Friday, August 11, 2006

It's Time for a Major Transformation of US Policy toward Iraq and Terrorism

From History of the Present:

Tom Hayden's recent web-post for The Nation (August 9), titled "Iraq is Dying," suggests all the reasons why US intervention in Iraq may now be doing so much more harm than good to the people of Iraq, and to the credibility of the United States around the world, and especially in the Islamic world.

And in case US political leaders of both parties have not yet recognized the writing on the wall for the best way to fight terrorism, here it is:

The strongest way to fight terrorism is to create a credible foreign policy that understands, respects, and treats the Islamic world as a partner in building a more peaceful and just future for all people.

This is the best and strongest policy for marginalizing terrorists over the long run. The current Bush policy agenda of violence and war, rather than of smart negotiation and committed collaboration and partnership-building, is producing terrorists and increasing the terrorist threat, rather than decreasing it. And over the long run, such policy will produce disaster on all sides. The only way out of this disastrous policy mess is a fundamental transformation of policy that recognizes the greatest strength in foreign policy comes from smart and committed collaboration and negotiation to build trust around principles of common humanity and justice.

And the best way to "defeat" terrorism over the short and long run is to stop treating "terror" as a cause and rationale for war (as President Bush did once again yesterday in his response to news of the successful British defeat of terrorism, which came not through war, but through strategic intelligence), and to start treating it as a long-term problem that needs to be addressed through strategic economic, social, and political programs that build solidarities with the Islamic peoples of the world, and invite them to join with us in building together a just world for all, without the imperial pretention that the US can dictate to the rest of the world how that future should be achieved.

(The British were able to detect and prevent a major terrorist plot because they have been using human intelligence to build collaborative partnerships and use strategic intelligence to defeat specific acts of terrorism, rather than to fight an ill-defined "war" on terrorism.)

But as we are seeing in the Middle-East, in spite of the so-called US "war on terror," the fever of war and its terrorizing violence is spreading (all war is terror!--especially in the age of 21st-century weapons!), and unless the people of the world, and especially the people of the US, demand a major change in their government's strategies and policies, this violence will continue to spread. A foreign policy that puts violence and war first, as the way to accomplish foreign policy objectives, ends up looking a lot like terrorism itself, and ends up producing more violence and chaos than it can ever hope to deal with effectively. The end-game, without a major turn in policy, will be disaster not only for the Iraqis, but for the people of the US, as violence increases in the Middle-East, and the US government sends in more of our soldiers to try to deal with it, and to die battling an unwinnable conflict.

And in the mean time all the other major problems that so urgently need to be addressed, such as global warming and the energy crisis, will continue to be ignored by a US federal government "governed" by war.

As Tom Hayden mentions in his report, one of the few signs of real hope for such a turn is the delegation of US citizens from CodePink that was invited to meet with leading members of the Iraqi Parliament over this past week (for a great blog describing the experience of one of the people on this delegation, read this diary posted on Daily Kos (Aug. 6), by JeeniCriscenzo). Tom Hayden was one of the members of this peace delegation, and wrote his piece for The Nation after participating in two days of discussions with the Iraqis in Jordan at what he called "an unprecedented meeting initiated by Code Pink and attended by Cindy Sheehan and a smattering of peace activists that included Iraq Veterans Against the War and United for Peace and Justice." He continues:
That so many Iraqi representatives wanted to meet with antiwar Americans was a hopeful sign. Attending were official representatives of the Shiite coalition now holding power, the minority Sunni bloc, the anti-occupation Muslim Scholars Association, parliamentarians and torture victims from Abu Ghraib. Their broad consensus favored a specific timetable for American withdrawal combined with efforts to "fix the problems" of the occupation as the withdrawal proceeds. Recent surveys show that 87 percent of Iraqis hold the same views.

The qualified Iraqi demands for withdrawal reflect the virtual civil war that has arisen in the wake of the US occupation. Like victims of repeated battery, many Sunnis fear escalating attacks on their civilian population if the streets are dominated by the Badr militia after the Americans leave. They feel pressured by the Americans to abandon their aspirations for a unified Iraqi state, accept minority status in a partitioned country, or join as partners with their American occupiers to fight against pro-Iranian or Al Qaeda forces in Iraq.
The current tragic US "adventure" in Iraq should be understood within the much larger historical context of US intervention that Steven Kinzer has nicely explored in his recent book Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq (see interview with Kinzer on Democracy Now here), and in his earlier book, All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror (2003). Only by combining historical understanding with democratic political vision and a commitment to reconstructing US policy in a way that respects and pays more attention to the voices and vision of US and Iraqi citizens, than it pays to war hawks and profiteers, will the US ever find an "honorable" way out of this tragic interventionary war.


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