Date/Time: 22/10/2008 12:00 am
Why America Will Have to Get Out of Iraq Regardless of Who Wins the Presidential Election
A Lecture by Middle East Correspondent Patrick Cockburn
October 22nd, Cooper Union Great Hall, 7PM
Patrick Cockburn argues that a central political fact in Iraq today is that the great majority of Iraqis have always opposed the US occupation. Though Iraqi factions sometimes find it convenient to ally themselves with the US military, these alliances are based upon short term interests rather than any form of longstanding allegiance. Iraqis may have problems with one another for whatever reason, but a strong sense of national identity ensures that, together, Iraqis will simply not allow a long-term US occupation.
Another mistake consistently made by the US is the supposition that the US controls the political weather in Iraq. It does not. The last five years have taught us that it is ultimately up to Iraqis to determine how and when the US withdraws. This will happen soon. After all, the recent fall in violence has more to do with Iranian support for the Iraqi government, the Mahdi Army ceasefire, and the Sunni insurgents’ defeat by Shia militias in Baghdad than it does with the American fantasy that the troop surge provided the backdrop for the recent period of relative stability.
And yet present-day Iraq still remains the most dangerous place in the world. Many are convinced that circumstances are improving, yet television correspondents pictured strolling down peaceful streets are protected by armed bodyguards perched just beyond the view of the camera. Granted, things are “getting better,” but for Iraqis, the point of comparison would be the bloodbath of 2006-2007.
At the end of the day, the reality remains that there will be no end to the fighting in Iraq insofar as the occupation persists. In a fundamental way, the occupation destabilizes the country by discrediting any government allowed to subsist alongside it, marking it in the minds of the Iraqi population as a foreign-installed puppet regime with little to no claim to power. A US withdrawal and return to Iraqi sovereignty therefore must be real and not nominal. For all Bush’s talk of respect for Iraqi sovereignty, the US still overtly controls the Iraqi National Intelligence Service and controls much of the army covertly.
Having been a Middle East correspondent since 1979, Patrick Cockburn is widely considered to be one of the most experienced commentators on the Iraq war. He has won both the James Cameron Prize (2006) and the Martha Gelhorn Prize (2005) for his on-the-ground , and is the author of four books on Iraq: Out of the Ashes: The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein, Saddam Hussein: An American Obsession, The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq, and Muqtada: Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq as well as a memoir, The Broken Boy and a collection of essays on the Soviet Union, Getting Russia Wrong: The End of Kremlinology. Cockburn is currently the Iraq war correspondent for The Independent of London.
These events are presented as part of OUT NOW!,
on view at e-flux until November 8th, 2008
featuring works by Friends of William Blake, Patrick Cockburn, Kathy Kelly, Trevor Paglen, Martha Rosler, Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Jalal Toufic, and organized by Anton Vidokle