Iraq: A solution to nothing
By Scott Ritter
Special to The Times
Times" -- -- As the United States and Iraq
approach the third anniversary of the invasion and occupation of
Iraq, it might do all Americans well to take some time out and
reflect on how we got where we are, as well as where we are going in
Iraq and the Middle East as a whole.
Gone forever is any talk of song and flowers, economic recoveries
paid for by Iraqi oil, or a blooming democracy in the cradle of
civilization. The state of affairs between the Bush administration
and the newly elected government of Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari is
strained, to say the least, with the United States threatening to
cut off aid to Iraq, and Iraq telling the United States to "butt
Nearly three months have passed since the "historic" elections of
December 2005, and the Iraqis have just now selected a prime
minister (Jafari, a Shiite Islamic fundamentalist closely allied
with Iran), and seemed hopelessly deadlocked on the issue of forming
a government that will not promote an immediate outbreak of
sectarian violence once formed.
The Sunni insurgency is stronger than ever, and Shiite death squads
roam the street in the guise of government police and soldiers.
Torture, rape and murder are rampant as official tools of government
suppression. And American troops appear to be powerless to stop this
mindless slide into the abyss, all the while being killed and maimed
for a cause that has always been nebulous.
"Duty," "honor" and "country" mean little when the majority of the
American citizens supposedly being served by the ongoing occupation
of Iraq are more interested in "American Idol" than the process of
bringing peace and stability to ancient Babylon, or when American
politicians seem content to continue to allow the men and women who
honor our nation through their service to die while those in power
grasp for a politically face-saving way to "solve the Iraqi
problem." And herein lies the problem: We continue to try to solve a
problem we have yet to define, meaning we are seeking a solution to
America continues to pretend that we are building something of value
in Iraq. And yet, common sense dictates that when one seeks to build
on a corrupt foundation, whatever it is that is being constructed is
doomed eventually to collapse. Our nation's involvement in Iraq is
based on as corrupt a foundation as imaginable. We didn't go to war
for sound national-security reasons (i.e., a threat that manifested
itself in a form solvable only through military intervention), but
rather for domestic political reasons based on ideology that
exploited the fear and ignorance of the American people in the
post-Sept. 11, 2001, world.
In the topsy-turvy world of domestic American politics, this reality
continues to fail to resonate. Those who opposed the invasion of
Iraq continue to be demonized and marginalized, while those who
supported it are embraced and applauded.
This "through the looking glass" quality in the American body
politic not only hamstrings the nation collectively on the issue of
solving the Iraq problem, but also continues to distort reality when
dealing with other emerging problems confronting our country and the
world, such as the looming crisis with Iran over its nuclear
Even as we fail to grasp the lessons of our unraveling failure in
Iraq, we seem to be moving full steam ahead into a similar
catastrophe in Iran, making the same mistakes by embracing a threat
model (nuclear weapons) void of any hard evidence, and promoting a
solution (democracy) that is undefined.
If the upcoming leather anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq
tells us anything as a nation, it is that we are in desperate need
of a national "time out" when it comes to the issue of Iraq, Iran
and the global war on terror. We need to learn the lesson that every
soldier, sailor, airman and Marine serving oversees knows only too
well — you don't reinforce failure.
If our politicians, Republican and Democrat alike, are unable or
unwilling to engage in a rancor-free discussion about where we as a
nation are heading when it comes to issues of war and peace, then
perhaps we the people should engage in one of our own, and in the
process establish agreed-upon principles and standards that not only
would serve as a solid foundation upon which to build any future
endeavors in the Middle East and elsewhere, but also set forward
values and ideals that could be used to hold to account those whom
we elect to represent us in higher office.
Scott Ritter is a former U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq (1991-1998)
and Marine Corps intelligence officer. He is the author of "Iraq
Confidential: The Untold Story of the Intelligence Conspiracy to
Undermine the U.N. and Overthrow Saddam Hussein," published by
Nation Books. He is speaking at Town Hall, Eighth Avenue and Seneca
Street in Seattle, at 7:30 p.m. tonight.
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