Why Iraq Isnt Working
Although our justifications for invading Iraq have continually shifted to better suite our political interests, I will focus on the two most prevalent reasons and completely ignore the original, weapons of mass destruction charge. This leaves the waging of a global war on terror and the dissemination of Democracy throughout the Middle East.
We have heard the President declare that, We will fight them over there so that we will not have to fight them here. As a Military Intelligence Analyst who began researching Al Qaeda prior to the 1998 bombings, I have to ask the question, why Iraq? It is well known that Iraq was the most secular nation in the Middle East and was by far the least likely to harbor or support Wahhabist terrorists. The countries that we know to be sympathetic to Al Qaeda are Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Jordan, Syria, and Iran. Pakistan not only has a history of state-sponsored terrorism but also manufactures nuclear missiles. So despite Saddam being a bad guy, he was a bad guy who has about as much love for Osama Bin Laden as he has for the United States and was about as dangerous prior to the invasion as say Cuba, or perhaps even Jamaica. Is this to say that actual terrorists arent in Iraq? Unfortunately no, following our invasion, Wahhabist clerics and terrorists moved into Iraq in order to fill in the enormous leadership gaps we created in the turmoil of warfare. So after Rumsfeld decided to fire the entire Iraqi army, who incidentally maintain their own firearms, someone moved in to take control of this enormous unemployed gaggle and shape them into Mujahadeen trained insurgents.
The second reason given is a long range vision which was presented to Bill Clinton by the group, Progress for a New American Century and included such members as Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, and Paul Wolfowitz. This vision involved the establishment of a Democratic government in the Middle East which would act as a catalyst to the dissemination of democracy throughout the region. This is a delicate operation which involves setting the example and demonstrating the virtue of Democracy to people who have been ruled by the rod from the beginning of time.
This idea may sound noble; however, we would expect its proponents to understand the complex issues that would need to be addressed. Americas freedom was not brought about by a dozen disgruntled colonists flinging tea into the harbor. It took years of diplomacy, debate, and eventually, an organic desire to fight for our own sovereignty. Bush senior believed that after Saddam was defeated in Desert Storm, the people of Iraq would rise up and overthrow him. This clearly did not happen. It seems a bit optimistic to believe that after the forced removal of Saddam, that they would immediately embrace a democratic system of government which was about as familiar to them as totalitarian regimes are to us.
The greater obstacle is not the efficacy of our approach to either of these objectives; it is the attempt to carry them out simultaneously. It is in the vast contradictions which arise when trying to hunt down and destroy terrorists at the same time that you are attempting to provide an example of the freedom, justice, and virtue of Democracy. It is in this dissonance that we are pushed farther and farther away from our actual, indisputable objective; to decrease terrorism and its effectiveness in the World.
It is hard to demonstrate the justice inherent in a democratic system of government while adopting a policy of unlimited detainment of suspected terrorists and torture via extradition. While we are preaching about freedom to the Iraqi people they are reading headlines which describe searches without warrants, cell-phone surveillance, and automated data-mining operations involving millions of innocent Americans. These two objectives are clearly working against each other, you simply cannot play good cop and bad cop at the same time; we come off as a heavy handed schizophrenic. Both the CIA and the State Department have come forward and acknowledged that our decreasing image in the World has lead to more terrorist activity and a seemingly endless pool of young disenchanted recruits.
We are constantly told that our hope lies in the new Iraqi government and their newly formed Iraqi Army. The government, in their first bout of elections, elected the most religiously fundamental candidates into the Parliament. Many of the Iraqi soldiers interviewed by AP journalists claimed that at least 30% the Army was actually loyal to the fundamentalist clerics and were instructed to join the Army for the free firearms and training. A couple of Iraqi soldiers exposed the T-shirts hidden beneath their military jackets which had the Insurgent leader, Cleric Al-Sadr's face printed on them. They stated that they were simply waiting for the clerics to call them back and issue new orders. Meanwhile, After Abu Musab al-Zarqawis death, it was discovered that his cell-phone contained the numbers of several top officials within the Iraqi government. With the soldiers loyal to the Clerics, and the government communicating with Al-Qaeda, the rosy news from the rose garden just doesn't seem all that reliable. Is it even surprising that the CIA just decommissioned their Bin-Laden task force? The government is further decreasing its efforts to catch the terrorist Mastermind responsible for the September 11, attacks.
The objective of Al-Qaeda was to instill fear into Americans. They have been far more successful than even they thought possible. Over the course of just a few years we have changed our character. We have traded in our freedoms for what was supposed to be increased security. History has taught us that once we give up our individual rights to the government, we will never get them back. It took a corporate port scheme and a hurricane to demonstrate how little we actually received in return. Worst of all, now more than ever we are talking about patriotism, freedom, and Democracy, yet because of fear we have begun to give up rights which once helped define our greatness. At a time when so many are quick to decry that We support our troops! We are quick to receive our petty tax breaks and quickly forget that it is our tax dollars that provide the real support for our troops, not the hollow gesture provided by plastic yellow stickers.