Balkinization  

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Mission Accomplished, Indeed

JB

From today's Los Angeles Times:
Retaliatory massacres by gunmen and bombers linked to rival Muslim sects have left more than 130 people dead across Iraq over the last two days, the latest casualties of what some politicians now are calling an undeclared civil war.

At least 57 Iraqis were killed Tuesday and scores more injured when a suicide bomber lured a group of day laborers to his minivan with the promise of work before setting off explosives.

The bombing in Kufa rained blood, burnt debris and charred body parts on a small market across the street from the Muslim bin Aqil mosque, the main platform for radical Shiite cleric and militia leader Muqtada Sadr.

Since the beginning of May, attacks by Sunni Arab and Shiite Muslims have claimed the lives of more than 6,000 Iraqi civilians, according to a United Nations study and Iraqi police reports.

The Kufa blast, coming on the heels of mass killings and bombings attributed to Sadr's Al Mahdi militia and its Sunni Arab enemies, brought the battle to the Shiite cleric's doorstep, igniting fears of a fresh wave of reprisal killings.

"The message is clear, and the message confirms the sectarian differences," said Fadhil Sharih, a leader of the Sadr movement. "It seems clear that it's been moving toward the direction of civil war."

U.S. and Iraqi government leaders have argued that the 150,000-strong foreign troop presence has kept the country from descending into full-scale civil war. But many Iraqi officials fear the threshold has been crossed.

"What is happening in Iraq is a disaster and a tragedy," Adnan Dulaimi, a Sunni Arab leader, said in an interview.

"It's bloodshed and killing of the innocents, killing the elderly and women and children. It's mass killings. It's nothing less than an undeclared civil war."


Meanwhile, CNN reports that Iraqi civilians are dying in large numbers:
"More than 14,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq in the first half of this year, an ominous figure reflecting the fact that "killings, kidnappings and torture remain widespread" in the war-torn country, a United Nations report says.

Killings of civilians are on "an upward trend," with more than 5,800 deaths and more than 5,700 injuries reported in May and June alone, it says.

The report, a bimonthly document produced by the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq, covers May and June, and includes chilling casualty figures and ugly anecdotes from the insurgent and sectarian warfare that continues to rage despite the establishment of a national unity government and a security crackdown in Baghdad.

The report lists examples of bloody suicide bombs aimed at mosques, attacks on laborers, the recovery of slain bodies, the assassinations of judges, the killings of prisoners, the targeting of clergy -- all incidents dutifully reported by media over these three-plus years of chaos in the streets."


This was George W. Bush's war of choice. He thought he could make the world better with force of arms, with shock and awe. In May of 2003, he got dressed up in a flight suit and sat on a fighter plane and pretended to be a great war hero. Here is what he said:
Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country.
. . .
In the images of fallen statues, we have witnessed the arrival of a new era. For a hundred years of war, culminating in the nuclear age, military technology was designed and deployed to inflict casualties on an ever-growing scale. In defeating Nazi Germany and imperial Japan, Allied Forces destroyed entire cities, while enemy leaders who started the conflict were safe until the final days. Military power was used to end a regime by breaking a nation. Today, we have the greater power to free a nation by breaking a dangerous and aggressive regime. With new tactics and precision weapons, we can achieve military objectives without directing violence against civilians. No device of man can remove the tragedy from war. Yet it is a great advance when the guilty have far more to fear from war than the innocent.

Not quite.

This is not the first time that misguided leaders believed they could control the chaos of war and make it serve their will. It won't be the last. But one has to shake one's head in amazement and wonder what combination of arrogance, ignorance and hubris led this President to be so confident that he, finally, had mastered the art of destruction, that with the aid of new tactics and new technology the war he started would reach only the guilty and spare the innocent.


Comments:

What precisely is the point of this gloating over corpses? Other than to display what an icky human being you are?
 

Every President I am confident looks with pride on his/her role of Commander in Chief. And perhaps many secretly, or not so secretly, want to be able to actively serve as such. Sometimes the conflict that results in war triggering the Commander in Chief duties is imposed upon the US by aggressive nations attacking the US. Sometimes when the world is basically peaceful, at least as far as major world powers are concerned, a President may be concerned that he/she may not be able to don the Commander in Chief hat during his/her term of office. How can he/she make his/her bones? Why, find a small, weak nation to attack which may be a problem to some in the US, perhaps not militarily but involving a "national interest" (whatever might that be?). There have been quite a few of these variations of "tea cup wars." Perhaps George W and his Administration thought that Iraq would be quick and easy (at least the easiest of the three Axis of Evil nations) and not very costly. But the fat lady has yet to sing after more than 3 years. In the Middle East there is physics-like law that for every action there is a greater reaction, followed by even greater re-reactions, sometimes seemingly endless. We now have for foreign policy purposes the Greater Middle East, which includes the Caucusus and Central Asia, to contend with. Seventy percent of the world's petroleum reserves are located in this region (our "national interest"?). The stakes are high under the US energy policy we have today (if we really have such a policy). Alas, Bush's quick and easy war making his bones in Iraq may have some causal connection to the recent conflicts in the traditional Middle East. Are there more dots to connect?
 

Perhaps GWB thought Iraq would be a quick war because George Sr. was in and out rather quickly. If I recall correctly, however, part of the reason George Sr. was in an out so fast was because nobody wanted to topple the Iraq government and then have to engage in nation-building.

Seriously, who can blame GWB. After all, he is only human, and what son stepping into his father's shoes wouldn't feel the urge to outrun his old man.
 

"The war he started."

"This was George W. Bush's war of choice."

How is the war in Iraq now "George W. Bush's war"?

Is it because the current civil war (as it is often characterized) in Iraq followed from the 2003 invasion?

If that's the case, then why the insistence that this is "George W. Bush's war"? It seems to me that the 2003 invasion followed from the 1991 war.

On the rest: I would think that the counsel to inaction, and the combination of defeatism and cowardice (moral and martial) that leads to confidence in such a course, would also be thoroughly discredited at this late date. Bromides cut both ways, it seems to me.
 

I don't think Bush et al really thought they could control the war to the extent that they could shield the innocent from its effects (though obviously that's their preferred PR spin), I think they just don't care. Iraq is just a blob on the map to them. Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, what's the diff? The world is just a big game of Risk to them and as long as we have the most military might, that's all that matters.
 

I think that conflict in Iraq is often refered to as GWB's war since he's the president, and had a choice of whether or not to invade Iraq.
 

"More than 14,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq in the first half of this year ... with more than 5,800 deaths and more than 5,700 injuries reported in May and June alone."

The population of the U.S. is about 11 times that of Iraq; so if we were suffering chaos-unleashed-by-an-undermanned-occupier at the rate Iraqis are suffering from our indifference, we'd have more than 150,000 Americans killed during the first half of this year ... with more than 60,000 deaths and more than 60,000 injuries in May and June alone. Roughly a thousand deaths and a thousand maimings per day.

Criminal negligence may be hard to define – English law: "such disregard for the life and safety of others as to amount to a crime against the State and conduct deserving punishment;" Blacks: "such a flagrant and reckless disregard of the safety of others, or wilful indifference to the injury liable to follow, as to convert an act otherwise lawful into a crime when it results in personal injury or death" – but surely we know it when we see it. Or we would if we saw it happening to us.
 

The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.
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