Monday, October 30, 2006

Blaming the Iraqis?

One of the more disturbing political developments to observe in connection with the Iraqi occupation is the dissembling that is taking place about where the responsibility lies for restoring social order and stability in the country. Now that “victory” seems ever more elusive (whatever it meant in the first place) the President and his “spinners” have begun to heap more and more emphasis on the sovereign status of Iraq and the responsibility of its people to “make the choice” to avoid civil war and restore order. President Maliki, in particular, has often been the subject of intense pressure, as if he could pronounce peace upon his nation, under the conditions that prevail.

As disturbing as the pattern the administration is evidencing…that is quite predictable. What is really quite perplexing is that members of the Democratic party seem also to be taking up the same line. Perhaps they are sensing some added pressure with the upcoming elections and are preparing a deflection of sorts, but this is blaming the victim in the extreme. No Iraqis (save for the few misinforming insiders working with the White House) asked for this intervention. Thousands upon thousands have died. The country has descended into what only a few hold-outs refuse to name a civil war and we are responsible.

Yes, it is tricky because there is a question about what our responsibilities are now and how to help. I personally believe that our sheer presence there stimulates violence and co-generates the environment for bloodshed. Yet, should we simply leave, there will likely be a power struggle that will likely not be smooth. As a starter, the United States should flatly and unequivocally state that we will not maintain a physical presence in Iraq or in the Middle East for that matter. We are the cause celebre. We create the purpose for the terrorism there. Why can’t we absorb that reality? We need a strategy that draws upon the neighboring states and international bodies that will have respect there.

But in any case…do not place the onus of this situation on the people of Iraq who are innocents and have only been damaged by it. It is unfair and unworthy of our country and its espoused traditions.


Blogger mike said...

Nobody is foolish enough to try and blame Iraqis for the situation. The US government is trying to pressure the Iraqi goverment to place and keep its security forces in the fore.

It's not an issue of shifting casualties or sharing burden. It's an issue of creating perception. We need to prevent a situation where we're seen taking on Sadr's militia and foster the perception that the Iraqi government is bringing him to heel.

I write about the reason for this, cite a recent example of this type of finesse working well in Pakistan, and frame it in the big picture (considering Al Qaeda's involvement and motives in Iraq) here:

Basically, if we took on Sadr, it could cause more resentment and violence. But, if the Iraqi government is seen as doing it, that's much less likely. It's pretty complicated and I can't write about it all (it'd be too long to read)...but it's part of plan. OMG a plan? Really? Us?

6:58 PM  
Blogger Daryl McCullough said...

Rich, I drove by your place today and saw that your most recent sign, and the wooden fence it was posted on, was broken down. It looked like someone had crashed his car through your fence. Do you know what happened? Was that on purpose? Do you know who did it?

Daryl McCullough
136 Salem Dr.
Ithaca, NY

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, we are neighbors on Warren Road and also noticed the damage to your sign and fence. We too wondered what happened. We hope you will keep on enriching the local conversation with your thoughtful signs.

3:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


This is my first posting here, and I'd like to first say thank you for your efforts and time. I have enjoyed and appreciated your thought provoking comments.

I too have noticed the damage, and have been wondering whether this is a more extreme form of the vandalism your signs have sometimes had to endure in the past.

As for your post ... perhaps I am too cynical, but I think that the dems are doing what they believe they must to have any chance of winning support among the electorate. Everyone seems to have forgotten Colon Powell's now prescient "Pier One" warning ... "you break it, you bought it".

Personally, I had mixed feelings about our endeavor in Iraq. Like many, I thought that the Bush rationale was thoroughly flawed and likely false (little did I know at the time how right that sentiment was). But I also believed that President Clinton should have dealt much more directly and forcefully with Sadaam's flouting of "international will". In short, I felt that there should have been much more serious consequences to his decision to kick out UN weapons inspectors.

And yet, I thought Bush did not give inspectors the time they needed to do their job in early 2003. In retrospect, I now believe that it would not have mattered: if given the additional time, would Bush have believed the inspection team that returned an answer of "there are no WMD in Iraq"; I doubt it.

Having said all that, the obvious question is, what do we do now? And although I honestly don't know the right strategy or tactics (these words are *not* interchangeable, as the Bush administration would like us to believe); I do feel that we have to "stick it out". That is, on the one hand, we can't leave this mess after opening Pandora's box. And yet, on the other hand, we can't be referees to what has obviously degenerated into a civil war. Perhaps we do have to redeploy in a way that removes our presence as an irritant to the situation and work with regional powers (yes, even the ones we don't especially like) to stabilize the situation. I just don't know how to fix the fiasco that has been visited on the world by the incompetence of this administration.

Sorry for the long post ...



6:02 AM  
Blogger mike said...

I too feel that vandalism (assuming that's what it was) is an ineffective and unlawful "response" to signs and blog posts.

Blaiser, I'm very pleased to read your honest and thoughtful post. And it's not that long ;) I agree that leaving Iraq now would invite disaster for everyone. Involving neighbors is a good idea (Jordon, Saudi...) Iran/Syria are more troublesome. Iran in particular is already involved in Iraq via Sadr and his militias and the associated violence and efforts to undermine the Iraqi gov't. This involvement is well documented and understood. Officially inviting them to participate in (whatever) is like inviting the fox into the hen-house.

The Iranians do not want a stable, democratic-styled government, friendly to the West on their border (period).

I feel the challenge is to subdue Sadr's Iranian backed forces without overt American support. The Iraqi government can't do it alone but, can't be seen leaning on a US crutch...too few Iraqi people would support it.

It may be a "civil war" but, it's been brought about by external forces: Al-Qaeda and Iran undermining the elected Iraqi gov't to further their agendas.

Too few people think about this rationally and just scream "Bush lied"...fact is, every leader, in every country, in every war, in all of recorded history has lied. Screaming about it until we loosed doesn't help **Anybody** including Iraqis.

Anyway, glad to read your comment.

3:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After seeing the ambulance and rescue workers at the intersection a little bit after I heard screeching wheels and a thud, I don't think that was vandalism.

That intersection has always been less safe than it seems it should be, but I would guess someone didn't see the stop sign and needed the fence and tree behind it to come to a stop.

10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although I'm glad it was not vandalism, I certainly hope no one was seriously injured.

Thanks for the welcome Mike. I look forward to the serious debate that our nation sorely needs on the big questions of our time.

I am heartened by the results of the elections. I am not necessarily happy about Democratic control (I sure don't agree with them on everything), but given the apparent widespread dissatisfaction with the direction in which we are heading, if there were a Republican victory, I would have taken that as a strong sign that our form of government was severely broken.

That is, to me that would have meant that we were so gerrymandered and so adulterated that we could not express the simple notion of accountability of our leaders.

Make no mistake, the Dem lead is very slim - with the Virginia outcome, and thus Senate control, to be undetermined for weeks to come.

If Virgina does stay red (with Allen overturning the apparent Webb victory), if one presumes the two independent senators caucus with democrats, the senate will be 50-50! How often does that happen?? And ... who then has "majority control"? And who takes committee chairs and so on? I don't know what the rules are in that circumstance - perhaps they split them ??

The dems at least seem to be saying the right things, regarding bipartisanship, compromise, etc. Here's hoping that it's not just lip service ... and that the repubs don't think it's in their party's best interest to make sure the dems "fail" while they have control, so as to better jockey for position in '08.

I know that sounds sick - brushing off the good of the nation for the good of the "party", but man, that's what the environment of these last 6 years has left me with. I hate being that cynical, but there it is.

But I have hope ...


3:10 PM  
Blogger mike said...

Awesome! You're welcome for the welcome.

I'd charaterize my mood at the moment as "reserved optimism". I'm eager to hear new ideas on old problems but, I'm concerned about some of people now "in power". For example, a certain soon-to-be House leader represents a district that can't pass an initiative on stiff penalties for child sex predators (the *only* district in the state not to pass the initiative). Ironic in the year of Foley.

If you care to, be sure to read when Rich posts here. Although it's poorly named (I don't always completely disagree with him) I do present an alternative view or, at least, alternative information.

Take care.

7:43 PM  
Blogger Knemon said...

"Blaming the Iraqis?"

Lotta blame to go around on this one. They get some of it, yes.

8:37 PM  
Blogger mike said...

Hey Sineman. Haven't been by your place lately... Over the summer you were supportive of Hezbollah's actions in Lebanon...charaterizing them as freedom fighters, etc, etc.

How do you see the current situation? How did the ambigious int'l response to the situation contribute to the current instability in Lebanon?

Seeing where Lebanon is heading (bearing in mind your point of view)...makes me think twice about how our country should handle the situation in Iraq (re: your point of view).

5:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just read the article about you in this week's Ithaca Times.

I LOVE the signs and almost always agree with them! They make you think.

Thank you so much for posting them, especially back when so few people had the guts to make any negative comments at all about the situation in Iraq.

Keep up the good work.

1:00 PM  
Anonymous Jan said...

I believe that no good can come from our remaining in Iraq an hour longer; we should never have gone there (why not unseat Saddam Hussein the same way we helped him to power - covertly?) I never bought the argument that the only way to remove a wicked dictator was to bomb the country into oblivion. It is painfully clear that we are only heaping more injury upon the mass destruction we've already caused and only more "badness" can result from our continued occupation. I truly believe our only moral choice is to get out NOW. If we insist on continuing to pump millions of dollars we do not have into Iraq daily, why not pump them in and let the Iraqi people settle the chaos in their own way? Yes, we broke it - a LONG LONG time ago by interfering in Iraqi politics - we cannot break it so we should get out and let someone fix it who can do so. Not this war, not this president.

9:47 AM  
Blogger mike said...

ugh. jan, leave now and let the Iraqis settle it their own way? Forget this low-intensity sectarian BS. Might it involve an all-out civil war? ethnic cleansing? 1 million dead? maybe 2? Is that a 'moral' choice? And what happens when Saudi Arabia intervenes to protect the Sunni minority (they've already publicly said they would)? And Iran counters that "threat"? With flowers or the "Revolutionary Guard"?

That'll be great. Then we can actually have Rangel's draft...have to fight our way into the Persian Gulf through the Straights of Hormuz to deploy hundreds of thousands of troops to protect Saudi Arabia from the sabre-rattling Iranians (by then comfortably sitting in Baghdad...).

And even if those events never came to pass fully (let's say 1 or 2 million died but there was no regional war) would our withdrawal, precipitating the death of millions of Muslims, fit into the historical narrative of Al Qaeda? Would it help us undermine the ideology or fuel it?

Sometimes we get to choose how to act. Sometimes we are only given a collection of poor choices. Sometimes we have no choice at all.

2:31 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Great post. I agree with you.

I was directed here by one of my 360 friends.


12:57 PM  
Blogger MHAithaca said...

Hi! I just came to find the site once again so I could send the link to a friend who's one of your neighbours. Hadn't realized you'd stopped posting. I hope you'll resume soon! I don't pass your intersection as often as I used to, and I appreciate the updates here.


6:11 PM  

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