It has been eight years or more since the names of Mosul, Tikrit, Fallujah and others were hitting us daily from our TVs and radios. They represented, first a war declining into what the press called a Vietnam-like ‘quagmire’, then a burst of success when General Patraeus stimulated a ‘Sunni Awakening’ amidst President Bush‘s controversial ‘surge’. The USA was able to snatch a difficult victory over the deadly but ragtag mercenaries of al Qaeda in Iraq, and establish a parliamentary democracy of sorts in Baghdad, with the long-frustrated Shi’ite majority now in control. Iraq had been rescued from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein; the war begun in 1990 with the first George Bush’s rescue of Kuwait (interrupted by a contentious decade-long ‘truce’) was finally concluded; and we could now turn our attention back to the unfinished business in Afghanistan.
But then the Obama administration turned its back instead. Touting a victory that he never achieved, The Puppet President began looking at ways to bring the Republicans to heel and resume the march toward socialism that Ronald Reagan had interrupted. He couldn’t be bothered to finish negotiating a Status of Forces Agreement with the new Iraqi government, which would have kept the US military on the ground in Iraq, and would have helped maintain the peace among the fractious populations (in a state that itself was a fiction dreamed up by retreating colonial powers decades ago). Inevitably, the short-sighted Prime Minister Malaki began to favor his own Shi’ite partisans, purging his government and military of the hated Sunnis. The Kurds managed to achieve a measure of autonomy, and the disaffected Sunnis grew ripe for trouble.
It wasn’t just Iraq. With the US retreat from Iraq, and inattention to the rest of the region, in short order Egypt fell apart, then Libya, then Syria, and all the while Iran pushed meddling fingers wherever it could. While arguably a US presence in Iraq might not have forestalled all this turmoil, it might have reinforced our ability to exercise more influence on events, and the sense amongst friends and adversaries alike that US interests were not to be ignored.
Back in the early days of the Iraq war, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld spoke of “draining the swamp” that bred Islamic terrorism, including those who had attacked the World Trade Center in 2001. He didn’t mean just Afghanistan, where al Qaeda festered, but the countries in the Middle East and beyond, where Islamic fundamentalism was fomenting insurgent movements. It was a powerful metaphor, and a noble ambition—maybe too grandiose, as it turned out, but one that held out the promise that we could make a huge difference in those countries, especially in the poverty-stricken (but oil-rich) Middle East, squirming between aspirations of modernity and ideologies that harked back to the nine century. George W. Bush spoke of the universal desire of mankind for freedom, and was justly proud of liberating, first the people of Afghanistan from the dreadful Taliban, and then those of Iraq from the evil Saddam and his maniacal sons, nearly 50 million in those two countries alone. It was something to see on television when Iraqis first went to the polls and held up their purple-stained fingers, a sign of a free election.
Alas, it all seems to have been in vain. Mosul, Tikrit, and Fallujah are back in the news. These cities have been taken over by a vicious band of Islamists called ISIS, so nasty that even al Qaeda is said to recoil—a little; they carry al Qaeda’s flag. The Iraqi army, reportedly decimated of its most experienced officers by government purges (presumably of Sunnis), is retreating back to Baghdad, where Prime Minister Maliki is calling on his friends in Iran for help. The Kurds, at least, have fought off the ISIS for now. It leads one to wonder whether, in his bumbling way, now Vice-President Joe Biden was right when he suggested dividing Iraq into three parts, Shi’ite, Sunni, and Kurd. But no such plan, or any other, could have been achieved without US participation and leadership.
Where has any US leadership been since 2009? Abandoned in favor of petty domestic aggrandizement in the White House. “Never let a crisis go to waste,” Rahm Emanuel said, but he did not mean foreign crises—just those that let the President and his cronies pursue a political agenda. The cabal in the White House are fiddling and singing songs to tease the Republicans, while the Middle East and the rest of the world burns.
President George W. Bush reacted to 2001 by beginning a belated “War on Terror,” by which he meant Islamo-fascist terror, and it continues at a low level, in places like the Philippines, mostly unnoticed by the Obama sycophants in the press, but the prime targets of the Islamists are now within their grasp: Iraq is falling; Syria is in throes; Libya is just a back alley; Afghanistan will fall back to the Taliban (who kill girls for going to school); and most worrisome of all, Pakistan is suffering insurgent attacks. Pakistan, remember, has an arsenal al Qaeda would love to get its hands on: atomic bombs.
Since he left office, George W. Bush, ever the gentleman, has not said a word. Maybe it’s time to break his silence. /LEJ