It's strange that little of the news coverage
of Iraq addresses this question. Doesn't it seem obvious that some groups are
fomenting the chaos? Getting tribes to fight each other is often easy. Most
of them have some past injustice to avenge. The British Empire ruled much of
its colonial world in this way, balancing off or favoring different tribes to
rule others. In most of the Old World, tribes hated their neighbors more than
foreign conquerors. See "Tribes,
Veils, and Democracy."
Some 28 years ago I was in the Middle East with my mother, Freda Utley, author
of Will the Middle East
Go West? [.pdf]. In Beirut we met John
Cooley, the well-known and long-respected reporter for the Christian
Science Monitor. The civil war in Lebanon was just getting started, and
cooler heads were trying to head it off. Cooley then told us that every time
there was a cease-fire some shadowy elements appeared to be shooting at both
sides in an effort to get the fighting started up again. They succeeded, and
the subsequent war nearly tore the nation apart.
Today there is a similar situation in Iraq. Much of the slaughter doesn't
make sense among neighbors and friends. Peter Beinart of The New Republic
wrote an excellent
study of the past history of Iraq describing the unity of Sunnis and Shi'ites
– indeed, the first Ba'athist leader was a Shia, though we think of Ba'athists,
the party of Saddam, as all being Sunnis. But suppose some of the horrendous
murder was being done by outsiders wanting to destroy Iraq by getting Sunnis
and Shi'ites to wreak vengeance on each other. Tribal societies are particularly
vulnerable to this kind of disruption.
With hindsight, one can argue that it was vital for Washington to prevent
such a situation from occurring when the Army first occupied Baghdad, that the
turning point was when the looting and chaos first started and U.S. forces did
nothing to stop it. But today, for Washington to adopt a realistic policy, America
must face the facts on the ground. Wishful thinking only brings disaster
Let's look at all the groups with an interest in continuing the chaos.
- First, of course, there is al-Qaeda. Bin Laden must be laughing every day
to see America's Army being hollowed out as the Army
chief of staff describes. Further, every picture of Arabs being killed
by Americans furthers bin Laden's objectives. There are too many ways bin
Laden is "winning" to describe here; for details, see "36
Ways U.S. Is Losing the War on Terror."
- Iraq's neighbors. Neoconservatives
and Bush virtually threatened that Syria and Iran were the next in line to
be attacked by America. This stupidity gave them every reason to want to see
America tied down and weakened in Iraq for as long as possible.
- The Likud Party in Israel. Although most Israelis want peace, their electoral
system gives overwhelming power to their aggressive minorities. It is
not hard to imagine that many want Arabs to fight and weaken one another.
Israeli agents are very active
with the Kurds, even training them. The U.S. occupation brought in Israeli
advisers to teach American soldiers how to suppress Arab resistance. Israel
has Arab speakers who can easily "mix in," as well as other resources.
Dividing one's enemies is the oldest strategy in the book. Some Israelis would
like to see a massive Sunni-Shia war spread to other Muslim nations.
- The Kurds. They want a divided and weakened central government so they can
gain their independence and take over the oil wealth of northern Iraq.
- Shia and Kurdish militias benefit greatly from being trained and supplied
by America. The so-called Iraqi army and police are mainly composed of Shia
and Kurds. The longer the strife continues, the better equipped they become
for an eventual showdown against the Sunnis, who also bear the brunt of American
"pacification." Meanwhile, the Shia are gradually "ethnically
cleansing" Baghdad of Sunnis.
- Mercenaries, some paid as much as a thousand dollars a day. They want a
good business to continue.
- The Beltway Bombers
and companies set up in Washington to hire retired commandos, Army Rangers,
Navy SEALs. They have gained hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts
from the Pentagon to help out in Iraq. There are indeed a
reported 100,000 or so bodyguards, non-military consultants, advisers,
support staff, etc., mostly paid by the U.S. Treasury.
- Other oil-producing nations. All are happy to see most Iraq oil production
off the market, which helps to keep the price of oil high. Russia certainly
would benefit the most if other Mideast oil producers had "troubles,"
- Weapons manufacturers in many lands selling millions and paying big commissions
to all sides in wars.
- Gangster elements in Iraq, criminals who are thriving on the lawlessness,
from petty thieves to big-time smugglers of oil and weapons.
- All the nations that want to see the U.S. weakened and humiliated. Russians
are no longer friendly to America, and many fear us. The Chinese were once
on notice from powerful Washington interests that they would be next,
once America finished with the Muslim world. The Chinese understand that manufacturers
of warships, missiles, and planes need a "real" nation with vast
resources to justify spending for their products; fighting shoeless guerrillas
in caves and cellars won't cut it.
- The Armageddon lobby
in America, which sees chaos in Iraq as helping along their fantasies of hurrying
up God to fulfill His prophecies (as they see them) to kill most of the human
race while giving them a quick pass to Heaven.
- Finally, there are smaller tribal elements in Iraq itself with
their own agendas, which are almost impossible for Washington to discern.
This gives some idea of what America is up against. The
electoral system foisted on Iraq by the early occupation authorities that
divides power and establishes an almost dysfunctional government, e.g., favoring
ethnic voting blocks, even without outside threats. The American objectives
of pacification and "victory" look very difficult in view of all the