Wednesday, November 29, 2006

America to Iraq: "Your Civil War is Not Our Fault!"

Many of our foreign policy "experts" have come to the conclusion that we can't fix Iraq because of the Iraqis:
Later the same day, members of the House Armed Services Committee took their turn. "If the Iraqis are determined and decide to destroy themselves and their country, I don't know how in the world we're going to stop them," said Rep. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.).

To be fair, the article paints with a broad brush. Take this criticism for example:
It isn't just politicians who have decided that the problem with Iraq is the Iraqis. In the military establishment, said Joseph J. Collins, a professor at the National Defense University, "there is lots of disappointment in the performance of Iraqi officials of all stripes."

That's not the same as saying the Iraqis are "determined to destroy themselves." Being disappointed in the Iraqi leaders is fair I think, whereas blaming the Iraqis for the situation of their country is quite unfair and absurd. After all, "the Iraqis" have not collectively decided to destroy their country. Various minority segments that various elements of the population perhaps sympathize with, are fighting each other over control of the country or over sectarian differences or for other reasons. The vast majority of Iraqis would almost certainly prefer to live in peace, as is the case in most if not all civil wars.

Why are these experts so willing to cast blame on the Iraqis?
Several other experts of various political stripes said this tendency to dump on Baghdad feels like a preamble to withdrawal.

"It's their fault, and by implication not ours, is clearly a theme that's in the air," said retired Army Col. Andrew J. Bacevich, a Vietnam veteran and longtime skeptic of the war in Iraq. It reminds him, he said, of the sour last days of the Vietnam War, when "there was a tendency to blame everything on the 'gooks' -- meaning our South Vietnamese allies who had disappointed us."

"People never understood the culture and the challenges that we faced in trying to build a new Iraq," a senior U.S. intelligence official said. "There's incredible frustration . . . but it also shows a great deal of ignorance."

"Definitely," said Paul Rieckhoff, who served in Iraq as an Army officer in 2003-2004 and went on to found a veterans group critical of the conduct of the war. "It is growing into an angry, scolding tone." He said he finds it "sad" -- "especially after all the talk of our mission to 'save the Iraqis.' "

The long-term effect of blaming Iraqis also could be poisonous, said Juan Cole, a University of Michigan specialist in Middle Eastern issues. He predicted that it will "infuriate the Iraqis and worsen further the future relationship of the two countries."

It's not only a preamble to withdrawal, but also an effort by the pro-war crowd to put the blame on someone other than themselves for enabling the invasion that destabilized Iraq and led to this current chaos. Guilt alas, can be an unpleasant sensation.
Iraqi Ambassador Samir Sumaidaie said he worries about the growing chorus of official voices blaming Iraq, and suggested that a little introspection on the U.S. side could help.

"I am indeed concerned about this trend," he said in an interview. "The U.S. through its actions and omissions has helped to create the current conditions in Iraq. Therefore the U.S. also bears responsibility in putting right the situation."

If you're looking for introspection, do not count on finding it among the neo-cons (too busy blaming the Bush administration) or the right-wing pundits or bloggers who supported the invasion. The bitter irony is that those who seem to feel the guiltiest about the chaos in Iraq are those who opposed the invasion in the first place. But those who are calling for a withdrawal using such language are also doing us and the Iraqis a tremendous disservice. Besides simply being wrong, playing up the inevitability of full-on civil war by blaming the Iraqis, so that leaving will seem more compelling, makes it appear as if we're trying to wash our hands of the conflict entirely, despite whatever good we still might be able to do diplomatically or with monetary aid and assistance.

The war in Iraq is not the fault of "the Iraqis", who did not collectively ask us to invade their country and set off a civil war. We chose to invade, and we must bear the consequences of our choice. The diminishment of our status as world power, the loss of vast sums of money, the derangement of political debate in our country and the deaths of our soldiers is a small price to pay compared to the ever-worsening violence the Iraqis must live with on a daily basis, as incredible as that seems. The least we can do is face our responsibility for this fiasco honestly.

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