Let's Admit U.S. Won in Iraq
By Staff News & Analysis - February 02, 2010

What Obama can't bring himself to say — we won in Iraq … President Obama (pictured left) says he is "not interested in re-litigating the past." Well, I am — at least to this extent: Would it have been too much for the president of the United States to have acknowledged and paid tribute to a truly remarkable recent American achievement — turning around the war in Iraq and putting that war on course to a successful outcome? Here's what Obama did say about Iraq: As we take the fight to al Qaeda, we are responsibly leaving Iraq to its people. As a candidate, I promised that I would end this war, and that is what I am doing as president. We will have all of our combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this August. We will support the Iraqi government as they hold elections, and continue to partner with the Iraqi people to promote regional peace and prosperity. But make no mistake: this war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home. That's it: "This war is ending." But it's ending in a certain way — with success. It could have ended with failure. Success rather than failure in Iraq has made a big difference elsewhere in the Middle East — including in Iran. Of course Obama didn't allude to the possibility — let alone embrace the prospect — of regime change in Iran. But that possibility exists, and it exists in part because of the relative success of freedom and democracy in Shia-governed Iraq next door. – Washington Post (William Kristol)

Dominant Social Theme: The West is best, even if we're too modest to admit it.

Free-Market Analysis: Even as we are writing this article, analysis comes word from RTTNews, among other sources, that "at least 41 people were killed and over 100 injured when a woman suicide-bomber detonated her explosives during a religious rally in north-east Baghdad Monday." William Kristol may believe that the West has "won" the war in Iraq, but we wonder just how definitive such statements can be. The violence seems to remain in Iraq, and who is to say it will not increase once more over time.

Here at the Bell, we don't feel especially victorious. Maybe Kristol does, as he is the editor of a famous conservative news magazine that has been pro-war virtually since its inception. But we even wonder how many Americans feel like big winners as they struggle with the US$1 trillion price tag of the war amidst job losses, higher taxes and looming inflation. Maybe American allies feel victorious, but we wonder if that includes American allies within Iraq who face the same weary prospects of a tripartite state (Kurds, Shias and Sunnis) once American troops definitively depart (to the extent they do).

The real nub of Kristol's argument would seem to be that having pacified Iraq, America now has a platform from which it can confront Iran more forcefully. Thus we see that the victory in Iraq is mostly the prelude to another war. How is it, again, that American has won? We're trying to understand. Is it because America is now in a better place to fight future Mideast wars? Or perhaps America has managed to bring "democracy" to Iraq – though Americans themselves don't seem very happy with their own democracy right now.

One thing seems certain. The Iraq people may not be as grateful for their liberation as some would expect. While the Shias may be thankful for being liberated from the Sunnis, the Shias are naturally aligned with Persian Iran – and America and the West are lining up solidly against Iran even now. The Sunnis having been deposed from power are probably somewhat resentful of the war's outcome.

Perhaps the Kurds are the most likely to be grateful for Western intervention in Iraq – but the Kurds have a long history of mistrust with the West, especially with the United States, and it's somewhat doubtful that the war itself allayed this mistrust. In fact, the Iraq war has brought ongoing misery and long-term ramifications of suffering – over 500,000 civilian casualties and a poisoned land. Here's a recent news item about a lawsuit being leveled against both Britain and the US by Iraq authorities:

Iraq's Ministry for Human Rights will file a lawsuit against Britain and the US over their use of depleted uranium bombs in Iraq, an Iraqi minister says. Iraq's Minister of Human Rights, Wijdan Mikhail Salim, told Assabah newspaper that the lawsuit will be launched based on reports from the Iraqi ministries of science and the environment. According to the reports, during the first year of the US and British invasion of Iraq, both countries had repeatedly used bombs containing depleted uranium. According to Iraqi military experts, the US and Britain bombed the country with nearly 2,000 tonnes of depleted uranium bombs during the early years of the Iraq war. Atomic radiation has increased the number of babies born with defects in the southern provinces of Iraq. Iraqi doctors say they have been struggling to cope with the rise in the number of cancer cases -especially in cities subjected to heavy US and British bombardment. The high rate of birth defects and cancer cases will move in the coming years to the central and northern provinces of Iraq since the radiation may penetrate the soil and water by air. The ministry will seek compensation for the victims of these bombs. ( – Press TV)

So we ask again, where is the victory that Kristol speaks of? The Shias, Sunnis and even the Kurds are probably not apt to be overly grateful for what has taken place. Deposing Hussein and his totalitarian ways is no doubt a net plus for the region, but the suffering and misery that the war has left in its wake makes the equation a good deal less clear.

Perhaps victory can be seen in the ability for the US to directly pressure Iran from Iraq. But since the US is leaving Iraq – and the Iraq government is a forceful proponent of US leave-taking, we wonder how valuable an ally Iraq will prove to be. Perhaps the victory in Iraq lies in the eradication of Al Qaeda in that country. But if you are of the Bell's persuasion, you don't think that Al Qeada was much of a factor in Iraq to begin with and that the war really had little or no effect on the ability of radical Islam – whatever that is – to propagate itself or take root elsewhere.

The victory that Kristol writes of seems elusive to us. In fact, from what we can tell, war usually doesn't bring real change to a region unless it is a war of endless occupation or definitive eradication. If you wipe out the population, you have surely effectuated change. If you fully occupy a territory and commence making cultural changes, you are doing much the same thing. But the West doesn't operate this way with its wars. It tends to fight and then leave – leaving behind a military structure amidst a society that will find its own way post-war.

We think this will happen in Iraq as well. The country may continue to stagger forward as one entity, or it may split into its logical three pieces. There will likely be no great affection left behind for the West or America and the tangible result of eight year's of fighting may be the gigantic military and diplomatic base that the US has constructed in that bleeding country. Kristol may wish to define this as victory, but it begins to sound more like a declaration than a reality. In fact, there are almost 200 responses to Kristol's tiny article in the Washington Post (as of this writing) and very few of them are supportive of his comments.

After Thoughts

The victory that Kristol writes of seems to us elusive. It will likely prove so in Afghanistan as well where American troops are building now for another "surge." Meanwhile, American and the British citizens are increasingly indicating that they are fed up with "endless war for endless peace." Thus the result of the victory that Kristol claims may actually be a considerable anti-war backlash and an inability of the Anglo-American political and military elite to pursue yet more open-ended military actions worldwide. Could this be seen as a victory as well?

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