Patrick Cockburn (pronounced “Coh-burn”) has a well argued essay reprinted at the increasingly indispensable www.Tomdispatch.com.
Cockburn makes a number of points that the “get out now” crowd finds persuasive. There is a chasm in understanding and assumption separating the “out nowsies” from the “we owe it to the Iraqis to stayers” that may or may not agree with the decision to invade, but believe its the American way to stick around and set things right.
First, Cockburn notes that the majority of Iraqis do not want U.S. soldiers in Iraq, increasingly support violent attacks on U.S. troops and increasingly believe the U.S. holds the real governing power in Iraq. He also points out that the presence of U.S. forces worsens sectarian violence. In other words, the U.S. is making the violence worse by its very presence rather than better. Cockburn also touches upon the Bush Administration’s arguments; foreign fighters (Al Qaeda and Iran) are stirring up trouble in Iraq, our intents and motives are unquestionably good and should therefore be appreciated by Iraqis, and that Iraqis want us there to stabilize the situation.
These are empirical points and the Bush Administration’s key assumptions are all false. The only one really open to question is the first one, and on that score he is contradicted by his own intelligence and military. The presence of foreign fighters - not counting Americans and British as foreign fighters, of course – is a very small and insignificant part of the insurgency. Those that do exist are attacked by other Iraqi based factions and forced to adjust their mission from global jihad to Iraqi nationalism to gain any traction. The Iran weapons claim is dubious at best and as Cockburn documents, we have found several of weapons making factories in Iraq.
A recent poll in our military found that a substantial number of U.S. troops would not report fellow troops for stealing or torturing Iraqi citizens. A little ways to the east in that other American war, Afghanistan has protested vigorously the indiscriminate use of American bombs that has killed so many civilians and bystanders. American style war is big, mean, and dumb. Cruise missile nation building is like sculpting clay with a baseball bat. We tell ourselves that our bombs are smart, that we are meticulously cautious when it comes to civilian casualties, and our motives are what count whatever the outcomes of our actions. These are narcissistic vanities that matter only to us. At the street level, when a 1,000 pound laser guided bomb lands on your apartment building and kills your neighbors, it feels about the same as a Toyota Datsun rigged with explosives - no matter who is setting it off. Things apparently look a little different from the other side of the gun barrel.
As an aside: I know I keep promising to quit blogging and I really am going to kick it some point soon unless I can reinvent myself. Everything being superfluous at this point and simply linking to other articles with the diktat to “read the whole thing” is the bottom of the blog barrel, of which I am obviously starting to scrape. Hey, there is only so much a fairly ordinary 28 year-old can have to say about the world.