in reining in the most recklessly militaristic administration in our history. But our ineffectual occupation of Iraq will not be directly influenced by tight-fisted congressional micro-managing. If this occupation is materially and adversely effected in the next 18 months, it will be because of developments on the ground in Iraq - and not so much by surging troops as by insurgent politics.

The current trend in Iraq is that civilian deaths in Baghdad are down; civilian deaths elsewhere are on the rise; American casualties are on the rise; Shia militias have gone underground.

Strategic thinking in the White House, Congress, the Pentagon, and the Military Central Command is watching, analyzing and scoring the wrong game in the Iraqi bowl. This multiple disconnect is forcing failure upon American efforts because it encourages us to work at cross purposes.

1. This is an occupation that the American Military machine has been assigned, and not a war. The adversary is not a foreign power but an array of violent, restless, native, and nationalist forces. The Anglo-American coalition long ago established that it wields the dominant armed force throughout Iraq; but it has been equally well-established that our occupation force is insufficient. Iraqi insurgents can strike at coalition forces only tangentially, through car bombs, improvised explosive devices, snipers, ambushes, and occasion mortars. But, Iraqis (separately and together) have devised a way of reducing the credibility of the occupation - through a proxy civil war(s) of terrorism. Not strong enough to uproot our coalition forces, armed sectarian elements, defined by their overlapping religious, klan, or militia loyalties, have demonstrated the inefficacy of the occupation by massive bloodletting and destruction of infra-structure. As long as their mutual self-destruction continues, Iraqis can prove that we Americans have failed to attain the most rudimentary goal of any occupation: to establish and maintain order. Without order, no facade of legitimacy can be attained. Not only that, but it only gets worse. Each Iraqi fatality (1) recruits additional fighters from the victim's klan and (2) deflects a large part of the blame upon the occupation forces for either permitting or encouraging the violence.

2. With no hope of legitimacy or adequate force, our mis-leaders are delusional if they imagine being afforded the luxury of pursuing their goals which originally motivated them to invade Iraq.
  1. The construction of an open society governed by a parliamentary system of government (Malicki is the seed?).
  2. Grabbing the Iraqi's oil (80% to international corporations for 30 years?).
  3. Using Iraq as a nation-sized bivouac to replace Saudi Arabia (a jumping-off place against Iran?).
Iraq is no longer greater than the sum of its three parts.

Another box is needed in which Iraqi complexities can be organized. Here, I think, the Chatham Report is extremely instructive:
The governments of the US and the UK, and the wider international community, continue to struggle with their analysis of Iraq, in particular of the country's political and social structures. This analytical failing has led to the pursuit of strategies that suit ideal depictions of how Iraq should look, but are often unrepresentative of the current situation. Different strategies are required which build upon an understanding of the . . . realities:
Chatham says those realities are:
  • Regional powers have a greater capacity than either the US or the UK to influence events in Iraq. This arises from a historical legacy of social interaction and religious association that exists irrespective of modern international state boundaries.
  • The social fabric of Iraq has been torn apart.
  • There is not 'one' civil war, nor 'one' insurgency, but several civil wars and insurgencies between different communities and organizations; there is also a range of actors seeking to undermine, overthrow or take control of the Iraqi government.
  • Iraqi nationalisms exist, but one distinct 'Iraqi' nationalism does not. Iraq has fractured into regions dominated by sectarian, ethnic or tribal political groupings that have gained further strength from their control of informal local economies.
  • Al-Qaeda has a very real presence in Iraq that has spread to the major cities of the centre and north of the country . . . .
  • Regional powers have a greater capacity than either the US or the UK to influence events in Iraq. This arises from a historical legacy of social interaction and religious association that exists irrespective of modern international state boundaries.
  • The Iraqi government is not able to exert authority evenly or effectively over the country. Across huge swathes of territory, it is largely irrelevant in terms of ordering social, economic, and political life. At best, it is merely one of several 'state-like actors' that now exist in Iraq.
  • The Iraqi government is not able to exert authority evenly or effectively over the country. Across huge swathes of territory, it is largely irrelevant in terms of ordering social, economic, and political life. At best, it is merely one of several 'state-like actors' that now exist in Iraq.
In the face of these multi-tier complexities, consider the cross-purposes with which Bush and Cheney have taxed our brave and professional armed forces:
  • Ending sectarian, political and criminal violence.
  • Winning even temporary acceptance and legitimacy of the occupation forces.
  • Establishing a parliamentary government in Baghdad.
  • Getting the Baghdad government to rule over all of Iraq.
  • Educating Iraqis in the rudimentary principles of federalism.
  • Rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure so that its economy can be restored and basic needs of nutrition, shelter, utilities, transportation and employment are attainable for Iraqis.
  • Getting the Oil out of (from) Iraq.
  • Keeping Iran from getting its grubby hands on our Iraq.
  • Using Iraq as flypaper with which to draw al Qaeda jihadists from other targets, so that Iraq can become/remain the central front in a war on terror.
These goals are laudable but require efforts which are mutually incompatible. Even the first of these - establishing order - appears insurmountable. A key observation from Chatham:
While it is clear that Iraq is racked by conflicts, there remains considerable confusion regarding the causes and who is involved. . . . In some ways, trying to determine the causes of these conflicts is now merely an academic exercise. A more practical view is to recognize that these conflicts represent a struggle for political power, being waged in different places between a range of actors and at a variety of levels. . . . The existence of so many cross-cutting conflicts - some of which involve state forces - makes it exceptionally difficult to promote some form of security normalization without becoming implicated in one or more of the conflicts.
In view of the catastrophic costs and risks of our continued muddling and mucking around in Iraq-mire, I submit that a severe restructuring of our operational goals is mandated, as follows:
The main goal and only indispensable goal is to separate al Qaeda elements from all Iraqi political forces, all of which are hostile to us.

The way to do this is to:
  • Acknowledge that the "elected" government in Baghdad has limited reach and functionality and will always be limited in terms of legitimacy, due to its identification with our Occupation; as such, this puppet government is only one political element in Iraq.
  • Acknowledge that there are other promising indigenous political forces opposed to the Malicki government and our occupation.
  • Acknowledge that these nationalist elements hostile to us need survive, and prevail; instead of suppressing them, we should be accommodating and nourishing them.
  • Acknowledge that the most conspicuous among them is Muqtada al-Sadr and his Jaish al-Mahdi army.
  • Acknowledge that what Iraq needs most is order, and that authoritarian rule has historically proven more expeditious in pacification than democratic government.
  • Acknowledge that the only way for us to establish a working relationship with these future Iraq re-building blocks of power - which are hostile to us and which we label as 'insurgents' - is to convince them the occupation is only temporary.
  • Acknowledge that the only way to so convince them of our intention to quit Iraq is to announce a measurable time-table for withdrawal and to stick to it.
Muqtada al-Sadr is back in down! He's inviting us to leave Iraq-Nam. We should accept his invitation.

12 Moderated Comments:

Blogger DB Cooper said...

Won't this require a 180° change in direction for the USA? Isn't this asking for a few hand-shakes from the Iranians? Will Israel allow this to happen? What will AIPAC say? What will the Saudis say?

5/26/2007 08:16:00 AM  
Blogger TomCat said...

It makes pretty good sense to me, based on a brief skim. If Israel, AIPAC, and the Saudis cannot accept the need for a diplomatic solution, let them put their own youth into that meat grinder. Bush will oppose this as he still wants control of the oil.

5/26/2007 03:38:00 PM  
Blogger Bob Keller said...

My guess is Bush failed to read the Chatham Report or either of your last two very insightful blog entries.

Reuters is reporting this evening:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - American and British forces battled Mehdi Army fighters in Baghdad and Basra on Saturday as the monthly U.S. casualty toll headed towards a record high for the year.

The renewed fighting came after the Mehdi Army leader, Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, used a rare public appearance to call on U.S. troops to get out of Iraq.

5/26/2007 05:44:00 PM  
Blogger Messenger said...

Wizard, it looks to me that according to this Chatham white paper, Killing off the Mehdi Army will cement us deeper into the Iraqi desert more permanently and expensively than Americans think the oil to be grabbed would be worth. This is because Cheney wants to take on the responsibility protecting Israel from Iran. This will change the present occupation into a future war. Seymour Hersh is correct. Bush and Cheney want to lock future presidents into endless war in the Middle East. What, other than impeachment, can stop this madness?

5/27/2007 01:22:00 AM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

I couldn't have said it any better, but I'll try:

What I am saying is that this sorry excuse for a government which lied us into invasion, torture, and occupation is still lying. (Why should congenital liars surprise us otherwise?) Initially they serially conflated massive retaliation against al Qaeda into a war against all terrorists, and then into regime change in Mesopotamia. Now, even as we are overwhelmed by multiple insurgencies against our illegitimate and ineffectual occupation in Iraq, Cheney and Bush have chosen to lie yet again: they are now conflating the continuing fight against al Qaeda into all "insurgents", "extremists", and "Iranian agents". Instead of an 'enemy', we now hear more about our "enemies".

I want to remind anyone who is generous enough to spend moments his Sunday morning with a glimpse in these pages, that this should be the mother of all deja vu. Remember back in 2002 when Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rice & Rumsfeld were marketing their case for regime change? How often was the expression weapons of mass destruction used? Well, I don't know, but it was ubiquitous enough that it became necessary to condense and compress into a new word, WMD. So that every time 'WMD' was used, it became even easier to omit specifying which actual weapon systems were being discussed. (In a letter to the editor about that time, I referred to them as 'hook, line, and sinker'.)

Well, that's what's happening now folks. Every time you hear our misgovernment referring to the abstract 'our enemies', know that 95% of them would not be intent on 'hurting us', once we end the occupation. And that the remnant 5% would certainly be eradicated from Iraq by the 95-ers once we remove their raison d'etre.

5/27/2007 07:48:00 AM  
Blogger Coleen Rowley said...

Yup. This is the way their PR machine effectively works to manipulate public opinion, the way neo-cons make their own reality. It’s Winston Churchill’s old adage about a lie making it halfway around the world before the truth can get its pants on.

Or maybe by the time the truth HAS its pants on, a new lie has taken off. My recent Googling to nail down current polls as to the percentage of Americans who STILL think Iraq was involved in attacking us on 9-11 just turned up some big surprises. You probably remember that originally there were fewer than 10% (including Richard Perle and friends) who, in the first weeks after 9/11, believed in any link. But in the span of about 16 months, Bush’s war drumbeat and Rumsfeld’s lies about the evidence being “bulletproof” were so successful, that by February 2003, they had 72% of all Americans believing Saddam was “personally involved in the September 11 attacks.” One poll at the time found that almost half of all Americans believed that one or more of the 9/11 hijackers WERE Iraqi and seventy-three percent believed that Saddam was currently helping al-Qaeda. It wasn’t until September 2003 with polls still at 70% that Bush explicitly stated for the first time there was no evidence Saddam Hussein was involved in the September 1lth attacks. The percentage of blindly trusting Americans slowly began to drop. An April 2004 poll found that 57 percent of Americans surveyed believed that Iraq was helping Al Qaeda before the war, including 20 percent who believed Iraq was linked to the Sept. 11 attacks. By the end of 2005, with more truth coming out about Bush’s pre-war deception, the numbers had dropped down even further. Only 41% of U.S. adults still believed that Saddam Hussein had "strong links to Al Qaeda."

But then, surprise, surprise! A big rebound occurred. A poll released in July 21, 2006, the last one I could find, went back up to 64% believing that Saddam Hussein had strong links to Al Qaeda. Worse still, according to a March 2, 2006, Zogby International Poll, 90% of American troops in Iraq believed that “they were fighting to avenge Saddam Hussein's role in 9/11."

One reason for the amazing continued vitality of this big lie has to involve the Bush wordsmithers deliberately confusing use of terrorists, insurgents and enemies.

By the way, you can’t beat Scott Ritter’s record of truth-telling about Iraq. His recent radio interview on antiwar radio is worth the 19 minute listen:

5/27/2007 04:22:00 PM  
Blogger Messenger said...

Yes, Colleen. In your segment, Prez. Bush says if they would tell us to leave, we would leave. Well, Sadr has definitely been asking us to leave. Prez and his gang are listening with tin ear as always. They have their own agenda, as always, which they never share with the public. In this case they are using and perpetuating the occupation of Iraq to destabilizing Iran. Talk about cross purposes. The deceit and duplicity and treason which lead us into unnecessary invasion of Iraq continues unabated. As Ritter says, "WAKE UP, AMERICA!"

5/28/2007 06:37:00 AM  
Blogger Boris said...

Ritter also makes the point that Cheney and Bush are substituting the national interests of Israel for the national interests of the United States as the goals of American foreign policy.

And the bullshit about waiting until September and we can iron out all these wrinkles? That's giving Bush and Cheney a timeline/deadline by which they have to initiate or provoke open hostilities with Iran.

5/28/2007 06:52:00 AM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

Continuing or reinforcing my comment above, Paul Krugman in the NYT documents how Bush's systematic confusing, conflating, and obfuscation began with his first post-9/11 SOTU address in which he

"...denounced an “axis of evil” consisting of three countries that had nothing to do either with 9/11 or with each other..."

In the current bundling of enemies, all of the Shia and Sunni and Hezbollah and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood are stuffed into the same bag as Al Qaeda.

Read the rest of the Krugster's Trust and Betrayal.

5/28/2007 09:47:00 AM  
Blogger Boris said...

As a retro Marxist-Leninist, I say,


5/29/2007 05:51:00 AM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

To pile on my earlier points, I'll cite Juan Cole's remarks in the wake of the First Formal US-Iran Talks since 1980

Cole is listing common American and Iranian interests

1. Shiite Iran is a deadly enemy of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, which the US is also fighting. Instead of making up silly charges against Iran, the US could explore avenues of cooperation against these enemies.

2. Shiite Iran is a deadly enemy of the Iraqi Baath Party and of the radical Salafi Jihadis who are responsible for most of the violence in Iraq and for most of the killings of US troops. There are ways in which the US and Iran could cooperate in defeating these forces, which are inimical to both Washington and Tehran.

3. Shiite Iran is happy with the Shiite led government of Iraq and wants to see Iraq's territorial integrity maintained. Supporting the al-Maliki government and keeping Iraq together are also goals of the United States.

. . . . Iran is not foredoomed to be a rejectionist state.

Cole makes two additional points: (1)Mahmoud Ahmadinejad doesn't automatically continue as president after 2009 and (2) fighting the Salafi Jihadis and al-Qaeda can unite the otherwise contentious forces such as the West and Shia. This happened this past week in Lebanon, where Shiite Nasrallah's Hizbullah supported the Seniora government's fight against Sunni Fatah al-Islam.

5/29/2007 06:11:00 AM  
Blogger DB Cooper said...

The clash between Middle Eastern and Western thinking?

The Middle East: The enemy (Iran) of your enemy (Al Qaeda) can be your friend.

The West: The enemy (Iran) of your friend (Israel) has to be your enemy.

5/29/2007 08:35:00 AM  

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