Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Can the U.S. do any good in Iraq?
There was a time when Iraqis told you some crazy theory about who was behind the latest bombing and you'd just shrug and pass it off. Now, when most Iraqis' theories circle back to the United States as the root of their ills, you can't just ignore them.

There were a couple of conversations I had recently that made me think I needed to find a way to tell this story.

On my way to cover Iraq this time around, I stopped off in Jordan, which about a million Iraqi refugees have made their new home. Many are the reasonably rich who could afford to get out, and many are Sunnis from western Iraq.

One in particular has become a valuable source of insight into the tribes of western Iraq, exactly the sort of people it's almost impossible to meet in Baghdad because their region is so hostile to westerners. He is an important tribal sheik, and until a few months ago, he was optimistic the United States could bring stability to Iraq. But now he thinks that window of opportunity has closed.

He says the Sunnis in the west of Iraq are angry, not just about the continued U.S. presence but that the United States is allowing Shia's, with their ties to Iran, to become dominant. This sheik was once a close ally of the United States, but now when he talks it seems the United States can do nothing right.

My young Iraqi friends in Baghdad tell me they hear the same thing from their buddies -- that the United States is getting it all wrong.

Just over a week ago, I went to interview a middle-class Baghdad family about life three years after the invasion. They had more questions than I did and most came back to one fundamental subject: What is the U.S. doing here? What did the Americans really come for?

Answers that point to democracy or a better life without Saddam just don't cut it with them. They measure their lives in their daily safety, and they don't feel safe. The simple answer for them is to blame is the Unites States. Nothing I could say could get them to believe the United States is here as an honest broker to help fix a bad situation.

It's hard to say what's deep down in people's hearts. Do they really believe life would be better if U.S. troops leave? I guess they know things could get uglier. It's not that they don't hope their lives will improve. They do. They hope for it desperately every day. But each morning bring no respite.

On Sunday events took a turn for the worse. U.S. Special Operations Force advisers mentoring an Iraqi Special Operations force raid on a band of hostage takers and killers got in a gunfight with the men they came to capture.

Before U.S. military spokesmen could release details of the clash in which 16 people were killed, the Al Iraqia television station here, which was set up with U.S. taxpayer dollars, began broadcasting accusations that U.S. troops had killed worshipers inside a mosque. Worse, even after the U.S. military issued a statement to explain what happened, the TV station kept up the accusations.

It was the first time this station turned on the very people who helped get it on the air. If this station is so openly hostile to the United States, it begs the question: What can Americans do?
Posted By Nic Robertson, CNN International Correspondent: 1:07 PM ET
  9 Comments
What can Americans do?

The US has apparently overstayed its welcome in Iraq, if indeed it was ever welcome. The Iraqi people need to be left alone to resolve their own differences; we cannot continue to referee their disputes. Americans can leave Iraq; if the Iraqis need our assistance down the road, that may be doable, but if we stay now we're alienating the very people we initially sought to help.
Posted By Anonymous Deb, Richmond VA : 2:33 PM ET
Having served in Iraq and Afghanistan in aposition where I worked very closely with civilians, Iraqi and Afghan soldiers and Govt members, and with those opposing us has given me a somewhat different view. You ask if the US can do anything good in Iraq. My response is we already done much good in Iraq, but the liberal press with their agenda won't print it. You will always find nay sayers if you look for them. Those with whom I ate meals and spent time with their families very much supported the the US and our mission. True they want safety and to just return a to a normal life. But they knew that would never happen under Saddam either. The Sunni tribal Sheik you mentioned is of course upset. He's no longer important and has lost his power and probably most of his wealth. He and the ruling Sunni's aren't the ones oppresing the Shia any more so I am sure he would not like the US. The radical Islamic elements will never support us and democracy because it takes away their power to oppress their own people. It was sad to see but the majority of those I dealt with didn't really know what the Quran actually said. They only knew what they had been told by clerics who used this ignorance and blind loayalty to promote their own position. Americans need to get over the fast food, microwave, instant gratification mind set and face reality. Anything worth doing takes time. Unlike Vietnam this enemy will not stay in Iraq. It WILL follow us home. If you don't think so look up 9/11 on your internet.

Can the US do anything good in Iraq. I say we already have and will continue to do so. Its too bad our own countryment would rather sell news articles than support our mission by continuing to print articles that only further our enemies propaganda machine. I am all for free press but I believe National Security and protecting our soldiers comes first.
Posted By Anonymous Andy Los Angeles, CA : 2:59 PM ET
The Middle East no more understands the US than we understand them. I don't know the real reason we are over there, but I do know we have lost all crediability here and abroad. We need to regroup in Afganastan where we have a ligitimate fight and take care of business there.
Posted By Anonymous Cheryl Nobles, Powell, TN : 3:34 PM ET
hmm, can we just move out from Iraq? and stop playing with them anymore?
I mean what's the whole point of this "WAR"?
geez
Posted By Anonymous rach,rochester,NY : 3:36 PM ET
Let's put this in to context. You went to Jordan to visit an important Sheik from Iraq. He was upset that the U.S. was not doing enough to help HIS country, but he is not even there himself. That may very well be the problem. HE needs to fight for His country. HE needs to get HIS people together and stand up to the insurgents. HE needs to work with the Iraqi forces to find out what HE can do to help them so that our American men and women can come home. People in general need to quit gripping that no one is helping them and start making sacrifices themselves. What if all the Iraqi refugees packed up and went home? What if they stood up and got rid of the insurgency? What if they said no more and stood up for their neighbors? Then we wouldn't have to worry what the media said because Iraqis would be defending their OWN country. Their own children. Their own homes. We're there to help them fight for THEIR country and I am all for that, but you can't blame America for losing a fight when you're not even in the arena.
Posted By Anonymous Shannon, Springfield, MO : 3:47 PM ET
The U.S. needs to withdraw its troops and contractors from Iraq and let the cards fall where they may. Continued loss of life and expenditure of money that we don't have will not make Iraq more stable. The U.S policy failed, accept it and figure out how to best deal with the fall out. History repeats itself, all empires eventually fall. The war in Iraq is on of the misadventures that future historians will point to as the beginning of the fall of the American Empire.
Posted By Anonymous roger lamb, merriam kansas : 3:58 PM ET
Let's review the President's reasons for going:

Regime change? Check.

Weapons of mass destruction? None.

New government? Check.

Yep, it's time to leave.
Posted By Anonymous Mike Youngstown, OH : 4:54 PM ET
I thought I'd never say this, but I feel that it is in the U.S.'s best interest to stick around in Iraq for some time to come. I am a university student doing a paper on this subject and I came across some interesting studies regarding the U.S.'s success and failure in building nation states (this is not the first time this has happened). I think people should stop publishing baseless comments and should rely on evidence to support their conclusions. It's called scholarship, and we as country should try using it.
Posted By Anonymous Vikram, Chicago, IL : 4:59 PM ET
What we do know is told to us by the media and government. Let's see, media? Could be biased pro Bush or anti Bush. Government? Enough said. The real answer lies between those two and the people who are living in Iraq. I've heard both positive and negative. My honest opinion is, strategic implementation should have been discussed, decided and agreed upon with the Iraq acting leaders. The Iraq army, police and next political governing parties should have been established long before so many lives were lost. I believe a deadline needs to be in place and ready or not, leave the rest of the governorship to them. Gloria, NJ
Posted By Anonymous Gloria Pietrangelo, Beachwood, NJ : 9:57 AM ET
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