By Michael Shannon
It is difficult to pick the one lie that is the most intractable
of the lot out the torrent continually flowing from the Bush
Administration concerning Iraq. However, for the sake of this
discussion let us focus on the oft stated pledge to "to build
an Iraqi democracy." This lie is, by comparison with some
of the bald-faced whoppers emanating from this crew, more
of a misrepresentation. But it still is a falsehood: The Bush
administration does not want a democratic Iraq, they want
a compliant Iraq.
This variation on the truth has been very well received
in both Peoria and Basra because it has the luxury of being
exactly what people want to hear. After all democracy/freedom
is America's gift to the world. That's not a toe-the-line
talking point, it happens to be true. We have demonstrated
the incalculable benefits of a lawful democratic society.
But as is plainly obvious from events here in the world's
oldest over the past several years, the democratic process
is not without its flaws. The primary one being that unless
you cheat, you can never be 100% sure of how it is going to
And that is where it gets tricky over in Iraq - suppose
the wrong guys win? When the wrong guys win in America it
is usually no more than a political inconvenience; the wrong
guys win in Iraq and the whole purpose of our interjection
in the first place could go straight down the tube. An eventuality
that is just not in the cards.
The United States of America is going to be directly involved
in the political, military and economic affairs of Iraq for
a long, long time. Not only did we not go to all this trouble,
didn't spend all that money, leave that many arms and legs
on the highways and wastelands of Iraq and ship that many
of our people home in aluminum boxes to just turn around and
give it back, we won't do it because we fear the worst of
what might happen if we did.
We are going to stay in Iraq not just because of the huge
financial - granted, the distribution of these vast sums of
money will be extremely concentrated - and strategic payoff
if we do, but for the even larger financial and strategic
calamity if we do not. We left Vietnam after close to 15 years
because it became obvious that in order to completely crush
what had proven to be a remarkably tenacious enemy we would
have had to rachet the military effort up far beyond what
was politically supportable, and because we finally came to
the conclusion that the cost outweighed the benefit. We left
Lebanon after a very brief stay because at that moment in
time it was even more hellish than today's Iraq and because
we came to the conclusion that the cost outweighed the benefit.
We left Somalia after the relatively small loss of American
life because we very quickly come to the conclusion that the
cost outweighed the benefit. This historical record is often
cited as encouraging by those opposed to our presence in Iraq,
but it is a mistake to think it will carry through to the
same conclusion. In Iraq we are and there we will stay because
we have determined that the benefit is worth almost any cost.
So to get back to our lie du jour; how are we to
maintain our military presence in order to secure the continued
flow of Persian Gulf oil - and insure that Islamic fundamentalist
do not take power in Iraq or anywhere else in the region -
and yet give the appearance that the Iraqis are in control
of their own political destiny? It's a tough question.
It may be that the worries are unfounded; it could all turn
out to be another brilliant success in "nation building" as
it was in Germany and Japan. The often-bandied notion that
Arabic peoples lack due to cultural hardwiring the proper
aptitude for democratic development is theory and nothing
more. The peoples of the Arabian peninsula did miss out on
the first go-rounds of the democratic movements but who's
to say now that the opportunity has presented itself that
they may not turn out to be great at it? The Iraqis may end
up with the highest voter turnout and greatest degree of grassroot
participation outside of New Hampshire. And who knows, they
could vote in a government that is in complete agreement with
a continued large-scale American military presence. But they
also might elect a government that would like nothing more
than to see us pack our bags and get the hell out and not
let the door hit us in the derriere doing it. Then what?
In the old days it was all so much easier. An occupying
power didn't have to worry about such niceties as public and
world opinion. Then the conqueror had two simple choices,
either directly rule the land in question or put in a government
that was beholden directly to them. Ah, but that was then
and this is now. Now thanks very much to our own rhetorical
track record such things simply aren't done. Now accommodations
need to be reached in a far more discreet manner.
A cursory analysis of Iraqi demographics is all it takes
to see that the key voting block is the Shia. Considering
that they make up approximately 60% of the population, no
deal with them means no deal at all. Cutting the deal is where
it gets dicey.
The Shia broke with the more populous Sunni branch of Islam
before the Protestant Reformation split Christianity. Although
there has been far less blood spilled between the Muslim factions
than amongst their Christian counterparts, the split retains
a legacy of acrimony and the two groups do tend to act independently.
Considering that the Shia in Iraq have been excluded from
positions of power by the minority Sunnis since the country's
formation, it fair to say that they consider this an opportunity
not to be passed by.
So where else is there another majority Shia populace to
turn to for communal help and guidance in their time of great
fortune? Well happily for the Shiites of Iraq the answer to
that question lies directly over its eastern border: Iran.
Realizing that denying the Iraqi Shia a relationship with
their brethren in Iran could ignite a revolt that would make
the insurrection in the "Sunni Triangle" look tame by comparison,
the Bush administration has been quietly coming to a re-evaluation
concerning the importance of Iranian influence on the whole
To say that going public with this detente-like arrangement
would cause Mr Bush no small amount of political embarrassment
is putting it as delicately as possible. After all Iran is
not only a charter member of his Axis of Evil, they are a
perennial top five finisher in the State Department's annual
listing of nations which most directly support terrorism.
Iran has had such a horrendous relationship with the US since
the fall of the Shah and the rise of an Islamic fundamentalist
regime, that it was with one American eye shut and the other
one winking during the entirety of Saddam's eight year war
with them that the when, where, why and how much of whatever
WMD's that that lunatic ever possessed came to be.
To think that Team Bush has overthrown Saddam out of its
stated desire to inflict maximum damage on the Islamic terrorism
movement only to have the majority of Iraqis align themselves
with the very nation that has been at the cutting edge of
that movement for the past twenty five years is quite a turning
of the tables. Proving once again that politics truly do make
for very strange bedfellows and that all things political
are rarely what they seem.
Contact Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org