I won't take it any more
Why we can't win in Iraq - part 1
 - Why we can't win in Iraq - part 1 - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp


You've heard Bush's exhortations to "Stay the course" in Iraq, saying that any opponent to his "plans" wants to "cut and run," and "surrender to the terrorists," while he wants to "succeed in this mission," and "finish the job," promising an eventual "victory." In addition, if we were to leave now, "the terrorists would follow us home."

Before I discuss victory in Iraq, I'd like to tell about some of the wars I've been around to see.

World War II. Very serious. We were attacked (probably that last time that's happened), and responded by declaring war on Japan and Germany (This is the last time we formally declared war). In the end, Japan and Germany surrendered, we occupied each country briefly, until it stabilized, then left. War crimes trials were held at Nuremberg.

Korean War. North Korea attacked South Korea, our ally. The US, as part of the UN came to their defense. The war ended in a truce, with the new boundary along the DMZ.

Vietnam War. The US was slowly sucked into this escalating war against the North Vietnamese army, which began after the French abandoned their colonial interests, and lasted through four American presidencies. In the end, the US left without a victory and South Vietnam was absorbed into North Vietnam.

The attack on Panama and the first Gulf War. These are creations of the first Bush presidency. In the attack on Panama, the US invaded Panama and kidnapped its president and brought him here. In the first Gulf War, the causes of which are still under dispute, a coalition of thirty-five countries chased the Iraqi army out of Kuwait, after a prolonged bombing campaign which destroyed much of Iraq's infrastructure, which was followed by the imposing of sanctions against Iraq. There were "victory" parades in a number of American cities.

Which brings us to the present. The US, under GW Bush has attacked both Afghanistan and Iraq. Afghanistan was attacked because they were "harboring terrorists" including Osama bin Laden and the leadership of Al-Qaeda. No terrorists were apprehended and Afghanistan is now the world's number one supplier of heroin.

Bush attacked Iraq ostensibly to disarm them and remove the threat of them attacking us. Bush said that Iraq had huge amounts of Weapons of Mass Destruction and was preparing to use them against us. Saddam Hussein, president of Iraq, said that there were no weapons, and there was no threat. One of them was lying, and the other is now dead. (If there's a lesson here about always telling the truth, it's lost on me.)

But since then, we've learned that there is an ever-expanding list of reasons (too long for this brief post) for Bush's invasion of Iraq.

So let's talk about victory, about winning the "war" in Iraq. What would winning look like? How will we know when we've won?

In all of the conflicts before these, we've fought against a well-defined enemy. We knew who they were, and we could recognize them on sight because the wore some sort of uniform. They had an organized military, including a chain of command, supply lines, lots of weapons, including such things as airplanes, ships, tanks, artillery, and were part of an organized group, such as a particular state or country. It was possible for a representative to surrender to us.

No such luck in Iraq. The Iraqi army was quickly defeated. They had uniforms. The guys we're fighting now are not a single, well-defined army. They don't wear uniforms, and they don't have any of the gear (tanks, planes, etc.) that traditional armies have. Bush has labeled them as "terrorists" and "insurgents." But who are we really fighting in Iraq?

To find out, let's take a look at America's first armed conflict - our own Revolutionary War. At the time, America was a bunch of colonies, occupied by a foreign army, at the command of a King named George. After the unfair taxes, an imposed government, and other things that made life tough, the Americans banded together and revolted against King George. They formed a ragtag army and, with very little in in the way of armament, defeated the superior forces (including King George's mercenaries). King George surrendered, and his troops left.

Hmmm... Sounds familiar, except that in this case we're the occupying army, and the guy in charge is named George. The "insurgents" that we're fighting are citizen soldiers of Iraq. Although some are probably former members of the Iraqi army, I'll bet that most of the are ordinary folks who, before we invaded, led ordinary lives. But now they've become citizen soldiers, fighting against an occupying army. Think of what you would do in their place, if a foreign army invaded your country.

The Bush administration has labeled this enemy as "terrorists," "religious extremists," and "Islam-fascists." None of these labels is particularly helpful and, in fact, tends to muddy the waters in leading to an understanding of what's really happening in Iraq. It turns out that there are a number of different groups opposing our occupation, each with its own goals, but with the shared goal of getting us to leave.

So what would victory in Iraq look like? Who would surrender to who? Would there be peace talks? The goal of eliminating the insurgency seems farfetched, as it would necessitate killing off a good portion of the Iraqi population. Not a good option as you would be killing the very people you just liberated. The end result is this: If you can't define what winning looks like, how will you know when you've won?

America hasn't won a decisive victory since World War II. Perhaps it's time for some enterprising journalist to ask the Bush administration what form victory in Iraq would take.

Hidden away in one of Bush's budgets is $20 million dollars for victory celebration after the end of the Iraq war. Someone should ask Bush if that money can be used for veteran's health care instead.

Today's questions:

1. If the terrorists will "follow us home," how will they get here?

2. Assuming they will follow us home if we leave, will it be because they're upset with us for leaving?

3. How does Bush know this for a fact?

4. Why haven't the members of the press corps asked Bush any of these questions?
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