Our (Likely) New Defense Secretary……

The BBC reported yesterday that US Defense Secretary nominee Robert Gates has told a Senate committee that the US is not winning the war in Iraq.

Well, that certainly sounds inspirational. We never knew that before, did we?

Later, he said he believed the US was neither winning nor losing “at this point”.

That’s exactly what America needs at this time – someone decisive in control at the Pentagon. It seems likely Gates will be approved for the job. On the basis that they need someone better than Rumsfeld, Gates is admirably qualified. On the basis that they need someone better than Rumsfeld, Mickey Mouse would be admirably qualified.

This latest potential addition to the administration has one hurdle to overcome, if he is to be a successful Defense Secretary. After having breakfast with George W Bush, the president announced Robert Gates would “do an excellent job”. That phrase issuing from George Bush’s lips has tolled the death knell for many White House nominees. In fact, offhand I can’t think of any still in their jobs – oh, wait, John Bolton is still US Ambassador to the UN……….for now. (Update: No, he isn’t!)

Robert Gates does not inspire confidence. Had George Bush condemned him as the worst possible candidate for the job, I may have given him more of a chance, but he admits to not having a clue how to handle the Iraq situation. Actually, he said he was “open to new ideas” which basically means the same thing. So, Robert, let me give you a word of advice about Iraq. Two words, in fact. “Get” and “out”.

If there is one fact many Americans cannot get a handle on about the Iraq war, it is that the Iraqis hate them. Yes, they also hated Saddam Hussein, but he was one of them. As such, he was infinitely preferable to an army of occupation, particularly an occupying force composed of Yanks and Brits – two colonial powers the Iraqis have very good reason to loathe. After all, it was Winston Churchill in 1920 who was responsible for the Royal Air Force using poison gas on the Kurds to put down a rebellion, a crime similar to that for which Saddam Hussein will probably pay with his life. The British controlled the country, one way or another, until 1958 when a bloody revolution, in which the prime minister and almost all the pro-British royal family were massacred, eventually brought the Ba’ath Party to power and led to the rise of Saddam.

In his book, “Taking the Hard Road to Baghdad – The Wars Against Saddam”, the BBC’s World Affairs Editor, John Simpson, an authority on the country and its history, writes of the time immediately following the brutal assassination of young King Faisal II and most of his family:

“Iraqis had always known that their country was so disparate and divided that it was in permanent danger of falling apart; and the conclusion they drew from this was that it could be held together only by strong, fierce and at times brutal government. This was the price people were prepared to pay for stability and continuity. The monarchy had been perpetually weak; now that it had been overthrown, there was a demand for strong, effective power which would be exerted in the interests of the country and of Arab unity.”

It would be some years, and a number of further bloody coups before Saddam Hussein finally became Iraq’s president in 1979. The British were no longer a power in the Middle East, but America was gaining ground in the region, and following the collapse of the Soviet Union, formed alliances with many of the previously Russian-controlled satellite nations bordering the area. American bases sprang into being surrounding Iran, Iraq and Syria. At first, Saddam courted the US, but he was used by the Americans just as previous Iraqi governments had been used by the British. The twelve years of vicious sanctions eventually imposed on Iraq by the Americans, with British compliance, devastated the country and was undoubtedly a further catalyst of the hatred so obvious today.

It is unlikely that Robert Gates views the matter of Iraq without American bias. It is unlikely he is even aware of its history. What he may know will be, almost certainly, biased to an American viewpoint. After all, President Bush on a recent visit to Vietnam conveniently chose to rewrite history, virtually naming the US as the savior of that country, and America’s truly shameful intervention as the cause of its prosperity thirty-five years on.

But then, George W Bush is an ignorant, arrogant, egotistical, bullying, ass of a man who simplistically assumed all that was required to turn an Arab into an American was a bottle of Coke and a Big Mac.

Robert Gates was president of a Texas University. Does that make him an academic with a brain? Or, is it simply a bought title for another of Bush’s mates?

Time will tell, but time is not on the side of the Iraqis presently dying by the thousands each month for the pleasure of fulfilling George Bush’s fantasies. Complete withdrawal of American forces won’t stop that killing overnight. It will certainly result in the overthrow of the present puppet government and a continuation of the civil war. It will not mark the beginning of the end of the violence, but as Churchill once eloquently put it, it may mark the end of the beginning.

Iraq is certainly George Bush’s Vietnam. His latest reiteration to Maliki, that he won’t pull out US troops until the job is done, is indicative of his idiocy. Even Tony Blair has now conceded that large-scale British troop withdrawals must begin next year.

Robert Gates is still an unknown regarding Iraq policy, but even if his views concur with common sense, and he stands firm for a pull-out, it is unlikely his master will obligingly succumb, and dance to that tune.

Filed under: