A Lost Cause

Hey, has anyone noticed? We've lost the war in Iraq.

Of course, you could make the argument that the war in Iraq was lost 18 months ago, at the very moment invading U.S. troops weren't met by Iraqi civilians throwing rose petals at their feet. The very moment we learned that the Bush administration's notion of Iraqis welcoming American liberators was a stupid neocon fantasy.

We could have predicted everything that's come since then.

But that's no excuse for the cruel, vicious incompetence with which the U.S. has tried to occupy Iraq and, with lack of success, stop the insurgency. Just as the White House launched its invasion in the first place, against the advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and their best military minds, the White House has repeatedly directed the war on Iraq for political purposes against military advice. The siege of Fallujah, in retaliation for the mutilation deaths of four U.S. civilians, was a bad idea from a military perspective. Even worse was pulling out, leaving the worst possible combination of having caused thousands of civilian deaths but having left the strength of the guerrillas in the city's core untouched. And this grim scenario, run more by Karl Rove than by the generals, has repeated itself in cities across Iraq.

Now, there is no mistaking the situation. Nearly half of Iraq is a no-go zone for U.S. troops. The whole of Al Anbar province, which takes up the vast western portion of the country, is lost. So are the cities of Fallujah, Ramadi, and Samarra, and most of Salahaddin and Diyala provinces. So is most of Sadr City, the vast slum neighborhood of Baghdad. Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, could fall any day. The oil pipelines are sabotaged, and as a consequence, the puppet U.S. government has no revenue. The truth is that American soldiers and civilians cannot go anywhere in Iraq now without being targets.

One result is that the U.S. is flying blind in these no-go areas. Bereft of intelligence on the ground, when the U.S. says it's bombing terrorists, what it means is that it is dropping bombs into heavily populated civilian areas with only a vague idea of who the targets might be. The predictable result is a cycle of martyrdom and violence and vengeance, whereby the surviving family members of those killed or maimed join the guerrillas with a vow of blood. It's now estimated that the guerrillas in Iraq number 100,000, as many as the U.S. troops in the country, and the best recruiter for the guerrillas has been the U.S. itself.

What needs to be done is exactly what the muscle-bound ideologues in the Bush administration will refuse to do: obey international law by stopping the bombing of nonmilitary Iraqi cities and then negotiating with the Sunni and Shiite guerrillas. A delicate balancing act is needed to ensure that no side is victimized the way Shiites were under Saddam Hussein. Thus far, the Bush team has seemed incapable of such nuanceā€”but it's the only path to avoid losing Iraq entirely, the only way to forestall a bloody civil war in which nobody can win.

So long as George Bush is in office, it's not going to happen. Pray that you won't have loved ones in Iraq, because a thousand deaths is just the beginning of a bloody, futile, criminally stupid war.


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