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Commentary Last Updated: Jun 7th, 2007 - 04:09:36

Korean �model� for Iraq
By Linda S. Heard
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jun 7, 2007, 04:07

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Hmm! It�s just as those of us who were against the invasion of Iraq from day one suspected all along. The US has no intention of relinquishing its hold over Iraq. All the talk about withdrawal at some time in the nonspecified future is showcasing. Drawdown, yes; complete pullout, certainly no.

Until recently, the Bush administration has consistently protested it has no long-term ambitions in Iraq once a democratically-elected government is in place and is equipped to handle the country�s security issues.

Unlike Britain, France and Spain in former times, we�ve never been a colonial power, US officials would invariably protest. We�re the good guys who want nothing more than to take down an evil dictator and spread happiness, freedom and light where he once reigned.

Well now the truth is out, thanks to US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and White House spokesman Tony Snow.

Iraq is about to go the way of South Korea. In other words, it is to get a permanent US �security� presence consisting of as many as 50,000 military personnel housed in five permanent and heavily fortified bases. We will be told the Iraqi government has consented to this. No doubt, certain Iraqi politicians will be trotted out to thank the US government for its long-term involvement between gritted teeth.

In other words, the eventual drawdown will be billed with great fanfare as an exit after the so-called troop surge has been pronounced a winning gambit. The Republicans will pat one another on the back for having faith in their great leader. The Democrats will pat one another on the back for heaping pressure on the Bush administration. The American people will nod their approval and welcome home their returning heroes. Most of the Western reporters will leave their Green Zone hostelries and fortress hotels for exciting new pastures.

Just as happened with Afghanistan, Iraq will be virtually off the international radar. To all intents and purposes it will be perceived as a sovereign country. If Iraqis subsequently fight one another, then that will be viewed as their problem.

That�s the plan anyway. The main difficulty for the US is how it can turn failure into victory in the public�s eyes and especially with more and more of its own spreading the message victory is not ours.

Recently, the former leader of the allied forces in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez of Abu Ghraib infamy, had this to say during an interview:

�I think if we do the right things politically and economically with the right Iraqi leadership we could still salvage at least a stalemate, if you will . . . not a stalemate but at least stave off defeat.�

�I am absolutely convinced that America has a crisis in leadership at this time,� he added. He warned that America will be forced to reflect on the meaning of victory, saying, �I�m not sure America really knows what victory is.�

Gen. Sir Michael Rose, a retired British commander who formerly led the UN Protection Force in Bosnia, was even more outspoken on the subject. He says the war isn�t winnable.

�There is no way we are going to win the war,� he recently said. He believes the allies should graciously accept defeat and announce a date for withdrawal, which he maintains will heal sectarian divisions.

�Give them a date and it is amazing how people and political parties will stop fighting each other and start working toward a peaceful transfer of power,� he said.

What is the Korean model? �The idea is more a model of a mutually agreed arrangement whereby we have a long and enduring presence but under the consent of both parties and under certain conditions,� explained Gates.

In fact, the German or Japanese model would be a more apt example when it comes to Iraq. As former US National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski rightly pointed out last week, �the South Koreans welcomed us� whereas in Iraq the American presence is �much closer to colonialism, imperialism.�

Iraqis, on the other hand -- more than 70 percent of them -- do not welcome a US presence as numerous polls have shown, and neither do Iraq�s neighbors. Those bases together with the largest US Embassy in the world will remain points of internal contention as well as magnets for insurgents and terror groups.

It may be the US government now regrets having put its cards on the table. Honesty may be the best policy or so goes the adage but it has never been theirs so why start now?

Last Friday, ABC posted a story on its website titled �ABC News learns of Plans to Keep Troops in Iraq beyond 2009.� On Saturday, the story had been slightly rewritten with a new headline �Soldiering on.� The substance of both articles remained the same but the second was written with more emphasis on the drawdown, which according to ABC, is set to begin early next year.

With whatever fancy brush it is painted, the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent occupation has been a disaster for everyone concerned and especially for the Iraqis themselves. The so-called Korean model cannot possibly work because this requires a certain amount of acceptance by the public and goodwill.

With the unprecedented number of Iraqi civilian deaths in recent months and estimates that as many as 78,000 Iraqis died as a result of coalition bombs, not to mention the millions of Iraqis who have been widowed, orphaned, maimed or displaced, goodwill is thin on the ground.

The question is this. Why does the US need permanent bases in troublesome Iraq when it has so many in the region and beyond? The new Iraqi oil law may provide a clue. If the door is opened to Western oil giants they will need the kind of protection only kindly Uncle Sam can provide. Remember what a good job the US did of protecting the pipelines and the Iraqi Ministry of Oil during �Shock and Awe�?

Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at

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