By Benjamin G. Davis, Associate Professor of Law, University of Toledo College of Law
Watching the pundits, it has really been quite enough finding Bush Administration retreads (and other oh so serious people) speaking with straight faces about going back into Iraq. The current meme is that we do not want to re-litigate the past. Yet, of course, the most perverse thing is that there has simply been no accountability in our system for the taking us to war on false pretenses, for the torture, and on and on. One can not re-litigate the past if one has not even litigated the past. I note some seem to think that Iraq started in 2011 and have blinders about 2003 and all that. Truly another trip down the memory hole is being encouraged. We should resist.
Many fret about an action plan. Many wonder what we should do today. So here is an action plan.
First, reduce the 5000 diplomats in the US embassy down to a skeleton crew by flying them out or sending them to Kuwait or wherever. With fighting 40 miles from the capital, the optics that will harken back to Vietnam in 1975 are not the focus here. As a son of a foreign service officer, might I suggest that those foreign service officers should GET THE HELL OUT! I recognize that they are ambitious and want to stay at their posts as being in a high visibility job is a great way to move up in the State Department. However, I would hope there are sufficient adults at the top there to understand that safety would seem to say that 5000 Americans in the Green Zone is a bad idea when a Civil War is going on.
I also hope that these 5000 are not being left there – in harm’s way as surely as the day is long – in order to be used as a pretext for invasion. The particular gambit would be that we had to go back into Iraq to “protect the diplomats.” I will give Obama the 275 Marines sent over in order to protect the Embassy and consulates, but their task should be evacuation and reduction of the American targets rather than maintenance of an untenably large Embassy in the context of this Civil War.
If those diplomats are not there to provide a pretext for invasion, then the thought that one expects international law’s respect for Embassy’s to be adhered to by Al-Baghdadi if he gets to power is extremely naïve. From the reports of 1700 Shi’a POW’s being murdered in cold blood and Shi’a drivers being killed on the highway, it sure seems that war crimes have been committed. Someone or someone’s people who are willing to do that are not going to respect the niceties of diplomatic relations when 5000 Americans represent an interesting bargaining chip.
Second, Al-Baghdadi, the most recent Sunni bogeyman in Iraq seems to be an awful horrific and cruel guy – sounds like Saddam. Meet the new boss with his urge to power – same as the old boss with his urge to power back in 1965.
It sure seems to me that what I am not hearing anyone speak about is the UN Security Council doing something. I am not seeing any armed attack on the United States for Article 51. I am seeing consent by the Iraqi government that is in a battle for who has effective control as the means for the US to use force. But, this is not just a US problem. What I do not see is a Security Council deliberation about the whole space. No doubt it is going on, but of course, I am only watching the news and do not hear of anything.
What I do see also are former Bush Administration pundits saying the American public’s vast aversion to going to war needs to be overcome. I do not understand why that common wisdom needs to be overcome. I would submit that there is no reason to go to war in Iraq for the Americans.
We can give the government arms if we want and technical assistance if we want, but this is Maliki’s fight. If the Shi’a and the Sunni and the Kurds want to start killing themselves again, I see no purpose served by having some American kids in the middle of that – not a third time in my lifetime. If the Shi’a and Kurds want their freedom from Sunni domination – they have to fight for it. Just like we did with the British on two occasions in our history.
If Al-Baghdadi wins, he wins. If Maliki’s government wins, he wins. He had his chance to have American troops stay back in 2011 and he said no. Fine, I agree. We should not go back in.
As to the Iranian gambit, whether we are on the same side or not with the Iranians is irrelevant. They are seeking their strategic interests as are we. What we should not be doing is starting some kind of collaboration with them on Iraq. We can be on the same side for strategic interests, but it makes no sense in the current state of the nuclear standoff to be whistling up that tree.
Just sayin’: Third time is not the charm for Iraq.