Saturday, August 1, 2009

Understanding Iraq by William R. Polk, Final

Ch. 5, American Iraq -
After the Kuwait invasion, the UN Security Council imposed a boycott of Iraq's overseas trade, so Saddam offered a proposal to end the crisis as did several other nations - the US and/or Iraq rejected all of them. Meanwhile, Iraq control over Kuwait was Nazi-like and brutal. The US begin its invasion of the Kuwaiti area along with UN coalition forces in mid-January with 88,000 tons of bombs and 300 guided missiles. Iraq retaliated by firing at Israel to compel Arab coalition members (mainly Saudi Arabia & Egypt) to withdraw and set 700 Kuwaiti oil fields on fire. A ground assault of Iraq began in late February despite world demonstrations and offers of peace from Iraq. Iraqi soldiers were slaughtered by the thousands as they withdrew down the main highway, the "Highway of Death" connecting Iraq to Kuwait. Saddam surrendered on February 27 after 30,000 soldier deaths and conflicting reports of civilian casualties (from 3,664 to over 100,000). On March 2, 1991, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 686 (which very much reminds me of the Treaty of Versailles in that it caused more problems than it started with) which required Iraq to:
  1. pay war reparations - with their economy shattered and moneyless (which motivated the war to begin with), Iraq was completely incapable of this
  2. release all prisoners
  3. return all looted property - also impossible as most had passed out of the country
  4. void all edicts on Kuwait
To this, the UNSC added Resolution 687 in which Iraq was charged with dismantling any weapons of mass destruction and their facilities, no-fly zones were declared at the north & south ends of the country, and worst of all, Iraq's international financial assets remained frozen, imports & exports were banned (minus medicines and food, but the UN committee had control over when and if even these were allowed), and sea and air transport were restricted. In other words, Iraq was settled with a massive bill and relinquished of any means to actually pay it. When Iraq couldn't pay, the US declared a necessary overthrow of Saddam's regime. Saddam, however, deflected the costs of the war onto the general population, shielding himself and any loyal supporters. Saddam used a classically Arab form of social organization - he recreated a system of tribal chiefs who owed their position to him. The US & Britain tried to overthrow Saddam by using the UN Special Commission to disguise CIA & MI-6 activities, but were discovered and forced to leave - these countries then retaliated with a bombing campaign. In 1996 the Iraqi economy began to recover thanks to oil exports; also Kurdish opposition ceased at this time due to inner conflicts.
In 2002, the UN sends an inspection group to monitor the potential WMD situation; Iraq cooperates fully to avoid more punishments. No WMDs were found but the Bush administration pressured US intelligence to say Iraq had them. The CIA & other agencies couldn't or wouldn't, so the administration established its own agency, the Office of Special Plans, to say there were WMDs in Iraq. Post-invasion inspections found no evidence of this whatsoever.
The second US invasion of Iraq began March 20, 2003 and by April the Iraqi army disintegrated. Instead the Iraqi populace took up the war to drive out the Americans. During the invasion, the Iraqis broke into arsenals, sold the weapons to relatives and friends, and thus, very quickly, nearly everyone was armed. With food running out, dirty water, and no possibility of payed work, looting became a necessity. Desperate poor formed gangs, police forces became non-existant with no backing government and cities became "free fire zones." When tens of thousands demonstrated demanding food and supplies, American troops fired on them, which then led to more organized attacks on US troops. While US officials blamed outside agitators (such as Iranians or Al-Qada), there is no evidence for such claims. In 2004, the US began attempting to recreate Iraqi military and police forces to maintain order, however attempts to put together a government of Iraqis have been rejected by the people. The people the US have tried to place in power were either unknown to the population or abused power during Saddam's regime and thus are not trusted.
Ch.6, Whose Iraq?
US occupation tactics have convinced Iraqis that America is promoting its own imperialism rather than democracy - they see of a replay of British colonialism. Edmund Burke, a British statesman in 1775, writing about the American Revolution said the following, "The use of force alone is but temporary. It may subdue for a moment; but it does not remove the necessity of subduing again, and a nation is not governed which is perpetually to be conquered."
Modern trends in Iraq include the following:
  1. Sunni and Shia beginning to work together against foreign occupation; the Kurds are also unifying.
  2. National uprisings against foreign occupation has led to a "habit of violence" and social incoherence which would allow only a warlord society or a dictatorship to gain power.
  3. The American quest for national security is still in conflict with the Iraqi aim for sovereignty.
Genuine participation in government should start at a grassroots level - this is still possible in Iraq thru its traditional neighborhood self-government structure.

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