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Are We Winning in Iraq? – A Dark Argument

By James Rothenberg

11/06/06 "
Information Clearing House" -- -- The three still-sitting officials most responsible for the Iraq War, Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, each claim that we are winning the war. The President is accused of being in a state of denial as casualties mount and chaos nears. Debate ensues over what constitutes victory or defeat, or even how we define it. Framing the war in terms of winning or losing narrows the attention to issues of security and stability, in effect normalizing the war itself.

To this extent, the win/lose debate has diversionary use for the administration and its supporters, current or former. It amounts to debating the results of the war outside of context with its true rationalization. On the lose side the war is cast as a series of disappointments, handled by a White House in familiar flak protection mode. The wrenching apart of civil society, troubling, but unforeseeable. The spilling of blood, regrettable, but unintended.

Many of those who prepared the ideological pathways for the invasion have since jumped ship, but to a very sturdy lifeboat. Their refuge lies in the litany of safe exceptions to administration policy now cited – poor planning, poor performance, untimely decisions, a dysfunctional national-security team, underestimation of “insurgency” (not resistance), and, of course, the inherent difficulties of “exporting democracy”.

Talk is of this Middle East “democracy” project being a good and decent thing, but our being incapable of executing it, hence, our inability to win. But win what? Lose what? Before that question can be answered the implied premise of the debate must be stated and stated clearly…that is, what were our real objectives over there?

One objective was to take military control of Iraq and establish quasi-permanent military bases. Ancillary to that was the desire (rendered accomplishable upon occupation) to remove US troops from Saudi Arabia which had become a migraine for Washington and the Saudi ruling elite. It should be remembered that the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia was an irritant to Bin Laden. Shifting them to Iraq was the analgesic, saying something about Washington’s true opinion of Al Queda presence and influence in pre-occupation Iraq.

Another objective, incumbent upon the first, was to take control of Iraqi oil for the leverage this would give us over future economic, political, or military rivals (potentially China, Russia, India, Japan, or a united Europe).

The ideological forebears of the war know better than to speak forthrightly about such base motivation, unlikely to energize the population at home. These objectives are diffusely referred to as “using our power for moral good in the world”, pleasant sounding but a thousand times more deadly. The Greek wisdom saying covers it nicely: Man may contend with evil done in the name of evil; but heaven protect us from evil done in the name of good.

Based on these two objectives, it is not unreasonable to suggest we are winning the war. Not won, but winning. Nobody else is remotely close to gaining control over Iraqi oil, which wasn’t the case before the invasion when the US and Great Britain were unceremoniously slighted in favor of the Chinese, Russians, French and others when it came to Saddam’s oil contracts.

The Big Four western oil giants (America’s Exxon-Mobil and Chevron-Texaco, and Britain’s BP-Amoco and Royal Dutch-Shell) hope to enter into Production Sharing Agreements (PSAs) with the Iraqi government to secure long-term control over the country’s oil reserves, with American companies sure to get the lion’s share. The Iraqi government must finalize a law to regulate its oil industry by December 2006. This provision in the Iraqi constitution, inserted by the occupying powers prior to handing over “sovereignty” in June 2004, could see foreign multinationals assume control of as much as 87 percent of Iraq’s oil.

If this happens, despite the un-cakewalk-like nature of the occupation, Washington will have “won” even greater wealth and power. The quasi-permanent military bases, the desirability of such debated among politicians but not seriously, can be considered a win. The losses, as our noble leaders inform us, are tragic.

James Rothenberg, writer/activist -- <jrothenberg@taconic.net>

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