Only the Americans can help the Iraqis….
– Paul Bremer, June 16, 2014
That sounds like American exceptionalism in its pathological form. That’s largely because it IS American exceptionalism in its most arrogant pathological form.
Remember Paul Bremer, 73, the Bush family caporegime who was the occupastion’s Presidential Envoy to Iraq? He was the American Saddam Hussein in 2003 when he had near-dictatorial power and thought it would be a good idea to get rid of virtually every experienced Sunni military officer and every high-ranking Sunni government official so that, as President Bush put it over and over, “as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down” (never mind we just cut off their legs).
At best, Paul Bremer is an incompetent nitwit who bears heavy responsibility for the crushing horrors the U.S. has inflicted on Iraq since 2003. At worst, he is a war profiteer, or a war criminal, or both. Whatever he is, he lives in a country that will never hold him accountable.
On the contrary, he gets to go on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and spout self-serving, unchallenged nonsense. It’s like treating General Custer as an expert on fighting ethnic insurgencies. Bremer has a record. He’s a loser, like the rest of the Bush-era war council and their neocon camp followers. But like so many with blood on their hands, he still gets a public forum to say stuff like this, which is all pretty much mainstream, inside-the-beltway, received wisdom for dummies:
I’m not in favor of sending combat forces into Iraq at the moment, but I can well imagine that we would have to have some troops on the ground….
Dividing Iraq up as a policy involves the provocation of a regional war — basically, an Iraqi civil war becoming a regional war. It’s a very bad outcome…. So, if our interests are that broad, we should not be ruling things out….
Only the Americans can help the Iraqis broker across these sectarian and ethnic lines. There is nobody else who can do it.
Unindicted co-conspirators see nothing wrong with what they did
Since this was on “Morning Joe,” Bremer was treated as if he deserved respect by the co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, each of whom has serious conflicts of interest when it comes to Iraq. Scarborough was a major media warmonger in 2002-03, given to ad hominem gloating after the first month of the war (promoted by MSNBC). Brzezinski seems to have a lower profile as regards Iraq, even getting headlines for “sparring” with John McCain recently, which hardly addresses why McCain would be a guest after more than a decade of being wrong about Iraq. Nobody mentions the ghost in this mix, that Brzezinski’s father was an architect of arming and enabling Osama Bin Laden and the rest of the mujahideen as a clever Cold War manipulation, now in its fourth decade of blowback.
When Bremer (or anyone else) says he doesn’t favor combat troops now, but thinks it might be a good idea in some undefined future, he gets it totally wrong. First, he ignores the reality that the fantasy of combat troops being greeted as liberators was dumb in 2003, but now it’s perverse. Even militarily (not politically or strategically), the best moment for anyone’s combat troops to block the current Sunni advance has passed (and that’s assuming there was EVER any serious threat to Baghdad, a threat that never seemed credible (but made for good fearmongering).
When Bremer says dividing Iraq risks a civil war becoming a regional war, he has it backwards and inside out. Arguably the Sunni advance IS part of the regional war already in its seventh on-and-off decade, and it’s coming to meld with the civil war the Bremeristas unleashed in 2003. Bremer is right, that this is a bad outcome, but he should have thought of that in 2002, when Iraq was stable. After all, if a stable Iraq is in American interests, why destabilize it? Just because “he tried to kill my dad” is a form of medieval revenge-thinking with moderns weapons of mass destruction (ours).
When Bremer says, “Only the Americans can help the Iraqis broker across these sectarian and ethnic lines. There is nobody else who can do it” – that SHOULD get at least two big laughs.
Americans, led by Bremer, had the better part of a decade to take an already integrated Iraq and improve it. They failed. They failed utterly, horribly, at great cost of human life, but no apparent cost to self-esteem. The Bremeristas couldn’t even get their hand-nurtured Iraqi government to agree to leave American troops in the country (not that that was a good idea). Now they blame their failure on the Obama administration. They supported Nouri al-Maliki as Iraq’s Premier. Maliki has long been a Shiite pawn of Iran. Maliki put himself in charge of the secret police, now the Sunnis and Kurds seem to have had enough – and what’s unexpected about that?
Saving Iraq is different from saving face for Bush-Cheney thugs
Iraq has never been a real country in modern times. Historically, the region is “the cradle of civilization,” which mean that for thousands of years it either spawned empires or was over-run by competing empires, the last of which was the British Empire, that took over for the Ottoman Turks after World War I. The British mandate eventually led to a kingdom of Iraq which became a republic, which is what Saddam ran. During most of that time, roughly 1920-2002, Iraq was probably a more functional state than Mississippi, despite comparable levels of ethnic diversity and official violence.
Like so many borders in the Middle East, the borders of Iraq have little to do with the people living on the ground that those borderlines control. Iraq was more integrated under Saddam, before the vicious ethnic cleansing unleashed by the American occupation broke a civilized society down. But the underlying ethnic areas of Iraq have been in place for a long time (even Joe Biden figured that out, so, of course, the neocons mock him for having noticed reality).
“Iraq is not a real country and it never has been,” said former Vermont governor Howard Dean on MSNBC’s “The Last Word” (June 16). He said he’d predicted the obvious split along the obvious ethnic/sectarian lines ten years ago. And then he made a prediction: “now that it’s happened, we’re not going back” (and by “we”, he presumably meant the Iraqis, too).
And that seems about right, as long as forces outside Iraq (and inside) allow it to happen. As the Roman general Julius Caesar once said of Gaul that could apply here: “All Iraq is divided into three parts.” And that’s what the forces on the ground have presently established.
Kurdistan, Baghdadistan, and Jihadfistan – United States of Iraq?
Kurdistan in the northeast of Iraq is well-established as a semi-autonomous region, and has been at least since the Clinton administration’s no-fly zone limited Saddam’s control in the 1990s. With Kirkuk in Kurdish control now, the Kurds already have a share of Iraq’s oil.
Southern Iraq, from Baghdad to the Persian Gulf, has an overwhelmingly Shiite population and is also oil rich. The region is something of an Iranian protectorate. If the Maliki government can control the forces seeking to re-capture the rest of Iraq, there’s little reason this area, maybe call it Baghdadistan, can’t be a functional state.
That leaves the northwestern part of Iraq which is being reported and talked about as if it was, almost literally, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). That is an illusion, and probably a deliberate deception by those who demonize ISIS as part of their pitch for a new American war. For want of a better term, we’ll call the ISIS area Jihadistan, which it is at least in part.
Jihadistan is populated by Sunnis mostly, whether they’re Sunni tribes or Sunni survivors of the Saddam regime (Bremer’s rejects in 2003, still ungrateful, imagine), and assorted foreign fighters, as well as the ISIS gang, which probably includes some of all of the above, but itself numbers only about 3,000 active forces, according to several accounts. What most people in Jihadistan seem to have in common is a distinct distaste, dislike, distrust of the dictatorial Maliki regime in Baghdadistan.
So maybe it’s NOT about what the USA should do to other countries
The best thing about tripartite Iraq, as it has come to exist in June 2014, is that it has been imposed by no identifiable outside government – not the United States, not Iran, certainly not Turkey, even less Europe or Russia, not even the Chinese, who buy most of Iraq’s oil and have a pretty big stake in functional Iraqi stability.
One might argue that the present condition of Iraq represents a rough, natural, geo-political equilibrium that all sides have some incentive to maintain.
It would be a triumph of human nature for some sort of rational balance to be maintained, so it’s not to be expected.
But the odds go up the faster beltway blowhards get shut down, which might happen faster if we had a President who wanted to do something to deserve a Nobel Peace Prize. Or if Hillary Clinton figures out that voting for a murderous $3 trillion war really wasn’t the best way to “support the troops.” Lacking the humility to acknowledge their official malfeasance, the least the Iraq War perpetrators can do is shut up.
When there’s nothing worth doing, then it’s worth doing nothing.