21 June 2006

An Iraq Story Unfolds

A.D. Freudenheim, The Editor

The U.K. Newspaper The Independent ran an article yesterday (20 June 2006) about a confidential letter that was leaked, a letter from the American Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. (The Independent posted an abridged text of the letter here.) According to the same article, the memo “paints a grim picture of Iraq as a country disintegrating in which the real rulers are the militias, and the central government counts for nothing,” an account “wholly at odds with the optimistic account of developments given by President George Bush and Tony Blair.”

This story has not, as far as I can tell, been widely picked up here in the U.S. There was an Associated Press article that ran yesterday afternoon (e.g., in the Boston Globe here, or ABC News.com here) – but the AP article claims that “The author was not known,” attempting to neutralize the idea that it actually was from Ambassador Khalilzad despite being under his name officially. This also received some coverage in the Washington Post, though it appears that an article in their “Outlook” section – which is mentioned in other articles – is not yet accessible online. Other than that, coverage in the U.S. appears slim, as was noted by the Media Matters for America site.


Indulge me in a tangent for one minute. Separate and apart from the details of the memo, all of which certainly seem believable, the contradictory perspectives on the Iraq situation strike me as covering up a broader conspiracy, a theory that was tossed around back when President Bush was so actively falsifying his evidence for war and trying to terrorize the nation into accepting its necessity. That conspiracy theory (bolstered by the President’s use of the word “crusade”) was that what President Bush really wanted in Iraq was chaos: he wanted sectarian violence and he wanted a war that would broaden itself to be perceived as a massive clash of religious titans – not of Sunni versus Shia, but of Islam versus Christianity. In other words, this is all part of some doctrinaire Christian take on the end-of-days and how to provoke the Second Coming of Christ.

Yes, ok, it’s far-fetched. I asked for your indulgence. It is not that I necessarily believe this theory to be true; I still think that, Presidential denials notwithstanding, this was a war about oil more than anything else. However, if you start lining up the details – of how we have bungled the post-war planning and continued to fail at any substantive resolution of Iraq’s growing civil strife; how we have so selectively chosen to support the new regime in Afghanistan (which is to say: we support the part that can appear easily on television from Kabul, leaving the poppy-growing majority to go about their heroin-producing business); how Osama bin Laden was supposed to be Public Enemy #1, and yet he remains at large; how President Bush has handled Syria, Iran, and the Palestinians to date; and so on – it does, sadly, look as though there is no consistent approach beyond some very hidden ulterior motive. Our President denounces dictatorships on the one hand (Iraq under Saddam) while, on the other hand, supporting dictatorships (Libya); he calls for democracy in Iraq, but leaves Egypt and Saudi Arabia to move ever-so-slowly in what might (possibly) be a democratic direction, while also denouncing the democratic choices made by people in Iran or the occupied Palestinian territories...

I could go on, but presumably you get the point. Pragmatically, what is Mr. Bush to do about ALL of these situations? Nothing; the United States is strong, but we don’t have the military forces to take them on all at once. But from the perspective of a Christian conspiracy theory, we don’t have to address these all issues at once – all we have to do is stir the pot enough to create a broader religious war, a clash of civilizations. Indeed, that seems to be the one thing at which President Bush and his administration have been most effective.


Update: The Independent has also published an editorial today (21 June 2006) about the leaked memo and the Iraq situation. (Subscription required for full text.)


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