Iraq is repeating its past
Wounded U.S. personnel flown from Iraq to Ramstein, Germany, for medical treatment (Feb. 2007). Wikpedia.
In the usual myopic way of American domestic politics, the Republican Party is now eagerly gearing up to hammer President Barack Obama and his Democrats into pulp over the unfolding collapse of Iraq.
This strategy has a lot of appeal to the GOP. It offers the only hope to distract attention from their total failure to come up with any credible economic or domestic reform policies whatsoever that could conceivably boost employment and restore the American economy.
However, the Republicans should hesitate before throwing stones in glass houses, or pitching fireballs in a house with filled with combustible petroleum.
For the unfolding catastrophe in Iraq — it promises to be at least as vast and humiliating to the United States as the fall of South Vietnam was in 1975 — was primarily not the fault of Obama and the Democrats at all, though there is certainly plenty of blame to go around.
What we are seeing is the exposure and collapse of the entire fantasy of state-building embraced by President George W. Bush, his Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and their famous coterie of neo-conservative intellectual advisers, all of whom were utterly ignorant of the history and politics of Iraq..
For what is happening in Iraq is the entire collapse of the supposedly Democratic system and armed forces structure that the United States unilaterally, recklessly and ineptly imposed upon Iraq after conquering it in March 2003.
On May 1, 2004 a typically cocky, arrogant and utterly clueless President George W. Bush pronounced “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq by the US armed forces. Instead, its long, slow grinding humiliation and exhaustion there was just about to begin.
The modern political structure of the Middle East was already 80 years old when Bush took power in January 2001. It was created when Britain’s Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill — the absolute ruler of one quarter of the human race as the key policymaker of the British Empire — created the modern nations of Iraq and Jordan, as he boasted, by the stroke of a pen.
For 80 years those borders, with all their faults, functioned for the peoples of the Middle East like the watertight compartments of a great ship.
However, Bush and his neocons in their witless crusade for democracy smashed holes in all those state structures. Their relentless insistence on general elections across the region as soon as possible fatally undermined the government of President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and brought Hamas to power in Gaza.
After Bush left office, the crazed and incessant calls for instant democracy across the Middle East did not cease. President Obama, to his credit, finally resisted immense pressure to send U.S. armed forces to aid the rebels against President Bashir Assad in Syria. That civil war has over the past four years killed at least 100,000 people and the opposition forces, which New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and many others championed for so long, is now dominated by ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
In Egypt, Gaza, Iraq, Libya and Syria, the story has been exactly the same. The U.S. drive to promote democracy so eagerly embraced by George W. Bush and his second secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, fatefully undermined existing regimes and opened the way to full scale civil wars and uprisings in which the small, weak and naïve middle class secular genuine democrats were quickly swept aside by formidable extreme Islamists. No wonder that experienced and responsible rulers in the region such as old King Abdul ibn Abdelaziz of Saudi Arabia despaired of U.S. policymakers.
The total collapse of the American-created Iraqi army in 2014 should come as no surprise. The British Empire suffered the same humiliation twice. The Iraqi army thy had created and nurtured for 16 years turned on them and tried to expel them in a coup in 1914, seeking to join Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany at the height of World War II. The British did not hesitate to reinvade and reconquer the country.
Seventeen years later, in 1958, the army rose again. Young, well-meaning King Faisal II, his entire family and veteran Prime Minister (and British puppet) Nuri al-Said were slaughtered in scenes of extraordinary brutality and horror. This history was unknown to Bush, Rumsfeld and their fellow ignoramuses, and to President Obama’s policymaking “geniuses” as well. Now it is about to repeat itself.
Over the past decade, U.S. policymakers picked by George W. Bush and meekly echoed by the Obama administration turned the watertight compartments of strong national governments across the Middle East into weakened, leaking bulkheads certain to doom their respective ships of state.
American policymakers and the arrogant, ignorant, self-righteous media pundits who fed them their “ideas” created the Rube Goldberg joke that is the current government and constitution of “democratic” Iraq. And the army they created has proven as loyal, reliable and strong as the puppet armies that the British Empire tried to create in Iraq before them.
I documented this whole, sorry story and predicted the rapid collapse of the Iraqi “democracy” after U.S. forces pulled out in my 2008 book The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Middle East.
Only the reliable but increasingly exhausted forces of the U.S. armed forces prevented this collapse until now. And it was George W. Bush, not even Obama, who made the fateful concession to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki before Bush left office that U.S. forces would soon pull out according to a set timetable. Yet U.S. power was all that ever held up the whole sorry “house of cards” in Iraq. So now it all is coming tumbling down.
The absurdity and futility of the Bush-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz “democracy-building” dream in Iraq is now exposed for all to see. Instead, the Islamist jihadi tidal wave is sweeping all in sight.
Martin Sieff is a former senior foreign correspondent for The Washington Times and former Managing Editor, International Affairs for United Press International. Mr. Sieff is the author of “That Should Still Be Us: How Thomas Friedman’s Flat World Myths Are Keeping Us Flat on Our Backs” (Wiley 2012) and “The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Middle East” (Regnery, 2008). He has received three Pulitzer Prize nominations for international reporting.