Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Iraq is lost. Start saving Iraqis.

This despondent article in The New Republic by George Packer (HT: Kevin Drum) paints a horridly bleak picture of life in Iraq:
The ministry of health is dominated by Moqtada Al Sadr's movement, and, when I called Osman while he was visiting his brother one night, he had to leave the room before talking with me: It was too dangerous to be overheard speaking English on his cell phone. After a couple of days, Osman, who is a doctor, decided the hospital was too dangerous and unsanitary. He smuggled his brother back into their house, but word of his survival has spread. And, if his brother's name was on a death list, Osman's name will quite likely be on one now, too.
Here's what Packer thinks we can do:
If the United States leaves Iraq, our last shred of honor and decency will require us to save as many of these Iraqis as possible. In June, a U.S. Embassy cable about the lives of the Iraqi staff was leaked to The Washington Post. Among many disturbing examples of intimidation and fear was this sentence: "In March, a few staff approached us to ask what provisions would we make for them if we evacuate." The cable gave no answer. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad does not issue visas.
We should be ready for desperate and angry crowds at the gates of the Green Zone and U.S. bases. We should not allow wishful thinking to put off these decisions until it's too late. We should not compound our betrayals of Iraqis who put their hopes in our hands.
I think Packer makes an excellent point here: our ability to influence events in Iraq is low and decreasing rapidly. This is something both honorable and useful that it is within our power to do. But it's painfully necessary to ask the obvious question: How likely is it that Bush and his underlings will prepare intelligently for such a contingency, given that to do so would require acknowledgement of just how bad things are? I hope some reality-connected State Department staffers or level-headed millitary officers somewhere are preparing for these events on their own initiative, because I highly doubt they're going to get much useful guidance from the top.

Packer uses an ominous analogy:
To me, the relevant historical analogy is not the helicopters taking off from the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, leaving thousands of Vietnamese to the reeducation camps. It is the systematic slaughter by the Khmer Rouge of every Cambodian who appeared to have had anything to do with the West.


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