As Obama touched down in Iraq yesterday, his top secret arrival (even victorious Iraq is a dangerous place for American leaders to show up announced) was greeted with plumes of smoke from a series of car bombs that left 37 dead. Just today, a bomb hidden in a bag exploded near a Shiite shrine killing another 7.
These public incidents of violence led to the predictable ripple of harumphs and chin strokes from the very serious crowd about whether or not Obama’s planned troop withdrawal is premature, and whether the removal of those troops will permit this type of violence to continue or, even, escalate*. This mulling proceeds as if the decision is entirely up to us, with the sovereign government of Iraq to be informed as needed (that pesky SOFA be damned).
“Maybe Obama should alter his plans. Surely he must in the name of all things that are decent, humanitarian and responsible.” Thus, the compassionate imperialists offer their heart-felt pleas to think about the children.
But here’s the thing, we’ve had roughly 130,000-140,000 US soldiers in Iraq for over six years, and a funny thing happened despite our presence: hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died in political violence. Many millions more have been forced to flee internally and abroad.
While the Serious Set frets about the potential for a full blown civil war to erupt should we leave, few seem to have noticed just how many Iraqis were blown fully apart while we had front row seats.
Even now, after the surge has worked its magic, hundreds of Iraqis are dying a month. Our soldiers haven’t stopped that, nor can they Only Iraqis can decide if and when to cease insurgent and civil war activities (reductions in violence had more to do with Sunnis and Sadrists agreeing to a cease fire than with extra troops to interdict). Iraqis will decide to come to a lasting peace when they’re ready, not when the US decides that it would be convenient or politically expedient. Such is the magnitude, tragedy and resilience of the mess Bush created. He’s a special kind of fuck up is he.
Consider the means employed with the recent spate of attacks and the typical modus operandi of combatants: car bombs, suicide attackers and IEDs planted in populated areas. How, exactly, does our military presence prevent those types of attacks? Are our soldiers supposed to intimidate suicide bombers: You better think twice buddy. If you try to explode yourself with US troops around, they just might kill you.
That oughta work.
The likely rejoinder is that we can keep set piece battles from erupting – or better yet, from continuing since some have already occurred even with us around. To which I’d reply: So we can keep the civil war and insurgent clashes on a medium simmer for a prolonged period of time, rather than face the possibility that either could and would flare up – and flare out – over a shorter span.
All for the low, low cost of many trillions of dollars and thousands of US soldiers’ lives.
Yeah, Obama really should reconsider. If we leave, there’ll be violence.
UPDATE: Obligatory late 80s/early 90s hip hop video:
*edited to make sense