Sunday, June 8, 2008

Welcome to the Occupation

John McCain in many of his speeches has claimed that our occupation of Iraq could go on for 100 years and be just like what happened in Germany, Japan, and Korea. Where to begin?

Germany and Japan were thoroughly defeated nations. The occupying powers owned every inch of real estate in those countries. The occupiers had millions of soldiers on the ground to enforce their will. The armies of the occupied nations were overhauled, disarmed, or placed under strict supervision. Good order and discipline were rigorously enforced. Systematic looting was not tolerated. While the post war situation was chaotic it never devolved into anarchy. There were always systems and sources of order. There was an organization and a plan that was ready. Details were hashed out between the major powers at Potsdam with plenty of planning prior to that meeting. The US, France, UK and the USSR all had their zones of control. Each country had plans for its area of responsibility. When Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz and others finally signed the surrender papers both occupiers and occupied knew what was going to happen next.

Flash forward to modern Iraq and notice the difference. First off Iraq is not now nor has it ever been a real nation. Iraq has been part of an empire many times but never a stable , modern Nation State. Iraq is the creation of British imperialism. The British jammed three different Ottoman Vilayets into an unstable monarchy ruled by a foreign king. During it entire post-Ottoman existence Iraq has been held together only by force of arms. Japan had centuries of cultural unity and decades of national rule from a strong center. Germany could point to its Prussian heritage and to deep cultural roots spanning Centuries. At the end of WWII Japan and Germany while militarily defeated nations, were still cohesive national polities. Iraq on the other hand suffered from intrinsic centrifugal forces from its very founding. Iraq was and is a simmering cauldron of ethnic and religious division spiced up by tribal loyalties.

In to this volatile mix Bush and company sent a woefully undermanned force without a post invasion plan. At no time did the US and its allies have even half of the needed boots on the ground. Even during the height of the surge Coalition forces were inadequate to effectively cover Baghdad and that is by General David Petraeus’ own numbers. He was short by almost 20,000 troops for Baghdad alone, never mind the other areas of unrest. Of course the Bush gang shot the messenger who gave the real number of troops needed to capture and occupy Iraq. That real number was around 400,000 to 500,000 servicemembers. John McCain did not utter one peep about how inadequate to the task the “coalition of the willing” was.

No, John McCain was a major cheer leader for the invasion and was glibly tossing out Friedman Units with all the other Right Wing Hacks and Republican stalwarts. He was singing the company song at full force and with great enthusiasm. He never had any reservations about the central idea of the NeoCons; that of “spreading Democracy” via military force. His quick victory with little blood shed and little cost turned into the five year slog we now endure. He forgets how wrong he was and how often. But never underestimate John McCain’s ability to indulge in Panglossian pipe dreams. Even now he is talking about gaining a “victory” in Iraq. Not that he has ever given a definition of victory that is even remotely connected to the realities on the ground. Just like George W. Bush, Senator McCain suffers from a fatal lack of strategic vision. It is fatal to the Iraqis and fatal to our brave servicemembers.

The occupying power came in to Iraq with only the vaguest of notions of what it might want to accomplish. Post invasion planning was vetoed by Ideologues in high places. Nonsensical radicalism of the Ayn Rand type was tested out on the unwilling Iraqis. L. Paul Bremer III and his band of feckless Right Wing dilettantes tried to set up a libertarian paradise of Laissez fair governance. Bremer indulged in the magical thinking that “the market” and a “liberated private sector” that had the “dead hand of government” removed from its entrepreneurial endeavors would solve all ills. Bremer and his Coalition Provisional Authority ramrodded through a radical privatizing agenda dreamed up by ivory tower propeller-heads and administered by laughably unqualified Right-wing political true-believers. It was an absolute disaster for both the US and Iraq. Corruption, incompetence and out right theft became daily occurrences. 7.8 Billion dollars of Iraq money became unaccounted for. Pallet loads of greenbacks were handed over to men driving pick ups without even a receipt. Wide spread looting was ignored. Thousands of Iraq soldiers were dismissed with no stipends but with their weapons in tow. Key ammunition dumps were left unguarded. The already brittle nation of Iraq imploded. Thus was the insurgency born.

Where was John McCain during all this time? As a member of the Senate Armed Service Committee was he the least bit concerned about the state of affairs in Iraq? Not a jot, not in the least. He denied the oblivious fact of the insurgency; he downplayed the lack of manpower. He provided zero oversight on the gross incompetence of the CPA. McCain did not support an anti-war profiteering mechanism even after if became painfully clear that the American taxpayers were being fleeced by contractors like Halliburton. No, he was just fine with the waste, fraud, and abuse—he helped kill the proposal of a Truman Commission style agency for the Iraq war.

Instead McCain doubled down on Iraq; the surge was his idea. He was the proud papa of the Surge and its biggest proponent. To support it he even went out on a “fact finding” mission to prove how safe it was to go to a market in Baghdad. That was the infamous walk-about supported by 100 servicemembers, three Blackhawk helicopters, and two Apache gun ships. Thousands of taxpayer dollars were spent so Lindsey Graham could drive a good bargain for rugs.

McCain has ignored the brutal facts on the ground. He ignored the ethnic cleansing, he ignored the insurgency, he ignored the ethnic, religious, and tribal divisions. He does not understand difference between Sunni and Shia, Kurd and Arab, and he doesn’t even understand the difference between Persians and Saudis. McCain has to have Joe Lieberman whisper in his ear why Iran would not train or host Al Qaeda operatives within its boarders. This is from a man who boasts about his National Security credentials.

Iraq is irretrievably broken. That is the main fact that escapes McCain’s attention. The Kurds have become independent in all but name. The Shia South is spinning off in its own direction. The middle of Iraq is split between the old Sunni elites and the new sectarian government of Nuri al-Maliki. The alleged government of Iraq has become a way to secure political patronage for multiple sectarian groups. McCain’s talk of handing over responsibility to this collection of war lords and robber barons is either delusional or reckless. He has not put forth any realistic plan of how to curtail the ongoing civil conflict or the anti-occupation insurgency. He has not reveled how he his going to shift the 80% of Iraqi who want us gone in to supporters of a 50-100 year occupation. This matches his lack of a plan to persuade the two-thirds of the American People who also want us out of the sands of Mesopotamia. Somehow he believes that both the citizens of Iraq and the USA will buy into the idea that Iraq can become just like post war Japan or Post war Germany.

McCain is wrong. Not even the Nazi dead-enders of WWII put up any kind of resistance after the fall of Berlin. After the Emperor conceded defeat, not one Kamikaze mission was launched. In Iraq, barely a day goes by without an IED or suicide bomb attack or some other form of violence being perpetrated by the Iraqi resistance. Occupied Iraq bears no resemblance to occupied Germany or Japan. Japan and Germany accepted our presence; Iraq does not.

McCain has no realistic plan of how to attain a safe, secure Iraq. McCain does not even have a grasp of what his starting point is. All he has are shallow talking points about gaining a “victory” by the end of his first term; by 2013! All he has is fear mongering screeds about “defeatism.” There is only the George W. Bush-like hardheadedness of staying in Iraq to stay in Iraq. There is no reflection, there is only the Manichean fairy tale told by the NeoCons. We are the forces of truth, justice, and democracy. We are the forces of light. They are the forces of darkness. Our goodness will triumph in the end because light always conquers dark. It is a tale told with great conviction but with a willful disregard toward reality.

That is the sum quantity of John McCain. He will not let anything as inconvenient as the facts interfere with his world view. His body left a physical prison long ago; but his mind is still locked up in the black-and-white world of the cold war. The communist enemy has been replaced by “Islamic terrorism.” One does not negotiate with commies (Islamic radicals) one bombs them back into the Stone Age. One does not need to understand the difference between Chinese or Russian communism (Shia or Sunni) the only good commie is a dead commie. Get on board, you’re either with us, or you’re against us. Our cause is just; if we unite we will easily defeat the evil Islamist/Commies. That is the McCain world view. He is a NeoCon through-and-through. He remains wedded to the fantasies of the PNAC crowd. He spoke the truth, when he said “there will be more wars my friends.” If he is elected to the Oval Office there will be other wars; he will start them.

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