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My turn: Who are we fighting in Iraq?

Posted: Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Two months after declaring the end to combat operations in Iraq, President George W. Bush issued a challenge to an Iraqi opposition he's never had to face: "Bring them on."

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Three and a half years later, they're still coming. But according to the most celebrated study of the war, "Our government still does not understand very well either the insurgency in Iraq or the role of the militias." Who is then opposing the U.S. occupation?

The Iraq Study Group, headed by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, doesn't attempt to provide solutions to the war in terms of the simple rhetoric we've become accustomed to hearing. The group's admission that there aren't any guarantees to success is a sobering introduction that displaces politically crafted speech with some degree of honesty.

Yet why does the final assessment of not understanding the enemy in Iraq lay buried near the end of the text? How accurate is the portrayal of the sources of violence as the Sunni Arab insurgency, al-Qaida and affiliated jihadist groups, Shiite militias, death squads and organized criminality? Is it true that most attacks against our troops come from the Sunni Arab insurgency?

History suggests that outside forces support such resistance movements. Not with uniformed fighters, but rather with funds, weapons and mercenaries. Iraq is no different.

The accusations that Iran and Syria are sending support across their borders aren't new. The Iraq Study Group recognizes that both nations are "content to see the United States tied down in Iraq." But they bring in a new player, the private citizens of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, who the study group claims are providing funds to the Sunni resistance.

Are the governments of those citizens aware of this? Is there any connection to the group's claim and the recent resignation of the Saudi ambassador to the United States? Where might the energy agreement signed last January between Saudi Arabia and China fit in?

Some pretty murky political questions begin to appear once all the various international relationships are considered. Is it possible that the most obvious adversaries to our presence in the Middle East aren't the only antagonistic forces behind the resistance movements?

China is the second-largest lender the United States relies on while our national debt soars, in a large part because of the war in Iraq. A longtime opponent of U.S. ideologies, China is emerging as a serious economic competitor. The building boom has been steady there for several years. Their thirst for oil is no less than ours.

Today's superpowers don't engage in direct warfare. America's aid to the anti-Communist freedom fighters in Afghanistan during the 1980s is merely one example. The Nicaraguan Contras are another, and that chapter of our history includes covert arms deals with Iran. And of course, the North Vietnamese received massive support from the USSR and China that helped keep the U.S. military tied down in Southeast Asia for years.

What is obvious here is that political leaders of nations share a common philosophy that is grossly insensitive to the citizens of other countries. The support of proxy armies and freedom fighters of less developed nations isn't about freedom and eventual peace for the people. Instead they aid and arm the resistance movements to undermine the economic and military strength of their global competitor. They add flames to the war with little regard for the suffering of the innocent.

The United States doesn't own the copyright to covert actions such as the Iran Contra Affair or their legal counterparts. We don't have the patent rights to shipping arms into areas of conflict that we deem essential for our national interest.

The objective here is not to accuse China of aiding the so-called insurgency, but that to understand it, we may do well to look past the Middle East geographically and ask who else prefers to see the United States fail in the country with the second largest known oil reserves in the world.

Enemies aren't created by searching for peace, but rather by the competing interests of nations. Baker and Hamilton again tell us that our war hasn't made friends: "Sixty-one percent of Iraqis approve of attacks on U.S.-led forces." Might that not encourage ideological and economic competitors around the world to lend the resistance movements support to try to undermine U.S. goals in Iraq?

It's time to be honest about the Iraq war. It will last for years unless we choose to do what's right and end it.

• Rich Moniak is a Juneau resident.



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