“Handing the Terrorists a Victory”
Recognize the phrase? It is a stock phrase used by the Bush admin. whenever they want to explain why we cannot end the occupation of Iraq. It has captured the minds of many ordinary citizens because, of course, no one wants to “hand the terrorists a victory.” But I am not impressed with the phrase as meaning anything other than an emotional propaganda tool to keep support for a the biggest foreign policy disaster in this country since we took over the Vietnam war from the French!
1) Which terrorists would we be “handing a victory” if we stopped occupying Iraq? The Iraqi insurgents? It’s their country. No matter if we send 400,000 troops (which would take a draft) and stay 10 years, they will NEVER give up trying to rid their country of occupiers–even if they stop the killing between Sunni and Shi’ia. A guerilla war against an occupying army ALWAYS wins eventually, because eventually the occupiers lose enough money and soldiers that they just get fed up and go home. Hello? That’s how the United States became independent, remember? It wasn’t because George Washington was a military genius (his own diaries show his knowledge that this wasn’t true), folks. The Continental Army lost most of the battles. But England was also in a war with France (that’s why the French supplied us arms and some “military advisors”) and was about to have one with Spain. We “terrorists” (that’s how the British saw the rebel colonists) simply made it too expensive for the occupying British to keep it up when they had other fights, too. In Vietnam, the U.S. won nearly every battle, but could not win the war after 10 years any more than the French could after 5. Algeria drove out France the same way. Guerilla war is ugly, but effective for the home team, especially when the opposing team doesn’t speak the language, know the culture, and has other matters to deal with–all of which is true about Iraq and the U.S. If the “terrorists” to which we are referring are the insurgent Iraqis who don’t feel “liberated” by our presence, then the question isn’t whether they will be victorious, but when. Because we will leave, eventually. And there is zero evidence that we will leave behind a modern democracy and a flourishing country. How many more refugees will we create in Iraq, first? How many more dead civilians–killed by insurgents and us?
2) If we mean that we will be “handing a victory” to al-Qaeda, if we leave Iraq, then we did that the moment we invaded Iraq. Al-Qaeda has been trying to convince Muslims to join its “jihad” (mainstream Muslims disagree that a true jihad can be called in these circumstances) against the West, especially the U.S. because, among other things, they claim we occupy Muslim countries. It seems reasonable to believe that one of their purposes in the horrible 9/11 attacks was to make us react in ways that would seem to back up their claims about the wicked Americans. Helping Afghans overthrow the Taliban and remove Afghanistan as an Al Qaeda stronghold was a logical response. Most Muslims who were not already in Al Qaeda’s ideological camp did not object. But invading a nation which had nothing to do with 9/11, when every nation in the Middle East (except Israel) was against it, played right into Al Qaeda’s hands. Iraq has now become a training ground for Al Qaeda terrorists: they sneak into the porous borders, learn to kill Americans with guerilla tactics, and then disappear into the scattered Al Qaeda network to plan terrorist attacks on the West.
3) Claiming that ending the Iraqi occupation will “hand the terrorists a victory” is much like the claim that if we left Vietnam there would be a domino effect and Communism would spread throughout Asia. It’s a scare tactic used so that we don’t examine the logic of the policy and whether the policy is working–and we have been in Iraq now longer than the U.S. involvement in World War II!
4)The Bush administration claims that the invasion/occupation of Iraq is one front in a generations long “war on terror.” Now, I think this is just a slogan and a metaphor and not a coherent policy. But forget that for a moment. Suppose they are right? Well, in any real shooting war there are victories for either side, but the key is who wins the war. So, if Iraq is draining treasure and lives and resources needed to fight terrorism elsewhere (and it undeniably is), then maybe it would be smarter tactics to let “the terrorists” (all of them? in all their disparate groups? including the ones in Latin America we train at the School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, GA? including the notorious terrorist we just released from prison in Miami because we wouldn’t extradite him to either Venezuela or Cuba where he is accused of terrorist crimes?) claim victory for Iraq (they will anyhow) and leave so that we can fall back, regroup, and use our resources more widely in this “war against terrorism?”
5) Some citizens in the U.S. have been especially sucked into this “hand the terrorists a victory” mantra after it was used by Australian Prime Minister John Howard in his attempt to influence U.S. elections and claim that electing Barack Obama would be a “victory for the terrorists” because Obama has promised to end the Iraq war (as have all the Democratic candidates). I haven’t decided whether or not to vote for Obama, but I notice that Howard didn’t back up his words by sending more Australian troops to Iraq! Howard’s stand on the war is not popular in Australia. He became the first sitting PM to be censured by Parliament when he joined the “coalition of the willing,” but the number of troops sent is small.
In all, it seems to me that this phrase “hand the terrorists a victory,” like “support the troops,” is not really an argument for the “surge” or any foreign policy strategy (much less military strategy), but simply a slogan to keep people from asking tough questions about how long we will be in Iraq, why we are building permanent bases there, why we are supporting a new law in Iraq that will give most of its oil profits to international oil companies (when it needs all the money it can get for its own reconstruction), etc. Let’s ask the hard questions and not have minds clouded by mantras like “handing the terrorists a victory.” In my view, our current policy is like a flood of lemmings running over a cliff–and anyone shouting “there’s a cliff ahead” gets told to shut up so we don’t “hand the terrorists a victory.” So, we keep running over the cliff until we’re all dead. I hope the American public is smarter than that.
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