Recent Washington Post article talks about how some unidentified Iraqis are saying that they are going to suffer if the United States leaves soon. These Iraqis are saying that there will be a lot of killings by the various militias running around the country once the US leaves. No doubt they are right on that. Unstated but obvious message of the WP article is that therefore we the US must continue our war efforts there at least for the reasonably forseeable future and therefore things, if not fine, are at least the least bad of all the possible alternatives. Which dishonest message, is of course to be expected from a newspaper that shamelessly shilled for the war in the first place.
Good story from recent history, French, the Algerian War. France fought a Moslem insurrection from 1954-1962 there. Messy, ugly, bloody, manysided war that the French army fought quite capably, particularly when DeGaulle came to power and put an Air Force general in charge of things there. France had a lot of advantages in their war we don’t have, and never will have, in Iraq–smaller number of enemy combattants, lots (a good percentage, like 20% or so) of the Moslem population on its side, good intelligence, a half-million men in the field, a million white natives who were completely on their side. France had pretty much crushed the insurrection militarily in ’59-60, but DeGaulle was not fooled by appearances. DeGaulle realized that the military success on the battlefield was not going to ever yield what the white Algerian settlers, and their French mainland supporters wanted–an Algeria that was an integral assimilated part of France. DeGaulle realized that retaining Algeria meant an endless war, in varying degrees of intensity, with an endless drain on the French treasury that far exceeded Algeria’s value, and eternal enmity of France by the Moslem and ex-colonial world as long as the war lasted. In what is undoubtedly the bravest and most correct piece of political decisionmaking in the 20th century* DeGaulle decided to quit Algeria, and turn it over to the rebels on the best terms he could get from them on short notice. DeGaulle saw that the future of France demanded its immediate departure from Algeria, that its war goals, a French Algeria, were unattainable, and that continuing the war was futile, inutil. For a better tomorrow for France, France had to accept the loss of Algeria, and accept the fact that all its losses and expenses and efforts in the war had been in vain.
DeGaulle also saw clearly that there would be much hurt and sorrow in France’s departure. A million white colonists would have to leave their Algeria sooner than later back to a France most of them had never been a part of. The Moslem Algerians who had trusted France and French promises would have to either leave their homeland for a France that didn’t want them, or live in Algeria under the control of their mortal enemies, the FLN rebels, who were never known to be hesitant with gun or knife. One Moslem chieftain appealed personally to DeGaulle in 1960, when DeGaulle was visiting Algeria, and beseeched him about how bad the prospects were for his people if the FLN were to take power, about how his people would suffer. DeGaulle listened, and dismissed the man after coldly telling him: “Eh bien, vous souffririez”. Well then, you are going to suffer.
And no doubt they did, in spades. There was a big settling of accounts in Algeria after the war, with tens of thousands of killings, one that was largely ignored by the world and unremarked upon by history. Algeria went off to its own future, as did France.
Articles like this WP article are, in the final analysis of affairs of state, just so much damned eyewash. The United States has failed in its war goals, whatever they were–mostly (following the money) the establishment of a client state Iraq that would allow us unlimited military basing privileges to allow us to exercise political control in that key region by implicit or otherwise threat from our military machine. And allow us to run the world’s oil markets, not OPEC. Not an admirable goal**, in my eyes a base and vile one, but whatever you think of it as a war goal it doesn’t matter today. We cannot achieve it. Any talk now of our concern for the suffering of the Iraqi people, particularly in the context of it being reason for us to continue what we are doing there is so much damned dishonest rationalization for our foolishly continuing the war, and our cowardly unwillingness to admit our failure.
The Iraqis, like the Algerians, are going to have to solve their own problems themselves. Our continuing in the war gives us the exact same problems France had–an endless nagging war, a dreadful and pointless drain on the US treasury, the eternal enmity of the entire Third World, domestic political turmoil. Our military is not, and will never be, the appropriate tool for assisting the Iraqi people now or ever in the future. It is utterly risible the idea that a bunch of heavily armed triggerhappy American 20-year olds driving around in armored vehicles, getting out only to kick down the local’s doors, and toss their houses’ contents, and humiliate the occupants is either an effective counterinsurgency strategy or something the Iraqis like and appreciate our doing to them. The only idea more risible is that the United States has any concern for the health and wellbeing of the Iraqi people, or has ever had such concern, and that our actions there are in any way motivated by said humanitarian concern.***
The problems in Iraq are severe and many and for their solution and their solution alone. We must leave them to them. Et eh bien, ils souffrirent.
*Except, perhaps, for DeGaulle’s assuming the mantle of France, and deciding to continue the fight against the Nazis in 1940.
**The boundless dishonesty of the stated war rationalizations proffered by Bush and Blair make it that much harder to discuss the war’s real objectives and whether or not we are achieving them. The ahistorical fatuous credulity of the newsmedia in reporting the each new different war objective de novo doesn’t help, either.
***Unless you want to count our encouragement, assistance, financial underwriting ($100 billion in eximbank loans) and gameplaying with the Iranians in the Iran/Iraq war as humanitarian concern. 500,000 Iraqis killed in that episode. (FYI Iraq’s population was about 20 million then) Or our killing an equivalent number of children and elderly and physically sick Iraqis with the post-Gulf War I sanctions. Oh, and the 100,000 or so Iraqis we killed in that little episode, All Iraqis know these facts (even if most Americans don’t).