Exit Strategy from the Failure in Iraq
“Systematic Sovereignty vs. the October Surprise”
Raymond Lutz Sept. 2006
We find ourselves in a situation that is almost intractable. We hear “stay the course,” “cut and run,” “hard work” and other slogans, to make it easy to think about. It isn't easy to think about, and in addition, most people don't know how to think anymore. They just adopt those simple slogans since that's all they know how to do.
My Republican friends ask me: what do you recommend for the “war on terror?” It's like looking at a chess board that a beginner had been playing and is now in a terrible bind, and he wants help, looking up in distress. Luckily, I believe in the saying that “in chess, no matter how bad a pickle you seem to be in, you can always come up with a new strategy, and you may still win.” The same should apply here, and I will try to help our our poor W with his chess game. He is in a serious pickle, indeed.
This “War on Terror” is a slogan that the administration has used to gain favor for their position. It is quite deceptive since it is mainly inaccurate. First, as many have said, there is no way you can have a war against a tactic. Terrorism is a tactic used by groups and governments throughout history. And yes, the US has engaged in terrorism, more than just a few times, but it is called “Shock and Awe” when we do it. So we can throw that word out.
The word “War” is inaccurate too, but it is something that presidents have tended to use for just about anything. There is something romantic about war to presidents. They've had the “War on Poverty”, “War on Drugs” and now the “War on Terror”. These wars against conditions or tactics have always been failures. I notice poverty, drugs and terror will be with us, even long after the public has forgotten the slogans.
We know now that the invasion and occupation of Iraq was sold to the public using false information. The public was willing to accept these lies by relying on the trustworthiness of the President after the shock of the events of 9/11. The Weapons of Mass Destruction -- WMD -- that Saddam Hussein was definitely known to have had, well it just never materialized. Worse than that, we know that the administration knew full well that none existed, yet they presented the situation as if they definitely had hard evidence of WMD and it was just a matter going in and opening the door of some warehouse. “Trust us,” they would say. “We can't tell you the specifics due to to national security.”
The fact is, Saddam was a CIA asset for years. The US supplied him with his weapons, including biological agents used during the eight year war with Iran. Weapons inspectors, such as Scott Ritter, knew and reported that Saddam had no weapons by 1997. All the other inspectors did the same. Plus, Saddam produced a 3,000 page document that described it in detail, but this was promptly ignored. Have you ever seen that document? It seems it was dropped into a black hole. Indeed, although there was much press to the contrary, there was never any connection between Saddam and the attacks of 9/11. Naming mess halls and other infrastructure in Iraq after fallen firefighters at 9/11 continued to deceive the minds of the military in Iraq. “There is no connection between Iraq and 9/11.” Sure, but why name mess halls after firefighters?
Even the official story of 9/11 is suspect since so much just doesn't add up. Certain events, such as the 15 military exercises that drew all the nations defenses up into Canada to fight a pretend invasion leaving only 14 fighters to cover all the US are not in dispute and would be difficult for outsiders to arrange. The many “Put” options on United and American Airlines and the convenient photo-op of Bush in Florida, among many other events, points to the idea that the administration knew about the event in advance. The “Passenger list problem” is one of the most telling in my mind. I can't fathom how anyone could get on the planes without any tickets. The theoretical highjackers had passports and other information that was eventually found. Even the movie “Path to 9-11” shows Mohammed Atta checking in and getting his boarding pass, his name appearing on the computer display. Then, why do none of these terrorists appear on any passenger lists? The airlines keep careful computerized lists of passengers and are legally required to come up with the exact list of passengers if there is an accident. How can they miss all the hijackers? It makes no sense. The FBI has no hard evidence linking the hijackers to the event, as admitted by the FBI director. Indeed, not even Osama bin Laden is wanted for the event, just look at his FBI poster.
The event maps more completely with the need for a “New Pearl Harbor” as mentioned in the document “Rebuilding America's Defenses,” a report by the Project for a New American Century in September, 2000. The primary concern of the report was the decline of America's defenses, or from the position of a company in the military-industrial complex, shrinking revenues and profits. On page 63, it mentions that “...the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.” This report was based on the blueprint established in 1992 by the Bush Sr. administration under defense secretary Cheney. A good case can be made that they tried to get the funding going again during the 1990s (the most peaceful decade in history according to the Human Security Foundation) in the form of attacks on the Cole and the first bombing of the WTC. Thus, a catastrophic event was needed, the events of 9/11.
Inquire about the truth behind the story of 9/11. The official story can be supported with lots of explanation, much like the magic “single bullet” theory put forward to support the single-gunman theory of the JFK assassination. Look carefully at their story and it will begin to fall apart.
Regarding Iraq, almost everything we were told would happen did not. Sure, some things could be forced to happen, and these made the situation look better, such as the elections in Iraq. But the big predictions, how long the effort would last, how hard it would be, how much it would cost, were all wrong. The Iraqis did not greet us with cut flowers and hugs, the post-invasion situation was a mess, and the oil did not pay for the war. Violations of the Geneva conventions in the form of torture and humiliating treatment only made the situation worse, perhaps the biggest and darkest black eye of the whole process, and perhaps of all modern history.
The reason for our involvement in the region changed as each unfortunate fact came to light. “Disarm Saddam” was the initial chant. Oops. No WMD. Okay, then it's the “central front on the War on Terror”. No connection to 9/11? Oh, yes, we said that all along. But, we need to “fight them over there so we're not fighting them over here.” Now it's about “bringing democracy to the region,” and “freeing Iraq.” Unfortunately, free elections will mean theocratic rule by the dominant Shiite element, the group the most unfriendly to the US. This is not working out very well at all.
The reality of the reason for this military action was far from what we were told, and I claim that we're still not getting the straight story. But it isn't hard to figure out. You just ignore what they tell you and look at what is going on. Then, give the simplest answer you can. That will be the right answer.
1. Money: They want control of the oil.
The fact is that the middle east sits over a vast pool of oil, and we are reaching the peak of oil production right now. That means demand will continue to go up but the available resource is declining. Any economist will tell you that constraining the supply of a resource like oil will drive the price through the roof. Given that the oil companies are now making record profits, it seems that the strategy is working. The incursion into Afghanistan, supposedly in pursuit of Al Qaeda, and Osama bin Laden, resulted in almost nothing except to install the oil pipeline of the Carlyle Group. In that region, the Taliban is taking over again, except now, it is the heroin capital of the world, with opium poppy the primary crop of the region.
2. Money: They wanted to sell arms and services to the government during the war effort.
Dick Cheney, former CEO of Halliburton, knew that his previous company and others like it would make billions during the war effort (and they have.) With the new approach of outsourcing more of the services to companies like Halliburton, the war would be even more profitable. Maybe, in the future, the entire effort could be turned over to private concerns. The problem is, there is a bit of a conflict of interest here. If you turn over the war to a private concern, then there is very little desire to end the war, even if you can “win.” It is better for the war to drag on, and on, and on, with a light at the end of a very long tunnel, and for the country to “stay the course” for a very long time. The longer you can get away with that, the more you'll make. Winning the war is counter-productive to profits, so that's out of the question.
The military-industrial complex is alive and well, and has been expanded to include not just the equipment, the arms, tanks, planes, bombs, ships, bullet-proof vests, and inadequately armored Hum Vees
, but now it also includes the logistics, food preparation, and other services normally provided by the majority of servicemen in yesteryear. This is even more incentive for the war to become permanent, for there to be a permanent need for the ongoing strife in the area.
Do we have money for this war? Not really. Our budget is a mess. But more than that, funding for the war in Iraq was never included in any budget, it is always handled as emergency “supplementals” and passed with a fanfare and plenty of threats to any congressman who does not patriotically “Support the Troops.”
People often fault the planning for the effort, since it seemed to unravel, the post invasion situation didn't match the expectations of any military strategist. A good argument can be made that the situation went precisely to plan, and the sectarian violence continued our need to be in the area. Bush's “Bring it on” statement, and his accidental statement that it would be up to “future presidents” to deal with the war support this notion. They really have no expectation that it will be resolved at all, and the war can continue to generate revenue for the military-industrial complex.
3. Religious Ideals; Failed policies
Since about 635 AD, the Middle East was conquered by the Islamic culture, including the western Mediterranean coast, the northern regions of Africa and nearly the entire country of Spain. They were ruthless at times, but in the end, were willing to allow other religions in their midst, the Jewish and Christian cultures being “of the book” and related to their own. It wasn't until the famous speech of Pope Urban the II in 1095 AD that started the first Crusade, the only one that was even moderately successful, eventually taking back Jerusalem by the Christian west. But the tenuous occupation of Jerusalem lasted only four-score and seven years, being returned to Muslim control before the end of the next century. The later crusades were largely unsuccessful, and Islamic control of that area continued until very recently. After WW1 in 1932, the Ottoman Empire was split into a number of countries, one of which is Iraq. Since 1967, the Jewish state of Israel exists in the midst and surrounded by the Islamic culture, a situation that continues to be a thorn in the side of those states.
Israel is underwritten by the United States, with their military might being supplied almost exclusively by the US. They are a nuclear power, which is more than just a thorn, it is a huge threat.
In addition to the blind support of Israel, the west has had numerous failed policies in the area, all of which have apparently exacerbated our poor reputation. Our funding and supplying of Al Qaeda during the Afghanistan war -- USSR's Vietnam -- bred the start of the terrorist network blamed for 9/11. This lengthy war in Afghanistan (partly our doing) ruined the country, leaving it one of the poorest in the world. After the fall of the USSR, the west had a golden opportunity to turn it around, but it did nothing.
Prior to the takeover by the US-supported Shah, Iran had a democratically elected government. It was accused of being complicit with communist influences, and so it was overturned and control was given to the Shah. In 1979, fundamentalist Islamic clerics assumed control, the pendulum swinging far to the other side. Iran has not forgotten this turn of events, and is now determined to set its own course. The west is currently beating the drum over their “violations” of the nonproliferation treaty, but in essence, Iran has violated nothing and in their shoes I would probably be doing the same thing. In fact, Halliburton recently supplied Iran with most of their nuclear equipment. After witnessing the US invasion of Iraq, I would want to get nuclear weapons as soon as possible, not for world domination, but to defend my county against a similar invasion. Perhaps if the US agrees not to invade, Iran will agree to give up this measure of due diligence.
Overall, these failed policies were conspiring to unite the region against the West, and their reasons were many. Those guiding the war effort figured our only recourse was to establish a firm beachhead in the area, using the same mindset that established the other failed policies. Indeed, this policy will also fail, as it clearly is.
Unless, that is, if you accept that lack of successful completion is a failure. By #2 above, it seems that a war that continues ad nauseam without a clear end is the success they are looking for. There is far more money to be made in a war that goes on and on than one that completes quickly.
The three reasons above illustrate that this has nothing to do with disarming Saddam, freeing Iraq, or any of those other stupid slogans. It had everything to do with money and power. But isn't that usually the root of all evil? Indeed.
What to do
Now, we must address the next big question, which is what to do next. We can take a look down several options, and see how the future looks.
First, let's examine the administration's mantra, “Stay the Course”, or even perhaps more likely, the option of looking for a “win”. Some have advocated that we ask the military commanders on the ground what they would need for success. The usual answer to this is far more troops, in other words escalation. We have some 130,000 troops in the region and uncounted civilian contractors. (They never seem to include those contractors in the count, although when we had the draft, those were included. As a result, our equivalent forces in the area are far higher than they say.) I would remind the reader that during the first three years of the Vietnam war, we suffered fewer casualties than in this effort, and then the number of casualties jumped by several factors of ten after escalation. If we did the same thing in Iraq, the draft would likely be required, and given the current spike in sectarian violence, the number of service men and women needed would likely be substantial.
How can we figure the dimensions of this problem? Let's consider the ratio of police to protesters in LA during marches and other events. For every 1000 protesters, they put out 600 police. That's a bit less than 2:1 ratio of protesters to police. Let's be optimistic and say that we could do it with a 10:1 ratio, and let's share the job 50/50 with local police. The population of Iraq is currently over 26 million (CIA Factbook). A total clamp-down would reasonably require about 1.3 million service men and women and the same number of Iraqis. Needless to say, the number required is far higher than the 130,000 we have there now. About 10 times higher. No wonder we're not winning.
Let's say we bite the bullet and reestablish the draft and find the people to do the job. It is certainly possible given that our country has about 100 million men and women of military age, that is only about 1% of that population, really nothing for us. And you can bet the news would change from being about the latest blonde kidnapping to being about the war. Everyone would suddenly take an interest in whether they will have to go, whether their kids will have to go, and whether their friend or relative was killed. So there are some good sides to this. Suddenly, the media would not be blamed for delivering only bad news.
This option certainly doesn't help us with motivation #2, as the military-industrial complex would love a draft, allowing them to make even more money, and this would certainly be a very expensive proposition. But, I dare say, it would work, at least to the extent that we would be able to quell the sectarian violence.
The problem is, at the end of that escalation, we would really be no better off than we are now. If we had a central command and control structure to eliminate, and the destruction of that command structure could be our goal in the drive, then this escalation might work. But to deal with the sectarian violence, I doubt it would really work in the long term. The trouble is, once you have all those troops in the area, then what? Sure, you've put a stop to the violence and the like for a while, but the country is no better off than it was before. And pulling out will be even harder this time. Our reputation is probably much worse by that time, the civilians hate our guts. How would you like a foreign country to lock you down?
Once we try to pull out, we wind up in the exact situation we are in right now. The different factions within the Islamic culture have been at each others throat for about 1,400 years, I don't think we're going to solve that in the near future. In the end, we need to pull out, and let the area settle on its own. Is it going to be pretty? Probably not. So we don't want to be stupid about it, the “cut and run” concept the right-wingers use to make this option seem silly because they lump all withdrawal into this slogan, deeming it a failure instead of a reasonable way out.
One option seems to be a delicious morsel for motivation #2. That is to continue the war in a conflagration with Iran. No, they don't want thermonuclear war, they want a long-term, low-level war that will maximize profits. They want to shift our military forces from Iraq to Iran. They want a continued “recruited military” and not a draft but they would still earn a lot with a draft, and may push for it. I don't think we want to continue making the same policy mistakes we've been making in this region, ever since we started meddling in their affairs. So certainly, I would not advocate this option. I only point it out so you can notice it is the option that is most likely under motivation #2, and I'll have more to say about it later.
Indeed, I don't know much about the details of the situation in Iraq such that I can give a blow-by-blow account of what should be done to effectively withdraw. And, it is likely to be a bit tricky to withdraw, particularly if the region is as unsettled as it is today. In essence, we have stayed far too long and now have a situation that is far more difficult than if we had withdrawn immediately.
But let's say that we pull out our troops, systematically and carefully. Not “run” but “systematic withdrawal” and “Sovereignty Establishment.” Perhaps “Systematic Sovereignty” would be a good phrase. (Plus, Bush doesn't understand the word Sovereignty, so we don't have to worry about him getting in the way.) We bring troops home and to the surrounding regions to make sure any civil strife in the sovereign nation of Iraq does not exceed its borders. At the same time, we incorporate the support of the UN to assist with that containment. In the end, we are back to the containment strategy we had before the insanity of shock and awe.
Then what? Well, it is very clear that civil war would commence, with various factions fighting for control. Because the area is predominantly Shiite Muslim, we would guess that they would wind up on top, and the Sunni sect would be subservient. The Kurds in the north, who have done well under our invasion, would probably not appreciate this result, and may be put down in the process. Limited genocide would be likely. It is unclear how long the violence would continue, but it may actually be lessened by our absence. Indeed, if you admit motivation #2, then much of the sectarian strife may have been encouraged by those who stand to profit. Eliminating the profit incentive and removing the possibility that those forces may be in contact with the population should actually lessen the severity of the violence.
If the violence settled, then what? In that case, I assert that the Shiite sect would be in control, and even if democratic elections are used to select the government, it would be primarily Shiite, and therefore cooperative with Iran. It may be intolerant to the Sunni and Kurd populations, I'm not sure how that would work out for them. Indeed, if it ever did stabilize, it would likely have a very big chip on its shoulder over our involvement there. Unified action with Iran may be a serious and a difficult consequence for the US.
Let's say that violence did not settle between the various sects. In that case, it may be necessary for the UN, with backing by the US and others, to re-enter Iraq and separate it into several smaller countries, one for Sunni, one for Shiite, and one for Kurds. This may in fact be the natural result of the civil war, but if we jump to the conclusion of the war and split the country in advance, then perhaps this is the best result. There may be a way to do this without completely cutting the country in thirds by establishing a number of states with very strong state rights that will allow them to exist side by side. In general, this is the “Partition” option, and it seems reasonable in some ways. For one, it eliminates the idea that one sect would dominate the others and force their will upon them. With borders between the states, it would be easier to police, and the UN could be effectively used to enforce demilitarized zones.
But the sects may not be the source of the violence. The terrorist groups continue to have a stronghold there. It is difficult to know if those terrorist activities would continue if the US were to withdraw, and if the nation was correctly partitioned with a government structure that would allow each sect to exist without dominating and suppressing the others. Particularly in light of motivation #2, we may find that the so-called terrorist activities are strictly generated by US forces who wish to exacerbate the situation to result in continued profits, milking the US treasury dry.
Another factor in this scenario is the need for a change of leadership in the US. But this change must not follow the stay the course or the escalation theme. The only theme we can follow is the “Systematic Sovereignty” approach, with possible “Peaceful Partitions.” A change in leadership will allow the world to understand that we are taking a new course, and perhaps that they don't need to hold a huge grudge. Prosecuting the criminals in power right now may also pacify those most upset about our invasion.
Off hand, I don't see any other options. We either stay the course, which is not working, escalate which gets us nowhere, or systematically withdraw. Our success must be measured in how well we can systematically withdraw and establish peaceful partitions, either geographically, politically, or both.
The War on Terror is over. We must move to Systematic Sovereignty and Peaceful Partitions. That's my answer to those Republicans who say that “stay the course” is the only plan, the only strategy. Of course, it is hard to make the case now that we are somehow better off with Saddam dethroned. It might actually be easier for us if he were still keeping these factions in line through strongarm internal control. “We are safer without Saddam in power.” I disagree.
The problem is this: George W. Bush won't listen to anyone even if they have a good plan. We have to look beyond the chess board to the influences around the players of the game. We are in a much more complex situation, one that is even harder to fathom. First, the situation in Iraq is not getting better. Just the opposite, it is getting much worse, and the “Stay the Course” mantra means the course will probably be much more “hard work” than anyone ever imagined. But that is not the largest threat. Bush knows that if the Republicans lose control in this election, he will be impeached and many people in his administration will be prosecuted as criminals, including himself. Investigations will be the order of the day and the neo-con empire will come tumbling down. The illegal prisons will be closed, the military will start talking, and we will see flag-draped coffins again. Even the gag order still applying to the firefighters and police at ground zero will be lifted and they will start talking. We will be on our way to get our country back.
As we approach the November elections, they will be tempted to try something, anything, to convince the public that they should stay in power. We already know what the October surprise will be: a conflict with Iran. They are beating the drum right now, and have already admitted that intelligence personnel and some special-ops troops have entered that country. Who knows what else they have planned. The recent Hezbollah vs. Israel conflict may have been a precursor to the surprise.
At the present time, Iran wants to keep their nuclear fuel purification activities active, reportedly for civilian power use only. Bush refuses to talk unless they agree to stop that activity. Iran wants to negotiate about that same issue. So, there is a stand-off, of course, contrived, as usual, and one that we can expect no one to budge on. During October, Bush will probably launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran. Our only hope is if the military commanders refuse to carry out the orders without a declaration of war from Congress. And, of course, we hope Congress won't go along with some stupid declaration demanded by Bush like they did with Iraq.
But, being good military men, the military will probably follow their orders, hit Iran, and take out their nuclear capability. This will be executed close enough to the election so it will be difficult for Iran to retaliate prior to the election. There is a huge difference between Iraq, a country that had been under a blockade and economic sanctions for 12 years, and Iran. Iran is vital and has a large and powerful military. Ours is decimated by the lengthy Iraq war, and would have a very difficult time if Iran executed a full retaliation.
There is no chance, in my mind, that Iran would do nothing. Their first step would probably be to hit some oil production facilities, maybe in Iraq, Kuwait, or Saudi Arabia. They would not be able to attack the US directly, so attacking Israel is the next best thing, with the US backing them up.
Surprisingly, we have no treaty with Israel that requires that the US protect them in a conflict. The US offered to enter into such an agreement just after the 1967 war, but such a treaty requires that the countries involved in it to have officially recognized borders, and Israel didn't want to have to get into a huge discussion about that sticky question. So they turned the US down. We are not required to protect Israel by any official treaty. That's probably a big surprise to almost anyone you ask, even those in the military at any level.
If there was a significant response, Bush may be tempted by the military advisors around him to utilize a low-yield nuclear device. “They're just like a large conventional weapon, but it's something that will really shock them and cause great awe for you, our President.” Given his tendency to accept almost all lousy advice in the past, he would probably take it, in a desperate attempt to maintain power and stay out of jail. Bush is like an animal cornered with a great deal to lose if he does not attempt something very foolish.
He is a fool indeed, but are we?
-- Raymond Lutz
- 14 Jun 2007