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Speculating about what happened in Iraq - Regular Voltaire

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October 24th, 2010

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12:11 am - Speculating about what happened in Iraq
So, today wikileaks' tranche of Iraq files gets aired in four papers - NYT, Guardian, Le Monde and Der Spiegel - today. Actually, none of it is actually surprising. We all, by now, have a good idea about how badly the U.S. have done in its handling of the war in Iraq. Civilian deaths and Iranian infiltration are not unknown anymore. The details, however, draw us back to the fact that things have gone terribly badly throughout the course of this unnecessary and probably 'illegal' war (notwithstanding the fact that all wars are illegal by definition).

But how did the U.S. and the rest of us end up with this situation? Wikileaks has not produced the documents showing how the war began. I am not talking about the publicly known part of the debacle. I am talking about the memos, the no-holds-barred discussions - that led to the decision to go to war even after it appeared to be clear that the WMDs no longer existed. Dubya is going to publish his 'memoirs' soon, but I wouldn't count on it revealing this stuff in detail either.

When George W. Bush landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln to declare that major combat operations were over, he was probably following a Plan. This Plan was not revealed to us but we can speculate about its existence, based on everything that has happened since. It goes something like this. The U.S., once it had successfully overthrown Saddam Hussein, would quickly secure law and order and hand it over to a trusted client, who would in turn set up a pro-U.S. regime to take over the country. This government would very likely have been authoritarian, a milder, more compassionate version of the Baathist government of Saddam and his predecessors.

The plan unravelled quickly because the chosen client, Ahmed Chalabi, proved to be unreliable. Once he had established his offices in Baghdad, it became clear that he was a lot more sympathetic to his Shiite religious kin in Iran than had been visible when he was based in America. Once the client was no longer trustworthy, the plan fell apart. The American occupation authority had to build its own network of allies and identify its enemies pretty much on its own. They had not built up the kind of intelligence and psy-ops capabilities that a full-blown, long drawn occupation entailed. That's why they floundered so badly. Furthermore, the reluctance of their leaders (Rumsfeld-Cheney in particular) to admit that they were now fighting a different kind of war than the one they had set out to fight, meant that change in the right direction was stuttering. In the meantime the situation in Iraq deteriorated, refugees were made of millions and the U.S. forces pretty much lost control.

And so, that is how the war became the longest nightmare. For Iraqis and Americans alike, as well as the families of soldiers serving in the 'coalition of the willing' this has been a frightful waste of life, talent and time. An ill-prepared and frustrated occupying military soon found that all they had was an overwhelming superiority in firepower, and little else. That's why they took it out on the little guys. They couldn't figure these people out, the so-called 'ragheads', and so every one person that they saw was threatening - even the women and children. In these conditions of panic, U.S. soldiers lashed out at these almost non-humans whom they had the power of life and death over. We should lament the loss - the unnecessary loss - of human life arising from the war. But we should reflect upon why the war came to be. We must seek the real reasons for this war, and why it has ended up lasting so long.

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