Why Are We In Iraq?

The ugliness of the regime we have installed in Iraq has finally bubbled up to the surface, like the outbreak of an oozing syphilitic sore, and spilled over onto the front page of the Washington Post:

“Shi’ite and Kurdish militias, often operating as part of Iraqi government security forces, have carried out a wave of abductions, assassinations, and other acts of intimidation, consolidating their control over territory across northern and southern Iraq and deepening the country’s divide along ethnic and sectarian lines, according to political leaders, families of the victims, human rights activists. and Iraqi officials. …

“While Iraqi representatives wrangle over the drafting of a constitution in Baghdad, the militias, and the Shi’ite and Kurdish parties that control them, are creating their own institutions of authority, unaccountable to elected governments.”

Cindy Sheehan is camped outside George W. Bush‘s Crawford ranch, demanding to know why her son – and 1,800-plus other American soldiers, as well as tens of thousands of uncounted Iraqis – had to die in this bitter war, and the answer is: to install sharia law in southern Iraq and deliver the country over to parties for whom the Ayatollah Khomeini is a hero. As the Post reports:

“Since the formation of a government this spring, Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city, has witnessed dozens of assassinations, which claimed members of the former ruling Ba’ath Party, Sunni political leaders, and officials of competing Shi’ite parties. Many have been carried out by uniformed men in police vehicles, according to political leaders and families of the victims, with some of the bullet-riddled bodies dumped at night in a trash-strewn parcel known as The Lot. The province’s governor said in an interview that Shi’ite militias have penetrated the police force; an Iraqi official estimated that as many as 90 percent of officers were loyal to religious parties.”

The death of journalist Steven Vincent, the war supporter killed by Basra Shi’ite militiamen who have taken over the Basra police, brought the ugly reality of what U.S. intervention has wrought home to all but the most ideologically blinded of the Busheviks. Southern Iraq has become, in effect, Little Iran – a result foreseen in this space years ago. Another consequence has been the unleashing of the Kurds, whose pro-U.S. stance belies their brutishness when it comes to dealing with those they perceive as political opponents:

“Across northern Iraq, Kurdish parties have employed a previously undisclosed network of at least five detention facilities to incarcerate hundreds of Sunni Arabs, Turkmens, and other minorities abducted and secretly transferred from Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city, and from territories stretching to the Iranian border, according to political leaders and detainees’ families. Nominally under the authority of the U.S.-backed Iraqi army, the militias have beaten up and threatened government officials and political leaders deemed to be working against Kurdish interests; one bloodied official was paraded through a town in a pickup truck, witnesses said.”

Sunday morning on Meet the Press, Senator Russ Feingold – an opponent of the war who recently endorsed a timetable for withdrawal – was asked whether the world and Iraq weren’t better off with Saddam Hussein out of power. Feingold’s answer was great: America’s interests, not Iraq’s, are primary here. But here is a truly devastating answer, coming as it does from an Iraqi:

“‘I don’t see any difference between Saddam and the way the Kurds are running things here,’ said Nahrain Toma, who heads a human rights organization, Bethnahrain, which has offices in northern Iraq and has faced several death threats. Toma said the tactics were eroding what remained of U.S. credibility as the militias operate under what many Iraqis view as the blessing of American and British forces. ‘Nobody wants anything to do with the Americans anymore,’ she said. ‘Why? Because they gave the power to the Kurds and to the Shi’ites. No one else has any rights.'”

Aside from enabling Kurdish thuggery, the American “liberators” are also in league with aspiring Shi’ite tyrants who want to impose sharia law on the nation. As Juan Cole points out, the Shi’ite parties’ demand that Islamic law must be the fundamental source of legislation – rather than one source among others – has been met and is likely to be enshrined in the constitution with full American support. Cole cites al-Hayat newspaper:

“Also, an agreement was reached that Islam is the religion of state, and that no law shall be enacted that contradicts the agreed-upon essential verities of Islam. Likewise, the inviolability of the highest [Shi’ite] religious authorities in the land is safeguarded, without any allusion to a detailed description. The paragraph governing these matters will specify that Islam is ‘the fundamental basis’ for legislation, though there will be an allusion to the protection of democratic values, human rights, and social and national values. A Higher Council will be formed to review new legislation to ensure it does not contravene the essential verities of the Islamic religion.”

Meet the new boss – worse, in many respects, than the old boss.

Democracy” in action in Iraq means that the biggest vote-getter, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), launches an armed assault on police headquarters in Nasiriyah, expels the police chief, and installs one more to their liking. In the Kurdish region, the Kurdish “Democratic” Party runs a “maze” of secret prisons where the disappeared are languishing, tortured and denied any access to a court, let alone lawyers:

“‘There is an absence of law,’ said a 40-year-old Transportation Ministry official who was detained for five days in Dahuk last month. The official said a Kurdish officer had accused him of ‘writing against the Kurds on the Internet.’ ‘”Freedom” and “liberty” are only words in ink on a piece of paper,’ he said. ‘The law now, it’s the big fish eats the small fish.'”

Both the neocon Right and the “centrist” (i.e., left-neocon) Democratic Leadership Council denounce the antiwar movement – and any timetable for withdrawal – as “anti-American,” but how “pro-American” is the regime we’ve installed in Iraq by force of arms? When you look at what we’ve actually done in Iraq – the emerging Islamist-Kurdish tyranny we’ve empowered – it turns out that the U.S. government is the biggest exponent – and exporter – of true anti-Americanism. The irony and tragedy of this seems lost on those for whom “anti-American” is the main epithet in their rhetorical arsenal.

The Bushies and their Democratic enablers see only what they want to see, and blame the “MSM” for perpetrating a supposedly false idea of what is really going on in Iraq. But who cares if Americans are building schools and ensuring elections when the former become fundamentalist indoctrination centers and the latter enshrine mob rule and religious fanaticism as the law of the land?

As Shi’ite party militias roam the ruins of Iraq’s cities killing and beating political dissidents, and whipping women who fail to wear the requisite head-to-toe chador, our “democracy“-crazed neocons cite the country as a “model” – and look forward to the “liberation” of the rest of the Middle East along similar lines. The world seen through the prism of neoconservatism is truly a Bizarro World, where everything is stood on its head, not just physical laws but also traditional moral precepts as well as the rules of logic.

Americans are naturally repulsed by the sight of what the Busheviks have wrought in Iraq, but the alternative is not to turn around and make war on the Shi’ite-Kurdish tyranny we made possible in the first place. A war along those lines would be an act of such incredible hubris that it would make our prior mistakes – beginning with the invasion of Iraq – seem almost benign.

It’s time to face up to the horrific reality: there are places on this earth that in no way resemble the cultural and political landscape of the U.S., and nothing we do will turn Iraq into a suburb of the American metropolis. Short of wiping out a good portion of the population and imprisoning most of the rest in “reeducation” camps where they’ll be forced to memorize Robert’s Rules of Order and the aphorisms of Emily Post, it simply cannot be done.

The criminality of this war is exacerbated by the utter evil of the cretins we’ve catapulted into power. During World War II, the massive bombing campaigns – including the gratuitous nuking of two Japanese cities and the firebombing of Dresden – involved massive loss of civilian lives, yet the victors could at least claim that an imperfect means was utilized to achieve a desirable result. Not so in this instance: the “liberation” of Iraq is turning out to be a cruel joke.

The main argument against an immediate U.S. withdrawal is that our absence would have to mean civil war: but that is preferable to the imposition of the tyranny that is taking shape under the suzerainty of the U.S. occupation. In any case, civil strife has already begun in Iraq, with the Shi’ites and Kurds firing the first shots, albeit under the color of state authority. The Shi’ite party militias, merging into the Iraqi “police,” have become death squads. The “El Salvador option” is now fully operational. The longer we remain in Iraq, the more we become complicit in the consolidation of at least two vicious tyrannies, and a reign of terror that can have no moral or political justification.

Yet some still persist in trying to justify and even valorize the war effort as a “noble” cause, albeit one that – somehow – went tragically wrong. Never ones to shy away from brazen lies, the War Party is now frantically trying to shift the blame for their failure – onto the backs of their critics!

Writing in the War Street Journal, Reason contributing editor Michael Young accuses the antiwar left and the “isolationist right” (i.e., real libertarians) of rooting for the failure of the “American democratization effort,” which he attributes to “carelessness.” We are guilty, according to Young, of “solemnly” and even “pleasurably” pointing out the “derailing” of the “Iraqi project.” Aside from wondering where’s the pleasure in saying “I told you so” if those in the wrong aren’t either behind bars or shamed into silence, one has to ask: was it carelessness – or calculation?

When Saddam’s alleged links to al-Qaeda were debunked and those fabled “weapons of mass destruction” turned out to be massively missing, the ideologues of “regime change” declared that capital-“D” Democracy was the real goal all along, and George W. Bush enthused about “a fire in the mind” that would set the whole world aflame. That, too, was a lie, as we are beginning to discover.

It didn’t require a Nostradamus to predict the outcome of an attempt to impose Western-style liberal constitutionalism by force of arms. Please don’t tell me that the authors of this invasion didn’t know what they were doing, and that they really believed they’d be greeted as liberators by a grateful populace, which would then proceed to create a Mesopotamian Republic along Jeffersonian lines. No one, not even the most blinkered ideologue – say, Michael Young – could possibly believe that. Certainly not our hardheaded, hardhearted neocons, those admirers of Machiavelli and masters of political calculation who managed to hijack the government and American foreign policy, and lie us into war.

Why, then, are we in Iraq?

If there’s no vengeance for 9/11, no WMD, and certainly no democracy as we or anyone else would ever want to know it, then what’s up with this interminable and increasingly painful war?

That’s what Cindy Sheehan wants to know – and she’s not alone. The question haunts our nation, baffling war opponents, and the answer is proving maddeningly elusive even to supporters of the president’s policy, who can no longer coherently articulate a clear answer – as Young’s War Street Journal op-ed makes painfully clear to his readers.

Amid the tortured syntax and self-conscious preciosity of the prose, Young avers that the failure of the “Iraqi project” is due, not to the hallucinatory dogmas of its architects, but to the skeptics who never accepted on faith what experience has now proved delusional. Whose fault is the mess we created in Iraq? According to Young, it’s the Arab opponents of the invasion – not only in Iraq, but throughout the Middle East – who let their reactionary nationalism get in the way of fulsome support for the American conquistadors, although a good deal of the blame can be laid at the doorstep of Noam Chomsky, with those gloating “isolationists” over at Antiwar.com and The American Conservative also claiming their fair share.

What unmitigated rubbish. Is there no limit to the dishonesty of these people, who run from the consequences of their own hallucinations and then try to attribute the resulting crack-up to others? Are we to be spared nothing – not even the indignity of being lectured on the subject of moral accountability by the supporters and authors of what is shaping up to be the most catastrophic failure in the history of American foreign policy?

As farce descends into tragedy in Iraq, the braying of the War Party has not abated: incredibly enough, it has gotten even louder. These people never shut up. Confronted with the disastrous results of their ideology-driven experiment, these eggheads-in-arms just start shouting and turn vitriolic, sliming war critics as traitors and worse, even as they try to squirm out of any responsibility for the unfolding nightmare. If I were the editors of Reason magazine – who officially take an agnostic position on the war, but in reality, in terms of sheer verbiage, have expended a lot of energy rationalizing it – I would stick to romanticizing methedrine addiction and leave the foreign policy analysis to those who have a firmer grasp of core libertarian principles.

The Busheviks, especially including those of the “libertarian” persuasion, are responsible for what is happening today in Iraq – because they wanted it, they argued for it, and they are still trying to rationalize it, even as their “Iraqi project” collapses in a paroxysm of appalling violence. “Carelessness”? Not on this scale. It seems to me that this is the sort of “failure” that is really a success, in terms of the actual objective of the “Iraqi project” – which was and is to break up Iraq and atomize what was once a nation. This, it seems clear, is the real goal of the neocons’ regional “project” – “creative destruction,” as one of them put it, with the emphasis on the destructive aspect.

This, when you get right down to it, seems to be the real purpose of the war: to inure us to the horrors of it, and get us ready for more.

Anyone who continues to defend this war, or even the idea of it, is certifiable, and we have every right to either ignore them or just emit an occasional guffaw. I, for one, am through arguing with them: they are beyond reason and redemption. In a more just, paleo-libertarian world, these people would be put in the public stockade and made to feel the slings and arrows of the outrageous fortune they’ve visited upon the rest of us. Why, after all, should the Kurds and the Shi’ites have all the fun?

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of Antiwar.com, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].