As the grim milestone of the 3,000th American troop death approaches in Iraq, what can we say about the war that hasnâ€™t been said before?
On September 7, 2005, I wrote a lengthy analysis-from-afar on political and military developments in Iraq, called The Danger of Iraqi Partition. On that same day, we were approaching the 2,000 US-dead-in-Iraq milestone, 1,892 to be exact. Just as today, in the United States these figures of US troop deaths garner the attention of the media, that still pretends the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead, wounded, and displaced are a mere footnote.
It reminds one of the old Tarzan novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs, where the entire world exists as a background within which a white European male protagonist can have an adventure about which white males can fantasize. The media in the US is still completely the captive of the White Manâ€™s Burden narrative, even though the term, â€œWhite Man,â€ has now been supplanted by â€œAmerican.â€ This is evident in the reflexive valorization of American life over the lives of dark foreigners â€” which, admittedly, is necessary to sustain circulation and political clout in a culture of national chauvinism. It is also evident in the seeming inability to visualize any â€œsolutionâ€ to the whirlwind reaped by US policy in Iraq that does not require the continued employment of US troops to occupy Iraq.
While this milestone will be used â€” as it should be in my opinion â€” to mobilize emotional support for the redeployment of US troops back to the United States and the end of the US military occupation of Iraq, I am going to take this opportunity â€” which it is â€” to introduce a more clinical account of what is happening with this war. It is fairly obvious now that most Americans want to be rid of this war. In a sense, then, the campaign to build opposition has achieved momentum in a direction that seems unlikely to be reversed. The question that arises now, and the one for which there is little satisfaction in mainstream commercialized or Democratic Party discourse, is what do â€œweâ€ do? How do â€œweâ€ get out?
The principal reason there have been no satisfactory answers to that question is that the majority of people rely on professional pundits and news models to acquire the baseline impressions of what is actually happening in Iraq. The account that is being propagated is one that is shallow, simplistic, largely inaccurate, and widely believed by the pundits themselves. They themselves are the captives of their own chauvinist assumptions and of the cosmic vacuums in their heads where the politics of war should be.
In the article cited from September 2005, I wrote:
I, and others, have said for some time now that Muqtada al Sadr is not merely a complicating peculiarity in Iraq, but that he may end up being the canniest of all the current well-known Iraqi leaders â€“ politically and militarily.Furthermore, I said:
The Bush administrationâ€™s principal preoccupation ever since April 2004 has been the question of Iran. If Iraq breaks up, the US will be faced with Southern Iraq â€“ including a huge fraction of its oil â€“ becoming a protectorate of Iran. Meanwhile, the US has attempted to build its bases â€“ which were always the primary goal of the invasion â€“ in Baâ€™athist strongholds. This was partly the result of tactical necessity as the Anbar, Nineva, and Saladin provinces were consolidated as centers of nationalist resistance to the occupation. The US base at Mosul, along the Tigris River, has become almost a city unto itself with a 65-kilometer security perimeter and a giant airfield.I went on to describe the physical infrastructure of the only hope for any group in Iraq for the development capital required to conduct future reconstruction â€” and satisfy the restive popular bases of the many ethno-geographic divisions: oil.
This base exists in a sea of hostility, surrounded by an increasingly sophisticated guerrilla resistance, adjacent to Kirkuk where the Kurds are attempting to establish their future national capital through a de-Arabization campaign. The headquarters for this base, however, is located in the Green Zone â€“ Baghdad, and the only seaport to the entire country is in Basra Province, which would become part of a post-breakup Iranian protectorateâ€¦
â€¦The primary forces remaining in the Iraqi â€œgovernmentâ€ are semi-puppets. On the one hand, they are dependent on American military power for the time being to maintain the current balance of forces in their favor. On the other hand, they clearly have an agenda that is designed to consolidate that long-term power through a pact of some sort with Iran.Since this article was written we have seen the resignations of Donald Rumsfeld and John Bolton, two of the bigger macho assholes of this administration (which is a tough distinction). The Republicans were swept out of the Congress on the issue of the war. And the putative Prime Minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, was just forced by Muqtada al Sadr to embarrass his patron Occupier-in-Chief, George W. Bush, by standing him up for a meeting for one day.
This has created a polarization between current direct participants in the Iraqi government and the minority â€“ strategically located and well-armed â€“ Sunnis/nationalists in the north. That is not a cultural polarization but a political one that further entrenches the Faustian alliance between the government and the US occupiers each day, though there is no inhering reason among the general populations â€“ who have for years seen inter-ethnic and inter-denominational marriage, etc. â€“ for any pressure to partition the country.
The so-called Iraqi government does not in fact exercise real governance over any but a fraction of Iraq, and the â€œcity-stateâ€ phenomenon throughout the country is setting the stage for a universally unacceptableBalkanization of Iraq, at the same time that it is developing the probable (and yet largely unknown) future local leadership of Iraq.
At some point in the future, most of these actors will have to deal with one another politically.
The Shia interim government and the US have maneuvered themselves into the same corner with antagonistic goals if and when they ever find their way out. The Sunnis and nationalists of the north have no stake in partition, and with the withdrawal of occupying forces would be freer to negotiate a political settlement with the south. This leaves one hugely influential local leader in the most flexible position in Iraq right now â€“ Muqtada al Sadr.
He is the man to watch in Iraq for now.
The point of reposting so much of this past article is not to exercise bragging rights about some mysterious prescience. It is to point out that this â€œprescienceâ€ is based on the rejection of those aforementioned mainstream assumptions that Iraq consists of three tidily demarcated ethnic groups who hate each other and need to be controlled by a poorly managed, but basically benevolent US occupation.
The reason it seems important now to take this clinical approach to a very sanguinary war is that the failure of the general US public to grasp the significance of what is unspoken in commercial and ruling class discourse is precisely what prevents that public from recognizing the perfidious current position of Democrats, their vulnerability between now and 2008, and the decisions that we have to extract from them, by force if necessary.
The establishment narrative is that Sadr is a pro-Iranian; he is not. The fact is his base is more like Hezbollah. Sadr has always endorsed Iraqi unification. Bushâ€™s engagement beginning early December 2006 with Abdul Aziz al Hakim â€” practically an Iranian expatriate â€” who is the political commander of the former Badr Brigades, a 4-10,000 strong militia whose officers were trained in Iran, is an indication of how little the US understands about the real divisions inside Iraq. It is also an indication of the sense of desperation pervading the White Houseâ€¦ and the US foreign policy establishment as a whole.
The balance of forces has changed dramatically in Iraq in favor of Sadr, whose popular base is approximately 3 million working class Iraqis living in a massive slum approximately three kilometers from the Green Zone, Iraqâ€™s main US military installation, and the only safe haven for the so-called Iraq government of Maliki, the inheritor of the Prime Minsterâ€™s portfolio from fellow Daâ€™waist Ibrahim al-Jaafari.
Maliki serves at the pleasure of Sadr, because without Sadrâ€™s support to make a thin parliamentary majority (Maliki is part of the Nasiriya-based Daâ€™wa Party), Hakimâ€™s Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) would control parliament as its largest faction. The Daâ€™wa militiaâ€™s exact size is less than 2,000, and it is restricted to Nasiriya and is not populated or equipped to challenge either the SCIRI or Sadrâ€™s Mehdi militia. Numbering 10-15,000 when its field leadership was bloodied in the fighting with the US in 2004, Sadrâ€™s immense popularity since then is believed to have swelled the ranks of the Mehdi Army, though the various estimations are too broad to have any meaning. No one except the Mehdi commanders themselves knows.
While the pundits continually refer to Iraqâ€™s â€œsectarian conflictâ€ as a Sunni-Shia division, the most important divisions from the point of view of the US occupation forces and the US foreign policy establishment are inter-Shia. In November 2006, the decision was made to withdraw Marines from the highly nationalist and Sunni-majority Al Anbar Province, to reinforce Baghdad. What is seldom mentioned is what precisely they were reinforcing, and how.
Once we understand that one faction, led by one leader, who has consistently called for Iraqi national unity and the expulsion of the US military and US control over the development of Iraqâ€™s post-occupation foreign affairs orientationâ€¦ and that this same leader is harboring a militia that exceeds the size of the American occupation itself within the radius of Baghdad and environsâ€¦ within a stoneâ€™s throw of the Green Zoneâ€¦ the answer to the question becomes blazingly clear.
Neither Hakim nor Maliki can afford to appear too cozy with the American occupation or the Bush regime, without risking wide scale abandonment by their respective popular bases. Stating that the American occupation is â€œunpopularâ€ might be the understatement of the year. At the same time, neither Hakim nor Maliki has the power to control Baghdad, the symbolism and practical political value of which is inestimable, without the American occupation (They are, in fact, unable to do it with the occupationâ€™s assistance.). SCIRI has its main offices located in Iraqi Kurdistan (in the north), with its popular base in the south along the Iranian border. Ayatollah al Hakim, then, does not even have a safe haven for his militias co-located with his zone of greatest geographic influence. The only thing they are co-located with are the American armed forces.
It is not surprising that the Badr Army (Hakimâ€™s SCIRI militia), then, has largely operated jointly with Americans outside Shia areas (against Sunnis) often using the same modus operandias the former death squads of US proxies in Latin America. The facts on the ground, then, include that Muqtada al-Sadr now controls the only viably independent Iraqi armed force in Baghdad; and that force has popular support as well as massive home court advantages. It is, in a word, embedded.
What all Iraqi armed actors have in common is the relative inability to project their force far afield of their respective geographic bases. Sadr has no capacity to attack anyone in Samarra or Ramadi (though the Mehdi have ventured some distance from home in the south). The Daâ€™wa has no capacity to leave the city limits of Nasiriya. SCIRI cannot move its troops without US escorts. The Sunni factions are limited to their areas of operations (and there are numerous reports that Sunni nationalists are engaged in occasional heavy fighting against a small but stubborn number of foreign Wahabbists). The only force in Iraq that has the mobility required to do more than defend ones own zones of influence and project very limited offensive operations beyond thatâ€¦ are the Anglo-American occupiers. The only way to move long distances across the country as an armed unit passing through multiple militia â€œjurisdictions,â€ is with helicopters, or heavily armed and armored convoys.
The current civil war is taking place not for Iraq, but for Baghdad, and the catalyst remains the US occupation.
Poor Maliki, called to an audience with his King George in Amman, is faced with Sadrâ€™s threat to withdraw from the Parliamentary majority coalition with Daâ€™wa if the meeting with the Occupier-in-Chief happens. The resistance is targeting Iraqi troops for collaboration, the Badr Army is fomenting a civil war with straightforward attacks on Sunnis and false flag operations against fellow Shias, and the US is demanding Iraqi troops assist them in attacking Sadr City.
One day, Maliki stands George Bush up to show his own people that he is not a puppet; the next, he has to go crawling back to Dubya, even as the infamous Hadley memo calling Maliki a dolt is released and replayed in the media again, and again, and again.
Seeing this as purely power politics, the mistake that got the administration to where they are now â€” disregarding the roles of the Iraqi masses themselves â€” Bush then turns to Hakim, thinking he has now split Sadr off from Maliki. Hakim himself is now trapped, faced with the same specter that haunts the Green Zone, possibly tens of thousands of combatants, embedded deeply in their own community near the heart of the second largest city in Southwest Asia, and the capital of Iraqâ€¦ led by a leader whose popularity is increasing with the â€œIraqi streetâ€ with each passing day.
That Bush would find himself turning to Iranâ€™s strongest ally in Iraq in his hour of need, an ally who seeks the partition of Iraq against the wishes of the US, to subvert the growing power of the most powerful voice of Iraqi unification and independence outside of Anbar, alas, is a world class irony. Sadr has consistently held out one nationalist hand to the Sunni regions, be the resistance fighters secular or political-Islamists. A condominium between Sadr and the Sunni resistance â€” which has already tactically defeated the US occupation â€” would spell the end of Hakimâ€™s power unless he joined the SCIRI with a generalized armed struggle to expel the Americans.
Those who posit conspiracy theories, by the way, about a US desire for civil war and partition, are the victims of their own compartmentalized thinking. Te very first thing that happens with partition is open war between Turkey and Kurdistanâ€¦ an utter political disaster for the US. We hear little of this in the news or in official communiquÃ©s, but Turkey is already turning into the newest regional tinderbox of anti-Americanism, at a time when everything that could go wrong, as the irascible Murphy noted, has gone wrongâ€¦ most significantly, the ascendancy of Iran.
None of the warâ€™s planners, nor even those who sat nervously on the sidelines while the Feiths and Wolfowitzes fantasized, ever anticipated that they might transform Iran into the regional power.
US forces have already begun drawing down into Baghdad for their struggle with Sadr. As Baghdad becomes the Americansâ€™ new Kabul â€” a one-city occupation in a vast country â€” Afghanistan promises to grow into a deadlier quagmire. This is the stillborn dream of George Bushâ€™s mad mentors; and this is the power of Muqtada al Sadr.
In order to understand why Sadr is so dangerous to the US, and why there is consensus on this issue from Republican, Democrat, conservative, and liberal alike, as well as the capitalist media, cannot be understood properly without deconstructing two other tropes that define public discourse about the war: The Global War on Terror, and the protean â€œmissionâ€ of the invasion and occupation.
The Global War on Terror (GWOT) is a quantum juridical leap on the international scene; and whether or not it will put down any roots remains to be seen. Its basis is a radical departure from the foundations of Post WWII international and national jurisprudence and the corresponding norms of diplomacy. It is not merely an open-ended war against an ill-formed taxonomy, like the War on Drugs. That â€œwarâ€ was still constrained by geography and manipulation of existing legal norms. The GWOT, which it must be said is a term accepted by both Republicans and Democrats, is based on a unilateral declaration by the United States that the entire planet has now become an indefinite battlefield. This creates the basis for over-riding civil standards of law and international treaties with the tempo-task loosening of norms that, in the past, has exclusively applied to antagonists engaged presently and directly in combat.
The putative existence of such a â€œwarâ€â€“ which is under vigorous legal challenge â€” has formed the juridical predicate of the invasion of Iraq against the UN Charter. The fact that the GWOT has been widely adopted and accepted, as both a â€œfactâ€ and a universalized rhetorical premise, is going to make backing away from this abyss incredibly difficult, even for Democrats. They have participated into conjuring this notion into the public perception. What they had not anticipated, given the limited attention spans of elected officials, is how this prevarication has created a kind of one-way ideational valve that, having passed through it, one cannot go back. Once you acknowledge a Global War of any kind, accompanied by enemies that have been revalidated again and again in the public imagination, then there is the expectation that someone will fight it.
The problem for even those who oppose this transformation of legal norms is that the taxonomies of power applied to the military prior to 9-11were already obsolete. There may not be a way to return to the good old days of technocratic administration for international relations.
The neocons mounted challenges to the past order that were a profound escalation of conflict and American unilateralism, but the uncomfortable fact is that they did so based on very real changes in international reality. That their prescription has failed does not make some of their points â€” admittedly contained inside the logic of empire â€” less valid.
Mohammed Atta, they point out, engaged in a military attack against the United States. Until boarding the plane, however, he did not meet any of the criteria we normally apply to the definition of â€œenemy combatant.â€ Aside from a box cutter, he was unarmed, dressed like a businessman, and traveling legally inside the United States. Regardless of the provocative etiology of such attacks (US support for Israel and the House of Saud, for example), the isolated fact is that there are people who are organized in ways that transcend international boundaries, and who cannot be directly associated with an existing state, who have the will and capacity to mount military attacks against the US and its military-diplomatic allies. It is true that existing criminal statutes, national and international, are probably adequate to address this issue after the fact. Like any criminal conspiracy, the perpetrators can be sought out, captured, and put on trial. Atta was already in violation of a host of laws before he boarded. We cannot escape the fact, however, that military operations (which 9-11 clearly and unequivocally was) can and will be mounted against states and societies, and the scale of the consequences can only be equated to â€œcriminalâ€ through the exercise of shocking disingenuousness. Bank robbers do not kill nearly three thousand people, and they have no political motive.
The only way forward in mounting a critique of the neoconsâ€™ logic on this count is to go outside the boundaries of general acceptability, and become a partisan of curtailing US global power. This is, in my view, a completely correct approach. From a pragmatic standpoint, however, which is the standpoint that electoral politics invariably takes, this is a conundrum. Liberals find themselves forced to argue for conclusions that differ from their opposition, but refuse to depart from the oppositionâ€™s premises. It is not the neocons who have bankrupted liberalism â€” and it is bankrupt â€” but the bankruptcy of unacknowledged imperial power itself. The conservatives have come to embrace that power openly, and left the liberals in a position to deny the obvious and confirm their essential nature as world-class equivocators.
There is a logic to this equivocation that everyday folks may not be able to unravel intellectually yet, but it also has a smell. They may not be able to deconstruct it, but by 2008 they are likely to vote with their noses.
The only way past this for the people, unfortunately, is the long hard slog of public persuasion; and for all the reasons just stated, we have to make the difficult case that US power is instrumental and not moral, and that this power is malignant.
This slog begins by unmasking the mission of the invasion and occupation.
The mission of the occupation â€” even as its public face has changed to mask serial setbacks â€” has never deviated. There may not be any such thing as predestination, but in global politics, the US attempt to implant a permanent military presence in this region as part of its post-Cold War reshuffle is about as close as weâ€™ll get.
The mission is to accomplish the post-Cold War re-disposition of US imperial forces. Given that the chief competition is likely to be for strategic resources (nothing new there), and given that US power now flows out of its debtor and not creditor status, the shift to a more military emphasis within US foreign policy is the only alternative to accepting a long, slow decline in US global power, similar to what the United Kingdom experienced. The prior disposition of US imperial forces was designed primarily to contain the Soviet Union, which abruptly vanished. The irony that the re-disposition has generated a fresh US-Russia conflict was among the unintended consequences. Oil is not only a key resource, the fact that the swing fraction is located in one geographic region makes it theoretically susceptible to military control, especially by sea. (That is the reason overland pipelines â€” about which we hear next to nothing in the media â€” are the basis of numerous backroom diplomatic wars right now.) Iraq was seen as the place where the US could build its new bases; and the purpose of the invasion was just that: bases. Big, permanent ones.
When the Bush administration threw the dice, the Democrats happily went along with the program. All of them recognize the necessity â€” from the imperial standpoint â€” to re-situate the pieces on the grand chessboard after the last checkmate. This looked as good as anything. So they hooked up with some â€œadvisors,â€ the Rendon Group and their Iraq Liberation Salesman, Ahmad Chalabi, and started the engines of war.
Rumsfeld, whose resignation recently rocked the Department of Defense, fully expected to draw down to 35,000 troops by August 2003, a permanent and bucolic garrison residing in a peaceful kingdom of grateful Iraqis, presided over by Chalabi. This would be accomplished by a swift and overwhelming victory â€” shock and awe â€” that would serve the dual purpose of installing an acquiescent Iraqi government and demonstrating the futility of fighting Americans. The neocon advisors had predicted what they called a â€œdemocratic domino theory,â€ wherein the establishment of toy democracies within the Washington Consensus would begin in Iraq and then sweep through adjacent countries â€” where the grateful brown children would embrace their new rulers along with McDonaldâ€™s and The Gap. The target of their bizarre theory was none other than Saudi Arabia, though reality has driven the US again back into the arms of the despotic Royal Family.
As this is written, December 2006, there are at least 25,000 mercenaries â€” almost Rumsfeldâ€™s original prediction of troop levels for August 2003 â€” augmenting a US force exceeding 140,000.
Rumsfeldâ€™s recently â€œleakedâ€ memo attempts to salvage his reputation as a fighter and shift the blame for the defeat in Iraq to politicos.
Not only did the whole US political establishment purchase this snake oil, they all made the same error. They made grotesquely ill-informed assumptions about the people of Iraq. The fact that they have replaced former misapprehensions with new ones does not auger well for them. This is the basis of their underestimation of Muqtada al-Sadr. It is the basis of their failure to see the emerging world historic defeat of US military power, and the approaching obsolescence of conventional military power. And it is the basis of the inability of the US military or diplomatic establishment to keep pace with the shape-shifting battlefield they themselves had a big hand in creating.
One place the battlefield has shifted is to Beirut.
Hassan Nasrallah and Muqtada al Sadr have two things in common: (1) They are both genuine grassroots leaders, and (2) they are both capable of playing weak hands into strength. Lending credibility to this thesis, there are numerous reports that Sadrist militiamen have visited Lebanon where they have received training from Hezbollah fighters who recently delivered Israel a stunning tactical defeat.
As this is written, Hezbollah has achieved popularity across Lebanon, well beyond its southern Lebanese Shia base, and has spearheaded a campaign to topple the US-puppet government of Prime Minister Fouad al-Siniora. The actions of the Israelis â€” arguably the only country that has a stake in seeing a protracted Iraqi civil war â€” in destroying Lebanon during the conduct of their defeat at the hands of Hezbollah, has unified Lebanon beyond the dreams of any faction in the past. The gratuitous brutality of the Israelis valorizes anyone who successfully confronts them.
As always, the two-dimensional Bush administration analysis of everything led them to believe that anti-Syrian sentiment in Lebanon is as powerful as anti-Israeli sentiment â€” a wild miscalculation that has led to the definition of pro-American in Lebanon being â€œanti-Syrian.â€ Siniora followed his mastersâ€™ directives, appointing the majority of his cabinet based on enmity toward Syria, and summarily lost the support of a huge fraction of Lebanese Sunnis. He also sidelined Christians who seek continued ties with Damascus. (Oddly enough, Siniora served as Minister of Finance during the Syrian occupation.)
Siniora had shepherded through the resolutions to end the Syrian military presence in Beirut in 2005, in accordance with US desires, and had given assurances that this would increase Lebanonâ€™s security. His American patrons, however, gladly supplied Israel with war materiel to shatter Lebanon in this summerâ€™s horrific attacks across the whole country. Now it is the former anti-Hezbollah General Michel Aoun (a Christian) who is challenging Siniora for power, and he has clearly recognized Hezbollahâ€™s clout, and welcomed cooperation with them in this task.
In early Decemberâ€™s anti-Siniora demonstrations in Beirut, numbering at times close to a million, it was not uncommon for women in Western garb with fully exposed hair to gleefully wave posters of political Islamist Hassan Nasrallah.
The only oil in great supply in Lebanon comes from olives. Yet it is now a crucial front in the Energy War of the United States, that same war to implant bases in Iraq as the key element in a post-Cold War imperial military re-disposition.
The country most nervously eyeing the ascendancy of Iran, via the Iraq occupation, and the increasing influence of Iranian ally Hezbollah on Israelâ€™s doorstep, is Saudi Arabia, which as good reason to see these developments not only in geo-strategic terms, but in the simplified terms of Shia versus Sunni. Regionally, Saudi Arabia has always been the US Arab proxy, giving it tremendous leverage through the oil patch.
Internally, Saudi Arabia lives in perpetual fear of its own substantial and restive Shia population. They are only 5 percent of the overall population, but they are almost half a million strong, and concentrated in the oil-bloated Eastern Province.
The strengthened position of Iran and now Syria will force a more contrite American foreign policy establishment â€” after an appropriate period of macho bluster â€” to seek engagement with Tehran and Damascus. This will diminish Saudi influence, at a time when the Saudisâ€™ domestic situation is growing daily more tense and their need of American favor has never been so great. For now, at least, the greatest overlap of Saudi-US interest is in Lebanon.
The expression of that linkage was the US-Saudi initiative to establish a tribunal to try the assassins of the anti-Syrian, former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri. It was this tribunal, designed to go after Syria, which pushed Syria more decisively toward Iran, and mitigated toward Sunni-Shia alliance in the anti-Siniora campaign. Hezbollah, by the way, had also warned Siniora not to support the tribunal â€” which they see as an American political stunt (a fairly accurate account).
It is within this great-power struggle involving Washington, Tehran, and Riyahd that socially-embedded non-state actors like Nasrallah and Sadr â€” with their greater native agility, unencumbered by states of their own â€” are now positioning themselves to lead movements of their respective nations to chart a course independent of Washington in the future.
There is no sin, <>a href=â€http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/GJ07Ak01.htmlâ€>in the eyes of Washington, more mortal than independence.
That is the reason that US forces are now being concentrated to go after Sadr â€” who they accuse of being pro-Iranian â€” a preposterous bit of disinformation, which nonetheless is swallowed easily by a gullible US public unschooled in complexity. With the SCIRI (the genuinely Iranian-based movement) still dependent on the US occupation forces, and the Sunni provinces now being abandoned in a broad tactical retrenchment, the conquest of Sadr City, a slum with the population of Chicago, has become the latest strategic priority.
Sadrâ€™s Mehdi militia was as bloodily ruthless as any actors in Iraq when they were attacked during the latest round of provocations, even occasionally fighting the SCIRI between bloodletting with the Sunnis. They have staked out their territory, and their defense of it will be furious and terrible. But Sadr is the lone voice among the Shia, and still the voice with the most popular appeal, calling between battles for a rapprochementâ€¦ and for Iraqi unification against the occupation.
There is no single force among the Iraqis capable of conquering territory much beyond the city limits. Yet the infrastructure for the oil (and not just the wells) runs across the whole country. The Kurds and Shia sit atop the lakes of black gold, but the easements for the pipelines run across the borders between Syria, Turkey, and Iran.
The popular clamor once the occupation is ended, to all the leaders in all the city-states now emerging across Iraq, will be for reconstruction, and the oil is where the capital will come from. The Sunni will require a compact with a Shia unification advocate; and it seems likely that the Kurds will continue their cautious march to independence, yet remain dependent on southbound pipelines to get their product to market. Turkey is unlikely to assist the overland transport of independent Kurdish oil to the Istanbul Strait.
This resolution cannot begin, no matter how painful it may inevitably be for a period of time, until the US occupation ends. As long as the occupation force remains, some faction will be joined at the hip to it, and with them a popular base that will themselves become targets. We hear much about sectarian violence, but very little about collaboration violence. Yet collaboration with the occupation continues to exert a hugely distorting gravitational field in Iraqi politics, and is the ultimate source of inter-Iraqi violence.
At the end of the article cited (at the beginning of this one), I concluded that â€œthe greatest impediment to a political solution to post-invasion Iraq is not some cauldron of inter-ethnic rivalry. It is the politico-military distortion produced by the American occupation.â€ I have no reason, more than a year later, to recant that conclusion.
I have good reason, unfortunately, to expect as much dissembling as possible by politicians of every hue, as well as the imperial US press, to cast about indefinitely for ever more elliptical reasons not to leave. The plain fact is, the stars of empire are inexorably aligning against the US; and there is no place left to go outside Southwest Asia to gain the leverage required to simultaneously employ the US military to geo-strategic advantage and support the US military-industrial-service contract economy that papers over the deep economic malaise that is settling in on the United States.
The other plain fact is that until 2009, there is no President who will stop the war, so the only established body that can stop it is Congress. That is the task before us, then, no matter how difficult it may seem. We have to begin now, at the milestone of 3,000 to see our mission as one of saving what lives we can, as quickly as we can, American and Iraqi, and doing so in the most instrumental terms. Denunciation and lamentation will get us nothing, and we donâ€™t need more trips to the Washington DC mall for mass demonstrations. Every member of Congress has to be targeted, locally, in her or his own district; and the process is educate, recruit, and target that member of Congress for unrelenting and increasing pressure. How much? As much as we can.
The senseless report from the Iraq Study Group, that had the press and Congress (especially Democrats!) palpitating for the wisdom of bipartisan imperial saviors, did not even consider an immediate, unilateral withdrawal. That is why it was welcomed in such a bipartisan way. The ruling class in this country knows how serious the challenge presented by Iraqi resistance to American global power is.
Our job is to tell first our neighbors, then Congress, that we want to divest ourselves of that power, and reclaim our place in the whole human family.