FOR U.S., DEFEAT IN IRAQ IS A STARVING ORPHAN TIED TO A BED
by Tom Clifford
American Reporter Correspondent
DUBAI -- Defeat is an orphan. We now have the iconic image of the Iraq war, the napalm girl of Vietnam, the World War II marines hoisting the flag, the sweeping kiss of the nurse in Times Square as peace breaks out. But if there is one image that defines Iraq it is the orphan tethered to the bed like a goat ready for slaughter.
He cannot escape from his horror, it is heartbreaking to see it and it is symbolic of a greater predicament. Like the orphan, America's armed forces are being drained by politicians tethering them to an impossible situation.
The war is lost and the signposts to retreat are clearly visible. It is not just the disputed death toll, it is not just the sheer terror of daily life, it is not just the sectarian strife, it is not even that the country is not functioning or that the Green Zone is surrounded by a Red Zone.
Nor is it because of images from an orphanage that contradict all the fine words mouthed in Washington's corridors of power. The day before the orphan images became available the United Nations released a damning report about the global refugee situation. Because of Iraq, the number of refigees showed an increase for the first time in five years.
This is where the defeat lies. More than 1,500 flee their homes in Iraq daily. In a country of 26 million, at least two million have sought refugee status outside its borders and another two million within. This is a hemorrhage.
In more ways than one, the lifeblood of Iraq is being drained away. The refugees are not leaving to indulge themselves in the comfort of another country. They are leaving, for the most part, for Syria and Jordan, the first safe havens they can find - but where life is miserable, a notch above unbearable. The Syrians and Jordanians try ro help but their own limited resources are stretched too thin.
The refugees are aware that their lives will be miserable. Even so, fathers and mothers bring their children to these refugee camps rather than endure another day in Baghdad or Fallujah.
Even taking this decision to escape carnage carries the risk of death. They have already gambled with their lives to get the precious assurance of exit - a valid passport. The most dangerous thing to do in the early part of the 21st Century is for a civilian to close their front door behind them in Baghdad.
There are different types of passports, but the most sought-after are the security-encoded "G" series, with digital numbers and watermarks. To acquire the paraphernalia of statehood, without a functioning state, involves queues and queuing, the daily staple of the suicide bomber. Refugees are willing to risk death to get out. The war is lost.
General David Petraeus, the new commander of U.S. forces, spoke of "encouraging signs" in Baghdad. The U.S. troop "surge" has allowed hundreds of families to return to homes abandoned in the face of sectarian attacks, he claimed.
But he was contradicted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who said that they have no credible evidence of any family returning to homes from which they were forced to flee and staying there.
And so we have the incredible situation where the Americans have resolutely refused to do a body count of Iraqi deaths, but feel obliged to tell the world that they know of returning refugees because they have counted them.
The Americans, simply put, do not have the manpower to man every intersection. The police are infiltrated, the Iraqi army too. Yet still we are fed the mind-numbing nonsense that things are getting better, that a corner is being turned, that that there is light. It is insulting to read it.
For the 2 million Iraqis in internal and external exile, to return means that they have a degree of confidence not just in the security forces but in their neighbours.
No foreign army can guarantee that. Iraq, or a form of it, will recover but not with an occupying army that is not in power nor with security services that are viewed with a deep degree of suspicion.
The retreat is already being planned; the refugees will continue to escape the consequences of "Shock and Awe." After more than $400 billion has been spent on destroying the lives of millions of people, the UNHCR has only received $35 million of the $60 million it pleads for to ease refugee suffering.
Victory has many fathers, but in the land where the mother of all battles was meant to be fought, we know the end is is sight because of a starving orphan tied to a bed.
Tom Clifford is Assistant Editor of the Internatiunal pages of Gulf News in Dubai. He writes frequently on Middle East issues. Write him at email@example.com.