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Phased Withdrawal, or Cut and Run?

So, it seems the Mighty United States is getting closer and closer to admitting failure in Iraq. As one of the very many that was duped into believing it was a good war to fight, I suppose there is a part of me that feels like gloating it over Dubya. Not just Dubya, but Rumsfeld, Cheney and Wolfowitz as well. But I can’t do that.

Tomorrow is ANZAC Day here in Australia, so perhaps it is a time for reflection.

For those of you reading this that might not know, it’s the rough Aussie equivalent of Memorial Day in the USA or Remembrance Day in Canada. It commemorates the anniversary of the landing of the ANZACs (Australia/New Zealand Army Corps) at Gallipoli in World War I.

Unlike most well-known war stories, the landing at what has become known as “ANZAC Beach” was a failure. It was a doomed endeavour, and more than 8,000 Australians were killed. But even so, it was the first time Australian and New Zealand soldiers had landed on foreign shores and became a defining moment in ANZ culture.

I think we can all agree that World Wars I and II were worth fighting. Fighting to retake lands dispossessed and to restore what order there had been before. I suppose WWII was the most worthy, in that the men and women who gave their lives to stop Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan were doing a very noble thing. Soldiers lost in battle are the pillars that nations stand upon.

Australia stands on the shoulders of not only the ANZACs, but the Diggers on the Kokoda Track and all the other men and women that have died for her to survive and flourish.

America already had a Vietnam, and Australia was there. A war in a foreign land against a well-organised and well-supplied enemy that knew the ground much better than they and showed much more commitment to bringing the fight to their opponent. Vietnam was an unwinnable war, if you could call it that, where there was no reliable way to tell friend from foe – and the invading force (the Americans) was largely uninterested in holding ground. They would swoop in in their choppers and do a lot of shooting, but then they would leave.

And there were no ticker-tape parades when the soldiers came home from Vietnam.

I think any General or Field Marshal would tell you that, in a war, you need to hold the ground. If you hold the ground, you can stamp out pockets of internal resistance while defending yourself at the edges. Without holding the ground, your enemies are free to move about as they wish – save for when you make a sporadic appearance.

You would have thought that the American Generals might have learned something from all of this. And they did.

When initially planning the invasion of Iraq (and I won’t bore with the numbers) the Generals wanted anywhere from two to five times the number of soldiers that they ended up getting on invasion day. They also wanted to keep the Iraqi army and Government in place – and weed it out later – to keep the country from falling apart.

The oh-so-intelligent leadership denied the Generals the troops they wanted, and also disbanded the Iraqi Army (making them all criminals, to boot) and the Government was allowed to dissolve. Instead of getting a country to run, the Americans got a bloodbath.

So now they have decided to get the hell out. I suppose they will have to leave at some point, but I would not have thought about that for another 10 years at least. To build a nation – especially one populated with people who all want to kill each other – is not a simple thing. Post-WWII, the West spent untold billions of dollars in rebuilding the countries we had defeated. We kept troops there for a very long time to make sure things went well, and now they are all our allies. What a wonderful thing.

But when the United States leaves Iraq nobody is going to be throwing flowers at them. Oh no. I don’t think there will be anything like there was at the fall of Saigon – with people loading onto choppers on the roof of the US Embassy as the city fell – but I don’t think it will be completely orderly either.

The people who stand to gain the most – if they play their cards right – are the Kurds. They already have roughly 175,000 Peshmerga, and these suckers are tough. The Americans have not called on the Pesh to assist in the war at large because of the fear of appearing to take a sectarian side in the fight. What a bunch of tools. There has not been a bombing inside Kurd-controlled Northern Iraq since the American invasion, mostly because the Pesh don’t take any crap.

Because of their mind-numbing series of bad to astonishingly bad decisions, the United States has itself a war that it cannot win, but that it also cannot afford to lose.

To lose, or to withdraw while Iraq is still the mess it is today, risks the entire region. Iran is a rising power and their influence is spreading rapidly. They are behind attacks in Iraq, they back Hizbullah, Hamas and who knows who else, and they aren’t that far from obtaining a nuclear weapon. (If anyone thinks Iran doesn’t want a nuke, I suggest you go and trepan yourself again.)

If the US leaves Iraq before there is real stability, Iran will walk in and take the place. And then we’ve got one country sitting on well over half of all the oil in the World. No shit. You think petrol is expensive now, wait until the Ayatollah can raise the price by a dollar simply by sneezing.

And no matter how much we all hate our dependence on oil, it does not change the fact that we are all heavily dependent upon it for everyday living. The list of things that use and need it is very near endless, and at this stage in Human history, we cannot do without it.

And this brings us back to Iraq, where Australia is once again in with the Americans.

I cannot find a number for how many Australians have been killed in Iraq since the invasion, but I believe it might just be one – and that death an apparent accident. The Americans, on the other hand, have now lost close to 3,300 soldiers…and lord knows how many contractors.

How will these war dead be remembered? Will they be honoured as are the ANZACs and those that fought on the Kokoda Track, or the Americans who raised the flag at Iwo Jima? What about the Canadians on D-Day or at Vimy? Or will they be the largely-forgotten casualties of a war we all wish we could forget?

I believe that history will judge George W. Bush to be one of the dumbest, least in-control Presidents there has ever been. From learning about foreign policy from the Saudi Ambassador to being talked into fighting a war that should never have eventuated, a man that leaves his nation in much, much, poorer shape than when he took office.

And now, no matter how it happens, the USA is on course to be out of Iraq by the end of 2008 at the latest. It seems they don’t care what their withdrawal will do to the region and the World. Perhaps they feel they can withstand it.

With “phased withdrawals” to begin before the end of this year, an ever-dwindling capability will leave Generals even less able to do their jobs than they are now. And all the warring sides have to do is get ready for the day that they now know is coming.

Imperial America has sent its expeditionary forces to foreign shores to fight a war that should never have been fought, that cannot be won, and will be badly lost. And this does nothing to honour the memory of those already lost, and those who will continue to be lost before this whole mess is over.

Are we witnessing the beginning of the end of the American Empire?

Published inDeep ThoughtsPolitics

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