From: James Puz
A recent AP news release reported that hundreds of masked gunmen from the Al-Qaida-linked Islamic State in Iraq and Levant have currently taken control of major portions of two Iraqi cities in the Anbar province, Fallujah and the capital, Ramadi. As evidenced by those events, well-armed and organized militants are making a comeback. The reports of the death (or at least the weakening) of Al-Qaida, especially since the demise of Osama Bin Laden, have been greatly exaggerated and, not unexpectedly, those militants are once again leaving their bloody mark in Iraq.
During the nearly nine years of U.S. involvement in the Iraq war, news stories originating from within two administrations vainly tried to assure Americans that each time an Al-Qaida leader was killed, the organization was on its last legs, that success was just around the corner, a fairy tale now fully associated with Afghanistan. Over the years, we turned that corner many times.
The cockiness exhibited by the U.S. was due in part to the lack of aggressiveness shown by various Al-Qaida factions. Fewer attacks meant a lack of strength and determination within the ranks of Al-Qaida, or so goes another grim fairy tale.
The Iraq war, however, was not a video game or a movie or TV show with Al-Qaida militants charging about mindlessly, only to be systematically gunned down by GIs. On the contrary, while the U.S. military was still present and threatening, militants did the only sensible thing. ...when danger was about, they kept their heads down and stayed out of the line of fire. Further proof of that came when the 2007 surge of 30,000 US troops was met, predictably, with a further decline in violence. Al-Qaida stayed out of the line of fire even more. Was that so hard to anticipate?
A 2008, Gallup Poll revealed that 43% of Americans thought the surge was “...making the situation better” while a Pew Research Center poll taken at the same time saw 48% of the people believed the war to be going well. An overlapping CNN poll in early February of 2008 showed that 52% of respondents felt U.S. forces were “making progress in improving conditions in Iraq and bringing an end to the violence in that country;” 45% disagreed. With all that “success;” I’m sure the Pentagon and elected officials were giving one another the high five, fist bumping and slapping each other on the back with the obligatory “We done good” bravado that undoubtedly goes with it, all the while Al-Qaida, neither as dumb nor as weak as we were led to believe, was just keeping its head down and staying out of the line of fire.
The U.S. military and civilian intelligence agencies, with billions of dollars at their disposal, have grossly miscalculated their most premier foe since the Cold War and have exhibited the credibility of a fortune teller using a mail order crystal ball with respect to Al-Qaida’s activities and what its viability and capabilities were, then and now. That being said, Al-Qaida knew the U.S. would eventually leave Iraq. Iraq is not our home but for Al-Qaida, that part of the world is home. It set up shop and it’s not leaving anytime soon.
Sadly, this nation has neglected for decades one major tenet in dealing with people of other nations and that is that they are not stupid. Such an omission has often led us to believe that distant peoples are somehow intellectually and socially inferior to us. Now, as in the past, that omission has been a major stumbling block toward improving our standing in the eyes of the world That view, now, as in the past, has cost this nation dearly in prestige, money...and blood.
Many have sniped at President Obama’s final removal of U.S. troops from Iraq in December, 2011, but few seem to remember that President Bush and the Iraqi government had earlier worked out a withdrawal plan, based on legal and political grounds, which Obama was obligated to see fulfilled.
However, prior to the complete removal of U.S. troops, it was merely a waiting game on the part of Al-Qaida, waiting for its chance, all the while keeping out of the line of fire. But because of naivete, arrogance or outright stupidity, this simple yet effective game plan has gone unnoticed by many Americans in general and our political “leaders” (politicians) in particular.
Since our complete withdrawal in December, 2011, Al-Qaida has gone virtually unhampered in flexing its muscles while spreading its reign of terror. It has taken advantage of unrest and mistrust in Iraq, the world’s focus on Syria and a troubled Egypt, while successfully demonstrating that it is not out of the game. Not by a long shot.
In 2012, more than 4,500 civilians died, while 2013 saw nearly double that with over 7,800 civilian deaths. Despite such staggering numbers, do we even dare contemplate asking permission to go back to repair something we broke, so aptly alluded to by former Secretary of State Colin Powell, something that was irreparable from the start? Not if we don’t want to see a president impeached and an impotent Congress witnessing protest marches, if not riots in the streets, along with the hanging and burning of effigies, bearing the names of every member of Congress, by an even angrier and discontented America.
President Bush wanted a democratic Iraq, democratic by our standards. That wasn’t in the cards then and it isn’t in the cards now.
While Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki may have a weak and ineffectual government, the end result in Iraq is clearly dependent on what the Iraqi people want and need and how they are going to go about getting it. Their fate rests entirely in their hands. Remember, it’s their country, not ours.