Two Trillion Dollars Later, In Iraq The Inevitable (Surprising So Many) Will Now Happen
Why "inevitable"? Because of Islam. Islam creates a mental universe in which violence and aggression are natural, and ini which the spirit of compromise is unheard-of, save as a temporary trick to deceive an enemy. The attitudes that Islam inculcates, the messages that Islam sends out to its adherents, include the following:
Uncompromising war without end against Infidels, until they finally submit.
War as aggression and violence, that is war as qitaal, may also be supplemented by other instruments of Jihad.
War is deception.
Now if there are no Infidels to fight, but there are other enemies -- in Iraq, the main enemy of the Sunni Arabs is, at present, the Shi'a Arabs, and the main enemy of the Shi'a Arabs is, at present, the Sunni Arabs. That enmity had temporarily been held in check by fantastic, and fantastically expensive, American efforts. Those efforts were akin to Colonel Bogey's manic building of that bridge over the River Kwai. In building that bridge, Colonel Bogey (played by Alec Guinness) forgets that he is building it for the Japanese, and the Japanese are his enemy, and if he is successful in building that bridge, the Japanese enemy will be better off.
Similarly, the American officers and men who were given certain tasks in Iraq -- to dampen the Sunni insurgency, which meant to dampen the Sunni attacks, spearheaded by, but not limited to, Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, against the Shi'a, and to persude the Shi'a-dominated government to offer assorted olive branches to the Sunnis who were feeling dispossessed. It all made sense to those officers and men, or rather, they did not allow themselves the luxury of thinking things through, so busy were they, like Colonel Bogey and his men with their bridge-building, of figuring out who would benefit if they succeeded, and who would not. For the Americans thought they might manage to create in the Sunnis a spirit of compromise, of an intelligent recognition that they could no longer expect, without the enforcer of a Sunni despotism, Saddam Hussein, to any longer rule over the Shi'a Arabs and the Kurds as they once had. And they also thought that they might manage to create, in the Shi'a leaders, and in the Shi'a masses, a spirit of intelligent compromise, of a willingness to share power in a way that made sense with the Sunni Arabs.
The Americans did not factor in, did not understand, the effect of Islam. For Islam, with the figure of Muhammad who was an uncompromising warrior, inured to violence and preaching violence toward the Unbeliever, helps to promote an interest in violence and aggression. It is not possible to grow up as a Muslim, in a society suffused with Islam, and to come away with ideas and attitudes that are more fitting for a member of a New England town-meeting. The messianic sentimentalism of the Bush Administration, where it was thought that "freedom" could simply be brought to "ordinary moms and dads" in the Middle East, though the idea of "freedom" if it is to be more than mere head-counting, requires, over the centuries, the slow development of other ideas -- about the importance, and the rights of the individual, and about minimal guarantees for minorities against the tyranny of the majority, and about limits on power, and the responsiblities of the citizen to educate himself, and to exercise his powers, as a free citizen, with prudence and, ideally, with some mental preparation. What, in all of this, corresponds to, finds an analogue in, the collectivism of Islam, and the view of the individual adherent not as a thinker but as merely a "slave of Allah" who must, unquestioningly, follow the rules as to what, according to the Shari'a, is Prohibited, and what is Commanded.
And while, in the advanced Western democracies, political legitimacy of a government is located, through the development of Social Contract theory (Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau), in the idea that a government should reflect the will expressed, however imperfectly, by the people in the political process. In Islam, however, quite a different idea prevails. In Islam, a government's legitimacy depends only on whether the Ruler is or is seen as a good Muslim. In Islam, it is not the will expressed by the people, but the expression of his will by Allah, in the Qur'an, as glossed by the Sunnah (which the Hadith and the Sira preserve in written form). So the Americans will leave, and Iraq will become what it will become, despite them, and despite the squandered two trillion dollars, and then the Americans will have to decide whether they should desire the Shi'a-Sunni fight within Iraq to have spillover effects elsewhere that should be regarded with indifference, or perhaps pleasure, or should be regarded as worrisome, and to be discouraged, damped down, in every way.
Here's the latest from a reporter Ned Parker, in Baghdad:
'There will be a war in Baghdad,' warns a leader. Insurgents are bitter about the lack of progress since laying down their arms. Their demands have been unmet, they say, and now the U.S. is leaving.
By Ned Parker. May 24, 2009
Reporting from Baghdad — Baghdad will burn, the resistance leader warns.
"If we hear from the Americans they are not capable of supporting us . . . within six hours we are going to establish our groups to fight against the corrupt government," says the commander, a portly man with gold rings and lemon-colored robes who, perhaps understandably, spoke on condition of anonymity. "There will be a war in Baghdad."
The commander and another insurgent leader interviewed for this story belong to the secret world of Sunni tribesmen and old military officers who laid down their arms and helped bring relative peace to Iraq in the last two years. They decided to try to fight the Shiite religious parties in control of the government through political channels instead -- but they never renounced the insurgency.
Now the dormant insurgent groups, with men, weapons and networks intact, are approaching their moment of truth. If their efforts to enter the mainstream fail, it appears almost inevitable that they will take up arms again, either after national elections early next year or sooner.
With U.S. forces preparing to withdraw from Iraqi cities next month, insurgent groups see no sign of progress on their demands for the Americans to guarantee their entry into the political system and protect them from the parties in power.
As the insurgents watched and waited, they saw the Shiite-led government continue to jail their fighters, despite their decision to hold their fire. Likewise, they noticed the inability, or unwillingness, of U.S. troops to stop a crackdown against leaders of the Awakening movement, their Sunni brethren who left the insurgency for formal partnerships with the Americans.
The disenchantment of the Sunnis also could have implications for Afghanistan, where the U.S. military hopes to reproduce the success of the Iraq "surge" by reaching out to moderate Taliban elements. The fate of the Awakening movement and the inactive insurgent groups could cause Taliban fighters to think twice before embarking on a similar path.
"Perceptions can be hard to predict, but in principle it could reduce Taliban willingness to realign with us in Afghanistan if we fail to protect our friends in Iraq," said Stephen Biddle, a defense expert at the Council on Foreign Relations who served as an advisor to the U.S. military in Iraq during the 2007 troop buildup.
In the end, the distrust between the Shiites and Sunnis involved may be too strong to overcome. The Iraqi government views the armed groups as a Trojan horse for Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to return to power and are adamant about blocking a creeping coup from inside Baghdad's government. For their part, the insurgent leaders see a government that is a proxy for neighboring Shiite-led Iran.
A U.S. military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, says military and U.S. Embassy personnel are frustrated by their inability to reconcile the government and armed groups. They worry it's only a matter of time before insurgent factions renew their armed uprising.
"When they finally realize America is an impotent force, or acting like one, are they going to give up and say it's useless and return to armed conflict to topple the government?" the official asked. "Are they going to take up arms against the coalition as well?"
Contacts between armed groups and the Americans have revolved around insurgent commanders' demands for protection from arrests and harassment by the Iraqi government, the restoration of military officers to their old jobs and help in entering politics. The Americans have not given any firm answers to their demands.
Squished in a tiny chair, the Sunni commander, who has as many as 12,000 fighters at his disposal, speaks bluntly about what will happen if the Americans can't deliver.
"Our last option is to go back to resistance, to fighting. We gave our word to the coalition forces, but this is our last option," says the former military intelligence general, who led fighters in Salahuddin province north of Baghdad after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
He says that all options will be on the table as the Americans draw down. He makes it clear that because of the U.S. military, his group is hoping for a peaceful resolution, but that that could quickly change.
"If the Americans leave Baghdad in 24 hours, the street belongs to the resistance and the people. The people are boiling. They understand now the government is representative of Iran," he says.
The insurgent commander, who heads a group called the Iraqi Liberation Army, describes stopping his war against the Americans at the end of 2007. He had already turned his guns on the group Al Qaeda in Iraq that year.
After being wounded in battle, he was picked up by U.S. forces and treated on one of their bases. They didn't realize he was on their wanted list. Soon after his release, a series of talks were brokered with the Americans and a truce was struck.
"Our deal was to be friends, not enemies. I believe if we put our hands with those people, it is better than the religious parties. They are human beings. We trust them," the commander says.
"We gave orders to stop violence against the U.S. forces. We started negotiations with them."
But the commander complains that as his alliance with the Americans emerged, Shiite religious parties in the government started trying to arrest him.
The commander gestures to the man sitting next to him as his link to the U.S. military. Abu Fatma, a slight figure in a gray suit and glasses, belongs to an armed group in the north, estimated to have 2,000 to 5,000 fighters.
Abu Fatma says he helped to persuade armed groups to put down their weapons in late 2007 and early 2008 and created a loose political association that the Iraqi Liberation Army and other groups are backing.
But the truce and formation of their party have brought little tangible benefit, he says. He notes "the betrayal of the Awakening" and talks about the wariness of some resistance leaders to rally behind the truce and endorse elections.
"In fact, some groups have met with us to come under our banner to stop fighting. They ask us, 'What did the Americans do [for us]?' This question has become the most embarrassing question I hear.
"I can get around questions about politics and religions except this one. . . . I'm stumped and embarrassed. I don't have an answer," Abu Fatma says.
"I say, 'Don't lay down your weapons,' because otherwise I would be dishonest to them. I've told Americans, 'If you keep alienating the people, all the Iraqis will fight them, even the government.' "