[Marxism] O'Hanlon and Pollack refuted

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Aug 2 09:08:51 MDT 2007

Counterpunch, August 2, 2007
The New York Times and Iraq
Still Getting It Wrong


It is somewhat ironic that on the same day that Mr. Michael E. O’Hanlon 
and Mr. Kenneth M. Pollack of the Brookings Institute extol the progress 
of President Bush’s ‘surge’ in Iraq, (New York Times, July 30) the 
Associated Press reported the following:

     “About 8 million Iraqis -- nearly a third of the population -- need 
immediate emergency aid because of the humanitarian crisis caused by the 

It is not easy to conceptualize the number 8,000,000. One way to look at 
it is to consider that that is the approximate population of New York 
City. One can imagine the horror that would be felt if the entire 
population of the United States’ largest city were in desperate need of 
water, sanitation, food and shelter. Does one feel that same sense of 
horror for the Iraqi people? Perhaps that dismay should be intensified 
one hundredfold because it is the United States that has caused, and 
continues to cause, this unspeakable suffering.

When the U.S. government basically told the people of New Orleans, 
following Hurricane Katrina, that they were on their own, the world 
shuttered in disbelief. Ignoring its own people following a natural 
disaster is shocking behavior for any government. In Iraq, the U.S. 
ignores the suffering it has intentionally caused. One-third of the 
population of the country is in desperate need because of the U.S. 
invasion; this does not even include the 2,000,000 who have fled the 
country since President Bush’s barbaric ‘Shock and Awe’ war began.

These realities appear to be ignored in the recent article in the New 
York Times by Messrs O’Hanlon and Pollack.

Among other things, they state the following: “We are finally getting 
somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms.” That an overwhelming 
force from the world’s most powerful country will eventually kill enough 
Iraqi people to subdue the population is hardly something to be proud 
of. Yet they crow about progress in ‘military terms.’

The two gentlemen report their further observations:“Army and Marine 
units were focused on securing the Iraqi population….” One wonders what 
exactly that statement implies. Are the invading and occupying soldiers 
making the Iraqi population free from harm, an oxymoron if ever there 
was one, or are they ‘securing’ them in the sense of taking possession 
of them?

According to Mr. O’Hanlon and Mr. Pollack, the U.S. military is 
“providing basic services -- electricity, fuel, clean water and 
sanitation -- to the people.” How long, one wonders, will it be before 
those basic services are restored to the 8,000,000 Iraqis deprived of 
them by Mr. Bush’s war? How many will die before they ever have those 
needs fulfilled? How many grieving parents will bury their children 
because of the U.S. invasion and occupation of their nation?

Mr. O’Hanlon and Mr. Pollack observed a “Marine captain whose company 
was living in harmony in a complex with a (largely Sunni) Iraqi police 
company and a (largely Shiite) Iraqi Army unit.” In their McCainish way, 
do they feel that this happy circumstance portends an end to the 
centuries-old sectarian rivalry between these groups, a rivalry that was 
held in check prior to the U.S. invasion, but has been unleashed with 
horrific results since then?

Another interesting observation: “American advisers told us that many of 
the corrupt and sectarian Iraqi commanders who once infested the force 
have been removed.” In sharp contrast to this rosy assessment, an NBC 
news report of July 31 is interesting: “The report, written by U.S. 
advisers to Iraq's anti-corruption agency, analyzes corruption in 12 
ministries and finds devastating and grim problems. ‘Corruption 
protected by senior members of the Iraqi government,’ the report said, 
‘remains untouchable.’”

Not all that the writers saw was so encouraging: “we still face huge 
hurdles on the political front. Iraqi politicians of all stripes 
continue to dawdle and maneuver for position against one another when 
major steps towards reconciliation -- or at least accommodation -- are 
needed.” While U.S. soldiers die trying to achieve whatever it is they 
are supposed to be achieving, and making such marvelous progress in 
‘military terms,’ the Iraqi parliament has left for its month-long 
vacation. No political solution can be achieved when the people needed 
to achieve it are not around.

As they close their interesting editorial, the writers ask a few 
pertinent questions: “How much longer should American troops keep 
fighting and dying to build a new Iraq while Iraqi leaders fail to do 
their part? And how much longer can we wear down our forces in this 
mission?” They don’t have the answer to these questions, but it appears 
that the United States citizens do. The answer seems to be that American 
troops should remain in Iraq only as long as it takes to safely evacuate 
them. The citizens disagree with Mr. O’Hanlon and Mr. Pollack, who 
recommend continuation of the war at least into 2008.

The United States invaded the sovereign nation of Iraq four years ago. 
Since then millions of Iraqi citizens have been displaced, hundreds of 
thousands have been killed, the nation’s infrastructure, already badly 
damaged from years of sanctions and bombings, has been destroyed. The 
death toll for Americans is steadily climbing toward 4,000 and the 
number who have sustained life-altering injuries is in the tens of 
thousands. Hatred towards the United States has risen dramatically, and 
Iraq has become a major recruiting tool for the terrorists that were not 
there when Mr. Bush invaded. The negative consequences of that invasion 
and the subsequent occupation will be felt for years throughout the world.

It appears that Mr. O’Hanlon and Mr. Pollack see some merit in the 
subjugation of Iraq as a U.S. colony. They predict the possibility 
within Iraq “of a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis 
could live with.” Subjecting a nation by force to do the will of the 
U.S. is not acceptable to the Iraqi people. If U.S. polls, and last 
November’s election, teach us anything, it is that this violent and 
brutal suppression is not acceptable to Americans either.

Robert Fantina is the author of Desertion and the American Soldier.

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