March 30, 2008

The Iraq Folly, Reexamined

In the latest decisive moment in the never-ending saga, "Iraq: Birth of a Democracy," the United States is providing guns, blood and money to assist the ruling coalition of Iraq, the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq (renamed from the previous, market-unfriendly "Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI)" because it sounded, you know, too much like the Islamic Revolution in Iran circa 1979). The Supreme Council is in league with the Dawa ("The Call") Party of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, former anti-Saddam resistance organizer who spent much of Saddam's last decades in power in Tehran and Damascus, two countries which we consider so evil that we punish them by denying them conversations with George W. Bush. Second prize on the punishment list is a world cruise aboard Princess Lines.

President Bush, naturally, prefers to call the coalition government simply that, "the government," so as to avoid the uncomfortable vibe that accompanies calling any ally the "Supreme Council for the Islamic" anything. The U.S. is flying close air support and will probably introduce ground troops, if necessary, so that the Iraqi military and the Badr Brigade, the militia of the good guys, overcomes the Basra rebellion led by Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army, who are the designated bad guys. Sadr attracts a lot of support from disaffected Shiite Iraqis because of his anti-U.S. positions, referring to us invariably as the "occupying army." He also has a lot of ties to Iran and has sought and been granted asylum there during periods where Maliki or the U.S. has decided it's too risky to have him on the loose. On the other hand, it's probably also too risky to arrest and prosecute him because of his widespread popularity among Iraq's poor, which is fairly congruent with the group called "Iraqis."

Of course, the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq, as a predominantly Shiite organization, also has a close relationship to Iran, so that it's accurate to say that what George W. Bush calls the "Iraqi government" has close ties to Iran. Iran, of course, calls itself an "Islamic republic." The Iraq Constitution provides that our newly-hatched democracy is the same thing:

Article 2:
First: Islam is the official religion of the State and it is a fundamental source of legislation: A. No law that contradicts the established provisions of Islam may be established...

Thus, one of the first provisions of the Iraq Constitution provides that there is not only no separation of church and state, but any attempt to pass a law inconsistent with Sharia is forbidden. Since our own Constitution proscribes in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights the establishment of a state religion (a clause which so vexed Mike Huckabee), you could say that what we've succeeded in establishing in Iraq is a pro-Iran, theocratic Bizarro-America in the "heart of the Middle East," which is not only not a bulwark against Iran (as Saddam was), but is more logically seen as an extension of Iran's influence in the Persian Gulf.

This is actually pretty obvious, of course, and even George W. Bush, who comprehended before the war only that Muslims lived in Iraq without grasping the sectarian divide, is obviously aware of the embarrassing implications of putting the American military at the disposal of an outfit called the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq. Thus, government = "good guys," Sadr = "evildoers," and let's break for lunch, shall we?

It's amazing that the Democrats in Congress don't make more of this absurdity. Another result of the general contempt of the nation's solons for the collective intelligence of the American people, I suppose. But as I wrote a long time ago, Iraq war analysis has degenerated into an empty debate about whether violence is "up or down," without considering what's left after all the violence is gone, if it ever is. Let's say it's down, for the sake of argument, although it's currently up. What has the war accomplished that is actually in American interests, or that could possibly be worth 4,000 lives, $3 trillion, mountains of foreign debt, and a squandering of resources needed at home? Even if we're cynical and lay it all off on the quest for oil -- if we're serious about dealing with global warming, and the need to reduce greenhouse emissions effectively to zero by the year 2050, the best place for Iraq's oil is in the ground.

Bush's best case is that we've midwifed the birth of a second Shiite theocracy in the Persian Gulf, the constitution of which is directly antithetical to our own secular principles. Assuming arguendo, as one says in law, that it will get quieter in Iraq -- quieter for what?

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