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Jan 5

Written by: Diana West
Tuesday, January 05, 2010 5:44 AM 

The following series of three columns examines the impact of the Iraq "surge," widely considered a success roaring enough to be replicated in Afghanistan. Since it ran in papers across the country over the last three holiday weeks, I thought I'd put them all together here for the record.    

The "Surge" and "Success," Part 1

The main reason the "surge" in Afghanistan is on is because the 
conventional wisdom tells us the "surge" in Iraq "worked."

The problem is, the Iraq surge did not work. Yes, the U.S. military 
perfectly executed its share of the strategy -- the restoration of 
some semblance of calm to blood-gushing Mesopotamian society -- but 
that was only Step One. The end-goal of the surge strategy, Step Two 
was always out of U.S. control -- a fundamental flaw. Step Two was up 
to the Iraqis: namely, to take the opportunity afforded by U.S.-
provided security (see Step One) to bring about both "national 
reconciliation" and, as the powers-that-were further promised, the 
emergence of a U.S. ally in the so-called war on terror.

Step One worked. Step Two didn't. The surge, like an uncaught 
touchdown pass, was incomplete. The United States is now walking off 
the battlefield with virtually nothing to show for its blood, 
treasure, time and effort. In fact, another "success" like that could 
kill us.

Take the state of post-surge U.S.-Iraq investment lately in the news. 
Remember "blood for oil," the anti-war mantra of the Left? "Blood not 
for oil" is more like it. Not only did Paul Wolfowitz's prediction 
that Iraq would pay for its own reconstruction with oil revenue never 
come true; not only did the United States never get to fill up one 
crummy Humvee for free; but when Iraq staged one of the biggest oil 
auctions in history last week, U.S. companies left empty-handed. 
Russia, China and Europe came out the big winners.

"Strange," said industry experts, which is one word for it. What's 
also shocking is Iraq's apparent willingness to denigrate the United 
States by showing favoritism to hostile nations (that sacrificed 
nothing in Iraq's war), and disregard for American interests in the 
war's (supposed) aftermath.

Such benefactor-abuse fits a pattern of what you might call Iraqi de-
Americanization. At the big Baghdad Trade Fair in November, for 
example, the United States was "not much evident among the 32 nations 
represented," the New York Times noted. In fact, of the 396 companies 
represented, only two or three were American -- "but I can't remember 
their names," the fair company director said. As the newspaper summed 
up: "America's war in Iraq has been good for business in Iraq -- but 
not necessarily for American business."

Leading the field is United Arab Emirates with investments in Iraq 
amounting to $31 billion, mostly from the last year, "compared to only 
about $400 million from American companies when United States 
government reconstruction spending is excluded."

U.S. government reconstruction spending, of course, equals taxpayer 
dollars. Beyond our incredible largesse -- which (not including the 
astronomical cost of the war itself) comes to $53 billion, much of 
which is headed down the drain as Iraqis show little capacity to 
maintain U.S.-provided public works projects -- one market analyst 
told the Times, "U.S. private investors have become negligible players 
in Iraq." Meanwhile, Turkey, the nation that prevented U.S. troops 
from transiting through during the initial invasion, has become a 
major commercial player in Iraq. Likewise Iran, the nuke-seeking, 
genocide-promising nation that fomented much of the war, particularly 
the IED war, on U.S. forces in Iraq.

The sour experience of FedEx is revealing. This fall, the shipping 
company announced it was suspending operations to Iraq. "The reason is 
that Iraqi officials gave RusAir, a Russian airline, exclusive rights 
to cargo flight," the Times reports. "FedEx was one of the very few 
American businesses that braved the risks of working not only on 
American bases but also in the Red Zone, back when it was particularly 
dangerous to do so. Now that the danger is much less, its business is 
being thwarted by an upstart Russian come-lately."

Emphasis on "Russian." And, with the oil auction, emphasis on 
"Chinese." "We all know that China is on track to become a major 
economic as well as technological power," an Iraqi oil ministry 
spokesman told the Washington Post.

And the United States? More like an old shoe now than anything else. 
Which reminds me: After that Iraqi "journalist" threw his shoes at 
then-President Bush, The Scotsman newspaper reported that the Istanbul-
based shoe manufacturer received orders from around the world, 
including an incredible 120,000 orders from Iraq.

What's that old Middle Eastern saying -- The shoe of my enemy's enemy 
is my shoe?

Part 2

So much for the lack of post-surge U.S. business benefits in Iraq, as 
I wrote last week. Now, what kind of post-surge ally is Iraq?

No kind.

I write in wonder that the ultimate failures of the surge strategy -- 
which include the failure of anything resembling a U.S. ally to emerge 
in post-Saddam Iraq -- have never entered national discourse. Rather, 
the strategy that "won Iraq" has been mythologized as a "success" to 
be repeated in Afghanistan.

It's not that there aren't hints to the contrary -- as when U.S. 
ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill arrived at the Iraqi parliament in 
early December and "some deputies," the New York Times reported, 
"demanded he be barred from the building." Or when 42 percent of 
Iraqis polled by the BBC in March 2008 still thought it "acceptable" 
to attack U.S. forces. Or when Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, as U.S. 
forces transferred security responsibilities to Iraqi forces in June, 
obstreperously declared "victory" over those same U.S. forces! Such 
incidents convey hostility toward the United States inside Iraq, but 
there's more. Of greater consequence are the positions against U.S. 
interests Iraq is taking in world affairs.

Take the foundational principle of freedom of speech, continuously 
under assault by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in 
the international arena. The OIC includes the world's 57 Muslim 
nations as represented by kings, heads of state and governments, with 
policies overseen by the foreign ministers of these same 57 nations. 
Describing itself as the "collective voice of the Islamic world," the 
OIC strives to extend Islamic law throughout the world, and to that 
end, is the driving force at the United Nations to outlaw criticism of 
Islam (which includes Islamic law) through proposed bans on the 
"defamation of religions" -- namely, Islam. This is a malignant thrust 
at the mechanism of Western liberty. Where does post-surge Iraq come 
down in this crucial ideological struggle?

An OIC nation, Iraq is, with other OIC nations, a signatory to the 
1990 Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam. This declaration 
defines human rights according to Islamic law, which prohibits 
criticism of Islam. Indeed, Iraq's U.S.-enabled 2004 constitution 
enshrines Islamic law above all. Little wonder Iraq consistently votes 
at the United Nations with the OIC and against the United States on 
this key ideological divide between Islam and the West, most recently 
in November.

Then there's Iran.

Iran may be a menace to the West, but it is also Iraq's largest 
trading partner. Heavily involved in Iraq's reconstruction, Iran has 
masterminded extensive loan, tourism and energy programs in Iraq while 
maintaining close connections to Iraq's dominant Shiite political 
parties. This disastrous fact should dampen -- at least enter into -- 
assessments of the surge strategy's "success."

But it doesn't. Not even the fact that Bank Melli -- the Iranian 
terror bank outlawed by the U.S. Treasury as a conduit for Iran's 
nuclear and terrorist programs -- operates a branch in Baghdad gives 
pause to one-surge-fits-all enthusiasts. The Bank Melli example is 
particularly egregious because the bank funds Iran's Revolutionary 
Guard Corps' Qods Force, which is responsible for innumerable American 
casualties in Iraq -- American sacrifices on behalf of Iraq. Guess 
we're supposed to look the other way. But that's like applauding the 
Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the United States and Iraq 
without noticing that the agreement prohibits the United States from 
attacking Iran (or any other country) from Iraq.

Iraq's pattern of hostility to U.S. interests continues vis-a-vis 
Israel, a bona-fide U.S. ally against jihad terror. Whenever Israel 
strikes back at jihad -- whether at Hamas in Gaza or Hezbollah in 
Lebanon -- post-Saddam Iraq is quick to condemn the Jewish state, 
which, not incidentally, it also continues to boycott with the rest of 
the Arab League.

Additionally, Maliki's public refusal even to criticize Hezbollah in 
2006 prompted Dan Senor, a former Bush administration advisor in 
Baghdad, to write in the Wall Street Journal: "It wasn't supposed to 
be this way. We had thought that a post-Saddam Iraqi government would 
be less susceptible to Arab League pressure. ... This change of tone 
was to be a model for the region."

And why did "we" ever think this? Such was -- and is -- the deceptive 
power of the see-no-Islam fantasy.

Onto Afghanistan.


Part 3

There's at least one more aspect to consider when appraising the past 
six years in Iraq climaxed by the "surge." This would be the indirect 
effect of "reflected glory," if such a quaint term applies, and has to 
do with the sort of state the U.S. helped create in Iraq.


I don't know how to candy-coat reality: Post-surge Iraq is a state of 
increasing repression, endemic corruption, religious and ethnic 
persecution and encroaching Sharia. Recent media reports flag just 
some of these glaring truths that American elites, civilian an 
military, seem to shy away from.

In October, from AsiaNews, came the latest news of, to quote the 
headline, "Sharia Slowly Advancing in Najaf and Basra, for Non-Muslims 
Too." Here, the Sharia (Islamic law) is invoked to ban alcohol sales 
and consumption by non-Muslims -- namely, Christians, given the 
eradication and dispersal of Iraq's ancient Jewish population -- "on 
the grounds that Iraq's constitution," as Ahmad al Sulaiti, deputy 
governor of Najaf, notes, "'bans everything that violates the 
principles of Islam.''" More on that below.

In November, Reuters highlighted the government crackdown on the media 
via lawsuits against criticism, and laws enabling the government to 
close media outlets that "encourage terrorism, violence," and -- 
here's a handy catch-all -- "tensions." There are new rules to license 
satellite trucks, censor books and control Internet cafes. "The 
measures evoke memories of ... the laws used to muzzle (journalism) 
under Saddam Hussein," Reuters writes.

In December, the British paper The Observer reported that hundreds of 
Iraqi police and soldiers descended on Baghdad's 300 nightclubs where 
they "slapped owners' faces, scattered their patrons and dancing 
girls, ripped down posters advertising upcoming acts and ordered 
alcohol removed from the shelves." The official reason? No licenses. 
But, the paper reports, "the reality is that a year-long renaissance 
in Baghdad's nightlife may be over as this increasingly conservative 
city takes on a hard-line religious identity." As one club owner said: 
"This is a political decision with a religious agenda. (Prime Minister 
Nouri al-) Maliki needs the votes of religious parties ... They (the 
government) supported us and gave us incentives to reopen the clubs, 
then when it suited them, they sold us and themselves out to the 
fundamentalists."

There's a lot of that "selling out to the fundamentalists" going 
around post-surge Iraq, where, it must be faced, one particularly 
shocking, unintended consequence of U.S. involvement has been the 
religious "cleansing" of Iraq's ancient Christian populations. In 
2003, 1 million Christians lived in Iraq. Six years later, after 
successive waves of violence and intimidation largely unchecked by 
either Iraqi government action or U.S. intercession, more than 500,000 
Christians have fled the country. It is a crisis that inspired 
Christian leaders to assemble in Baghdad in December for a conference 
piteously titled: "Do Christians Have a Future in Iraq?"

This anti-Christian persecution is a large part of why the U.S. 
Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended in December 
2008 that the State Department name Iraq a Country of Particular 
Concern (CPC) -- its dread Saddam-era designation. (Recommendation 
denied.) In May, to strengthen human rights in Iraq, the commission's 
Iraq report included suggested amendments to Iraq's constitution, 
which, not incidentally, boil down to abolishing the constitutional 
supremacy of Islamic law. (And yes, U.S. legal advisers helped write 
this same Sharia-supreme governing document.)

For example, the commission suggested deleting the line in Article 2 
that says no law may contradict "the established provisions of Islam." 
It suggested revising the "guarantee of `the Islamic identity of the 
majority' to make certain that this identity is not used to justify 
violations" of human rights. It also suggested that "the free and 
informed consent of both parties (be) required to move a personal 
status case to the religious law system," and "that religious court 
rulings (be) subject to final review under Iraq's civil law." Another 
suggestion was to remove "the ability of making appointments to the 
Federal Supreme Court based on training in Islamic jurisprudence alone."

Good ideas -- if religious freedom is the objective. But it is not the 
objective in Iraq, or in other Islamic countries. Which should make 
the United States, founded and defined by such freedom, look before 
nation-building, and ask: Do we really want Americans to "surge" and 
risk death to build nations such as this to stand as monuments to 
"victory"?

 

 

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