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Temperatures and tempers are soaring in Iraq, and every day the news flashes tell the stories of one, two, three, or more American soldiers who died in combat. Whether it was justified or not, the actual war to seize power from Saddam Hussein came and went in a matter of weeks. On a high note, the United States public rallied behind the President and imagined throngs of joyous happy smiling Iraqi men, women, and children. The mews media has cooperated gracefully, and CNN, Fox, NBC, and every other major news network delivers exactly what the White House wants us to hear: that Iraq is better off with the Americans in control. Granted, Saddam was a dictator. He and his minions grew fat off his nation's main natural resource: petroleum, while most Iraqi citizens lived without some basic human rights and freedoms. Hussein and his regime also systematically persecuted whole ethnic groups, causing millions of refugees to seek solace in neighboring nations like Jordan. However justified the United States feels in entering Iraq without explicit international consent, the question remains of how to deal with the present situation. Even the journalists grow disillusioned by the moment, as they witness countless deaths on both sides. As the post-war phase draws out, it becomes increasingly bloody and increasingly costly for the American public. Furthermore, the Iraqi people don't seem too pleased with the state of affairs. Reporter Marina Jimenez notices the Iraqis are "angered by images of U.S. tanks rolling past their homes and children in hospital beds, they vow to fight for a regime they once fled," (1). Because of the immense humanitarian, economic, and political repercussions for both sides, the United States should cease trying to control the sovereign nation of Iraq.
In an article in the June 4 edition of USA Today, Dave Moniz recounts a series of American troop deaths from ambush: at the time his article was printed, nineteen troops had been killed since the war ended, nine of which occurred in the first week of June. The exponential growth in ambush and attacks on American soldiers shows that a sizable resistance movement is burgeoning in Iraq. Although U.S. officials claim that these "pockets of resistance" are not organized, the vacuum created by the absence of Saddam Hussein becomes more salient. In fact, even if the resistance movement is unorganized and decentralized now, there is no reason to believe that it will not become more systematic as the U.S. presence becomes less tolerable for the Iraqi people. Pat Roberts, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, assuages the American public that resistance "would be undercut by proof that Saddam is dead," and yet following the deaths of his two main son-heirs, attacks on American troops did not wane.
Politicians seem detached from the human toll of the American presence in Iraq, instead viewing the situation in cold, economical terms. Soldiers become numbers, impersonal casualties, rather than names. In fact, the U.S. government acts with secrecy, deliberately withholding information from the American public in the hopes that it will not lower morale or lose support for the American cause. Politicians even refuse to communicate with each other. David Morris of Congress Daily reports that Defense Undersecretary Dov Zakheim "refused to tell the (Senate Foreign Relations Committee) how many U.S. troops were in Iraq," (1). These attitudes and practices prove that the American presence in Iraq is grossly inhumane.
However, the American people also seem detached, in large part because the media continues to portray death in such a trivial light. Iraqi bigwigs are painted on playing cards; the loss of American soldiers felt strongly only by friends and family members. Until casualties reach staggering numbers, the American public might not react at all: it seems the people are more concerned with money. Foreign Relations Chairman Richard Lugar, quoted by David Morris, states that American support for the rebuilding of Iraq is dependent on whether "their money is being spent effectively and that other nations are contributing a fair share," (Morris 1). The quick and easy war prompted the American public to believe that the entire "war on terrorism" and the "liberation of Iraq" is all a game. Hence, the playing cards. This kind of war fosters an attitude of disproportionate detachment from the human element. Ironically, the American presence in Iraq could eventually instill in the public a greater sense of the value of human life, especially as more and more troops perish. With "six degrees of separation," it is possible that eventually everyone will know someone who knows someone who died, if American presence continues.
The humanitarian costs of the war are of course not limited to the American side. In fact, one of the problems that the situation creates is a sense of "us and them." The Iraqi people have done nothing to harm Americans, and yet most American citizens feel hostile toward Iraqis. If civilian Iraqis die, it doesn't seem to matter. The same situation occurs in Iraq. Marina Jimenez notices that Suhall Nagam, an Iraqi citizen living in Jordan, is "unfazed by reports of corpses and burnt-out cars," (1). Not only are Iraqis becoming inured to the death and devastation surrounding daily life, they may also be growing increasingly hostile toward Americans. "I hope they all die," says Hagam, who calls the Americans and British "the invaders," (Jimenez 1). No wonder people like Hagam harbor such resentments. The American military is instructed to use force whenever necessary; their presence is more than imposing, it is downright threatening. "Ordinary Iraqis seem dismayed or scared at the sight of American troops," says Fareed Zakarla in his piece entitled "How to Make Friends in Iraq," (27). The Iraqi public's "mood is souring on Americans," Zakarla continues (27). The American presence in Iraq creates a climate of fear, misunderstanding, and intolerance that can only have negative consequences for our country and the Middle East.
The political effects of the continued American presence are equally as dire, as they have potentially long-lasting detrimental effects on the region and perhaps the globe. The fear and resentment toward American troops sets the stage for anti-Americanism. If Americans weren't already the target of hatred, their imperialistic stance in Iraq will only increase this sentiment. Fareed Zakarla reports that for many Iraqis, "resistance to America is a religious duty," (27). As Iraqi people watch their little children's eyes grow wide in terror as they witness tanks rolling through their town, killing neighbors, friends, and family members, it is easy to see how the American presence there is politically disastrous. These conditions are probably what contribute to the coalition's relative isolation within the international community. Once again, the American government and the conservative media fail to perceive the human element, instead focusing solely on economics: "Mr. Bush could offer the countries that help us out some oil discounts in the future," claims Bill O'Reilly of Fox News (1). It is no wonder many nations opposed the war in the first place and continue to oppose the occupation. As a result, the United States could be isolating itself from the international community, creating more enemies than it needs.
The political repercussions of the American presence in Iraq are felt at home, abroad, and within Iraq. At home, American citizens want to feel that the costs of the occupation do not outweigh the benefits. The government stands to lose a lot of support if the occupation proves unsuccessful: increasingly costly and deadly. Public support "may erode over time," according to Foreign Relations Chairman Richard Lugar (Morris 1). Hendrik Hertzberg of The New Yorker criticizes the Bush administration for remaining "resolutely hostile to nation-building at home" while it attempts to build a new Iraq (1). Many of the public services and infrastructures that the Americans are proposing for Iraq are ones needed at home; it will be hard for many Americans to accept their hard-earned money being spent halfway across the globe. Hertzberg attributes the actions of the government to "the global democratic-imperial ambitions of the present Administration," (40). Indeed, imperialism does appear to be a conscious motivator for the White House. Fareed Zakarla states, "There is a growing cottage industry in Washington of new imperialists, people who argue that America should embrace its role as a liberal, imperial power," (27). In spite of the pitfalls of past imperialistic endeavors around the globe by various nations, the United States fails to take the cue and back down. As Zakarla warns, "If history is any guide, it will also produce nationalism," which would be in opposition to the United States (1).
However, the most severe repercussions of a drawn-out occupation will be felt directly within the borders of Iraq. Trudy RXXXX of the Philadelphia Inquirer states that the U.S. military presence "makes some Iraqis nostalgic for a dictator," (1). The Americans have placed a heavy-handed military presence in the country, but when it comes to elected officials, none are in sight. Paul Bremer, the top civilian administrator in Iraq,…[continue]
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