In popular English-language parlance, a “skeleton in the closet” is a dirty family secret that everyone likes to keep hidden.
We here in the United States have many skeletons in the closet of our country’s history. One of the most tragic is the conflict and bloodshed that continue in Iraq, seven-and-a-half years after Pres. Bush’s completely unjustified decision to invade and occupy the country.
Back in 2002 and early 2003, I was one of only a small number of commentators in the U.S. media who argued strongly that Bush should not launch the invasion towards which he was so clearly heading, and that the casus belli he was preparing, based on Saddam Hussein’s alleged possession of WMDs had no foundation anywhere near strong enough to justify the terrible privations that any war would bring.
Today, those privations still continue. Today in Baghdad, 46 were killed in a series of coordinated car-bomb attacks, bringing to over 97,000 the number of Iraqi civilians who have confirmedly been killed in the political inferno the country has become since March 2003.
The U.S., which has been the occupying power under international law and in fact the strongest military/security presence in the country since March 2003, has to bear over-all responsibility for those deaths.
The invasion and occupation were, I repeat, unjustified. They were also acts of choice by Pres. Bush, the result of a decision he took under strong pressure from several parties including, notably, the strongly pro-Israeli networks that were dug well into the U.S. Congress and the Defense Department at that time.
Now, those same networks are still influential in the U.S. Congress, where their shrill calls for further escalation and the possible launching of a military action (= war) against Iran still receive a ready hearing from many Members.
Fortunately, they are not as influential in the Robert Gates Pentagon as they were in the Donald Rumsfeld Pentagon. So we still have some hope we may avert an outright military attack against Iran.
But the situation in Iraq certainly still deserves our strong concern.
Regular readers of Reidar Visser’s great blog Iraq and Gulf Analysis have been following there the notable failure of the leaders of Iraq’s electoral lists to put together a coalition that can do anything to govern the country. That, though it is now nearly six months since they were elected. Hidden near the bottom of this (PDF) excellent little security round-up for Iraq, prepared by the NGO Coordination Committee for Iraq (NCCI) is a footnote stating that “many Iraqi politicians have left the country for the time being. Many politicians plan to return once a new government is in place and their security can be guaranteed.”
(Right now, Reidar is near completion on pulling together a book for Just World Books, based on his blog posts from the past five years. It should be available for sale in mid-November.)
Next Tuesday, Pres. Obama is going to make what is being previewed as a “big” speech about Iraq, timed to coordinate with the current (still very partial) drawdown of U.S. forces from the country.
The way VP Biden and others have been talking recently, they’ve been describing the drawdown as Obama “delivering” on a promise he made to the American people about undertaking this drawdown by the end of this month.
In fact, the drawdown is an even more incomplete delivery on the promise the U.S. government under Pres. Bush made, back in late November 2008, to “hand over sovereignty to the Iraqis”, to end U.S. engagement in combat operations, and to pull U.S. forces out of all Iraqi cities by the end of June 2009— preparatory to a complete pullout of all U.S. forces from the country by the end of 2011.
But Obama’s whole policy in Iraq– like his policy in Afghanistan– has shown zero signs of any serious strategic thinking, or the kinds of strategically informed actions that are so desperately needed to stanch the bloodshed and give the country’s 30 million people some hope of rebuilding their society.
The only sign of any serious strategic engagement in bringing together the heads of Iraq’s electoral lists and– as is also necessary– the representatives of the country’s large and in some cases very nervous neighbors is one reportedly being undertaken by Syria.
Sami Moubayed of The Forward (Damascus), wrote today that there is much talk of Syria launching a “Taif-like” initiative to try to find common ground between the relevat internal and external actors in Iraq.
- Reportedly, the “Syrian Taif” is backed by strong players in the neighborhood, like Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and stands unopposed by the Barack Obama administration, which is very worried over the political vacuum in Baghdad.
To date, nothing official has been released regarding a Syrian Taif, but such a conference seems all the more logical as scores of Iraqi politicians, from every end of the political spectrum, have been visiting Damascus in recent months for talks with top Syrian officials.
To date, ex-prime minister Iyad Allawi, who controls 91 seats in the newly elected parliament, has paid two visits to Damascus, and so has Ammar Hakim of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), whose bloc has a total of 70 seats, and Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who commands 40 of the 70 seats held by the National Iraqi Alliance (NIA)…
The only Iraqi heavyweight still expected to make the Damascus visit is incumbent Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who controls 89 seats in parliament, and whose relations with Syria were strained in the summer of 2009.
Definitely worth watching. Syria of course is in a pivotal position since it currently enjoys good relations with Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkey, as well as decent relations with Jordan (and it has its own long border with Iraq; a large population of Iraqi refugees, and longstanding ties to many of Iraq’s current leaders.)
I wish the best for the Syrian government or any other party that can help to bring the terrible bloodshed within Iraq to an end, and to help Iraq’s leaders form the stable government that their people so desperately need.
But that still does not wash away the shame and intense grief I feel regarding the very destructive policies my own government has pursued against the Iraqi people for the past 19 years. There is no way any American could describe what our country has done there as any kind of “victory”.