Should an arsonist be allowed to put out his own fire?

There seems to be something drastically wrong with letting someone don firefighting gear to extinguish a fire we’ve all witnessed he started. Not just wrong, but amoral, obscene. It applies to arson by an individual and, in a grander scale, to State-arson. And such rationale applies not just to arson originating from people with mental disorders, but also from individuals with political, profit and revenge motives.

Iraq has been a case in point of State-arson, and George W. Bush the Arsonist-in-Chief. Many Bush followers have watched the Great Fire of Iraq as if untreated pyromaniacs. The rest of us, as much as we have dreaded what was happening, and as the flames of conflict devoured thousands of lives and brought endless destruction, have all watched with different degrees of benign neglect – almost as if potential pyromaniacs ourselves.

Now that the entire place is ablaze, with only the Kurds out of the main ring of fire, we are searching for ways to help the arsonists find ways to put out the uncontrollable fire. Civil war my foot! It’s more like total anarchy and chaos. It’s not just Sunnis and Shiites fighting each other for control; there are religious, political, geographical and economic factions that make Iraq a turf where the US presence hinders, not helps – with its military only being “used,” contributing to the chaos.

Perhaps as late as a year ago, there could have been some way out of the difficult situation, with some counsel and help from Saddam Hussein, as horrifying as that may sound to some. After all, he is the one who had sewn the quilt that kept Iraq intact. And, of course, it would have necessitated the involvement and commitment to peace of all the border nations (Syria, Turkey, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Jordan). Peace in Iraq that maybe could have ignited a broader peace for the region, including the always simmering caldrons in Lebanon and Palestine.

Efforts then to bring Syria and Iran to a round table where common interests for the region could be discussed were out of the question for an incredibly incompetent Bush Administration carrying on the doctrine of the neocons. In their view, unless you can bring leverage to the negotiating table, you might as well not be there at all. Dialogue with leverage… or no dialogue at all! Now the US finds itself with a plugged toilet that needs to be flushed. A situation that appears unmanageable and far less receptive to dialogue, even if there are some low-key overtones from Iran and Syria.

King Abdullah’s recent comments giving the three focal points for civil war in the Middle East should be accepted as a no-brainer, something that has probably been expressed to Bush dozens of times in the last two years, with zero success in getting him to react in a manner appropriate of a statesman, certainly a US leader searching for peace. I may not agree with the prioritization given by the Jordanian king for civil war (Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq in that order) but agree to the three being on the same axis in need of resolution. Whichever way one wishes to define it, non-Kurdish Iraq has been in a state of civil war for several months. It’s not the eruption of civil war in those three places that the region should be ready to confront but, for the very first time, the eruption of peace.

Baker’s Iraq Study Group is likely to put an American book jacket to what has been a large body of work written by all nation-players in the region, except for Israel, reaching the simple conclusion that for lasting peace to exist discussions must be held at a table where everyone is invited, and no claim is overlooked. And no seat should be denied to any representative organization, such as Hamas or Hezbollah, just because of arbitrary terrorist tags. Baker et al may just be presenting a diminished version of that… and something that Bush is unlikely to accept, certainly not in its totality.

If the Bush Administration is looking for leverage before it’s ready to talk to either or both, Syria and Iraq, they are taking the US on the same path as that walked during the last days of the Vietnam conflict. The prospect of a US-protected democracy in Iraq, and a military foothold there (including a super base and a super embassy), should be erased from the imperial map. In its place, America will be better off with the hope of peace for the region… and for the world. It’s not leverage the US should be after, but goodwill towards peace; if America initiates this goodwill, others will likely follow.

As for any efforts to put the fire out in Iraq… the US should only be given a narrow, streamlined scope – possibly one of a temporary military nature; but for the process to be successful the Arsonist-in-Chief must not be given a meaningful role.