by William O. Beeman
(PNS) -- Suddenly Iraq has exploded in our face, and the White House has no plan to contain the violence. The Bush administration can drone on about Al Qaeda, the world terrorist threat and the holy mission of democratizing Iraq, but the plain truth is that America has failed in Iraq because our officials have failed at grass-roots politics.
The United States has established no social contract with the Iraqi people and thus it has no authority to lead. It is thus no surprise that our troops are fair game on all fronts.
The Bush administration continues to maintain the mythology that those attacking American troops are a monolithic enemy spurred on by "external forces." President Bush announced on April 6, "We're not going to be intimidated by thugs and assassins." But labeling all the attackers with a single set of adjectives hinders the creation of an effective defense, by blurring the lines that separate the attackers. The attackers belong to disparate, unconnected groups whose concerns are local and unaffected by the likes of Osama bin Laden.
Iraq is now a free for all. Different groups are attacking the United States for completely different reasons.
The attacks in the Sunni Arab towns of Ramadi (Ramadiyah) and Falluja bear all the cultural marks of revenge killings that have escalated out of control. The horrific mutilation of the bodies of the American workers on March 31 shows a desire not just to inhibit the United States, but to humiliate it, and to exact payment for deaths that have taken place in the past. As U.S. military forces crack down on the citizenry of the two towns, they kill more people, perpetuating the revenge cycle.
The case of Muqtada al Sadr is more complex. Al Sadr is a young cleric full of rage for the murder of his father and other male relatives in the past. Because he is not a position of international authority, he is freer to operate in a radical manner than older colleagues such as Grand Ayatollah Al Al-Sistani, who is the moral leader of hundreds of thousands of adherents. Moreover, al Sadr is impatient with the older clerics and hungry for leadership.
The United States has attacked al Sadr repeatedly, closing his newspaper, attacking his deputies and finally, engineering an Iraqi judge's accusation of al Sadr's responsibility for the death of another moderate cleric, Abd al-Majid al-Kho‚i, who was murdered last year by a mob after returning from London. Al Sadr thinks he has nothing to lose in attacking the United States, and could unseat the more moderate clerics by implicating them with complicity with America.
Other Shia forces in the south are rebelling as the time for transfer of power to Iraqis approaches. The United States, they see, is doing everything possible to prevent them from assuming power in the nation where they are a majority, especially by handpicking some Iraqis for leadership positions and excluding others.
Still other violent groups, such as those fomenting attacks in Kirkuk, are fighting proto-ethnic wars that have yet to reach their full explosive power. (Kirkuk is a potentially explosive mix of Kurds, Turkmen, Sunni and Shia.) That conflagration will come later, and here again, the United States will have no moral authority or political suasion to contain it.
In order to lead in the Arab world, a social contract is necessary. The United States never tried to establish one. The naïve assumption of Bush officials such as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was that Iraqis would magically bow to American leadership out of gratitude for freeing the country of Saddam Hussein. But in the Arab world, the conqueror, in order to secure loyalty, must actively care for the conquered -- something the United States was unwilling or unable to do. American forces couldn't even talk to the Iraqis -- they had barely any translators, and no Arabic language training. The Iraqi army and police forces were fired, as were most "Baathist" civil servants, thus creating an automatic enmity at crucial nodes of the bureaucracy. Reconstituting those forces now is not an advance -- it is simply a return to zero.
Months of waterless, electricity-less days did little to help win Iraqi hearts and minds, and helped break whatever fragile social bond might have given the United States the social capital it needed to govern.
Having never established ties of loyalty in Iraq, the United States has now lost all hope of maintaining authority. It has tried to rule indirectly through a council of émigré Iraqis, such as Ahmad Chelabi, who have no standing among Iraqi citizens.
It might be possible to re-establish confidence and authority by starting over with a new set of faces. The international community has repeatedly suggested that the United Nations or a conflict resolution group such as the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) be brought in to take over the process. But in an election year, President Bush desperately needs closure and a personal "win" in Iraq.
The administration has been flooding U.S. airwaves with tens of millions of dollars worth of voter-pleasing bromides about American leadership in promulgating Iraqi democracy. Unfortunately, at the same time they are pursuing policies that guarantee that the Iraqis will never respect or follow them.
April 7, 2004 (http://www.albionmonitor.com) All Rights Reserved. Contact email@example.com for permission to use in any format.
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