Any analysis of the current state of the ongoing U.S. occupation of Iraq that relied solely on the U.S. government, the major candidates for president or the major media outlets in the United States for information would be hard pressed to find any bad news. In a State of the Union address which had everything except a “Mission Accomplished” banner flying in the background, President Bush all but declared victory over the insurgency in Iraq. His recertification of the success of the so-called surge has prompted the Republican candidates to assume a cocky swagger when discussing Iraq. They embrace the occupation and speak, without shame or apparent fear of retribution, of an ongoing presence in that war-torn nation. Their Democratic counterparts have been less than enthusiastic in their criticism of the escalation. And the media, for the most part, continue their macabre role as cheerleaders of death, hiding the reality of Iraq deep inside stories that build upon approving headlines derived from nothing more than political rhetoric. The war in Iraq, we’re told, is virtually over. We only need “stay the course” for 10 more years.
This situation is troublesome in the extreme. The collective refusal of any constituent in this complicated mix of political players to confront Bush on Iraq virtually guarantees that it will be the Bush administration, and not its successor, that will dictate the first year (or more) of policy in Iraq for the next president. It also ensures that the debacle that is the Bush administration’s overarching Middle East policy of regional transformation and regime change in not only Iraq but Iran and Syria will continue to go unchallenged. If the president is free to pursue his policies, it could lead to direct military intervention in Iran by the United States prior to President Bush’s departure from office or, failing that, place his successor on the path toward military confrontation. At a time when every data point available certifies (and recertifies) the administration’s actions in Iraq, Iran and elsewhere (including Afghanistan) as an abject failure, America collectively has fallen into a hypnotic trance, distracted by domestic economic problems and incapable, due to our collective ignorance of the world we live in, of deciphering the reality on the ground in the Middle East.
Rather than offering a word-for-word renouncement of the president’s rosy assertions concerning Iraq, I will instead initiate a process of debunking the myth of American success by doing that which no politician, current or aspiring, would dare do: predict the failure of American policy in Iraq. With the ink on the newspapers parroting the president’s words barely dry, evidence of his misrepresentation of reality begins to build with the announcement by the Pentagon that troop levels in Iraq will not be dropping, as had been projected in view of the “success” of the “surge,” but rather holding at current levels with the possibility of increasing in the future. This reversal of course concerning troop deployments into Iraq highlights the reality that the statistical justification of “surge success,” namely the reduction in the level of violence, was illusory, a temporary lull brought about more by smoke and mirrors than any genuine change of fortune on the ground. Even the word surge is inappropriate for what is now undeniably an escalation. Iraq, far from being a nation on the rebound, remains a mortally wounded shell, the equivalent of a human suffering from a sucking chest wound, its lungs collapsed and its life blood spilling unchecked onto the ground. The “surge” never addressed the underlying reasons for Iraq’s post-Saddam suffering, and as such never sought to heal that which was killing Iraq. Instead, the “surge” offered little more than a cosmetic gesture, covering the wounds of Iraq with a bandage which shielded the true extent of the damage from outside view while doing nothing to save the victim.
Iraq is dying; soon Iraq will be dead. True, there will be a plot of land in the Middle East which people will refer to as Iraq. But any hope of a resurrected homogeneous Iraqi nation populated by a diverse people capable of coexisting in peace and harmony is soon to be swept away forever. Any hope of a way out for the people of Iraq and their neighbors is about to become a victim of the “successes” of the “surge” and the denial of reality. The destruction of Iraq has already begun. The myth of Kurdish stability—born artificially out of the U.S.-enforced “no-fly zones” of the 1990s, sustained through the largess of the Oil-for-Food program (and U.S.-approved sanctions sidestepped by the various Kurdish groups in Iraq) and given a Frankenstein-like lease on life in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion and occupation—is rapidly unraveling. Like Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, present-day Iraqi Kurdistan has been exposed as an amalgam of parts incompatible not only with each other but the region as a whole.
Ongoing Kurdish disdain for the central authority in Baghdad has led to the Kurds declaring their independence from Iraqi law (especially any law pertaining to oil present on lands they control). The reality of the Kurds’ quest for independence can be seen in their support of the Kurdish groups, in particular the PKK, that desire independence from Turkey. The sentiment has not been lost on their Turkish neighbors to the north, resulting in an escalation of cross-border military incursions which will only expand over time, further destabilizing Kurdish Iraq. Lying dormant, and unmentioned, is the age-old animosity between the two principle Kurdish factions in Iraq, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP). As recently as 1997, these two factions were engaged in a virtual civil war against one another. The strains brought on by the present unraveling have these two factions once again vying for position inside Iraq, making internecine conflict all but inevitable. The year 2008 will bring with it a major escalation of Turkish military operations against northern Iraq, a strategic break between the Kurdish factions there and with the central government of Baghdad, and the beginnings of an all-out civil war between the KDP and PUK.
The next unraveling of the “surge” myth will be in western Iraq, where the much applauded “awakening” was falling apart even as Bush spoke. I continue to maintain that there is a hidden hand behind the Sunni resistance that operates unseen and uncommented on by the United States and its erstwhile Iraqi allies operating out of the Green Zone in Baghdad. The government of Saddam Hussein never formally capitulated, and indeed had in place plans for ongoing active resistance against any occupation of Iraq. In October 2007 the Iraqi Baath Party held its 13th conference, in which it formally certified one of Saddam’s vice presidents, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, as the supreme leader of the Sunni resistance.