HH: Do you see a potential for the return of the hot war of 2006, a civil war at least as brutal as that period of time, John Burns?
JB: I do. I do see that potential. I just noticed this evening a piece on the New York Times website saying that one of the Iraqi groups, insurgent groups, al Qaeda-linked groups, is claiming that they killed 60 people in Baghdad in the last ten days. The tempo of atrocities is on the rise again. And I think a lot of guns have been holstered, waiting for Americans to go. Everybody knew that they were going to go. The fact that they’re not going to leave a residual presence behind now, of 3,000-5,000 troops that the Iraqis had been talking to Washington about keeping, a sort of tripwire presence, it was certainly a question of time. Even they would have to come out, you know, 12 months, 24 months, 36 months down the road. So a lot of groups of ill intent have been waiting for the Americans to go. And it seems to me that yes, there is a real, real risk of a resumption of widespread violence. And I think American have to brace themselves, and I’m a bit pessimistic about this, for the possibility that the American period in Iraq, which has accomplished some good things, it’s also been a source of, of course, a great deal of unhappiness, and certainly a great deal of resistance within the United States, not to mention Iraq. I think that Americans have to brace themselves for the possibilities that the accomplishments that the United States will be leaving behind, which is a natant constitutional system, may in time suffer the fate that, for example, the British did after their period in Iraq during and after the First World War. The sands of Iraq will simply blow over them, and the American presence in history will amount to, to have accomplished, sadly, rather little.
We are still in Germany and Japan sixty-six years after the end of World War II. We are still in South Korea fifty-seven years after the end of the Korean War. We fled Vietnam in 1975. The countries where we stayed are democracies and allies. The country we fled is still communist and authoritarian to this day, and holocausts occurred in our wake (the killing fields of Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, the boat people of Vietnam). Now we are proposing to flee Iraq. God help them.