Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Iraq War Debt Afflicts the Bush Administration
KITAMURA Fumio / Journalist

March 6, 2007
Nearly four years have passed since the U.S. forces launched attacks on Iraq on March 20, 2003. The Pacific War, which started with the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor ended in Japan's defeat three years and eight months later. The Iraq War, taking longer than the U.S.-Japan war, is still dragging on and is falling further and further into a vicious circle of bloodshed and destruction.

In American mid-term elections in last November, the governing Republican Party lost its majority in both the House and Senate. The election results indicated the unwillingness of American voters' to support the Iraq War. In the wake of the elections, President George W. Bush removed Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the chief architect of the Iraq war strategy, and said "a new viewpoint" would be needed to deal with the war. Meaning that the president himself admits the present bogged-down predicament of the Iraq War. But the immediate emergency measure Bush decided on was the dispatch of additional 21,000 American troops. This discrepancy between words and actions shows the seriousness of the dilemma of the Bush administration is in.

No hope, however faint, is to be seen for the U.S. government to find "an honorable exit" from Iraq. Not only did this war, carried out forcibly against the general trend of international opinion, reduce Iraq to a state of bloodshed and disorder, it also drastically changed the political and social fabric of the Middle East around Iraq. No matter how hard the Bush administration tries to get out of Iraq, their efforts will no doubt be restricted to a great extent by the ever-changing fluidity and complexity of the Middle East situation. For that reason, we must carefully examine why a super power (without parallel in the rest of the world) has been fallen into a state of immobility in its ability to foresee the future reality of the Middle East.

Rumsfeld, former Secretary of Defense, predicted four months before attacking Iraq that if the armed action be taken against Iraq, he could not say whether the war would take "five days, five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn't going to last longer than that." Behind that prediction was the belief in the "shock and awe" strategy. In fact, Sadam's regular forces were completely destroyed in only three weeks time. It must have been quite a "shock," but the Iraqi people were not awe-struck.

This was the grave miscalculation which, I think, was made by two mistakes. The first was to ignore the historic memory engraved on the mind of the Arab people. Since military coup d'état led by Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser toppled the notoriously corrupt –ridden Egyptian monarchy in 1953, the revolutionary nationalistic movement swept over the Arab world. What the U.S. supported in the region were countries of feudal monarchy and dictatorship. The American government ignored the Palestinian people's wishes for the restoration of their legitimate rights and persistently continued to aid Israel. Thus, by second nature, Arabs have come to suspect American behavior.

The second mistake was that the Americans disregarded the pluralities of identity among Arab peoples. The Iraqi people are Arab, Iraqi, and either Sunni or Shiite Muslim. They do not have a strong sense of belonging to a 'state' as people in advanced countries. Should the regime be destroyed by violence, the only protectors they could rely on would be religious sects and regional communities. In war-devastated Iraq, the sense of an Iraqi identity has been attenuated and, instead of a national identity, the sectarian unity and the tremendous mutual distrust between rival sects have spread deeply. What is vexing Iraq is deadly quarreling between sects of their own flesh and blood.

As Iraq falls into anarchy, the Shiite inhabitants are strengthening their sense of common bond and solidarity with the people in Iran and the Hezbollah militias in Lebanon who belong to the same religious sects beyond the borders drawn arbitrarily by former Western colonial states. Prior to the Iraq War, the main actors in the Middle East political scheme were the states. No matter how notorious the dictators of the governments may have been, the agreements and treaties they signed were the pillars supporting the framework of international orders in the region.

This framework of state power has vanished and nobody knows who are the real authorities assuming the reins of government. This sort of anarchy, I fear, will be the most dreadful legacy of the Iraq War. The United States will suffer for a long time from the debt they unilaterally assumed by having forced their way into the Iraq War without international consent.

The writer is a formerly professor at Shukutoku University, and former Senior Editor and London Bureau Chief of the Yomiuri Shimbun.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

北村文夫 / ジャーナリスト

2007年 3月 6日





二つ目はアラブ民衆がもつ多層的なアイデンティティである。イラク国民は、アラブ人であり、イラク人であり、イスラム教スンニ派、あるいシーア派教徒である。 先進諸国の多くに見られる国家への強い帰属意識を、彼らはもっていない。国家制度が暴力で解体されれば、さまよえる民衆にとっての守護者は、宗派、地域共同体となる。戦乱にさいなまれたイラクでは、イラク人アイデンティティが希薄化し、国民意識に代わって宗派を軸にした結束とそれに付随する宗派間の相互猜疑が際限なく広がった。イラクを覆うのは、まさに宗派間の血で血を洗う悲惨な抗争である。



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