W. Bush had barely finished bemoaning the "democracy deficit"
speech to the National Endowment for Democracy when General
John Abizaid, commander of U.S. troops in the Middle East,
showed the true face of the American occupation. The headline
said it all: "Top
U.S. general warns of harsh measures unless attacks stop."
such measures as kicking down doors, conducting impromptu
house-to-house searches, terrifying Iraqi children, shooting
a pro-American member of the Baghdad Governing Council and
6,000 other Iraqis aren't considered harsh enough. "We
have the capabilities and equipment," the Mayor of Fallujah
reported the General as saying.
wonders what Abizaid the Merciless has in mind.
funny, but we often hear the War Party bloviating about how
the current conflict is like World War II yeah, but which
side are we? It is positively eerie that a real life
American general sounds like nothing so much as a German officer
in some World War II movie set in occupied France:
vill be reprisals!"
is what it's like to become an imperial power: ambitious generals
imperious. Hearts and minds need to be won, but they
are in Washington, not Iraq: "We have the capabilities and
equipment." Translation: We'll kill as many as we have to.
are told that U.S. forces must remain in Iraq until "stability"
is achieved, but then we turn around and commit a series of
provocative and profoundly destabilizing acts, of which Abizaid's
ultimatum is only the most recent. At times, the American
occupation of Iraq takes on the aura of a ritual humiliation.
The American General's command to jump through this hoop and
bark is being met with defiance. The Associated Press quotes
one Najih Latif Abbas as saying:
America, nor the father of America, scares us. Iraqi men are
striking at Americans and they retaliate by terrifying our
Fayadh, a 60-year-old farmer, was willing to go on the record
with a prediction: American reprisals, he said,
only increase our spite and hatred of them. If they think
that they will scare us, they are wrong. Day after day, Americans
will be harmed and attacks against them will increase.''
of Americans now say that the Iraq war was not worth fighting
up from 43 percent in October. And we are only just now
entering the first phase of a long guerrilla war, what I called
real war" some months ago. If I may be permitted an "I
told you so" moment, here's some soothsaying from the lips
written before the fall of Baghdad:
our accelerated, totally-wired, up-to-the-minute, fully-'embedded'
hyper-reality, where immediacy is everything, the war will
have lasted but a few weeks, a month or so at the most. But
the real war is going to be the long occupation, during which
US troops will be sitting ducks for every Islamist nutball
in a region filled with them and the War Party will be looking
for new lands to conquer. The danger could not be greater.
help us all."
of all, God help the troops. The news is filled with stories
of their discontent,
of ill treatment
of the wounded, of a woman soldier who is being forced
to choose between going AWOL and keeping her children,
and growing cynicism and doubts in the ranks about their mission.
If half of us don't think the war was worth it, then that
statistic is no doubt roughly replicated in the military.
have the equipment and the capability, but Niall
Ferguson is right: Americans have no stomach for empire-building.
Which is why George W. Bush had better devise an exit strategy,
and fast, or he'll be exiting the White House.
latest mishap, the killing of the American-appointed leader
of Sadr City and his driver by U.S. soldiers, symbolizes the
tragic idiocy of our involvement in Iraq. Apparently the council
leader, Muhammed Kaabi, approached the gates of the council
chambers and objected to the searching of his car by American
guards. A fight ensued, the soldiers shot Kaabi and, after
wrestling the still struggling driver to the floor, shot and
killed him, too..
City is an impoverished
Shi'ite ghetto, the Iraqi version of, say, South
Central Los Angeles, and a prime breeding ground for Islamic
terrorists. The irony is that Sadr City, which writhed
under the Ba'athist lash as long as Saddam was in power,
ought to be a bastion of support for the "liberation." Yet
thousands marched through the streets demanding the U.S. get
out. These are not Ba'athist diehards, but some of Saddam's
greatest victims, members of the majority Muslim sect that
the U.S. cannot afford to alienate. So far, the Shia militias
outside the "Sunni Triangle" have refrained from joining the
insurgency, and their leaders, dominant in the southern part
of the country, have counseled restraint. An incident of this
kind could easily push them over the edge and, for the first
time, give the Iraqi insurrection a truly national dimension.
IN THE MARGIN
apologize for the short column, but I'm way behind on my talk
for the upcoming meeting of the John
Randolph Club. It's lucky I had a great visit with Scott
Richert, the executive editor of Chronicles
magazine, who came to the Bay Area recently. I had only bothered
to look at one side of the schedule they sent me, as
Scott pointed out: I turned it over and discovered I'm also
to give a talk on civil liberties in wartime. By the time
I get to New Orleans, I'll be too tired to indulge the pleasures
of night life in the French Quarter. But then again, maybe
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