Iraq and our politicians
Thursday, March 20, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
I'll start this post out by observing the extreme irony of a politician claiming he has decades of foreign policy and terrorism experience, and then on 4 separate occasions demonstrating that apparently he hasn't learned anything. I refer, of course, to John McCain's recent gaffe, where he claimed that Iran was supporting al-Qaida in Iraq. He specifically said on one talk radio show that "Al-Qaida is going back into Iran and is receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran."

I want to put this into context a little, for those who are not boned up on the different between Shiite and Sunni, about why this gaffe is so dramatic. The Shiite-Sunni split harkens all the way back to the day of Muhammad, where the two sides split over an argument about who the Prophet's spiritual successor (the caliph) was. Wikipedia has a long article about the two sides that is worth checking out (there is ample documentation, both on the web and your local library for those who are interested). Think the Catholic/Protestant split in Christianity for a more Western analogy. There are many more Sunnis than Shiites in the world today (85% to 15%). In Iraq, however, the Shiites are the majority, and for years were oppressed under the rule of Saddam and his Baath party.

Now, here's the important part: al-Qaida is a Sunni organization. Bin Laden is a Sunni. Neighboring Iran is a Shiite nation. Let's go to Anonymous Liberal for a quote on how stupid McCain's quote is:
The problem, of course, is that Iran is a Shiite country and it simply makes no sense that it would be funding, training, and arming Sunni militants in Iraq. To the extent Iran is aiding anyone in Iraq, it is Shiite militants, most of whom are affiliated with the Iraqi government which we installed.

In an attempt to gloss over this problematic distinction, the administration has repeatedly asserted--without any further explanation--that Iran is arming "extremists" in Iraq, a claim that may literally be true but is clearly intended to convey the false impression that Iran and al Qaeda are somehow in cahoots.
This would be equivalent to a person claiming expertise in the "Troubles" in Northern Ireland back in the 80's, and then confusing Catholics with Protestants, and not knowing which faith the IRA followed. If the Iranians are helping anybody (and I'm sure they are) in this conflict, the main beneficiaries are people like Moqtada al-Sadr and his militia. They are a Shiite death squad actively (or at least until the cease fire) purging Sunnis and foreign elements (i.e. al-Qaida in Iraq)!

What disgusts and disturbs me about people like McCain is his willingness to hide behind empty rhetoric. He doesn't know the full details of what's going on in Iraq, so he busts out some key phrases that he knows will scare and rile up people: al-Qaida, Iran funding terrorism, etc. What's going on here? Is he: A) unaware of the players and loyalties on the chess board in that region or B) pulling a Bush/Cheney and deliberately making false inflammatory statements to support his on-going hostility towards Iran?

Look, there's plenty to dislike about Iran without having to make stuff up. Ahmadinejad's comments on Israel are particularly loathsome. So why the false statements? Is this really the man America wants leading the way? It's Bush all over again.

I also want to discuss the psychology of language and the way that this Adminstration and McCain abuse it. Classic example - the sliding definition of "success" and "victory" in Iraq. Yes, they claim the surge is working and that we can "win" in Iraq. Okay, fine. But what exactly constitutes winning at this point? And how are we any closer victory, if we are unable to set a constant set of criteria on that?

Let's contrast that with another candidate, shall we? Obama gave a major speech on Iraq. It's lengthy, but please read it in its entirety. It's just fantastic stuff. And, in a breath of fresh air, it's both informed and grounded in reality. I leave you with two passages that were particularly inspiring to me:
When you have no overarching strategy, there is no clear definition of success. Success comes to be defined as the ability to maintain a flawed policy indefinitely. Here is the truth: fighting a war without end will not force the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own future. And fighting in a war without end will not make the American people safer.

So when I am Commander-in-Chief, I will set a new goal on Day One: I will end this war. Not because politics compels it. Not because our troops cannot bear the burden– as heavy as it is. But because it is the right thing to do for our national security, and it will ultimately make us safer.
There's this also (who says he's light on details?):
Now, we must upgrade our tools of power to fit a new strategy.

That starts with enhancing the finest military in the history of the world. As Commander in Chief, I will begin by giving a military overstretched by Iraq the support it needs. It is time to reduce the strain on our troops by completing the effort to increase our ground forces by 65,000 soldiers and 27,000 Marines, while ensuring the quality of our troops. In an age marked by technology, it is the people of our military – our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen – who bear the responsibility for complex missions. That is why we need to ensure adequate training and time home between deployments. That is why we need to expand our Special Forces. And that is why we must increase investments in capabilities like civil affairs and training foreign militaries.

But we cannot place the burden of a new national security strategy on our military alone. We must integrate our diplomatic, information, economic and military power. That is why, as soon as I take office, I will call for a National Strategy and Security Review, to help determine a 21st Century inter-agency structure to integrate the elements of our national power.

In addition, I will invest in our civilian capacity to operate alongside our troops in post-conflict zones and on humanitarian and stabilization missions. Instead of shuttering consulates in tough corners of the world, it's time to grow our Foreign Service and to expand USAID. Instead of giving up on the determination of young people to serve, it's time to double the size of our Peace Corps. Instead of letting people learn about America from enemy propaganda, it's time to recruit, train, and send out into the world an America's Voice Corps.
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