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February 19, 2008

Paying Insurgents Not to Fight


by Paul Craig Roberts

It is impossible to keep up with all the Bush regime's lies. There are simply too many. Among the recent crop, one of the biggest is that the "surge" is working.

Launched last year, the "surge" was the extra 20,000-30,000 U.S. troops sent to Iraq. These few extra troops, Americans were told, would finally supply the necessary forces to pacify Iraq.

This claim never made any sense. The extra troops didn't raise the total number of U.S. soldiers to more than one-third the number every expert has said is necessary in order to successfully occupy Iraq.

The real purpose of the "surge" was to hide another deception. The Bush regime is paying Sunni insurgents $800,000 a day not to attack U.S. forces. That's right, 80,000 members of an "Awakening group," the "Sons of Iraq," a newly formed "U.S.-allied security force" consisting of Sunni insurgents, are being paid $10 a day each not to attack U.S. troops. Allegedly, the Sons of Iraq are now at work fighting al-Qaeda.

This is a much cheaper way to fight a war. We can only wonder why Bush didn't figure it out sooner.

The "surge" was also timed to take account of the near completion of neighborhood cleansing. Most of the violence in Iraq during the past five years has resulted from Sunnis and Shi'ites driving each other out of mixed neighborhoods. Had the two groups been capable of uniting against the U.S. troops, the U.S. would have been driven out of Iraq long ago. Instead, the Iraqis slaughtered each other and fought the Americans in their spare time.

In other words, the "surge" has had nothing to do with any decline in violence.

With the Sunni insurgents now on Uncle Sam's payroll, with neighborhoods segregated, and with Sadr's militia standing down, it is unclear who is still responsible for ongoing violence other than U.S. troops themselves. Somebody must still be fighting, however, because the U.S. is still conducting air strikes and is still unable to tell friend from foe.

On Feb. 16, the Los Angeles Times reported that a U.S. air strike managed to kill nine Iraqi civilians and three Sons of Iraq.

The Sunnis are abandoning their posts in protest, demanding an end to "errant" U.S. air strikes. Obviously, the Sunnis see an opportunity to increase their daily pay for not attacking Americans. Soon they will have consultants advising them how much they can demand in bribes before it pays the Americans to begin fighting the war under the old terms. If Sunnis are smart, they will split the gains. Currently, the Sunnis are getting shafted. They are only collecting $800,000 of the $275,000,000 it costs the U.S. to fight the war for one day. That's only about three-tenths of one percent, too much of a one-sided deal for the Americans.

If the Sunnis negotiate their cut to between one-quarter and one-half of the daily cost to the U.S. of the war, the Sunnis won’t need to share in the oil revenues, thus helping the three factions to get back together as a country. Even 20 percent of the daily cost of the war would be a good deal for the Sunnis. A long-term contract in this range would be expensive for Uncle Sam, but a great deal cheaper than John McCain’s commitment to a 100-year Iraqi war.

If Bush's war turns out to be as big a boon for the Sunnis as it has for Tony Blair, we might have a modern-day version of The Mouse That Roared – a movie about an impoverished country that attacked the U.S. in order to be defeated and receive foreign aid – only this time the money comes as a payoff for not fighting the occupiers.

As the world now knows, Blair's "dodgy dossier" about the threat allegedly posed by Iraq was a contrivance that allowed Blair to put British troops at the service of Bush's aggression in the Middle East. Now that Blair is out of his prime minister job, he has been rewarded with millions of dollars in sinecures from financial firms such as JP Morgan and millions more in speaking engagements. As part of the payoff, the Bush Republicans have even put Mrs. Blair on the lucrative lecture circuit.

Ask yourself, do you really think Blair knows enough high finance to be of any value as an adviser to JP Morgan, or enough about climate change to advise Zurich Financial on the subject? Do you really believe that after hearing all the vacuous speeches Blair has delivered in those many years in office anyone now wants to pay him huge fees to hear him give a speech? Even when it was free, people were sick of it.

Blair is simply collecting his payoff for selling out his country and sending British troops to die for American hegemony.

The Sunnis seem inclined to do the same thing if Bush will pay them enough.

Is the next phase of the Iraq war going to be a U.S.-Sunni alliance against the Shi'ites?


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    Paul Craig Roberts wrote the Kemp-Roth bill and was assistant secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was associate editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and contributing editor of National Review. He is author or co-author of eight books, including The Supply-Side Revolution (Harvard University Press). He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon chair in political economy, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and senior research fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He has contributed to numerous scholarly journals and testified before Congress on 30 occasions. He has been awarded the U.S. Treasury's Meritorious Service Award and the French Legion of Honor. He was a reviewer for the Journal of Political Economy under editor Robert Mundell.

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