The Surgeon Fails in Iraq

If a surgeon botches an operation, few patients would ask him to stick around and try again. This is especially true if the operation was elective and the surgeon insisted on performing it. Yet this is exactly how the Bush administration is trying to justify the continued U.S. occupation of Iraq. This time, the administration’s latest addition to the reasons to stay in Iraq is that we have a moral obligation to the Iraqis to prevent them from having a blood bath.

What have we given the Iraqis so far – a picnic? Some estimates claim that Iraqi deaths are as high as one million since the invasion. In an op-ed published last August in several U. S. newspapers, former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said that recently at least 2,000 Iraqi deaths occur each month as a result of the war. Most recent estimates are that the monthly death toll is still as high as 900.

Enduring Relationship

Iraq is not about to become heaven, as the administration would like you to believe. The basic functions of a government such as providing electricity, water, schooling, and safety from criminal gangs are non-existent. This administration behaves as if the Arab world will believe the reasons it gives for this unforgivable military operation. Do Bush, Cheney and the rest of them really believe Arabs are so stupid? The world is no longer naïve about the Iraq War. Iraqis know that the United States intends to stay in Iraq for the foreseeable future.

The U.S. government claims to anticipate an “enduring relationship” with this “sovereign” government. That must be called into question. What sovereign government? A sovereign government has supreme control over its affairs. The United States is pushing Iraqis to accept partitioning their country in spite of the fact the majority of Iraqis reject that proposal. Iraqi sovereignty is so lacking, their intelligence agency reports directly to the U.S. military.

The Iraqi government continues to operate under more than 500 laws written by Paul Bremer. Included in these laws is a statute that immunizes all U.S. (and U.S.-employed) personnel, including as many as 180,000 private contractors, from Iraqi laws. Private contractors, our outsourced mercenary army, kill Iraqis without any accountability to the people of Iraq. In a discussion with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer regarding Iraq’s independence earlier this month, Blitzer told Jalal Talabani, the president of Iraq, “You have your independence.” Talabani quickly retorted: “Yes, but not completely.”

Insult and Hatred

The perpetuation of flatly false information to the Iraqis and the Arab world is an insult. This will not win the hearts and minds of Muslims. The Bush administration forgot that the world, as New York Times reporter Thomas Friedman says, is “flat.” The world is flat, not just economically, but also in the spread of information.

The long-range outcome of our continued occupation of Iraq is the ramping up of the hatred Iraqis and Muslims feel toward the western world. This will result in making these populations fertile ground for terrorists. It hasn’t and won’t enhance U.S. security as the administration contends.

The false choice of staying in Iraq militarily infects even some of the invasion critique such as the retired General Anthony Zinni. He has expressed in many occasions that we have moral responsibility to what we have done in Iraq and we cannot just leave. This is a misplaced moral obligation. Our moral obligation first and foremost is not to occupy a nation in the guise of helping them. We need to withdraw from Iraq in a safe and orderly fashion.

Time to Go

The sooner we leave militarily, the better it is for everyone and especially for the Iraqis. The longer we stay, the more hardened everyone’s position would become and the Iraqis hatred to us may become permanent. The U.S. military leaving Iraq does not mean that the United States is not involved in helping Iraq. Unfortunately, America has little credibility in Iraq and the Muslim world and thus the United States should not lead the efforts for the reconstruction of Iraq. But with America’s resources, we can help the reconstruction there. The UN could lead such efforts with better credibility.

There may be, temporarily, more violence in Iraq once we leave. This will be equivalent of how bodies adapt after the trauma of surgery. But the biggest reason for violence in Iraq is that Iraqis are killing U.S. forces and anyone who collaborates with them. Once we leave, the only reason for continued violence is sectarian differences. U.S. withdrawal may result in actually lessening the violence in the long run. Currently, each sect plays on our fears from al-Qaeda or Iranian influence and receives American support until we discover they are not really with us. Iraqis are not about to allow themselves to be U.S. puppets any more than they are willing to be puppets for al-Qaeda or the Iranians. The Iraqis intentions were borne out when they took the lead in nearly crushing the al-Qaeda and in not becoming anybody’s puppet.

The majority of Iraqis want this surgeon out of Iraq – the sooner the better.

Adil E. Shamoo, a Foreign Policy In Focus contributor, was born and raised in Baghdad and is a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He writes on ethics and public policy.