- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 11, 2007


In “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” Edward Gibbon anticipated President Bush’s criminal stupidity in post-Saddam Iraq: “History is indeed little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.”

Mr. Bush’s mulish insistence that Iraq’s Sunnis, Shi’ites and Kurds can be cajoled into harmony with American guns and tutorials after 4,000 unbroken years of despotism and division is wasting the lives of brave Americans every bit as prodigally as the ill-conceived Charge of the Light Brigade wasted the lives of the British warriors in the Crimean War. Will House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid please stand up and protest: “Mr. President, you shall not crucify any more our sacred soldiers on a cross of ignorance?”

President Bush scorns the wisdom born of reading and discerning the vexing variety of motivations that inform human behavior: power, avarice, fame, domination, compassion, indulgence, fear and charity. Author Robert Draper in “Dead Certain” quotes Mr. Bush as follows: “You can’t learn lessons by reading. Or at least I couldn’t. I learned by doing.”

Learning by doing is innocuous when it comes to hitting a baseball or campaigning for public office. In matters of war, in contrast, learning by doing in disregard of history and philosophy is criminal. The case of Iraq is exemplary.

President Bush invaded with a monumental delusion: namely, that Kurds, Shi’ites and Sunnis would embrace American style democracy after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein by spontaneous combustion, a belief first cousin to alchemy. A little reading would have dispelled that delusion.

Democracy had been denied even a cameo appearance in Mesopotamia throughout 4,000 years of history. The celebrated Code of Hammurabi, promulgated by the King of Babylonia in approximately 1750 B.C., was an edict of one man, not government by the consent of the governed.

Iraq was concocted from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire in 1920 by the British. Its boundaries were demarcated to ensure access to oil by the British Navy and to create a consolation prize for King Faisal I — the founder of Arab independence in World War I — who had been evicted from Syria by the French. From Iraq’s inception, the visceral loyalties of its population have turned on religion, tribal affiliation or ethnicity. Virtually no inhabitant then or today thinks of himself as Iraqi first and Kurdish, Sunni or Shi’ite second.

In sum, Iraq has never been a nation whose peoples could be held together by common democratic ideals, culture, tradition or otherwise. E Pluribus Unum has never been its motto. Tyranny has been required to prevent Iraq from disintegrating.

Accordingly, when Saddam was overthrown, Iraq’s splintering and convulsions were inescapable in the absence of an option that Mr. Bush resisted: the imposition of a Gen. Douglas MacArthur-like proconsul on the country for a generation or more to incubate the seeds of unity and secular democracy. At the time of the overthrow, Kurds in the north had already established a de facto independent state under the protection of the United States no-fly zone. Ditto for the Shi’ites in the south. Saddam’s Sunni myrmidons had conducted a campaign of genocide against the Kurds featuring chemical warfare. Shi’ites and Sunnis had been engulfed in sectarian strife for centuries, a conflict aggravated by the intermeddling of Shi’ite-dominated Iran and Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia. Great Britain required six centuries since the Magna Carta in 1215 to evolve a parliamentary democracy, and Iraq’s political culture had yet to reach the Magna Carta starting line.

Iraq featured no history of freedom of speech, no history of freedom of religion, no history of freedom of political association, and no history of an independent judiciary or the rule of law. Iraq was barren of any national or democratic DNA when President Bush invaded in 2003, and the military quagmire that followed the ouster of Saddam was as predictable as the rising and setting of the sun.

Mr. Bush and his generals have belatedly recognized that Iraq is a lost cause without a political solution; and, that nation building is not an idea on the head of a bayonet. But they refuse to see a political solution is chimerical absent partition. That blindness is criminal because the truth is staring them in the face. Every Kurd craves and is willing to fight for independence. Sectarian killings are unremitting. No Iraqi relies on the rule of law in lieu of private militias for protection.

Twelve years after the Dayton Peace Accord, Bosnia remains de facto partitioned between Serbs on the one hand and Muslims and Croats on the other despite endless chivvying for a political solution. Kosovar Albanians and Serbians are similarly de facto partitioned nearly 10 years after the Kosovo war with Slobodan Milosevic. Iraq’s Kurds, Sunnis and Shi’ites are divided even more venomously than these longstanding Balkan divisions.

A disbelief in the force of gravity would not be accepted as a defense to murder by hurling another off the Empire State Building. Why should President Bush’s disbelief in the obvious impossibility of a political solution to Iraq’s internecine warfare be a defense to a charge of sending American soldiers there to die for the sake of dying?

Bruce Fein is a constitutional lawyer at Bruce Fein & Associates and chairman of the American Freedom Agenda.

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