In Iraq the Cost & Reversal of Blunder

Having spilled milk accidentally how do you put it back in the container? You frantically rescue some back into the container, i.e. if you get into recovery mode fast enough. Otherwise you attempt to sponge it, clean it and that’s the end of the milk; minimal recovery possible from this simple accident which caused a simple item spill. Yet what is lost is replaceable. Then there are blunders as opposed to accidents. They are intentional. They cause ‘multiple spills’ involving people, processes, structures, faith and environment. Indeed they impact upon the entire human spectrum. See Washington’s blunder at work in Iraq. To its credit the March 2003 illegal invasion by the United Sates, has Iraq’s unending killing fields. According to the recently updated survey conducted by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, almost 654,965 Iraqis may have died since hostilities began in Iraq in March 2003 than would have been expected under pre-war conditions. According to VOA in November alone, 1800 Iraqi civilians were killed; a 40 percent increase from October. According to a recent United Nations report sectarian violence is the main cause of the deaths.

In the US the critique of this blunder foretold is now in abundance. Many books on the Iraq disaster detail the wrong military, political and diplomatic moves by Washington in Iraq. Much of the critique covers Washington’s dishonest allegations against Saddam regime possessing WMDs, Bremer’s post-invasion de-Bathification policy and Secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld’s military strategy. These critiques have been prompted by a military defeat that the American nation is confronted with. They know the US policy has helped to destroy but not rebuild Iraq; even the destruction of the threat is not complete. Multiple threats now confront the Iraqi people, regional peace and even the United States own interests.

After the removal of Iraq’s brutal dictator Saddam much of Iraq is reduced to killing fields. And this indeed is all-encompassing catastrophic fallout of the US’s illegal invasion of Iraq. The invasion has created an enabling environment for the surfacing of divisive and destructive tendencies within different ethnic and sectarian groups within Iraq. The invasion has prompted Iraqi nationals to take up arms against the occupiers. The invasion has been like the fertilizer for that has made the Iraqi soil conducive for various kinds of violence; of sub-national, national and international orientation.

It is the subversion and the destruction of Iraq’s existing context that has wreaked endless havoc in Iraq. It is that destruction by a violent, illegitimate and foreign force that is the principal cause of the violence in Iraq. Looking for answers in the history or the caste color or creed of the Iraqis is indeed bogus scholarship. Every society has seeds of violence embedded in it…they lurk just beneath the frameworks that manage the collective existence of nations. Some do a far better job of management than others. But ultimately all the management is often geared towards managing historic, religious, tribal, gender and class diversities. Once the management structure disappears mayhem is let loose. As in Yugoslavia, in Afghanistan..

In Washington there is palpable concern over Iraq. The Democratic win generated its own pressure against the war. The U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice admitted that the United States has made mistakes in the Iraq war. On December 1 she told Al-Arabiya television that "As to whether the United States has made mistakes: of course, I’m sure we have." But Rice insists it’s the liberation of Iraq project that the US is advancing. Robert Gates, George Bush’s new nominee for the Secretary of Defense slot has been candid about Washington not winning the Iraq war. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley has said President George Bush is likely to begin making changes in Iraq policy in "weeks rather than months." On the policy table, not-so-new but high profile recommendations, are again being placed. The focus is on cutting the losses, stopping the carnage yet without losing face. The bipartisan Baker report has acknowledged Bush’s policy ahs not worked. It has recommended gradual troop withdrawal and shifting forces from combat to support operations.

In a November 26 Washington Post editorial piece Nebraska U-S Senator Chuck Hagel urged a plan for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq saying it’s not too late to extricate itself honorably. Hagel wrote "We have misunderstood, misread, misplanned and mismanaged our honorable intentions in Iraq with an arrogant self-delusion reminiscent of Vietnam." The fate of Iraq, Hagel wrote, lies in the hands of the 25 million Iraqis who live there. Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, the number two Senate Democrat, called Iraq the worst U-S foreign policy decision since Vietnam. Durbin says Democrats do not have a quick answer, and that any solution must be bipartisan.

Voices from beyond the USA are also critiquing the war with renewed energy. UN’s outgoing Secretary General Kofi Annan, when asked in his most recent BBC interview to comment on Iraqis saying that that they are worse off now than under Saddam, he said "I think they are right in the sense of the average Iraqi’s life. If I were an average Iraqi obviously I would make the same comparison, that they had a dictator who was brutal but they had their streets, they could go out, their kids could go to school and come back home without a mother or father worrying, "Am I going to see my child again?" And the Iraqi government has not been able to bring the violence under control. The society needs security and a secure environment for it to get on –” without security not much can be done – not recovery or reconstruction.."

Former US President Jimmy Carter is calling for an international conference of the United States, European nations, the countries surrounding Iraq and others to discuss the current situation. Rising above the old bilateral grievances Carter is also seeking to engage Syria and Iran in determining Iraq’s future.

Moscow too is calling for the United Nations to convene an international conference on Iraq. Russia on Thursday called for an international conference on Iraq, possibly organized by the United Nations, to examine the war-torn country’s economic, political and security problems. President Vladimir Putin’s representative for international cooperation against terrorism Anatoli Safonov has been quoted as saying that the "The situation is getting worse in Iraq…terrifying figures about casualties among the civilian population and all forces deployed there are coming in every day." Safanov insists "we would need a conference, maybe within the UN framework, that is to say a large forum to discuss Iraq’s problems."

Reversing the Iraq blunder will not be easy for the United States. Yet there is a way to limit the damage. The regional countries including Iran and Syria must be involved in arresting the violence inside Iraq. That the only way forward. The internal and external dynamics overlap and create the present havoc within Iraq. Reorienting the external and internal dynamics alone will undo the destructive dynamic. Washington needs to facilitate this process of reorientation. Not only for the sake of the people of Iraq but for regional and global peace as well.