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US Policy in Iraq: Does it take an Academic Study to State the Obvious? Disember 7, 2006

Posted by ummahonline in Islam Bi La Hudud, Kolum.
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By: Farish A. NoorDoes it take an academic study to state the obvious? Would a specially constituted body of venerable doyens be required to pronounce the truth that water is wet or that the earth is not flat? Yet it seems that despite the glaring mistakes and the faulty premises upon which the invasion of Iraq was undertaken, that is what it takes to convince the government of the United States that all is not well in downtown Baghdad.

The recently published report on Iraq, issued by the Iraq study group and chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Democratic Congressman Lee Hamilton has come to the simple conclusion that the war on Iraq has cost America more than it can afford, not only in terms of money spent and lives wasted, but also in terms of its credibility and standing in many other parts of the world. 

In the wake of this latest US adventure, the climate of anti-Americanism has grown so strong that anti-US feelings are rife from Venezuala to Indonesia; and what is more anti-Americanism today unites more Latin Americans, Africans, Arabs, Europeans and Asians than ever before. So much for the promotion of democracy and fulfilling America’s manifest destiny on earth: The Bush administration has squandered the goodwill and hopes of so many people all around the world that it will take more than simply a regime change in the White House to contain the anger and disgust of millions.

But reading the report one gets the distinct impression that the Iraq study group is yet again being a tad too introverted and engaged in navel-gazing: At the very outset, the study notes that the primary costs of the war are domestic, and that it has cost the American establishment first and foremost. The summary of the text reads thus:

‘Many Americans are dissatisfied, not only with the situation in Iraq but also with the state of our political debate on Iraq. Our political leaders must build a bipartisan approach to bring a responsible conclusion to what is now a lengthy and costly war. Our country deserves a debate that prizes substance over rhetoric, and a policy that is adequately funded and sustainable. The President and Congress must work together. Our leaders must be candid and forthright with the people to win their support.”

Here one has to raise the obvious objection: What about the opinion of the rest of the global community, where millions of people the world over were not convinced at all by the flimsy pretext that this was a war to destroy Iraq’s alleged arsenal of weapons of mass destruction? And more importantly, what of the opinions of the people of Iraq themselves, who have borne the brunt of the invasion? Have we forgotten the fact that more people have died in Iraq during and after the war than before? Were the people of Iraq kept out of the picture and why have their particular voices been kept silenced during this debate? Dont Iraqis have the right to speak, and dont they, too, deserve a debate on Iraq that is fair, candid and open to all?

As much as the Iraq report is welcomed and should be welcomed by all, it goes to show yet again that in the short to medium term America is still driven by its own immediate political and strategic interests. We have all given up on the bogus notion that this was a legitimate invasion that could ever be justified, and no-one really believes that there were ever any real weapons of mass destruction in the first place. But what irritates and offends so many is that the fate of Iraq is being decided not by the Iraqis themselves but by technocrats and politicians millions of miles away, just as the colonised Third World was once governed from London and Paris.

The Iraq report therefore should be read in its proper context, as an internal document whose readers are primarily Americans – be they the American public or policy-makers. If the real question now is to find an exit strategy that doesnt have the White House crawling out of Iraq in the dead of night with its pants down, then the Iraq report would simply be categorised as yet another case of regime maintenance of the more sophisticated variety. The fact that it does not take the moral issue of illegal invasion of another country into question demonstrates that ethics is not part of its concern or focus. And that is why the report cannot be said to be a report written for the Iraqis themselves. This is just face-saving, albeit of the high-brow academic variety.

Note: Dr. Farish A Noor is a Malaysian political scientist at the Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin. Visit his website at www.othermalaysia.org.

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