Four thousand

When the two thousandth US soldier died in Iraq in 2005, I wrote:

–Every one of those deaths is a terrible tragedy and every one of those who gave their lives deserves the greatest respect and honor. They have died for the liberation of an oppressed people. We on the pro-liberation Left must help ensure they didn’t die in vain.

–Many of those deaths were at least indirectly a result of the Bush administration’s mistakes and failures. The burden is especially strong on the pro-liberation Left to demand more competence and accountability. For many right-wing supporters of the war, it’s always been more about supporting the Bush administration than about supporting Iraqis struggling for democracy. As Bush’s political problems mount, that support may start to drift away. That makes it all the more important that those of us for whom the Iraqis have been the highest priority make our voices heard.

Now that more than four thousand US soldiers have died in Iraq, I still believe every one of them deserves the greatest respect and honor. My fury (there is no other word for it) at the Bush administration for its fundamental strategic and tactical failures in Iraq has only intensified. (See, for example, “No End in Sight.”)

But a report from Fallujah in Monday’s Washington Post depressed me more than almost anything I’ve read about Iraq in recent months. It’s about how the city’s police chief Faisal Ismail al-Zobaie, a former Sunni insurgent, has authorized brutal tactics to achieve a semblance of security.

The U.S. military showcases Fallujah as a model city where U.S. policies are finally paying off and is spending hundreds of millions of dollars in the region to promote the rule of law and a variety of nation-building efforts.

But the security that has been achieved here is fragile, the result of harsh tactics recalling the rule of Saddam Hussein, who was overthrown five years ago. Even as they work alongside U.S. forces, Zobaie’s men admit they have beaten and tortured suspects to force confessions and exact revenge.

The article ends chillingly with this:

What Zobaie wants is for the U.S. military to hand over full control of Fallujah. He believes Iraq’s current leaders are not strong enough. Asked whether democracy could ever bloom here, he replied: “No democracy in Iraq. Ever.”

“When the Americans leave the city,” he said, “I’ll be tougher with the people.”

I realize, of course, that Zobaie is only one part of a vast and complex set of circumstances in Iraq. But the possibility that more than four thousand Americans and tens of thousands of others will have died only to replace the monstrous Saddam Hussein with the likes of Zobaie is distressing beyond words. And frankly, I don’t think there’s much the US can do about it any more– even with another “surge.”

What can we do? Stand in support of Iraqi trade unionists and others struggling for a free and democratic Iraq. And hope for the best.