It is hard to know what is really going on in Iraq. Much of the media gives us a fairly slanted view, highlighting the carnage and bloodshed. One hardly ever hears of what good things might be happening there. Thus the distorted picture presented by the media leads many to think that the best response would be for the US, Australia and others simply to get out as soon as possible.
Not everyone feels this way. A leading English leftie argues that we should not abandon Iraq to an Islamist victory. William Shawcross has been a supporter of the war, although he has not been uncritical of many aspects of it, especially postwar planning. But to fellow leftists, he is now regarded as a traitor.
But as a leftist, his case may not be so easily dismissed, as if he were just another conservative commentator. Thus his article in today’s Australian (October 27, 2006) is well worth reading. Entitled, “Deny Islamists reward in Iraq,” he makes the case for not giving up at this crucial hour.
He begins by bemoaning the extremely high levels of defeatism and hysteria found in so much of the media concerning Iraq. Says Shawcross, “The bias in much of the coverage of Iraq – in Britain, the US and Australia – helps only those violent extremists who are trying to destroy the country. It dreadfully discourages all those millions of Iraqis who need our support to build a decent society. President George W. Bush was not wrong when he said recently that the spike in terrorist attacks in Iraq is similar to the 1968 Tet communist offensive in Vietnam. Both aimed at domestic opinion.”
Indeed, the terrorists and insurgents in Iraq are well aware of the upcoming November elections in America, and are working overtime to escalate the violence, in the hope of generating Republican defeats.
Shawcross says we must do all we can to prop up this fledgling democracy: “The key to success is to strengthen and encourage the elected Iraqi Government led by Nouri al-Maliki. He has desperately serious problems. The debilitating corruption must be fought. The sectarian chaos and bloodshed is far worse than anyone who supported the overthrow of Saddam Hussein (as I did and still do) expected. Maliki needs to deal with the Shia militia that, goaded by al-Qa’ida in Iraq, have been committing horrific assaults on the Sunnis.”
He offers other bits of advice on how we can support the new Iraqi government, then reminds us that insurgents are not defeated overnight: “I met Duncan Anderson, the head of war studies at Sandhurst, who was teaching at Al Rustamiyah for six months. He is now back at Sandhurst. Like everyone who loves Iraq, he is worried about it. But he is not panicked. He points out that it took the British army four years to get its tactics right in Malaya, then another seven years to defeat the insurgency there. Similarly, in Oman there was a learning curve in the 1970s.”
And much of the violence in Iraq has to do with neighbouring rogue states: “The blame for the present horrors lies above all with the monstrous al-Qa’ida, Baathist Sunni terrorists and the equally vile Shia militia, which are abetted by Iran. The vast majority of deaths in Iraq are being inflicted by Muslims on other Muslims, for reasons that have little to do with Western forces. There are those who claim a deal could be made with Iran and its client Syria in a compromise settlement of Iraq’s problems. It’s hard to envisage. Both governments have done everything possible to destroy the new Iraq. The Syrian Government has enabled the Damascus Baathist mafia to smuggle thousands of suicide bombers into Iraq.”
Indeed, Iran is a leading culprit here: “Bomb disposal experts can often identify the precise Tehran factories in which car bombs and other deadly explosive devices have been manufactured. Iran is stoking the violence by way of warning that it could do even worse if it gets its way with its nuclear ambitions. This week Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made his most blood-curdling threat yet against Europe and Israel.”
Concludes Shawcross: “Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard are absolutely right to insist that we cannot abandon Iraq. We are there under a UN mandate (soon up for renewal), assisting the legitimate, elected Government. We should hand over to the Iraqis as they become more capable. But a premature pullout would condemn Iraq and the region to unbelievable horror. And it would be a famous victory for our Islamist enemies, who declared war on the West long before we went into Iraq and liberated 23 million Muslims. If we allow ourselves and the overwhelming majority of Iraqis to be defeated, that defeat will be the first of many in the region and the world. The Islamists will give no quarter.”
Things in Iraq may not look pretty just now. But they will look a lot worse if we abandon the majority of Iraqis who are trying to make a go of their new-found freedom.