Today, Devilstower has a post up on Daily Kos that confirms what I believed was inevitable in regards to Bush's control of the war in Iraq - namely he is irrelevant now. Here's what I wrote for Vox Populi Nebraska's December issue on that topic.
George W Bush signed a National Security directive on August 29, 2002 that said what he wanted the goals and objectives to be in regards to Iraq.
US goal: Free Iraq in order to eliminate Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, their means of delivery and associated programs, to prevent Iraq from breaking out of containment and becoming a more dangerous threat to the region and beyond.
End Iraqi threats to its neighbors, to stop the Iraqi government's tyrannizing of its own population, to cut Iraqi links to and sponsorship of international terrorism, to maintain Iraq's unity and territorial integrity. And liberate the Iraqi people from tyranny, and assist them in creating a society based on moderation, pluralism and democracy....
Objectives: To conduct policy in a fashion that minimizes the chance of a WMD attack against the United States, US field forces, our allies and friends. To minimize the danger of regional instabilities. To deter Iran and Syria from helping Iraq. And to minimize disruption in international oil markets.”
Today, none of those goals or objectives has been met. Many of the problems identified have been magnified by Bush’s actions since that long ago summer in 2002. What one sees now is the collapse of a country into a horrific civil war that is killing thousands of Iraqi civilians every month. And meanwhile more than a million Iraqis have fled the country to seek safety elsewhere.
For many of those who supported Bush’s drive to war, the goals were simpler. What they wanted was put succinctly by Richard Cohen of the Washington Post who expressed that he thought “a prudent use of violence could be therapeutic.” What they wanted was revenge for 9/11 and they wanted to teach those who supported Islamic extremists that they would regret their support. What they forgot, and what Bush never realized, is violence is its own master. When we kicked over the hornet’s nest in Iraq, we unleashed horrific forces that are now in control.
Reading Nir Rosen’s long piece in the November Boston Review, Anatomy of a Civil War, makes one realize how inevitable today’s civil war had been since the beginning: each mistake and misstep made by the Bush administration helped guarantee this end.
From before the first bombs, knowledgeable people warned that the tyranny of Saddam would have bottled up an enormous stockpile of bitterness, anger and desire for revenge by those who had been suppressed. They also warned that it would be impossible to implant democracy in Iraq without dealing with these underlying forces. Unfortunately, Bush and his administration were so deeply disconnected from reality and engaged in a dangerous cycle of incestuous amplification that they believed they only needed to act boldly to create their reality, and they simply never paid heed to the warnings. Worse, they were in love with the idea of using American force to teach the world a lesson and unfortunately for the citizens of Iraq, they believed that Saddam would be a good example.
What Nir Rosen reports, is just how early the seeds of violence were sown leading to the breakdown of the nation state of Iraq. Most of the victims of the first outbreak of violence in Baghdad in April 2003 were the Sunnis who were targeted by the Shia because they were the sect with whom Saddam had sided.
By May 2003 many Sunnis saw the disbanding of the Iraqi army by Paul Bremer as the United States actively siding with the Shia who had already shown they were ready to take revenge for the decades of oppression under Saddam.
Nevertheless, it was the battle of Fallujah in November 2004 that ushered in the true beginnings of the civil war. Because it was then that certain neighborhoods in Baghdad were cleansed of Shia families when the Sunni refugees from Fallujah moved in to escape the US assault on Fallujah.
Since then, the situation has grown increasingly worse. The bombing of the “Golden Mosque” in Samarra in February this year was met with more violent pushback from both sides. Every day scores of tortured and mutilated bodies are found as neighborhood by neighborhood, sections of Baghdad are cleansed of one sect or the other. What is obvious now is rather than a budding democracy, Bush’s war has spawned a lethal and vicious sectarian war.
What’s happening in Iraq these days has little to do with George W. Bush or his desire for “success” of our mission in Iraq. The anger, the violence, and the sheer hell Iraq has become are now a self-perpetuating downward spiral and Bush is powerless to affect it.
Nevertheless he continues to believe that everything that is happening in Iraq is an insult to him. Before the midterm election, he stated that the increased violence was the result of the insurgents wanting to influence the United States elections. Bush’s complaint of how the violence is aimed at challenging him shows a complete lack of understanding of what is really happening in that poor country. And he demonstrates a despicable lack of shame for what he unleashed in and on Iraq out of his own arrogance and ignorance in believing that starting an unnecessary war could make the world better. He wanted to be the war president. And he believed war was something he could control to force his vision on the world.
What comes next will certainly be outside Bush’s or our military’s control. Nir Rosen described what is happening on the ground in Iraq today and it is truly frightening:
“The death of Zarqawi last June was not the long-awaited turning point. A new Zarqawi has already emerged, this time from among the Shias. In the summer of 2006 rumors began spreading through Baghdad of a shadowy killer known as Abu Dira, a nickname meaning “the armor bearer.” In the Shia uprisings of 2004 he was said to have held off the Americans in southern Sadr City. He earned his name either by destroying American armored vehicles or by killing an American soldier and stealing his body armor, which (some say) he wears at all times….
“Whether Abu Dira exists or not, the image of a raging, lone killer is prophetic at a time when Muqtada’s control over his militia is uncertain. But this much is clear: the Mahdi Army is the police. It holds all the force of state power.
And the once confident and aggressive Sunnis now see the state as their enemy. They are very afraid. All Iraqis are.”
What will happen next in Iraq is no longer ours to control. The deadly violence and relentless cleansing of neighborhoods and cities continues apace. Yet as always, Bush’s decisions are bound to make matters worse: today the Bush administration is considering siding with the Shias and Kurds against the Sunnis as they avenge their grievances against Saddam’s rule and those who benefited from it. And neighboring Sunni countries like Saudi Arabia vow to step in to protect the Iraqi Sunnis which indicates the violence is spreading across the Middle East. Things are only getting worse. So one wonders how many people will die because Bush thought he could harness violence for his own ends not understanding that once war starts, it follows its own path.
Today we see that Bush still does not understand the forces he's unleashed, because only a sadist would look at what's become of Iraq and be upset that the Iraqis are not grateful for what he's bequeathed to them. Even worse, he has decided that escalating the chaos and war into Iran will finally bring cleansing violence to that benighted region. May God save us all.