Stephen Zunes : Iraq
Public opinion polls have consistently shown that the majority of Americans — and even a larger majority of Democrats — believe that Iraq is the most important issue of the day, that it was wrong for the United States to have invaded that country, and the United States should completely withdraw its forces in short order. Despite this, the clear front-runner for the Democratic Party nomination for president is Senator Hillary Clinton, a strident backer of the invasion who only recently and opportunistically began to criticize the war and call for a partial withdrawal of American forces.
To add to the tragic violence unleashed throughout Iraq as a result of the U.S. invasion of that country, the armed forces of Turkey have launched attacks into the Kurdish-populated region in northern Iraq to fight guerrillas of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK). Taking advantage of the establishment of an autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq, the PKK has been escalating their raids into Turkey, prompting the October 17 decision by the Turkish parliament to authorize military action within Iraq.
The Senate is marking the fifth anniversary of its lamentable vote authorizing the U.S. invasion of Iraq by advocating a path that would only increase that country’s enormous suffering.
On September 26, the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate voted 75–23 in support of an amendment that calls for a “federal” solution to the internal conflicts in their country, which has been widely interpreted as a call for the de facto partition of the country. The resolution, sponsored by Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman and Democratic presidential candidate Joseph Biden of Delaware, was backed by every Democratic senator except for Russell Feingold (who voted against it) and Barack Obama (who wasn’t present for the vote.)
Instead of charting a new direction for U.S. policy in Iraq, President Bush’s speech to the nation last evening was an impassioned plea to the American public to stay the course. But much of Bush’s argument for staying the course was based on spin instead of reality. In this edition of Annotate This… Stephen Zunes and Erik Leaver analyze Bush’s statements and offer an alternative interpretation of the situation on the ground….
The capitulation of the Democratic Party’s congressional leadership to the Bush administration’s request for nearly $100 billion of unconditional supplementary government spending, primarily to support the war in Iraq, has led to outrage throughout the country. In the Senate, 37 of 49 Democrats voted on May 24 to support the measure. In the House, while only 86 of the 231 Democratic House members voted for the supplemental funding, 216 of them voted in favor of an earlier procedural vote designed to move the funding bill forward even though it would make the funding bill’s passage inevitable (while giving most of them a chance to claim they voted against it).
I first heard it while driving home from work on a college FM station. It was a song I had forgotten about but had known, with slightly different opening lyrics, in my childhood:
The failures of Iraqi democratization as advocated by the Bush administration should not be blamed primarily on the Iraqis. Nor should they be used to reinforce racist notions that Arabs or Muslims are somehow incapable of building democratic institutions and living in a democratic society. Rather, democracy from the outset has been more of a self-serving rationalization for American strategic and economic interests in the region than a genuine concern for the right of the Iraq people to democratic self-governance.
Faced with growing public opposition to the U.S. war in Iraq, the Bush administration has been desperately trying to divert attention to Iran. Washington has gone so far as to make a series of dubious and unfounded charges that blame the Iranian government for the difficulties facing American forces fighting the Iraqi insurgency.
On January 10, George W. Bush finally delivered a speech on his new Iraq policy. Originally planned for before Christmas, the plan’s chief element—an increase in U.S. soldiers on the ground—received much criticism and was therefore postponed. The speech has already drawn negative responses from senior House Democrats, who have vowed to block funding for the increase in troops, from the American public, 61% of whom oppose the build-up, and was skeptically received by some key Republicans. The Arab world, too, has voiced doubts about the plan.
The execution of Saddam Hussein, though he was undeniably guilty of a notorious series of crimes against humanity, represents a major setback in the pursuit of justice in Iraq. The trial and the sentence were both problematic. The opportunity for future trials, and to present evidence of U.S. complicity in some of Saddam’s crimes, has been lost. And the overall message — that leaders face justice only if they run afoul of U.S. authority – undermines international legal norms.