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Friday, March 30, 2007

The "Occupation" of Iraq

The Saudi King seems to think that the US is "occupying" Iraq. The New York Times writes:
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia told Arab leaders on Wednesday that the American occupation of Iraq is “illegal,” and he warned that unless Arab governments settle their differences, foreign powers like the United States would continue to dictate the region’s politics.
Like the Democrats in Congress, I want the US out of Iraq. However, no part of our involvement in Iraq constitutes the occupation of that country in any useful sense of the word. Back in the day, Brittan, France, Belgium, Germany, and The Netherlands occupied various countries in the world, using military force to maintain control of these countries so that they could gain exclusive access to the natural resources of these countries. The US too has occupied a few countries, often liberating them from control by one foreign government and installing ourselves as the dominant force. This was true of Cuba, for instance, which we liberated from Spain. We installed a permanent military base there but do not control the politics of the country as a whole. We also have bases in other countries in the world usually either at the invitation of the government or by leasing the space from the government of both. But as far as I know, we do not have the kind of political control over any country that rises to the level of an occupation of that country.

Contrary to the Saudi King's claim, the US does not have political control over Iraq and I am not even sure how much political influence we have. Moreover, I see no evidence that the Iraqi government wants us out. If it said it did, it is difficult for me to see how Bush could not withdraw our troops.

Bush's "surge" depends for its success on the willingness and ability of the Iraqi government to continue to build up its military and police forces (and to rid them of sectarian thugs) and to join with American forces in suppressing violence in Baghdad and environs. One ofBush's major problems has been to get the Shiite-dominated government to suppress the Sadr Army. Never before has the Iraqi government done what it said it would do to share the burden of stopping the insurgents as well as squash the various militias and street gangs who are killing perfectly peaceful Iraqis. This inability of Bush to get the Iraqis to protect themselves demonstrates to me that Bush's influence over the government is quite limited. This is the real shame of Bush's war. Under Saddam, these people were safe so long as they behaved in ways Saddam wanted. Now that they are under our "protection," the citizens of Baghdad aren't safe.

It distresses me when people use terms like "occupy" as inaccurately as the King has when there are so many criticisms of Bush's Iraq policy that are true and very difficult to refute. All Bush has to do to counter this silly claim is point out that there is nothing about our presence in Iraq that is reminiscent of how Germany operated in Occupied Europe or reminiscent of the occupation of the Middle East, Africa, India, and elsewhere by European nations, nor of the Japanese occupation of Korea, the Philippines, and China. The King's claim is a distraction from the real job of demonstrating to a sufficient number of Americans that they should support the Democrats in removing Bush from Iraq. Saying that we are occupying Iraq and that the occupation is illegal is counterproductive.

There is one thing the Saudi King could do that would be useful and that would be to try to persuade Iran to join with them in attempting to persuade Iraq's Shiites and Sunnis to stop killing each other. If they accomplished that, then I think Bush would have to leave. There would be little for our military to do.

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4 Comments:

Blogger bulbul said...

the US does not have political control over Iraq
Well,
1. NOBODY has political control over Iraq. Nor, it seems, any other kind of control.
2. The question of whether the US has a political control over Maliki's government.

Moreover, I see no evidence that the Iraqi government wants us out.
There is plenty of evidence. Certain factions within the United Iraqi Alliance do want the US out, so do - according to the poles - the Iraqi people.
The basic definition of occupation is "there are foreign soldiers here and we don't want them to be here". Check and check.
By your narrow definition, the Soviet Union never occupied Czechoslovakia. It did not a) exercise political control over the country, b) the government did not want the Soviet troops out.

6:38 PM

 
Blogger bulbul said...

One more thing:
Back in the day, Brittan, France, Belgium, Germany, and The Netherlands occupied various countries in the world, using military force to maintain control of these countries so that they could gain exclusive access to the natural resources of these countries
Technically, this is not occupation, but rather colonization and India, Indochine, Congo, Namibia and Indonesia respectively are usually referred to as colonies of the countries names above. By bringing up these examples, you are not asking whether the US occupies Iraq, but rather whether Iraq is a colony of the United States. And that is a brilliant question worth investigating. One could for example ask whether the role of Halliburton and other private contractors in Iraq could be compared to the role played by the British East India Company in India or the Dutch Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie in Indonesia.

This inability of Bush to get the Iraqis to protect themselves demonstrates to me that Bush's influence over the government is quite limited.
Does it? Because one could equally infer that the influence of the government as such is quite limited. Remember, most bad news we get is from Baghdad, the capital. The news networks rarely glimpse into the life of other provinces where the situation is much worse.

This is the real shame of Bush's war
I - and many MANY others - would say that the only true shame of Bush's war is that it was started. The rest is just the result of that first indescribably bad decision.

Saying that we are occupying Iraq and that the occupation is illegal is counterproductive.
Well... I don't know. When has it become counterproductive to speak the truth?

There is one thing the Saudi King could ... would be to try to persuade Iran to join with them in attempting to persuade Iraq's Shiites and Sunnis to stop killing each other.
The problem is that, to put it briefly, no one will listen to Abdullah. He is neither a Sunni, nor a Shiite - he's a Wahhabi. The Wahhabis consider all non-wahhabis, especially Shiites, heretics. And to be quite frank, in the Arab world, the Saudi royal family is often seen as the US's lapdog. Iran sure as hell isn't going to listen to anything he has to say.
Plus, for all the distracting sabre rattling Iran has been engaged in the last couple of years, the mullahs (the real leaders of Iran) appear to be willing to engage in negotiations concerning the fate of Iraq. Until recently, the Bush administration was opposed to the very idea.

Pardon me if my comments sound too confrontational. It's just that your post has given me a lot of food for thought :o)

7:30 PM

 
Blogger Language Guy said...

You need to read more carefully. I didn't say no one wants us out of Iraq. Obviously the insurgents and any Shiites and Sunnis who want to engage in genocide do. Everything I have read about the people as a whole say they feel safer when a US soldier is knocking on their door than an Iraqi. The latter could be anyone. And, of course, the government needs us there to help keep it in power if for no other reason.

The problem is you want to stretch "occupation" so that it serves your political agenda. In this case I have no agenda. You are quire wrong that my understanding of occupation does not include Czechoslovakia. The Soviets employed puppets to exercise political control and they put down any uprisings by bringing in their troops to quell them.

The Brits exercised power in India by co-opting Maharajahs (or whatever the local leaders were(\) and letting them rule for them. But they retained troops in India.

I do take your point that no one has political control in Iraq. I meant, of course, that Bush does not have control over the government. And, the US is not determining the form of government Iraq will take though we have surely tried.

The point is that in no useful sense of the term does the US occupy Iraq. The King is doing the intellectual equivalent of yelling out that "the US has dirty underpants." What the King ought to do is spend some of his wealth helping out with the poor people in Palestine or doing something else useful instead of posturing in such a way as to suggest he has similar aims as those of other Arabs. The fact is that Al Queda would take him down in a heartbeat if it could. The Arab world is full of lousy governments of all types.

8:51 AM

 
Blogger bulbul said...

I didn't say no one wants us out of Iraq.
You said "Moreover, I see no evidence that the Iraqi government wants us out."
Note that my response referred to "Certain factions within the United Iraqi Alliance" and UIA is the defacto winner of the last election and the strongest party in the parliament. From here on, everything depends on who you mean by "government". If you include the parliament, then there are indeed people in the Iraqi government who want the US out. As for the Cabinet, I'm sure a brief search of Iraqi media would reveal one or two members who feel the same way.

The problem is you want to stretch "occupation" so that it serves your political agenda.
My political agenda includes many points, but this is purely a question of semantics. Your initial definition of "occupation" was rather an unfortunate and inaccurate one. Moreover, as I pointed out, you confused two distinct concepts - occupation and colonization. I have already mentioned the basic definition of "occupation", I could also add the definition provied by OED (The action of taking or maintaining possession or control of a country, building, land, etc., esp. by (military) force; an instance of this; the period of such action; (also) the state of being subject to such action.) and remark that "Taking control of a country by military force does fit the bill quite nicely". But I won't.
Instead, I will point out to you that in the mean time, the Iraqi president agrees
with Abdullah.

2:26 PM

 

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