Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Moving On, Moving Forward

Traveling around left blogistan over the past 24 hours, I’m a bit struck by some of the caterwauling I’m reading about the transfer of sovereignty in Iraq. Hey, it was going to happen eventually – they pulled the trigger a few days early, and it appears to (at least initially) have had the intended result. The transfer caught everyone by surprise, and probably at least delayed more mayhem leading up to the original date of June 30.

What’s so bad about that? Nothing.

Listen, if for no other reason than the Iraqi people need to be running their own country (regardless of the number of strings attached), this event should have happened a long time ago. It’s hard to understand how anyone could deny that manifest destiny of Iraq should be in Iraqi hands.

The real work begins now. The problem is, the real work should have begun over a year ago. So by almost any tripe-laden definition of success, the occupation of Iraq has been an abject failure for the United States. We can argue about the reasons for invading Iraq all day long, and never reach successful consensus. What is almost impossible to argue is that the post-invasion planning was inadequate (at best), the “rebuilding process” is and was rife with corruption, and acts committed in the name of occupation were criminal (at worst).

So we turn the page. Where do we go from here? Well, basically nowhere as things now stand. The corruption of the rebuilding process will most certainly continue. Coalition forces are staying put – in fact, it looks like the number of boots on the ground might actually be increasing. And now the Bush administration has a convenient target when things don’t go so well – the interim Iraqi government.

Is the whole thing a net positive for the Bush administration? I don’t think so. Not even close. In the voter’s minds, barring significant bloodshed between now election day, it will end up being a zero-sum event in the voter’s minds back here in the good old U.S. of A.

Let’s strike a deal – I want the Bush administration to be held politically (if not criminally) accountable for the past couple of years as much as anyone on the planet. But let’s save that discussion for tomorrow, or the next day, or day after that.

As far as turnover goes, my good thing / bad thing litmus test will be the impact on the folks like Riverbend and Raed in Iraq. Regardless of my own feelings, does this bring them any closer to some kind of closure and the ability to truly begin piecing their lives back together? Their lives and that of their families have been in (again, at best) holding patterns since March, 2003. That’s what has made their stories so compelling. So to answer the question: will putting Iraqis (provisionally) back in charge of Iraq make things any better than what they dealt with under formal occupation? While it’s really too soon to tell, I think the answer is probably "yes".

For that, I am eternally grateful that Jerry Bremer and crew have finally hopped their last rides out of Baghdad.

And now, I want MY country back.