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News ::
Iraq War Lost Says Boston Globe (english)
02 Sep 2003
Facing the truth about Iraq

By James Carroll, 9/2/2003
Facing the truth about Iraq

By James Carroll, 9/2/2003

THE WAR IS LOST. By most measures of what the Bush
administration forecast for its adventure in Iraq, it
is already a failure. The war was going to make the
Middle East a more peaceful place. It was going to
undercut terrorism. It was going to show the evil
dictators of the world that American power is not to
be resisted. It was going to improve the lives of
ordinary Iraqis. It was going to stabilize oil
markets. The American army was going to be greeted
with flowers. None of that happened. The most radical
elements of various fascist movements in the Arab
world have been energized by the invasion of Iraq. The
American occupation is a rallying point for
terrorists. Instead of undermining extremism,
Washington has sponsored its next phase, and now
moderates in every Arab society are more on the
defensive than ever.

Before the war, the threat of America's overwhelming
military dominance could intimidate, but now such
force has been shown to be extremely limited in what
it can actually accomplish. For the sake of "regime
change," the United States brought a sledge hammer
down on Iraq, only to profess surprise that, even as
Saddam Hussein remains at large, the structures of the
nation's civil society are in ruins. The humanitarian
agencies necessary to the rebuilding of those
structures are fleeing Iraq.

The question for Americans is, Now what? Democrats and
Republicans alike want to send in more US soldiers.
Some voices are raised in the hope that the occupation
can be more fully "internationalized," which remains
unlikely while Washington retains absolute control.
But those who would rush belligerent reinforcements to
Iraq are making the age-old mistake.

When brutal force generates resistance, the first
impulse is to increase force levels. But, as the
history of conflicts like this shows, that will result
only in increased resistance. Secretary of Defense
Donald Rumsfeld has rejected the option of more troops
for now, but, in the name of force-protection, the
pressures for escalation will build as US casualties
mount. The present heartbreak of one or two GI deaths
a day will seem benign when suicide bombers, mortar
shells, or even heavier missile fire find their ways
into barracks and mess halls.

Either reinforcements will be sent to the occupation,
or present forces will loosen the restraints with
which they reply to provocation. Both responses will
generate more bloodshed and only postpone the day when
the United States must face the truth of its

The Bush administration's hubristic foreign policy has
been efficiently exposed as based on nothing more than
hallucination. High-tech weaponry can kill unwilling
human beings, but it cannot force them to embrace an
unwanted idea. As rekindled North Korean and Iranian
nuclear programs prove, Washington's rhetoric of
"evil" is as self-defeating as it is self-delusional.
No one could have predicted a year ago that the fall
from the Bush high horse of American Empire would come
so hard and so quickly. Where are the comparisons with
Rome now? The rise and fall of imperial Washington
took not hundreds of years, but a few hundred days.

Sooner or later, the United States must admit that it
has made a terrible mistake in Iraq, and it must move
quickly to undo it. That means the United States must
yield not only command of the occupation force, but
participation in it. The United States must renounce
any claim to power or even influence over Iraq,
including Iraqi oil. The United States must accept the
humiliation that would surely accompany its being
replaced in Iraq by the very nations it denigrated in
the build-up to the war.

With the United States thus removed from the Iraqi
crucible, those who have rallied to oppose the great
Satan will loose their raison d'etre, and the Iraqi
people themselves can take responsibility for
rebuilding their wrecked nation.

All of this might seem terribly unlikely today, but
something like it is inevitable. The only question is
whether it happens over the short term, as the result
of responsible decision-making by politicians in
Washington, or over the long term, as the result of a
bloody and unending horror.

The so-called "lessons" of Vietnam are often invoked
by hawks and doves alike, but here is one that applies
across the political spectrum. The American people saw
that that war was lost in January 1968, even as the
Tet Offensive was heralded as a victory by the
Pentagon and the White House. But for five more years,
Washington refused to face the truth of its situation,
until at last it had no choice.

Because American leaders could not admit the nation's
mistake, and move to undo it, hundreds of thousands of
people died, or was it millions? The war in Iraq is
lost. What will it take to face that truth this time?

James Carroll's column appears regularly in the Globe.
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