anything left of the helicopter
shot down by Iraqi insurgents on Sunday, in which 15 were
killed and 21 seriously wounded: the thing seems to have disintegrated
even quicker than the administration's case for starting this
war in the first place. Piling pathos atop tragedy, the occupants
were on their way back to the states for a little r&r.
It was the deadliest day of the most disastrous week so far
in the history of the occupation. What sickens me is that
this record is bound to be broken sooner rather than later.
intensity of what is now a full-fledged guerrilla war has
ratcheted up, 6 months after George W. Bush declared "victory."
But who and what are we fighting?
wisdom, reiterated in endless news stories, has it that
the insurgents are an unholy combination of Ba'athist "remnants"
suicide bomber types vaguely affiliated with Al Qaeda.
This is a very convenient formulation for the War Party, which
is spared the necessity of creating a new hate object for
propaganda purposes: they're even putting out the story that
Saddam is personally directing the insurgents.
usual, the reality is far more complex. The list
of known insurgent groups, numbering some three dozen, is
far too long to record here: what's important to know is that
they represent far more ideological variety than is ever acknowledged
by U.S. government officials.
the biggest and formerly the only legal political grouping
in the country, the Ba'ath party was bound to become a locus
of armed opposition. However, even the Ba'athist designation
can be misleading. Not only are some groups heterogeneous,
consisting of former Republican Guards and religious fighters,
but there are also the non-Saddamist nationalist groups, such
as the National Iraqi Commando Front (a.k.a. National Fedayeen Front),
Front for the Liberation of Iraq, and the Iraqi
there are secular groups that are also anti-Ba'athist: the
Armed Brigades of Iraq's Revolutionaries, the Nasserists,
Front for the Liberation of Iraq, and the leftist General
Secretariat for the Liberation of Democratic Iraq. And
this hardly exhausts the list of armed groups springing up
throughout Iraq. As analyst Michael Jansen
puts it, there are also:
groupings of regime loyalists, former soldiers and nationalist
and patriotic Iraqis who do not want Saddam Hussein to return
but are angered by the US failure to restore security and
essential utilities and services."
Dr. Ahmed S.
Hashim, a professor at the Center for Naval Warfare Studies,
of the individuals who say that they are fighting the U.S.
presence for patriotic or nationalistic reasons have expressed
no desire to see the return of the previous system." Professor
Hashim then goes on to cite the public pronouncements of one
such insurgent group on the occasion of a recent communiqué
through their media outlets, the tyrant and his henchmen announced
from the holes in which they are stuck that he is the one
behind the resistance and that the men carrying out this resistance
are loyal and linked to him. The one behind the mass graves
and executions wants to employ the struggle of our people
who reject the occupation, hegemony, and guardianship to his
own benefit and the benefit of his regime."
would think that Al Qaeda, if it was behind the suicide bombings,
would want to take credit. Yet the sinister motives and affiliations
of the resistance are nowhere evidenced in their public pronouncements:
Instead, we have seemingly ordinary Iraqis
who don't support Saddam and don't want to be occupied by
a foreign power. One resistance fighter told
the Boston Globe:
don't need Saddam, and we don't need Americans,' said Mohamed,
who spoke on the condition that only his last name be published.
'We need a Muslim to lead us to peace.'"
evaluations of the resistance emphasized its potential
to metastasize into a national revolt, one that could conceivably
approach the revolution
of 1920 in its scope, but noted that it was not yet at
that point. Today, however, in terms of sophistication and
coordination, the level of the attacks on occupation forces
has skyrocketed. The
experts agree that, if the U.S. is to have any hope of
crushing the insurgency before it gets out of hand, we need
more troops in Iraq – a course that is militarily problematic
problem of achieving the stated U.S. goal – to "Iraqi-ize"
the security structure and pave the way for an American exit
– is that no regime installed by the Anglo-American invaders
is going to have any legitimacy in the eyes of Iraqis. Whatever
illusions the "liberated" peoples of Iraq had in the beginning
have long since dissipated: a recent survey shows only 15 percent
consider themselves "liberated," down from 43 percent at war's
poll numbers aren't much better on the home front, where the
War Party is fast losing
hearts and minds. For the first time a majority of Americans
– 51 percent disapproves of the President's Iraq policy.
This represents a tremendous upsurge of antiwar sentiment,
when you consider that, in April, 70 percent said the war
was worth fighting: that number has since plummeted to 54
percent. Meanwhile, 62 percent now say the level of casualties
rationale for this war is that it is supposedly the "central
front" of the war on terrorism, and this administration's
attempt to characterize the Iraqi resistance as an alliance
of neo-Ba'athists and the Baghdad branch office of Al Qaeda
is part and parcel of that argument. But the inability to
see reality other than through
an ideological filter is what got us into this unwinnable
conflict in the first place. Such a disability, as long as
it goes uncorrected, can only lead to an American defeat.
But not before many more are killed, on both sides.
the neocons told us that the Iraqi people would rise up at
the first sign of U.S. military support: we could pretty much
leave it up to Ahmed Chalabi's boys, as long as we gave them
air cover and as few as 5,000-50,000
that didn't pan out, they said it would be a "cakewalk"
anyway: there was no mention of the postwar conflict, which
has since proved far more serious and costly than the token
resistance put up by the Republican Guards.
the same people who were wrong at every turn are telling us
that all the signs of disaster in Iraq are really the insignia
of success. The "real" news – the "good" news about all the
wonders being worked by the billions in U.S. taxpayer dollars
gushing into the country – is being suppressed by a hostile
media, which insistently focuses on irrelevant minor details,
like the downing of a U.S. helicopter and the loss of 15 American
administration still has not leveled with the American people
about the length of our commitment, and the details of an
exit strategy have yet to emerge. In a speech
at Georgetown University, deputy secretary of defense
Paul Wolfowitz emphasized the Iraqi-ization process, claiming
85 casualties in the ranks of the pro-occupation Iraqi forces,
but did not give any timetable for U.S. withdrawal. His boss,
appearing on "Meet the Press" today [Sunday], also refused
to be pinned down, implying if not endorsing an open-ended
Rove is said to be the peacenik in the Republican camp, whose
marching orders for Team Bush reportedly boil down to "no
war in '04." But short of what even supposedly "antiwar"
candidate Howard Dean would consider a precipitate withdrawal
– one such as Camille
Paglia and I can only dream of – Rove may have no choice.
There is, however, a way out for the President, if he and
his advisors decide to save the Republican party from complete
last fallback position of the interventionists when
disabused of any notions of Iraqi WMDs, mythical links to
9/11, and alleged connections to the anthrax letters
is that the invasion and military occupation of Iraq is justified
in the name of imposing "democracy" at gunpoint. Well, then,
let them do so as soon as possible. Time is not on our side.
As the insurgency takes on truly national dimensions, the
possibility of holding a free election becomes less likely,
which is why we must hold elections immediately.
but there's no Constitution, no legal framework, nothing has
been approved by the Governing Council. Well, then, don't
just stand there dithering: do something! The solution
is to reactivate the pre-Ba'athist legal framework that emerged
along with the Iraqi nation in the 1932 "Declaration of the Kingdom of Iraq,"
which first served notice to the world that Iraq was no longer
part of the British Empire. It is still in effect.
of the Kingdom of Iraq guarantees free elections, minority
rights, "freedom of conscience," and even property rights,
and would satisfy Muslims as it makes Islam the state religion.
Shorn of its monarchical provisions, it would do in a pinch.
I especially like Article 30, Section 9, which prohibits membership
in the national legislature to anyone "who is a lunatic or
an idiot." If only our own Founding Fathers had thought of
alternative is to resurrect the 1958
Constitution. In any case, the leadership produced by the
elections would have to deal with the question of the U.S.
occupation. Regardless of the outcome, there would be no doubt
as to the legitimacy of the Iraqi government. Tim Russert
may not be able to get a straight answer out of Rumsfeld as
to how long the occupation will go on, but a freely elected
Prime Minister of Iraq just might have more luck.
this window of opportunity is rapidly closing. With each passing
day, the Iraqi resistance gets bolder and more destructive
– and the possibility of getting them to lay down their arms
and enter politics fades. The announcement that elections
to a National Assembly were being held would pose a political
challenge to the armed resistance, and strike at the rationale
for its very existence. This would do more to damp down the
violence than any military action.
are told that a U.S. withdrawal is impossible because that
would rapidly lead to civil war between contending factions
in Iraq. But a civil war is precisely what is being prepared
by the Americans, as they tout their plan to arm and train
an Iraqi military force under their direction. Without elections,
"Iraqi-ization" is doomed to failure.
deadliest day, a tragic and bloody Sunday, underscores the
stark reality: this is a no-win war. Do we have to
wait for some Beirut-sized
catastrophe before this administration makes like Ronald Reagan
and gets out while the going is good? Exit, with honor – or
involuntarily exit, much later, and at much greater cost.
That is the choice before us.
IN THE MARGIN
I get letters about how Sunday was not the deadliest day of
the war and was, instead, the second deadliest day
let me launch a preemptive strike by pointing out that
I meant the deadliest day of the war since George W. Bush declared
"victory" in May.
note, with grim satisfaction, that the story of Israeli foreknowledge of 9/11
is breaking through the media blockade, this time in the Scottish
Sunday Herald. Just in time for my forthcoming book,
The Terror Enigma: 9/11 and the Israeli Connection, due
out in a couple of weeks.
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