I have argued over and again in this blog that the United States must stand up and take moral responsibility for its actions in Iraq, even if it means an open-ended military commitment in an increasingly hostile environment.
Even so, I have to admit I find it extremely hard to disagree with Baghdad Operations Command Advisory Team chief Col. Timothy Reese, when he concludes, in his now-public, painfully honest internal memo, that — I’m paraphrasing — Iraq is a toxic swamp, that the U.S. has done all it can to dry it, and that the sooner American troops go home the better for everybody.
What is most shocking about Reese’s memo is not its unflinching depiction of the rotting corpse that is the Iraqi state, but the way he describes U.S. forces as basically prisoners of a security agreement their own commander-in-chief negotiated:
It is clear that the 30 Jun milestone does not represent one small step in a long series of gradual steps on the path the US withdrawal, but as Maliki has termed it, a ‘great victory’ over the Americans and fundamental change in our relationship. The recent impact of this mentality on military operations is evident:
1. Iraqi Ground Forces Command (IGFC) unilateral restrictions on US forces that violate the most basic aspects of the SA
2. BOC unilateral restrictions that violate the most basic aspects of the SA
3. International Zone incidents in the last week where ISF forces have resorted to shows of force to get their way at Entry Control Points (ECP) including the forcible takeover of ECP 1 on 4 July
4. Sudden coolness to advisors and CDRs, lack of invitations to meetings,
5. Widespread partnership problems reported in other areas such as ISF confronting US forces at TCPs in the city of Baghdad and other major cities in Iraq.
6. ISF units are far less likely to want to conduct combined combat operations with US forces, to go after targets the US considers high value, etc.
7. The Iraqi legal system in the Rusafa side of Baghdad has demonstrated a recent willingness to release individuals originally detained by the US for attacks on the US.
If this is true — and I have no reason to doubt it –, there really isn’t much the U.S. can do but to prepare for an orderly departure. Without political leverage, and with its military stripped of its right to fight, America is of no use to Iraq. I can only hope Reese’s talk of “victory” is in jest, because victory this isn’t, it is an utter failure on all fronts. Not only will Iraq not be stable, it will not be a democracy, and it most certainly will not be a friend of America.