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Questions for Congress, for Bush and for Petraeus

ASK THIS | September 06, 2007

This is a slightly edited version of remarks by Lt. Gen.William Odom (retired), at a press conference held Sept. 5th by Rep. Maxine Waters, chairwoman of the Out of Iraq Caucus, and a group of other Democrats.

By William E. Odom

As a citizen, I am appalled at the irresponsible and feckless behavior of the Congress concerning the war in Iraq. Each time it tries to stop the war, the president bamboozles and confuses it so that it does not act to reverse his disastrous policy.

He is now demanding more money to misuse in Iraq, namely to train its new army and police and also for arming Sunni insurgent groups, allegedly to fight on our side.  At least three things are wrong with this policy.

First, there are no historical examples where the United States has armed its enemies in a client state facing an insurgency and achieved a desirable outcome. Both the Sunni insurgents and the government’s forces are our enemies. Why doesn’t Congress confront the administration with these facts?

Second, the implications for political consolidation in Iraq, the very thing that General David Petraeus and others say is essential for success, are adverse. Those Sunnis who are accepting the offer to fight al Qaeda in return for weapons and ammunition do so because they mistrust the present government in Baghdad. Most say so openly.  In other words, they will fight on the U.S. side precisely because they do not trust their own government. That tells us that we are arming the enemies of the government whose election and legitimacy we sponsored. Perhaps the president can explain why he favors such a strange policy. 

Does it mean that Prime Minister Maliki’s government is now our enemy? And does it mean that the Baathists and other Sunni elements are now our choice to replace the present government in Iraq? Bush’s policy implies a “yes” answer to both questions.

Third, the historical record holds no example where stable states were created by diffusing weapons and power to local and regional groups. On the contrary, it has led to civil war, chaos, and sometimes the disappearance of states.

Petraeus, the commander of our forces in Iraq, is to testify on Capitol Hill next week. We’ll have to wait and see if any hard questions are directed at him regarding Bush’s new policy, or only softballs. The muddled, contradictory, and ludicrous nature of this policy would deserve a horse laugh if it were not so tragic. The Congress shames itself by merely considering the legislation, much less by passing it.

There is, however, a way to give such a policy a coherent rationale. That is to admit that we need a Saddam to govern today, and therefore, we must support the Baathists in the ongoing civil war. If they win, Iran’s influence will be reduced and our Arab friends in the Persian Gulf states will be delighted. Our present policy has them in a state of fright and desperation. To take this rational approach, of course, would be to admit that the invasion of Iraq was a strategic disaster in the first place. If we only want rid of al Qaeda in Iraq, the easiest way to do that is to withdraw. Now that the Sunnis are turning against it, it has no other allies in Iraqi. Only our presence has kept it alive this long.

Our policy in El Salvador in the 1980s essentially did the same thing as supporting only the Baathists would do in Iraq. It put the old political elites back in power in San Salvador under different names, and today they rule, using death squads that we pretended were closed down. The government prevailed against the insurgents there because Gorbachev cut off their supplies, not because the government was effective.

This is the most likely outcome in Iraq in any case unless it breaks up beforehand. Our choices are to withdraw and refuse to preside over such an outcome. Or to take sides in the civil war and reap the moral responsibility for all of the bloodshed that results.

In all events, the road to political stability in Iraq is civil war, not counterinsurgency and a governance policy of US colonialism by ventriloquism.

[Click here for a listing of other NiemanWatchdog contributions by Gen. Odom.]

American Colonialism
Posted by Edward Rykowski -
09/15/2007, 01:41 AM

Iraq is becoming the clearest instance of a colonialist American foreign policy since the Spanish-American War and its aftermath.

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