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It Is Not A Good Idea
To Act As If You Can Not Accomplish
What You Were Elected To Do


Sunday, December 10, 2006

A kick in the butt view of the USA, Iraq and the ISG from the Times of London

A realistic America is the silver lining of this great Iraqi darkness

Simon Jenkins Tony Blair went to Washington last week and won the headline he craved: “US/UK split on Iraq”. The split, over the role of Iran, Syria and Israel in the West’s exit from Iraq, was meaningless since they have no role. That did not matter. In this war of imaginings, appearance is all. Blair needed the headline for home consumption and Bush gave it to him.

Blair’s trip was occasioned by the publication of the Baker/Hamilton Iraq Study Group. This report is very bad — and very good. Its relevance to the conflict tearing apart Iraq is minimal. The group visited Baghdad for just four days and never dared to leave the green zone, let alone attempt to understand the conflict on the ground. The proposal that America withdraw its troops over the next 18 months and confine them largely to self-defence describes what is already happening. The proposal to switch “control” of the Iraqi police from the Shi’ite interior ministry to the defence ministry is mad. There is no control of the police while the defence ministry, still a residual American front operation, is run by a Sunni. As for suggesting that the leaders of Syria and Iran come to America’s rescue, Baker/Hamilton seems to inhabit a different planet.

Why should these leaders rescue an American president who seeks their downfall when they are so enjoying his discomfiture. In a gesture of pure farce, George Bush replied that Iran would be allowed to help him but only if it stopped enriching uranium. Since when has a drowning man demanded that his rescuer pay for the privilege? America withdrew from Iraq — in the sense of surrendering effective control over its destiny — when it did not reinforce its occupation two years ago. The last bid to establish authority in Baghdad, Operation Together Forward, collapsed bloodily last summer. All sentences predicated on “what we should do in Iraq” are based on a fallacy that the verb can be made active.

There is no government in Iraq, not the Americans or the British or the Iranians or the Syrians, let alone Nouri al-Maliki’s regime, which barely rules its own office. The concept of Iraq as a coherent political entity offering Washington choices of action is nonsensical. The Americans can stay squatting in 55 bases across Iraq or leave them. Those are the only options.

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