Monday, July 25, 2005

Iraq: Bush's Islamic Republic

The New York Review of Books: Iraq: Bush's Islamic Republic: "On June 4, Jalal Talabani, president of Iraq, attended the inauguration of the Kurdistan National Assembly in Erbil, northern Iraq. Talabani, a Kurd, is not only the first-ever democratically elected head of state in Iraq, but in a country that traces its history back to the Garden of Eden, he is, as one friend observed, 'the first freely chosen leader of this land since Adam was here alone.' While Kurds are enormously proud of his accomplishment, the flag of Iraq—the country Talabani heads—was noticeably absent from the inauguration ceremony, nor can it be found anyplace in Erbil, a city of one million that is the capital of Iraq's Kurdistan Region.

"Ann Bodine, the head of the American embassy office in Kirkuk, spoke at the ceremony, congratulating the newly minted parliamentarians, and affirming the US commitment to an Iraq that is, she said, 'democratic, federal, pluralistic, and united.' The phrase evidently did not apply in Erbil. In their oath, the parliamentarians were asked to swear loyalty to the unity of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Many pointedly dropped the 'of Iraq.'

"The shortest speech was given by the head of the Iranian intelligence service in Erbil, a man known to the Kurds as Agha Panayi. Staring directly at Ms. Bodine, he said simply, 'This is a great day. Throughout Iraq, the people we supported are in power.' He did not add 'Thank you, George Bush.' The unstated was understood."

The single most "promising" storm cloud (disaster) on the Bush horizon has always been Iraq. Bush chose Iraq. And, Iraq is a bigger catastrophe for the U.S. than any thing, which has happened since World War II.

Vietnam was a tragedy for the U.S. precisely because, despite the enormous effort expended, Vietnam really did not matter much to the U.S. It was a not a vital interest to the U.S. or to the world, at large, who ruled in Vietnam. So, when the U.S. finally withdrew, it had minimal consequences for the U.S. national interest. (The human costs for U.S. and for the Vietnamese, were terrible -- that's what made it a tragedy.)

As a tragedy, Iraq is not yet on a scale with Vietnam -- the violence and loss of life, as terrible as they are, have not reached the scale they did in Southeast Asia.

But, the very real national interest in Middle East is much greater. If the U.S. is forced to withdraw from Iraq, as seems increasingly likely, the cost will only begin with the humiliation.

The situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate steadily on every level, in every way.

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