until Saturday our "embedded"
media was projecting images
of Iraqis dancing in the desert, delirious
with joy at the arrival of their "liberators," but by
Sunday morning the edges were already beginning to fray around
the official story of a near-seamless "Operation Iraqi Freedom."
U.S. media kept showing feel-good agit-prop as long as they
could. We were treated to endless repetitions of that rather
corny image of a portly Iraqi and a bunch of kids bouncing
up and down with glee as a US soldier ripped down a portrait
of Saddam in the border town of Safwan. National Review's
Goldberg was quick to jump on it as evidence that he and
his fellow laptop bombardiers had been right all along:
"There's every reason to assume that such
stories will be multiplied a hundred, if not a
thousand times over as U.S. forces approach the capital of
the Republic of Fear."
so fast. By Sunday, reality was breaking through the obscuring
mist of war propaganda, and Reuters was reporting the "liberation"
of Safwan somewhat
the convoy of British tanks and trucks rolled by, the Iraqi
boys on the side of the road were all smiles and waves. But
once it had passed, leaving a trail of dust and grit in its
wake, their smiles turned to scowls. 'We don't want them here,'
said 17-years-old Fouad, looking angrily up at the plumes
of gray smoke rising from the embattled southern city of Basra,
under attack from U.S. and British forces for more than two
days. He pulled a piece of paper from the waistband of his
trousers. Unfolding it, he held up a picture of Saddam Hussein.
'Saddam is our leader. Saddam is good,' he said defiantly,
looking again at his well-worn picture showing the Iraqi leader
with a benign smile, sitting on a majestic throne."
was in southern Iraq, near Basra, the scene of a Shi'ite rebellion
that was brutally crushed back in 1991,where the Americans
expected to be greeted as heroes: one can only imagine how
many Fouads there are in the north, closer to the seat of
the first few days, we saw only sanitized images of a clean,
hassle-free war, amid hints of a winged victory beckoning
in the near future. But that is fast giving way to the gritty
reality of the quagmire we are falling into. The "cakewalk"
that Richard Perle and his fellow chickenhawks confidently
predicted, is turning into a forced march into Hell.
dilapidated remnants of the Iraqi armed forces, starved by
sanctions for spare parts and calories, consists mostly of
conscripts: their televised surrender fueled
the War Party's premature triumphalism. While thousands of
Iraqis have thrown down their arms and been taken prisoner,
it's not nearly as many as in Gulf War I, where entire divisions
threw down their pathetic vintage rifles and waved the white
flag of surrender. Perhaps they remember what happened last
time around to tens of thousands of surrendering Iraqis, as
reported by Seymour
Hersh in the New Yorker.
to be shocked and awed, the Iraqis are putting up a fight:
as I write, Basra, the fall of which was assumed
foregone conclusion, has yet
to surrender. Umm Qasr, reported
by Kuwait's state run KUNA news agency to have fallen,
appears to be holding
out. American forces are leaving these "pockets of resistance"
in the dust, however, as they race toward Baghdad, determined
to decapitate the regime.
the road to Baghdad is not as smooth as we were led to believe
in the debate leading up to this war. The President's
recent prophecy that this was going to be a tougher battle
than anyone ever imagined now he tells us! came
just in time to be fulfilled.
hundred miles south of Baghdad, Iraqi civilian militia engaged
the invaders for more than seven hours, armed only with machineguns
mounted on pick-up trucks. "It wasn't even a fair fight. I
don't know why they don't just surrender," said U.S. Army
Colonel Mark Hildenbrand.
bafflement is the reason why the Americans cannot, in the
end, win this war. Why do people fight against overwhelming
odds, even when they know it's hopeless? The Colonel can't
figure it out, and neither can his superiors. But any street-smart
could tell them to expect a fight to the death when attacking
some else's turf.
war was never a fair fight. Iraq is a fifth-rate power, shrunken
in military prowess by at least 30 percent since Gulf War
I. But there are millions of Fouads in Iraq, and they are
fighting back. Not for Saddam, or for the Baath Party, but
due to the most basic of human instincts: hatred of foreign
invaders. No amount of "shock and awe" will erase it from
their hearts. Even after an American "victory," it will smolder,
and its smoke will rise up and make the very air unbreathable
for the occupiers.
American advance was stopped cold, as the "coalition"
(i.e. the Americans) took as many as dozens of casualties
- and at least five prisoners, including one woman. The Arabic
television network Al-Jazeera showed Iraqi footage of dead
and captive Americans. "I was just under orders," said one
soldier, who gave his name only as Miller. "I don't want to
kill anybody." Another prisoner, who gave his name as Joseph
Hudson, and said he is from El Paso, Texas, was asked what
he was doing in Iraq. "I follow orders," he answered. South
African television reports that "he was asked repeatedly
whether he was greeted by guns or flowers by Iraqis, but appeared
not to understand the question."
Sunday's Pentagon briefing, reporters were told that the battle
of Nassiriyah was "successful," as the briefer recounted the
losses of the enemy. Yet he also admitted that the Americans
had been ambushed by a group of Iraqi "irregulars" who at
first greeted the GIs as "liberators" and then opened fire.
The losses suffered at Nassiriyah are apparently the result
of the Americans falling victim to their own propaganda.
turns out to be the chief weakness of the Americans, who,
since 9/11, have seen events through the prism of a distorting
self-righteousness that has blinded them until now to
the consequences of this war. But the military setbacks are
nothing compared to the geopolitical
were counting on using Turkey as a launching pad for American
troops, but it looks like the Turks are launching
an invasion of their own: as many as 1,500 Turkish troops
have crossed into northern Iraq, which is under the de facto
control of the Kurds, and a tense stand-off
is building up to an armed confrontation. Turkish troops are
striking deep into northern Iraq, as the [UK] Telegraph
"The Turkish government pushed
ahead with its troop deployment, deeper into Iraq
than at any time since the last Gulf war, despite pleas from
Washington to avoid confrontation with the Kurds. Until this
war began, Kurdish militia leaders had vowed retaliation if
the Turks pressed south. Last week, however, they placed themselves
under American command, and have to stand aside as the Turkish
military extends a cordon sanitare well beyond its
Turks, it appears, have adopted the Bushian doctrine
of preemptive attacks, as articulated by Turkish Foreign
Minister Abdullah Gul:
vacuum was formed in northern Iraq and that vacuum became
practically a camp for terrorist activity,' Gul said. 'This
time we do not want such a vacuum,' Gul said in reference
to the nearly 500,000 refugees who fled across Turkey's border
during the 1991 Gulf War."
Timothy Noah points out in his invaluable series, "Kurd
Sell-out Watch," in Slate, a deal of sorts has been
United States has threatened to take the Kurds' side against
a Turkish incursion and, at the same time, has promised the
Turks to keep the Kurds out of the city of Kirkuk, which lies
south of Iraqi Kurdistan. The Kurds claim Kirkuk as their
'Jerusalem,' and, more to the point, Kirkuk sits atop an estimated
10 billion barrels of oil."
the Turks have come anyway, and more are on the way. Robert Novak
reports a meeting between the Turks and the Iranians for
the purpose of dividing up northern Iraq:
has already moved 7,000 troops into that region, with several
thousand more on the Turkish side of the border. It also indicates
Iranian troops are working with their Kurdish allies. The
Turkish-Iranian partnership, though odd on its face, is possible
and points up the complexity of dealing with ''post-war''
neocons, who once held up the Kurds as the noble victims of
Saddam the Tyrant, are now strangely silent about their fate,
as Noah dryly observes. The reason, he says, is that
Kurds are introducing unwelcome difficulties to a war that's
very dear to the neocon heart. Now conservative hawks have
launched a trial balloon affirmatively condemning the Kurds
as thugs. Talk about a sellout!"
cites a piece by Melik Kaylan on the editorial page of the
March 19 Wall Street Journal, who complains:
idyllic statelet-in-waiting we keep reading about is a venue
for well-oiled warlordism. Telephone calls are monitored.
Armed checkpoints pepper the roads. Property is easily confiscated.
Loyalties are bought and sold by the tribeful. Rights don't
exist except when forcibly backed by fellow tribesmen."
that sounds awfully familiar. Doesn't the "USA Patriot" Act
authorize telephonic eavesdropping and the easy confiscation
of private property? As for rights being nonexistent "except
when forcibly backed by fellow tribesmen," isn't that what
"democracy" is all about? In any case, as Noah points out,
the Kurdish elections are at least as legitimate and above-board
as the Turkish electoral process: self-governing Kurdistan
is a model of democracy in the region, just what the
President called for in his famous speech to the American
Enterprise Institute and it is being sold out by the War
Party within the first week of the conflict.
the Kurdish question we have yet to hear from Christopher Hitchens, who
the Kurds what Lord Byron was to the Greeks: Hitchens'
conversion to the cause of neo-imperialism is
often linked to his concern for their fate. But there
is little doubt that those Turkish troops wouldn't be in northern
Iraq but for the tacit agreement of
the Americans, who probably traded the Kurds for overflight
rights and who can hardly be expected to take up arms
against their NATO allies.
Turks are determined that their old enemies, the Kurds, will
not get their hands on oil-rich Kirkuk, and the Americans
are moving quickly to
build up their forces in the region and secure
the city. At the same time, the
city is surrounded by Kurdish peshmergas, ostensibly
under U.S. command. But what will happen when the Turks enter
the region in force, and the Americans are caught between
their Kurdish proxies and their good buddies in Ankara?
the American casualty count mounts, and the real consequences
of this war come home to haunt a war-madden President and
his cabal of neoconservative Napoleons,
they will be hard put to answer the family of Marine
Staff Sgt. Kendall Waters-Bey, one of a group of Marines
killed in a helicopter in Kuwait last week. "It's sad that
this war is going on and that we have to lose so many people
over nothing," one of his sisters said. Michael Bey, his father,
was even more emphatic in an interview with Baltimore's WBAL-TV,
as he held a picture of his son:
want President Bush to get a good look at this, really good
look here. This is the only son I had, only son.' He then
walked away in tears, with his family behind him. Kenneth,
the Marine's only son, was with the family."
this war is going to stay popular in some
quarters, no matter how many American casualties
are counted. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is delighted
that Uncle Sam is finally taking on his old enemies, the Iraqis:
last Friday,Sharon hailed the war as "the
beginning of a new era." Certainly that is the case as
far as Israel is concerned. Sharon and his American amen corner
are hoping that the war will force Syria and Iran to end their
support for the Palestinians. More importantly, however, the
presence of an Iraq ruled over by a
fulsomely pro-Israel military viceroy, Lt. Gen. Jay Garner,
is bound to extend Israel's influence in the region.
Garner heads up the Pentagon's new Office of Reconstruction
and Humanitarian Assistance that will provide such governance
as is necessary in postwar Iraq: in 1998, he traveled to Israel
under the auspices of the Jewish
Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) in order
to absorb, first-hand, the lessons learned by the Israelis
in successfully repressing the Palestinians. The General must
have come away impressed, because, as the Forward reports:
October 2000, shortly after the outbreak of the intifada,
Garner was one of 26 American military leaders to sign a staunchly
pro-Israel statement released by JINSA condemning the escalating
violence. The statement, titled 'Friends Don't Leave Friends
on the Battlefield,' lauded the Israeli army for exercising
"remarkable restraint in the face of lethal violence orchestrated
by the leadership of a Palestinian Authority," and called
into question the Palestinian commitment to peace."
Bey's sister thinks her brother died for "no good reason,"
but the Israelis would not agree. They see this war as the
dawn of a new day, and who is she to contradict them? What
is she, anyway some kind of paleo-conservative? Does
David Frum know about this?
good friend Pat Buchanan, in the name of "supporting the
troops" in wartime, has decided
to withhold all criticism of this rotten war for the duration.
This is nonsense. Sgt. Bey's sister is right: her brother
died for no good reason, and that, my friend, is a
crime that cannot be covered up much longer. Patriots have
not only the right but the moral obligation to speak out against
a war that is not in American interests, and that will sacrifice
many more brave American soldiers and Iraqis, both soldiers
and civilians before it is over.
United States, Britain, and Australia must get out of the
Iraqi miasma while they still can. A negotiated end to
the war is possible if the U.S. will re-open a dialogue with
someone in Baghdad using the Vatican as an intermediary. The
United Nations sorry, Ron has a key
role to play. Now is the time for the French to introduce
a UN resolution calling for a cease-fire, and offering to
broker negotiations to end the slaughter. Let the Bushies
veto it, and the world will be treated to the supreme irony
of the UN's great champion, a nation that went to war in the
name of a Security Council resolution, itself rebuked and
denounced by that body.
War Party is whipping up a frenzy of hysteria around the five
prisoners, and claiming that the mere act of showing them
on Iraqi state television is a violation of the Geneva conventions,
which forbids exploitation and "public humiliation" of POWs,
but also demands protection against "public
curiosity." Has anybody told Robert
Blake's lawyers about this provision? But, seriously,
if the mere display of prisoners is forbidden, how different is this from Fox
News showing all those close-ups of Iraqi prisoners, visually
parading them across the screen?
War Party has no right to howl about Al Jazeera's broadcasts.
This is the war they wanted, and now they have it.
is a war that cannot be won, even if "victory" is declared:
in the long run we will be driven out of the Middle East,
just as the Marines were driven out of Beirut, just as the
British were driven out, and the Crusaders before them. The
quicksands of that volatile region will be the graveyard of
America's imperial ambition. The first week of this war is
a bitter preview of what lies in store for us into the indefinite
it isn't too late to change the course of history. The anti-war
movement must organize peaceful, legal, and massive
rallies against this war, calling for a negotiated settlement.
Catholics and others must appeal to the Holy Father to personally
intervene. A campaign to petition the UN is not out of order.
Every candidate for office must be pressured, relentlessly,
and forced to take a stand one way or the other.
matter what one's view of the war, it is not impossible for
both sides to come together around a call for a cease-fire.
The Bush administration is convinced that the Ba'athist party
regime is brittle and ready to break. Why not let it implode
with the least amount of civilian casualties by calling a
truce, and giving the Iraqis time to think about it? The war,
after all, is going disastrously for the U.S., and this might
be a good time to pause and let the inevitable occur.
alternative is a military "victory" that turns into a political
defeat, and a burden that American taxpayers will have to
bear unto eternity. Drawing in Turkey and Iran, and provoking
the break-up of Iraq into at least three parts, this war is
turning into a no-winner for the U.S.: its whole history is
prefigured in the first few days. We have gone from hubris
to near humiliation in less than a week.
This defeat was handed to us by the War Party. In the non-debate
leading up to the Anglo-American attack, they reveled in their
"risky" and "bold" strategies, and trumpeted our alleged invincibility.
This is not going to be a three-week war, unfortunately, as
Pat Buchanan opined on Sunday's edition of The
McLaughlin Group. They may declare "victory" in three
weeks, but the "mop-up" operations will take decades.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
can’t resist pointing my readers to Matt Barganier’s hi-larious
screamingly funny parody of National Review’s "group
Cavanaugh did this a while ago, and his was quite clever,
but Matt really has produced a classic of the genre
– and why is it, do you think, that the Corner-ites seem to
have inadvertently inspired a whole new sub-category of Grand Guignol?
we all need laughs, especially these days, and what better
source of a few chuckles than the indefatigable Stephen Schwartz? I laughed
my ass off while reading Schwartz’s latest opus,
a classic of unintentional humor entitled "What Raimondo Really
Meant"! Yes, folks, now it can be told – I’m really
an agent of the Mikado!
The former "Comrade Sandalio"’s hebephrenic
rant naturally appears on David Horowitz’s Frontpage website
– and if you want to see the sort of twisted ugliness that
is typical of the Horowitzian movement, check
out the crazed comments from Schwartz’s hate-filled fan club.
Warning: if you find obscene language and extreme irrationality
disturbing, then stay away. If you liked Psychopathia
Sexualis, then, by all means, dive right into this
mud puddle – but be sure to take a shower a.s.a.p.
of slime, David Frum is busy quoting his fan mail
and pretending the whole world agrees with him, but my good
friend Tom Fleming, editor of Chronicles magazine,
has put him in his place with a few choice
words. This line deserves the 2003 Smackdown Award:
it is France they pretend to hate; tomorrow, it could be Norway.
(‘Say,’ I can already hear them saying, ‘Didn’t Knut Hamsun
support the Nazis?’) Next week, it will be Iowa."
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