Although General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker will assert to Congress otherwise, the "war" is already lost. Bush's response to failure in Iraq is to repeat it on a larger scale. The Democratic Congress must not give him another cent to keep this tragedy going.
International law means nothing if large states can take it upon themselves to invade smaller states, overthrow their governments, and occupy their lands. In international legal terms there is no difference between what Saddam Hussein did to Kuwait in 1990 and what George W. Bush did to Iraq in 2003. Therein lies the key problem: the U.S. occupation of Iraq is illegitimate not only because the reasons for invading were a tapestry of lies, but also because "preventive war" violates the principles governing the intercourse of nations since the Treaty of Westphalia.
The photographs from Abu Ghraib prison of American soldiers torturing Iraqis, the unleashing of sectarian cleansing on a scale never before seen in that country, the constant car bombs and reprisal killings, and the heartrending civilian refugee crisis, have shown the world long ago that Bush's war was the wrong decision, in the wrong country, at the wrong time. Yet going on five years since "Mission Accomplished" the Bush Administration and its media shills are working overtime to perpetuate this illegitimate and illegal misadventure.
On my television screen flashed the image of Faoud Ajami, the "House Arab," his lips moving in what no doubt is part of Bush's media blitz. Ajami has been wrong on everything relating to Iraq from the beginning, making him the perfect person to which to turn about whether or not "progress" is being made in Iraq. We've seen Kenneth Pollack, Michael O'Hanlon, Christopher Hitchens, William Kristol, Michael Ignatieff, Joe Lieberman and dozens of lesser known wags tell us for years that the occupation of Iraq is somehow legitimate and in our national interest and makes us "safer" and is related to the "war on terror" and so on. But, like Bush, they were wrong then and they are wrong now.
The invasion and occupation of Iraq has become a symbol to millions of people around the world of America's rejection of international law and human rights standards. The ensuing wave of anti-Americanism easily outweighs the value of any "security" attained by the aggressive military action.
The first phase of the insurgency began in August 2003 when suicide car bombers destroyed the United Nations mission and the embassies of Muslim countries to prevent the occupation from gaining broader legitimacy.
The second phase sought to corral the occupiers by car bombing them into conceding that they could not control Baghdad and forcing them to retreat into their fortified "Green Zone." Then the insurgents targeted all of the police training camps and military recruitment stations to prevent the interim government from being able to defend itself.
The third phase sought to spark a sectarian war between Sunnis and Shias by bombing Shia shrines and crowded Shia market places. The Shia-dominated Interior Ministry retaliated with mass executions of Sunnis. This sectarian bloodbath marked the death knell for the American occupation because the insurgents succeeded in making the country totally ungovernable.
The current phase of the insurgency has been what might be called a "low intensity" civil war where various armed factions and tribes, militias, criminal syndicates, warlords, and agents from the intelligence services of neighboring states are vying for power in the post-American occupation Iraq. The Maliki government has integrated its armed forces with the Shia militias because it is determined to hold on to Baghdad after the Americans finally pull out.
But what happens in Baghdad will not determine the outcome of the "war." The loci of the conflict have dispersed far outside of Baghdad diminishing the capital's significance. The war has already become regionalized. Over two million Iraqis have fled to neighboring states and there are about 2 million more internally displaced. Like Vietnam, the U.S. military has the power to destroy any city in Iraq whenever it pleases, but like Vietnam the U.S. has won every battle but lost the war.