Too Good to Pet the Dog
Like many others, I enjoy reading Professor Cole's prolific insights into Middle Eastern affairs. Still, I differ with him in that he (at least for the present) wishes to see America remain militarily engaged in Iraq (or whatever fragments of it remain) - at least in some capacity - for the foreseeable future. As a victim/veteran of the Nixon-Kissinger Fig Leaf Contingent (Vietnam 1970-1972), however, I do not wish to see any more American soldiers die in President George W. Bush's new Buy Time Brigade, an unnecessary deployment of good American men and women designed merely to stall and procrastinate until those American political "leaders" who instigated and abetted the disaster can find a way to avoid the accountability - meaning a summary firing - that they all - Republicans and Democrats alike - so richly deserve. I lived through and served in a similar deployment thirty-five years ago and can testify to its utter futility. It saved no Vietnamese or American lives. It accomplished no worthwhile purpose. It didn't even save the careers of those - like Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Henry Kissinger - who perpetrated the policy in the vain hope that it might save their own political skins.
Professor Cole rightly criticizes the current American administration for its recklessness, mendacity, and ineptitude; yet he somehow seems inclined to support a continuance of a failed military policy that bears the indelible stain of these undeniable ignominities. I find this hard to understand logically, because you cannot do a wrong thing the "right" way. Still, as best I can understand, the good Professor fears that "something even worse" would happen if America terminated its reckless, mendacious, and inept military bungling in Iraq. None of us has visited the future, however, and so those who speak with authority about it cannot in truth do so. "Good" can happen as well as "bad." Nonetheless, the steadily worsening violence and fragmentation that Iraq has experienced due to America's blundering military intervention speaks louder than any American prophesies about its "good intentions." Whatever happens in Iraq's "life to come" will depend on what the people of the Middle East want. America has in any event disqualified itself from paticipating any further in Iraq's affairs. America has done enough damage there.
In light of Pofessor Cole's many expressed views on this subject, it seems only obvious that he feels some sympathy towards the Shiite Muslims of Iraq and Iran. Well and good, seeing as how his academic career has focused on their issues. Still, this understandable empathy has led the good professor - in my opinion - to comment frequently and appreciatively on the influential behind-the-scenes role of Mullah Ali Al-Sistani, a Shiite cleric whom Newsweek's Christopher Dickey has accurately called "an Iranian citizen who cannot even vote in Iraq's elections." That the Iranian Mullah Al-Sistani should have such a dominant role in Iraq's "democratic" electoral development hardly seems consonant with the bloody sacrifices made by American soldiers on his behalf. Mullah Al-Sistani, after all, considers the infidel Americans unclean and thus unworthy of admittance into his august presence, even though they first put down his young Shiite rival Muqtadr Al-Sadr and then went after his Sunni Muslim rivals, barbers, and women wearing blue jeans in public, et al. As a former American serviceman who once went to Southeast Asia on behalf of self-interested "democratic" despots like Ngo Dinh Diem and Nguyen Van Thieu (to mention only two of a nearly endless parade of corrupt colonial cronies), I harbor a special animosity towards those foreign "democrats" who want the American military dog to bite their enemies for them, but who certainly wouldn't want the Americans inside their houses. Unlike President George W. Bush and those who champion continuing his farcial interlude of anachronistic imperialism in Iraq, I wouldn't send a dog to die for someone like Mullah Al-Sistani who considers himself too good to pet the dog.