Sophia's Peace Work

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Changes or more of the same?

Well, there has been quite a sweep in Congress during the last election. Now the question is, what, if anything, will change? I've spoken to a few folks here in Amman and they don't think much will be different. My old economy professor in college said that the American democratic system was designed not for radical changes but only for "changes at the margin." Perhaps that is what has led to American's stability over the last 200+ years. Still sometimes you just crave change of the sweeping variety.

Will American decide to leave Iraq with Democrats in control of the House and Senate? I highly doubt it. As an Iraqi friend of mine who worked in construction told me, the Americans were investing alot of money to build new bases all over Iraq after the war in 2003 and they weren't designed to be temporary. Perhaps the Congress will force the President to simple bring troop levels down and keep the soldiers in their bases. Who knows, maybe that would be atleast an improvement over the current situation, since it is often just the very the presense on foreign troops on the streets that attracts violence.

But the violence has also changed in Iraq. When the first Lancet report came out in 2004 with the results of research conducted by John Hopkins University saying that over 100,000 Iraqis had died of violence since the 2003 war, the majority of the deaths could be laid at the doorstep of the Coalition forces (and this despite all their laser-targeted bombs and lip-service to the idea of avoiding civilian deaths and casualties). At that time, Iraqis were 58 times more likely to be victims of violence than before the war.

The latest Lancet article says now that the death count could be up to 600,000 (500 deaths by violence/day). A staggering figure that has led to a great deal of disbelief even amoung Iraqis (but there doesn't appear to be much wrong with the science or methodology of the study ... given the difficulty of doing any kind of research in Iraq at this time. The UN estimates about 100 deaths by violence/day, but it's figures as well as those from the Iraqi Ministry of Health are probably more unreliable than those reported in the Lancet article).

The following is a quote from William Arkin's article "600,000 Iraqis Killed By War, Credible?" posted on the Washington Post website, which has comments as interesting to read as the article itself:

What the Hopkins study has achieved through a tone of accuracy, great P.R.,
and a willingness to go out on a limb, is pushing the public assumptions as to estimate of civilian casualties in Iraq higher. Now editorial writers will "accept" that the number is more than 50,000, as much as 200,000 plus, somewhere lower than 600,000. What number is acceptable in the public discourse -- 50,000, 200,000, 600,000 -- doesn't necessarily make it correct though.

Perhaps Mr. Arkin's "tone of accuracy" is probably equally suspect.

Even so, the violence now is resulting more and more from sectarian violence and the general lawlessness in Iraq. Essentially George Bush and his crowd have opened a Pandora's Box that they can no longer control. After so many years of living under a violent but also repressive regime, the lid has been removed and the pot is boiling over. Such things get repeated time and again through history ... you'd think we would learn.

But if the Americans leave (and, as I said above, I doubt they will really), will the country break up? Will the south come under the sway of Iran? Will the Central and Western part of the country become an impoverished canker of continued terrorism? Will the Kurdish region attempt to secur it's own independence only to be squelched by Turkey, changing the Iraqi Kurds into "Mountian Turks"? These are all ideas that have been expressed to me in one form or another. Countries have broken up before and Iraq as a nation isn't very old.

Personally, I doubt things will go this far but if they do, I have no real faith that the U.S. will have much success stopping these trends militarily. That will take something that the U.S. government has yet to show ... a flair or respect for diplomacy.


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