Ten myths about Iraq that make everything worse (like trusting our Asshole-in-Chief Bush to solve anything)
1. Ten Fallacies About the Violence in Iraq
The distortions about the violence in Iraq persist even as the mayhem increases. Here are ten of the worst myths being spread in the media.
By John Tirman/AlterNet
The escalating violence in Iraq's civil war is now earning considerable attention as we pass yet another milestone -- U.S. occupation there, in two weeks, will exceed the length of the Second World War for America. While the news media have finally started to grapple with the colossal amount of killing, a number of misunderstandings persist. Some are willful deceptions. Let's look at a few of them:
1. The U.S. is a buffer against more violence. This is perhaps the most resilient conjecture that has no basis in fact.
Iraqis themselves do not believe it. In a State Department poll published in September, huge majorities say the U.S. is directly responsible for the violence. The upsurge of bloodshed in Baghdad seems to confirm the Iraqis' view, at least by inference. The much-publicized U.S. effort to bring troops to Baghdad to quell sectarian killing has accompanied a period of increased mortality in the city.
2. The killers do it to influence U.S. politics. This was the mantra of right-wing bloggers and cable blowhards like Bill O'Reilly, who asserted time and again before November 7 that the violence was a "Tet offensive" designed to tarnish Bush and convince Americans to vote for Democrats. This is American solipsism, at which the right wing excels. If anything, the violence has grown since November 7.
English-language sources have more than 1,000 dead since the Bush rejection at the polls. Bill, are the Iraqi fighters now aiming at the Iowa caucuses in '08?
3. The "Lancet" numbers are bogus. Since the only scientific survey of deaths in Iraq was published in The Lancet in early October, the discourse on Iraqi casualties has changed. But many in media and policy circles are still in denial about the scale of mayhem.
Anthony Cordesman, Fred Kaplan, and Michael O'Hanlon, among many others, fail to understand the method of the survey -- widely used and praised by leading epidemiologists -- which concluded that between 400,000 and 700,000 Iraqis have died in the conflict. One knowledegable commentator describes the Lancet survey as "flypaper for innumerates," and the deniers indeed look foolishly innumerate when they state that there was "no way" there could be more than 65,000 or 100,000 deaths. As soon as that bit of ignorance rolled off their lips, the Iraq Health Ministry admitted to 150,000 civilians killed by Sunni insurgents alone, which would be in the Lancet ballpark. Much other evidence suggests the Lancet numbers are about right. (See "The Human cost of the War in Iraq" here ; fyi, I commissioned the study. More on this another time.)
4. Syria and Iran are behind the violence. There is no compelling reason why the two neighbors would foment large-scale violence that could spill over to threaten their regimes. Iran is in the driver's seat -- as everyone not blinded by neo-con fantasies knew in advance -- with its Shia cousins in power; Syria has its own regime stability problems and does not need the large influx of refugees or potential jihadis. That both are happy to make life hard for the U.S. is not a secret (call it their Monroe Doctrine). But are they organizing the extreme and destabilizing violence we've seen this year? Doubtful. And, there's very little evidence to support this piece of blame-someone-else.
5. The "Go Big" strategy of the Pentagon could work. The Pentagon apparently is about to forward three options to Bush for a retreat: "Go Big," meaning more troops for a short time, "Go Long," a gradual withdrawal while training Iraqis, and "Go Home," acknowledging defeat and getting out. Go Big is what McCain and Zinni and others are proposing, as if adding 20,000 or 30,000 troops will do the trick. The argument about more troops, which speaks also to the " incompetence dodge " (i.e., that the war wasn't wrong, just badly managed), has one problem: no one can convincing prove that modest increments in troop strength will change the security situation in Iraq (see #1 above). One would need 300,000 or more troops to have a chance of pacifying Iraq, and that is neither politically feasible or logistically possible, and is therefore a nonstarter. So is "Go Big."
6. Foreign fighters, especially jihadis, are fueling the violence. This was largely discredited but is making a comeback as Washington's search for scapegoats intensifies. By most estimates, including the Pentagon's, foreign fighters make up a small fraction of violent actors in Iraq -- perhaps 10 percent overall. (This is based on identifying people arrested as fighters.) Some of the more spectacular attacks have been carried out by al Qaeda or its imitators, but overall the violence is due to three forces: U.S. military, Iraqi Sunni Arab insurgents, and Shia militia, with minor parts played by Kurdish peshmerga in Kirkuk and the foreign bad boys.
7. If we do not defeat the violent actors there, they will follow us here. This is now the sole remaining justification for U.S. involvement in the war. If the numbers about foreign fighters are correct, then it is plainly wrong. The main anatgonists are Iraqis, and they will remain there to fight it out for many years. That does not mean we have not created many "terrorists" who would do us harm, as U.S. intelligence agencies assert, but killing them in Iraq is not a plausible option. It's too difficult; aggressive counterinsurgency creates more fighters the longer we stay and harder we try; and they might not be there.
8. The violence is about Sunni-Shia mutual loathing; a pox on both their houses. This is the emerging "moral clarity" of the right wing, that we gave it our best, we handed the tools of freedom to Iraqis, and they'd rather kill each other. That there was longstanding antagonism, stemming from decades of Sunni Arab domination and repression, is well known. But the truly horrifying scale of violence we see now took many months to brew, and is built on the violence begun by the U.S. military and the lack of economic stability, political participation, etc., that the occupation wrought. Equally as important, sectarian killing found its political justification in the constitution fashioned by U.S. advisers that essentially split the country into three factions, giving them a very solid set of incentives to go to war with each other.
9. The war is an Iraqi affair, and the best we can do now is train them to enforce security. This is the more upbeat version of #8, the "Go Long" strategy that sees training as a panacea. Despite three years of serious attempts, the U.S. training programs are bogged down by the sectarian violence itself, or by incompetence all round. No one who has looked at this carefully believes that training Iraqis is a near-term solution. It's a useful ruse as an exit strategy, blaming the victims for violence and failure.
10. Trust the same people who caused or endorsed the war to tell us what to do next. We know who they are: Bush, Cheney, McCain, and other cronies; the neo-cons now increasingly on the periphery of power but still bleating (Wolfowitz, Feith, Perle, Adelman, Lieberman), the liberal hawks , and the right-wing media (Krauthamer, Fox News, Glenn Beck, phalangist bloggers, et al). They say, "just finish the job." Just finish the job... at a human cost of how many more dead? How many lives ruined? How much more damage to U.S.-Arab relations? How much anti-Muslim racism fomented to justify the killing?
The distortions about the violence in Iraq persist even as the mayhem increases. Yesterday there was a report about 100 widows a day being created in Iraq. A Times of London report from last summer notes that gravediggers in one Baghdad cemetery are handling 200 bodies daily, compared with 60 before the war. The situation of the displaced is becoming a humanitarian crisis that will soon rival the worst African cases; the middle and upper classes have fled, leaving the poor to cope. So the poor from the U.S. go to beat up the poor in Iraq, or stand by helplessly as the Iraqi poor ravage each other.
That is the harsh reality of violence in Iraq. A half million dead. More than two million displaced. No end in sight.
Beware the delusions.
(John Tirman is Executive Director of MIT's Center for International Studies)
2. Quitting Iraq Is the Only Brave Thing to Do
We should demand to the Democrats that we get out of Iraq now and ask the Iraqi people for their forgiveness.
By Michael Moore/MichaelMoore.com
November 27 marks the day that we will have been in Iraq longer than we were in all of World War II.
That's right. We were able to defeat all of Nazi Germany, Mussolini, and the entire Japanese empire in LESS time than it's taken the world's only superpower to secure the road from the airport to downtown Baghdad.
And we haven't even done THAT. After 1,347 days, in the same time it took us to took us to sweep across North Africa, storm the beaches of Italy, conquer the South Pacific, and liberate all of Western Europe, we cannot, after over 3 and 1/2 years, even take over a single highway and protect ourselves from a homemade device of two tin cans placed in a pothole. No wonder the cab fare from the airport into Baghdad is now running around $35,000 for the 25-minute ride. And that doesn't even include a friggin' helmet.
Is this utter failure the fault of our troops? Hardly. That's because no amount of troops or choppers or democracy shot out of the barrel of a gun is ever going to "win" the war in Iraq. It is a lost war, lost because it never had a right to be won, lost because it was started by men who have never been to war, men who hide behind others sent to fight and die.
Let's listen to what the Iraqi people are saying, according to a recent poll conducted by the University of Maryland:
** 71% of all Iraqis now want the U.S. out of Iraq.
** 61% of all Iraqis SUPPORT insurgent attacks on U.S. troops.
Yes, the vast majority of Iraqi citizens believe that our soldiers should be killed and maimed! So what the hell are we still doing there? Talk about not getting the hint.
There are many ways to liberate a country. Usually the residents of that country rise up and liberate themselves. That's how we did it. You can also do it through nonviolent, mass civil disobedience. That's how India did it. You can get the world to boycott a regime until they are so ostracized they capitulate. That's how South Africa did it. Or you can just wait them out and, sooner or later, the king's legions simply leave (sometimes just because they're too cold). That's how Canada did it.
The one way that DOESN'T work is to invade a country and tell the people, "We are here to liberate you!" -- when they have done NOTHING to liberate themselves. Where were all the suicide bombers when Saddam was oppressing them? Where were the insurgents planting bombs along the roadside as the evildoer Saddam's convoy passed them by? I guess ol' Saddam was a cruel despot -- but not cruel enough for thousands to risk their necks. "Oh no, Mike, they couldn't do that! Saddam would have had them killed!" Really? You don't think King George had any of the colonial insurgents killed? You don't think Patrick Henry or Tom Paine were afraid? That didn't stop them. When tens of thousands aren't willing to shed their own blood to remove a dictator, that should be the first clue that they aren't going to be willing participants when you decide you're going to do the liberating for them.
A country can HELP another people overthrow a tyrant (that's what the French did for us in our revolution), but after you help them, you leave. Immediately. The French didn't stay and tell us how to set up our government. They didn't say, "we're not leaving because we want your natural resources." They left us to our own devices and it took us six years before we had an election. And then we had a bloody civil war. That's what happens, and history is full of these examples. The French didn't say, "Oh, we better stay in America, otherwise they're going to kill each other over that slavery issue!"
The only way a war of liberation has a chance of succeeding is if the oppressed people being liberated have their own citizens behind them -- and a group of Washingtons, Jeffersons, Franklins, Gandhis and Mandellas leading them. Where are these beacons of liberty in Iraq? This is a joke and it's been a joke since the beginning. Yes, the joke's been on us, but with 655,000 Iraqis now dead as a result of our invasion (source: Johns Hopkins University ), I guess the cruel joke is on them. At least they've been liberated, permanently.
So I don't want to hear another word about sending more troops (wake up, America, John McCain is bonkers), or "redeploying" them, or waiting four months to begin the "phase-out." There is only one solution and it is this: Leave. Now. Start tonight. Get out of there as fast as we can. As much as people of good heart and conscience don't want to believe this, as much as it kills us to accept defeat, there is nothing we can do to undo the damage we have done. What's happened has happened. If you were to drive drunk down the road and you killed a child, there would be nothing you could do to bring that child back to life. If you invade and destroy a country, plunging it into a civil war, there isn't much you can do 'til the smoke settles and blood is mopped up. Then maybe you can atone for the atrocity you have committed and help the living come back to a better life.
The Soviet Union got out of Afghanistan in 36 weeks. They did so and suffered hardly any losses as they left. They realized the mistake they had made and removed their troops. A civil war ensued. The bad guys won. Later, we overthrew the bad guys and everybody lived happily ever after. See! It all works out in the end!
The responsibility to end this war now falls upon the Democrats. Congress controls the purse strings and the Constitution says only Congress can declare war. Mr. Reid and Ms. Pelosi now hold the power to put an end to this madness. Failure to do so will bring the wrath of the voters. We aren't kidding around, Democrats, and if you don't believe us, just go ahead and continue this war another month. We will fight you harder than we did the Republicans. The opening page of my website has a photo of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, each made up by a collage of photos of the American soldiers who have died in Bush's War. But it is now about to become the Bush/Democratic Party War unless swift action is taken.
This is what we demand:
1. Bring the troops home now. Not six months from now. NOW. Quit looking for a way to win. We can't win. We've lost. Sometimes you lose. This is one of those times. Be brave and admit it.
2. Apologize to our soldiers and make amends. Tell them we are sorry they were used to fight a war that had NOTHING to do with our national security. We must commit to taking care of them so that they suffer as little as possible. The mentally and physically maimed must get the best care and significant financial compensation. The families of the deceased deserve the biggest apology and they must be taken care of for the rest of their lives.
3. We must atone for the atrocity we have perpetuated on the people of Iraq. There are few evils worse than waging a war based on a lie, invading another country because you want what they have buried under the ground. Now many more will die. Their blood is on our hands, regardless for whom we voted. If you pay taxes, you have contributed to the three billion dollars a week now being spent to drive Iraq into the hellhole it's become. When the civil war is over, we will have to help rebuild Iraq. We can receive no redemption until we have atoned.
In closing, there is one final thing I know. We Americans are better than what has been done in our name. A majority of us were upset and angry after 9/11 and we lost our minds. We didn't think straight and we never looked at a map. Because we are kept stupid through our pathetic education system and our lazy media, we knew nothing of history. We didn't know that WE were the ones funding and arming Saddam for many years, including those when he massacred the Kurds. He was our guy. We didn't know what a Sunni or a Shiite was, never even heard the words. Eighty percent of our young adults (according to National Geographic) were not able to find Iraq on the map. Our leaders played off our stupidity, manipulated us with lies, and scared us to death.
But at our core we are a good people. We may be slow learners, but that "Mission Accomplished" banner struck us as odd, and soon we began to ask some questions. Then we began to get smart. By this past November 7th, we got mad and tried to right our wrongs. The majority now know the truth. The majority now feel a deep sadness and guilt and a hope that somehow we can make make it all right again.
Unfortunately, we can't. So we will accept the consequences of our actions and do our best to be there should the Iraqi people ever dare to seek our help in the future. We ask for their forgiveness.
We demand the Democrats listen to us and get out of Iraq now.
(Michael Moore is an Academy award-winning filmmaker and author of " Dude, Where's My Country?”)