I sat at dinner tonight and stared for a while at the news in front of me trying to fully absorb it: More than 70 people killed in five separate car bomb attacks in Iraq yesterday.
Sixty-seven suicide bombings in the past month.
A death toll in the last two weeks of 400.
Four hundred in fourteen days. And more than a thousand wounded.
By any measure that is mass murder as the suicide bombers, believed to be in great part jihadists from outside of Iraq, have indiscriminately targeted marketplaces, businesses and crowded pedestrian thoroughfares along with police installations.
Yes, you can trace all this back to the Bush administration’s ill-conceived invasion of Iraq. Yes, we can spend all of our energy affixing blame. "Bush lied -- they died" yada yada.
But when you're done chanting, what do we actually do about the carnage?
I repeat: 1500 casualties in 15 days. Nearly all civilians. The Bush administration seems to have no answers as it vows only to stay this course – a course of mounting blood.
Eric Umansky further contributes to our anxiety over the U.S. strategy, bringing our attention to this story from the WaPo:
The number of prisoners held in U.S. military detention centers in Iraq has risen without interruption since autumn, filling the centers to capacity and prompting commanders to embark on an unanticipated prison expansion plan.
As U.S. and Iraqi forces battle an entrenched insurgency, the detainee population surpassed 11,350 last week, a nearly 20 percent jump since Iraq's Jan. 30 elections. U.S. prisons now contain more than twice the number of people they did in early October, when aggressive raids began in a stepped-up effort to crush the insurgency before January's vote….
This is the path to hearts and minds?
Those who ought to have the best answers, the anti-war movement, have none -- other than a discordant call for U.S. Troops Out Now. I sympathize with the quandary of the peace movement, because I pretend to have no viable answers. I know only that the present course is leading to disaster. And that withdrawal of U.S. troops – who shouldn’t be there in the first place—would bring only more bloodshed.
Read no further than this painfully distorted account of my position by Dennis Perrin to capture the moral tone-deafness of the radical left. Here we go once again withthe same-old primitive reductionism i.e. Opposing Immediate Withdrawal = Supporting Bush’s War.
Rather than face the ugly truth that things could actually get worse in Iraq if the current political vacuum were enlarged by an American withdrawal, it's easier to stand apart and accept an Iraqi apocalypse as satisfying payback for Bush's sins.
I challenge the "Out Now" readers to put themselves in the shoes of an Iraqi tonight as they read Perrin’s piece. Car bombs exploding around you like firecrackers and the streets running red with blood. Do you think that the wholesale murder by the car bombers –intent on rubbing out the tenuous Iraqi government—is going to decrease or increase if the American troops were pulled? Do you think that the people behind the bombs would establish a regime more humane, more democratic or, instead, even more authoritarian than the current U.S.-backed administration? You can keep your answers private, but at least ponder them seriously.
In the end, Perrin throws up his hands, declares that no matter what, the U.S. troops are destined to be bogged down Iraq forever, and that – to top things off—he argues that Iraq is worse than Vietnam.
The second assertion is demonstrably false, if only by the
lesser magnitude of death in Iraq…a far lesser magnitude. War is evil. A war
that kills 3 million people is more evil than one that kills 100,000. Or am I
missing something? The whole formulation is beside the point. (Yet, there is some sort of wondrous political point to be scored by proving, say, that Bush is worse than Nixon. A game, by the way, we don't have the luxury to play).
The first assertion, about an indeterminate stay of the American troops is nevertheless and -- unfortunately -- quite plausible. And more than plausible, perhaps inevitable, especially if the anti-war left can do no better than propose immediate withdrawal. I find it extremely difficult to imagine that being a persuasive counter (at least for those who give a rat’s ass about the Iraqi people themselves) to the status quo.
Indeed, it’s a moral forfeit that cedes undue and dangerous credence to the Bush admin’s disastrous stay-the-course strategy.
We need a third position that moves toward an end of the U.S. occupation but does not, in the process, abandon the Iraqi people to car-bomber fascists.
It will be of little consequence to those blown apart by suicide-bound fanatics to stand over their corpses and say: “It’s all Bush’s fault. There was nothing we could do.”