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Iraq: The Narratives of Intervention

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The battles in Iraq should be heartbreaking and infuriating to all Americans. Heartbreaking because it did not have to be this way. Infuriating because we have to know, in our heart of hearts, that this is a U.S.-created disaster.

It is hard to listen to National Public Radio intoning on the crisis. Their idea of balanced perspectives is to allow a debate between those who want invasion and those who want bombing. They are both narratives of intervention. But the position against war, the position that was obviously right from the beginning, is never heard. The military careerists who brought us the war, the media pundits who sold it, are still holding the microphone.

So, while plenty of ink has been spilled, allow me to suggest just a few points to consider, a few simple theses that are drowned out in all the hand-wringing.

First, the problems in Iraq must be tied to Western imperialist conquest and domination going back to the fall of the Ottoman Empire, when the British took over in 1921. Since then the western powers, and their oil interests, have been central to the crises, including ethnic clashes. There is plenty of evidence that the sectarian conflicts are a product of modern interventions, not ancient hatreds. As in Yugoslavia, a long history of secular institutions and cooperation has been fragmented by intervention and foreign plotting. Remember, the U.S. paid Iraq billions of dollars to make war on Iran in the 1980s then helped arm Iran to fight Iraq. They wanted this slaughter and those wounds are still open.

Second, when the U.S. invaded in 2003 there was no al Qaeda in Iraq. The result of that invasion is that it may now become an al Qaeda state. Say that again: result of that invasion is that it may now become an al Qaeda state. Close to 4500 American soldiers killed; almost ten times that many Iraqis. To achieve the opposite result of what was heralded.

How can anyone who helped construct such a disaster, how can anyone who has led the cheering for such a disaster, be allowed to intone in the media as if they are wise or even not-insane?

Third, please, oh please, can we stop with this patronizing tone about the Iraqis. When Obama talks about the Maliki government it sounds like an exasperated parent upset with the antics of the teenagers. They will just have to grow up and learn to take care of their own business. Yes, those little brown people just don't seem to be able to do grown-up things like govern.

Let's remember the decades of western intervention and undermining of self-governance. And remember the lesson of occupation: you can't win and you shouldn't win. I imagine the Germans in the 40's complaining about the Vichy government of France during World War II. What's wrong with that Petain character? We set him up and he just seems incompetent. Basic truth: you invade, you set up a puppet, you have a problem. Don't complain that the puppet does not do your bidding well enough. Don't complain that the Iraqis failed at democracy.

So in all the worrying about what "we" should do as a result of the ISIS uprising in Iraq, perhaps it's time to admit that the best thing we should have done would have been to never intervene in the first place.