McCain is Wrong

Senator John McCain said today on "Meet the Press" that Iraqis are no longer Sunni, Shia or Kurd in their loyalties.  Instead, he believes that they are essentially Iraqi and that they feel this identity much more than they do their ancestral group identity.

He is mistaken.  Iraq was a state in transition at the time of US intervention.  During its long history before WW1, this region of the Islamic World was ruled in whole or part by a variety of states.  None of them made any serious effort to create a common identity among the various ethno-religious nations that occupy modern Iraq.  It was left to the British occupiers after WW1 and the various Arab dominated governments that followed to try to create an "Iraqi" identity.  This process was attended with a great deal of pressure from Arab nationalists in a succession of governments.  The process was incomplete at the time of the US intervention, and the sudden disappearance of this pressure released the "ingredients" of emerging Iraqi identity to seek to realize the interests of their own "nations."

The neocon/Bush/Cheney government believed and still seems to believe that Iraq was created by divine intervention and endowed with a special and indelible character which possesses some ineffable mystic and spiritual unifying principle.

Guess what? That is all nonsense, concocted from a line of romantic twaddle about the nature of man that started with the ravings of Jean Jacques Rousseau and descended through the murderous hysteria of the French Revolution, the communist manifesto, Leninism, the Frankfurt School and then on to infect the oh so superior minds of pretentious academic know-it-alls like Wohlstetter, Wolfowitz, Bloom, Feith, et al.  Their acolytes were legion.  The opportunist careerist Yuppies who abetted and to some extent still abet them were even more numerous.  Burke was right.

Cheney?  Who knows?  An enigma wrapped in a riddle. Maybe he is just a man who does not like constitutional government, government that limits power and divides it.

I expected better of McCain.

Pat Lang

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30 Responses to McCain is Wrong

  1. Rider says:

    I couldn’t believe I heard him say that. It went sailing by unchallenged by Tim Russert, of course.

  2. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang:
    What you wrote about Iraq is also equally true about Syria and Lebeanon. These are “States” in search of a “Nation”.

  3. Patrick Henry says: are orrect..
    And they have determined this is the time and Place for the various Muslim states to Create a “Nation of Islam'”..thier Way..Uniting the Arab/Muslim World..
    Its the Process tht is Creating Great Concern..
    A Revolution similar to the American Revolution and Civil War..
    Except that we did not Vow to destroy Great Britian in the Process…nor did we totally destroy Germany and Japan..
    Middle east States desire
    Creating thier Own Version of the EU..The united States of Europe..
    The problem lies in the Sectarian Domination of the process..
    They too..are sending bad Signals..that Create Fear..Anger and Resentment..
    Just like Bush…

  4. searp says:

    The analogy with the former Yugoslavia is very apt.
    Many societies are still essentially tribal, with a thin veneer of nation-state. These can be held together through a strong hand (Tito, Saddam). However, if a Croat in Zagreb identifies more with an ethnic Croat from Mostar than with a ethnic Serb from Zagreb, then it is simply a matter of time before the tribes vie for power.
    I don’t understand McCain. By the time he runs for President, the wheels will have come completely off our Iraq intervention. If nominated, he will end up in the position of Hubert Humphrey circa 1968.

  5. Babak Makkinejad says:

    McCain is a politician. He will say anything that tactically suits him. I am not at all surprised by this. The only time that he surprised me was when he came squarely on the side of the Geneva Conventions.

  6. “The only time that he surprised me was when he came squarely on the side of the Geneva Conventions”
    Well, I’m not a huge fan of John McCain on other matters but that was the last thing I found surprising, given his personal history.

  7. W. Patrick Lang says:

    There are no “nation states” among the countries that inherited the populations of the traditional world.
    The NS idea arose in relation to Europe and even there the peoples are scattered among various countries. The “Germans” are a good example. pl

  8. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang:
    I was being ironic.

  9. W. Patrick Lang says:

    It was good irony, but I have been accustomed to dealng with people who do not appreciate irony. pl

  10. Duck of Death says:

    You guys are missing the point here…he is selling out to the religious right and their vision of America as ‘the chosen country’, unerring and incapable of defeat. How could McCain say anything but that Iraq is going great(after all God is on our side)and still look Jerry Falwell in the eye?. Great Op-Ed in todays WaPo(a rare thing these days at WaPo) about the fundies hold on the GOP by Kevin Phillips:

  11. Patrick Henry says:

    I have decided I should no longer Post Comments here..I don’t have much to say beyond what I have said..any more is repition..I dont have the expertise to Comment any more on other matters..
    I’m sorry if I have offended anyone..My opinions were heartfelt..and I appreciate the opportunity to have Expressed them..
    Thank You for Sharing your Web site and your Expertise..I always have enjoyed It as a daily Read..
    Thanks for Your patience and tolerance..
    I wish you and Margurite the very best..and will keep you both in my Prayers..
    I just listened to Gen. Zinni on meet the Press with Tim Russert..I’m getting his Book..
    Great and CANDID Interview..
    He said it all..GRAPHICALLY..and Honestly..I agree with someone who said He should run for Office..
    my Best regards to you all..

  12. Jerry Thompson says:

    Zinni said it all very well — simple, direct, not polemic. McCain’s a politician. Maybe marginally better than a lot of them but, he seems to have decided he needs to cozy up to the “Bush base”. Probably not a good strategy since it seems the “Bush base” has gone to war with itself (not unlike the Iraqis).

  13. jonst says:

    I used to expect more of McCain. I don’t anymore. The White House bug has bit him. But I would argue if one reviews the transcript one will find even more errors, and that is giving him the benefit of the doubt, than PL pointed to in his short post.
    Disingenuous or delusional…take your pick.

  14. Green Zone Cafe says:

    I was just up in Erbil, I didn’t see an Iraqi flag up there, and I heard Kurds say things about Arabs which were flat-out racist.
    Here in Baghdad, the Shia Interior Ministry troops will take you into custody torture and kill you just for being named Omar.

  15. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Maybe you should tell McCain. pl

  16. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Wrong is wrong is wrong. I don’t care what the motivation is/was. Some wrong judgments are beyond forgiveness. pl

  17. Eric says:

    I agree with PH there, on the Zinni interview.
    Zinni was good. Russert’s interview of Zinni begins on page 5 of the transcript, halfway down.

  18. RJJ says:

    He was good in part because Me the Press managed to keep his mouth shut and let him speak without interruption. He only does that when the guests are delivering an approved message.

  19. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Zinni was flawless, as he always has been on this. He and I adressed a town meeting on this subject in Lexington in December ’02. He was just the same as now.
    Incidentally, anothr former CinC CENTCOM has told me that the Iraq contingency plan had 14 Army Divisions plus the marines in it before Rumsfeld and Franks got to whittling on it. pl

  20. Norbert Schulz says:

    how much is that in troops? approx 250.000?

  21. W. Patrick Lang says:

    If you think of a US Army division as 15,000 (they vary by type but this is a good average)and add in the probability of a marine division, say 18,000 you would have something in the area of a quarter of a million troops. To that you would have to add a “slice” (tranche) of corps and field army level support forces and the number would easily be up to 300,000.
    At that level you are in the estimative range that Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki suggested was needed,
    Pat Lang

  22. Eric says:

    @Pat and Norbert:
    Am currently reading Trainor and Gordon’s Cobra II. T&G estimate that Zinni’s ’98 plan (equally strong in teeth and tail) would have involved up to 380,000 men.
    At the start of Cobra, Frank’s ground forces commander, Gen. David McKiernan, had 145,000 men in Quwait or vicinity.
    Some people whittle real fine.
    Hope to write more on Cobra later in the week.
    What I liked about the Zinni interview was his refutation of the “perhaps hundreds of tactical errors” meme that Rice floated last week. The major errors were strategic and we all know where they originated.

  23. W. Patrick Lang says:

    It would be really easy to get to T&G’s number. I was being conservative.
    The single greatest and most fatal flaw was the idiocy of disestablishing the Iraqi military rather than re-assembling it and making it the backbone of the new Iraq. It was the central institution in the emerging Iraqi national identity. pl

  24. jon says:

    Not to mention that we could have given jobs to many of the young men that we sent home with their AK’s. Instead we said don’t worry, the market will find you a job in a few weeks. Guess what it did; as fighters against the US and the new gov’t in Iraq.
    I think that is still the greatest mistake we made once the invasion was under way.

  25. ali says:

    Patrick Cockburn does not agree with McCain either:
    I don’t see Iraq as a country doomed by entrenched ethnic hatred like N.Ireland and I sense a great deal of fear at the prospect of a bloody Yugoslavia style break up of the country. Baghdad based bloggers like Riverbend and Zeyad seem baffled by the steady decay of tolerance between Sunni and Shi’a. There is a sad dynamic of fear in these insecure situations were people who’ve happily coexisted for generations can revert to clan loyalties for safety and then turn on each other. Those with friends or worse spouses on the other side become suspect.
    One of the most depressing social science statistics about Belfast is that within the minority of people in the Catholic and Protestant ghettos who aren’t sectarian bigots there is a majority of old folk. The people who remember the other tribe as their friends and neighbors before the paramilitaries drove them out.
    Even in societies with strong group identities people can rub along together but once you subtract security and add neighborhood militias it all falls apart. Come to think of it: events in Missouri and Kansas during the Civil War suggests American society may nor be immune to this either.

  26. Sally says:

    I listened to General Zinni on Meet the Press yesterday and on C-SPAN this morning and wondered why he isn’t the one distributing “snowflakes” at the Pentagon. He didn’t mince words when replying to friend or foe, and answered all C-SPAN callers in a respectful, forthright manner.
    As for McCain, he’s a cloned GWB and we would all be wise to steer clear of him and his ambitions.

  27. taters says:

    I’m also disappointed in McCain, it also looks like he had a big time pass from Timmeh. But then again he’s speaking at Falwell’s Liberty U commencement – probably one of the few “colleges” where you learn that the earth is less than 6000 years old. As far as Gen. Zinni goes, he’s always aces. He’s an original – just like our very own Col. Patrick Lang.

  28. CJ says:

    I’ve been getting increasingly disappointed with McCain for some time now… Ever since the last election when one can only assume he made his pact with the party to better his chances in ’08 and started the hug-fest with GW. Those comments on the tax cuts on MTP were the last straw. Either he is a sincere apologist or a brazen opportunist, which is worse, I don’t know. But being either hopefully would disqualify you from consideration by the electorate – though I’ve given up hoping for much leadership from our current crop of politicians or sense from we the people.
    I thought General Zinni was awesome on Meet the Press. If he runs for anything, I’ll move to his district so I can vote for him – and that goes for if Col. Lang ever runs for anything. My one comment would be when he said something to the effect that the Iraqis “have to create a government of national unity”, much as members of the administration often say. Says who? We do, of course, but then the Iraqis have the vote and it would seem they have the choice to elect or form the government they please. When Miss America Rice or Rhetorical Rummy or our president say “Iraqis must…”, I always wonder why we bothered bequeathing democracy on them in the first place if they need to have it micro-managed by our own elected officials. Nor do we appear to have particularly effective sticks or carrots to offer – we could pull our troops out, but then we’re probably doing that anyway; we could with hold aid, but we’ve already capped that spigot; what is left – harsh language or more pleading?
    Also, is there any historical precedent for keeping a defeated army in place? It seems like it would have made sense to do so in this case, but this is the one blunder that I never heard mentioned before it had been committed. Was anyone talking about this before the invasion was over?

  29. mrsinger says:

    John McCain’s personal courage in Viet Nam and in standing up to Bush on the torture issue is unassailable. But it is tragic to see this man court the Religious Right like a whore bargining down her price. Some consultants have invaded him and now he blends in with all the other compromised, disgusting pols who want to be our President.

  30. CJ says:

    I agree McCain’s personal courage and the instances where he has stood up against the administration’s excesses speak to his better qualities. However, those that aspire to leadership positions should be able to place their ambitions and special interests far behind what is good and right for the nation as a whole. It is a bad sign when aspiring to the highest office would seem to require complete abandonment of a personal and constitutional principals. But as someone commented on this site recently, the greatest hope is with the people – sooner or later they correct the course of the nation. I would have thought it would have happened already, but better late than never….

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