The Politics of Defeat: George W. Bush and the “Troop Surge” — The Blame Game

By , January 11, 2007

January 11, 2007 — Earlier this week, my wife commented that President Bush was scheduled to make a “major announcement” on Wednesday (January 10) about the war in Iraq. My immediate response was to assert that Bush’s goal was simple: to announce an unacceptable, unreasonable proposal to escalate the failed “war” in order to force the Democrats to object and refuse to allow it. Then, Bush will claim that the failure of the war in Iraq is the fault of the Democrats’ refusal to accept his last-minute miracle solution, and not Bush’s fault.

I know I am cynical, but after hearing Bush’s speech last night, it is impossible to support any other conclusion. Bush proposes to return another 21,000 American soldiers to Iraq, with the very limited and specific goal of “pacifying Baghdad,” with the help of Iraqi troops. Of course, we’ve done this before, and with even more troops, and as soon as our soldiers leave, the “resistance” retakes control (or at least prevents any sense of government control).

What’s going on here? Our soldiers are part of an unwanted occupying army, with only the vaguest of goals. The Iraqis know that the “real agenda” is to insure control of their oil by American corporations, and to prevent their election of a government we don’t like. It’s hard to imagine any Iraqi citizen choosing to join an Iraqi army or police force, knowing that they are nothing more than servants of the unwanted occupying force.

Where are the comparisons? America in Iraq is not Nazi Germany in France, but it’s hard to avoid the comparison: an occupying army taking a nation by force, removing citizens in the night and keeping them in secret camps, refusing to obey international treaties, and soliciting local thugs and hooligans to become “police” and wield abusive control over their neighbors.

Oddly enough, it is the past season of “Battlestar Galactica” that seems closest to this situation: the evil robotic/cyborg/cloned Cylons conquer the last human outpost and impose conditions that seem almost completely identical to those in Iraq. Who do we root for? The underground resistance, of course, and they win in the end because evil occupying armies with vague goals are never allowed to win in literature.

We won’t win, and we can’t win, the war in Iraq. It’s impossible to win a war that has no objectives. Iraq is a country with a majority of citizens who don’t share our values — wait, no, that’s not right.

The people in Iraq are just like us. They want all the same things we want: freedom, control, education, security, and respect and tolerance for their religious belief. Like America, Iraq has some political and religious extremists and some opportunistic criminals who will take advantage of the right situation. America’s war in Iraq is “the perfect storm” for those extremists, and creates an indefensible target for bad people to attack.

Now, our Congress is faced with a politically difficult but morally simple decision: whether to allow more troops to be sent into Iraq without any genuine new mission or objective, and without any prospect of success, or to oppose the president and promptly be blamed for the “failure” of this war when our troops are finally withdrawn and the bloody civil war that we started expands and probably results in installation of an oppressive, extremist government in Iraq.

The irony is that if Bush and Cheney had actually announced five years ago that we would invade Iraq in order to secure American control of Iraq’s oil resources, or to prevent control of Iraq by an oppressive, extremist government, their failure would now be absolutely complete. Instead, they claimed then that the war was to prevent the building of weapons of mass destruction, and when that claim was proven unfounded and untrue, they claimed that the war was about removing an evil dictator from power and returning Iraq to its citizens. Since we wanted to choose which citizens would be in control, of course, the outcome was always guaranteed: prompt revolution and disposal of any government we support, as soon as our troops are out of sight.

Finally, I notice that each time I type the name of this conflict, I am disturbed, because “the war in Iraq” is hardly the right name for a war. But we don’t want to admit that this is America’s war “against” or “on” Iraq, and we can’t figure out what to call the force that we are at war with, because we don’t really know who we are at war with (or at least we don’t want to admit it).

America’s war against Iraq is over, and if we were ambivalent or ashamed of our role in Vietnam, then we should be outraged about our nation’s war on Iraq. It’s hard to imagine how the world might have been made more safe after September 11, 2001, but it’s easy to see how much less safe our president has made our nation and our world by abusing the memory of that tragic event.

— Mark J. Welch

Last Updated on 01/11/2007

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