Iraqis Can’t Be Blamed for the Chaos Unleashed by Invasion
Only those who live there can solve Iraq’s problems, but Bush and Blair must bear prime responsibility for igniting them
by Jonathan Steele
A rare joke was circulating among Iraqis shortly before their prime minister met George Bush in Amman recently. What would the US president be demanding? Answer: a timetable for Iraqis to withdraw from Iraq.
It was a barbed reference to the huge number of Iraqis who have been forced to flee their homeland since the US invaded and presided over a catastrophic collapse in security. Up to 3,000 are leaving every day, according to the UN.
The joke also encapsulated the growing Iraqi feeling that the Americans are reaching the climax of a three-year exercise in shifting blame. Whatever has gone wrong in Iraq, it was always the Iraqis’ fault. First they looted their own country in the aftermath of Saddam Hussein’s downfall. Then they let foreign jihadis and suicide bombers come in and attack the Americans. Now they are indulging in an orgy of sectarian violence and mindless revenge killings which are beyond the powers of the kind and well-meaning Americans to control. Could anyone have imagined that ingratitude for liberation would ever reach such depths? The only way to save Iraq is to remove every Iraqi. Messrs Perle, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz would then have an empty field on which to build their model Middle Eastern state.
The line that “it’s all up to the Iraqis now” also runs through the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group report, albeit in a subtle form. The report calls for Iraq’s neighbours to play a constructive part in stabilising the country. It calls on the US military to accelerate the training of Iraqi troops and give them better equipment. But the central thrust is that Iraqis have to solve their own problems. They cannot expect the US to have an open-ended commitment to help.
The report has had a poor reception, partly because of the discordance between its various tones. The analysis is radical, while the recommendations are moderate. Its opening sentences – “the situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating … there is no path that can guarantee success” – have been highlighted excessively by the mainstream US media because they seem to be an attack on Bush’s conduct of the war and his Panglossian state of denial about the horrors of life for Iraqis. That is one reason why Bush is delaying his own reaction until the New Year. He does not want to appear to agree with the diagnosis.
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