In November We Vote on Civil War in Iraq

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Nabil Al-Hadithy heads Berkeley's toxic management division addressing hazardous waste problems. He graduated in Geology from University of London in 1975 and obtained Master's Degree from Cranfield University in Material Science in 1977 and doctorate in Welding Technology in 1982. He joined City of Berkeley in 1993 as HazMat Inspector and then became HazMat Manager. An Iraqi, he voted in the country's elections.

Sen. McCain took a principled position in supporting the US troops surge to Iraq when the country was almost unanimously against the war. During the first presidential debate, McCain took credit for the surge and credited the surge for the path to victory. Since July 2008, McCain’s has campaign attacked Obama for being too stubborn to admit the surge turned the course of the war in Iraq. McCain likened Obama’s stubbornness to the Bush administration and this was disturbing to Obama as it undermined his own strategy of associating McCain with the failed Bush administration. McCain’s portrayed himself as the lynchpin of the troop surge and insinuated him policy as victor of the Iraq war. 

Obama clearly understood the fallacy of McCain's televised claims but did nothing to repudiate them. Obama should have said the May 2007 troop surge did not turn the tide on the Iraq insurgency and we have no victory in Iraq. In fact, the war hangs in the balance and a wrong move will revive the Sunni insurgency and Al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI).

The US military and McCain are fully aware that the Sunni sheikhs in Anbar province had already turned against AQI in June of 2006, almost a year before the surge. By the time all the troops arrived in June 2007, the attacks against the US were down 70%. In his report to Congress in April 2008, Petraeus said “Since the first Sunni “Awakening” in late 2006, Sunni communities in Iraq increasingly have rejected AQI’s indiscriminate violence and extremist ideology.”

Many of Anbar province's 1.5 million Sunnis are ex-military personnel who were fired by the first US Administrator, Paul Bremmer. Anbar's population had swelled after the central government and Shia militias ethnically cleansed Baghdad and environs of its Sunni population. Anbar's Sunnis tolerated the AQI, as the saying goes, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. But the AQI committed grave excesses in 2006 against moderate Sunnis. Sunnis rebelled against AQI in mid-2006 and a US military unit headed by Col Sean MacFarland first took advantage of this split in a reversal of hitherto US military policy.

The late Sheikh Risha told the Washington Post on 9.9.07 "The Sunni tribes attribute the change to a political agreement not to increased (American) forces”. The political agreement deployed Sunnis as police in actions against AQI and paid and equipped them for their efforts. The Sunni “Awakening” or the “Sons of Iraq” grew from 6,000 in mid-2006 to about 100,000 today. Until recently, they were paid pittance through the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, but this pittance was sufficient to sustain Sunni lives and allegiances.

McCain was disingenuous in the debate when he claimed the surge brought an end to the insurgency. McCain knew the majority of the 35,000 troops were deployed around Baghdad to protect the capital and adjacent provinces.

The outcome of these elections will be determined by undecided, blue collar, middle-Americans. This is the cross-over demography and was caricatured on SNL as the "Hilary's racists". If Obama exposes McCain’s misrepresentation of the surge, he will not only be attacking an American hero but also diminishing the glory of the US Armed Forces. This will be used to show Obama as unpatriotic, un-American, or disloyal. Hence, McCain’s exaggerations and claims on the surge will go unchallenged by Obama.

We have greater concerns than the surge and whether it was successful. We must ensure the many minorities in Iraq are safe and not devoured by the well armed pro-Iranian central government and Kurdish and Shia militias. If chaos consumes Iraq, minorities are the first to suffer loss of life and land. Petraeus and later Lt Gen Ray Odierno both stated that the security gains in Iraq are "fragile and reversible". This means they cannot guarantee the safety of the minorities unless the US army is fully supported. For the Sunnis this means that the Sons of Iraq must be paid by the US army or the Shia government.  But this is an election year and the US is not as solvent as it was a few months ago. Obama and McCain are unlikely to support $500m annually to the Sons of Iraq. The L.A. Times 8.26.08 reported “Over the last several weeks, [Iraq’s] central government has embarked on what appears to be an effort to arrest, drive away or otherwise intimidate tens of thousands of Sunni security volunteers -- the so-called Sons of Iraq -- whose contributions have been crucial to recent security gains. ..we are convinced that if Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki and his advisors persist in this sectarian agenda, the country may spiral back into chaos.”
McCain is invested in the success of the surge and must support, directly or indirectly, the Sons of Iraq. But Obama has made it clear that he does not wish to spend additional money in Iraq while the government is sitting on $79b in oil revenues. Obama is also adamant on a withdrawal of troops within 16 months, which he claims he can do in an orderly manner.

If Obama hastily withdraws troops, there will be chaos and the Sons of Iraq and other minority populations will be abandoned and suffer. The Sunnis will soon find themselves with no protection against the Shia government, the Shia militias or the expansionist Kurdish militias. The Sunnis will be forced to revolt and rejoin the AQI. Obama may react to this chaos by dissolving Iraq into three autonomous regions as favored by Senator Biden, the Kurds, Iran and Israel. In this division, Iraq’s northern oilfields will be wrested by the Kurdish Peshmerga and the southern oilfields will fall easily to Iran’s allies. A civil war will follow that will be bloodier than anything we have seen. The causes of this civil war will be reminiscent of Lord Mountbatten’s hasty withdrawal from India in 1948 for frivolous reasons.

Obama and the Democratic Party should move on beyond their opposition to the Bush Doctrine. The US is responsible for a country broken by a right wing cabal that controls the White House. International humanitarian law obliges the US to fix Iraq. Cutting loose and running away when there is hope for stability is not a winning policy and Obama needs to reevaluate his position. Iraq must be made safe for its people, 3.5 million Iraqi refugees must be returned to their homes, and a civil society must be allowed to establish before we exit from Iraq.



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omar ibrahim baker - 10/21/2008

Absolutely 100 % RIGHT Mr Besch.
The USA is the major criminal in Iraq from whose "liberation effort" innumerable minor criminals consciously ,deliberately and as planed sprung and wrecked, still are, wrecking havoc on Iraq.

Arnold Shcherban - 10/20/2008

Absolutely right, Mr. Besch.

Randll Reese Besch - 10/20/2008

Once that is acknowledged then we can move on to how to repair this atrocity. One can't do it under a false view of things. By the way, how do you get the murderers and marauders and arsonists to fix things? I mean the USA is the criminal party. Where have you found criminals used to 'fix' what they have done? I know of no such thing.

The USA must leave and let the Iraqis and other countries through the UN to repair things as best as possible. This isn't India in 1947. All the USA has done is delay and mitigate the horrors of full dissolution caused by the attack, invasion and occupation of Iraq destroyed the infrastructure and oppressed the rebuilding. The USA is the cause not the solution.