By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Remember those historical movies Hollywood cranked out in the ’30s and ’40s about the American colonies’ war to throw off the English yoke that created the United States? Inevitably, those flicks had a scene in which some luxuriously uniformed but dimwitted Brit officer complained of the guerrilla tactics employed by the scruffy colonial fighters — dressed in civilian clothes — and their Native American allies as they mowed down the neat ranks of better-equipped redcoats: “They don’t fight fair!”
The plaintive noises coming these days from Rummy and CENTCOM about the lethal anything-goes ruses and ambushes of the Ba’ath-led Iraqi resistance to invasion, which the U.S. war makers label “terrorist,” remind one increasingly of those movie Brits. These complaints are, of course, meant to distract attention from the Bush administration’s huge misreading of Iraqi society in planning this invasion. The expensively suited U.S. war chiefs who plotted this war are at a cultural remove from Iraqi reality as great as that which prevented King George’s coddled ministers from comprehending the spirit which motivated their rebelling colonies.
Well, what did they expect from a sadistic, dictatorial regime without scruples like Saddam Hussein’s? What, pray tell, did they expect from the country’s Shiite majority? When Dubya’s daddy called on them to rise up during Gulf War I, they did. But they were betrayed by the Americans, who left them to be slaughtered by Saddam — he massacred some 300,000 to 350,000 of them in a single week. There is hardly a Shiite in the country who didn’t have a relative or friend slaughtered by Saddam after a U.S. president named Bush left them to the sanguineous dictator’s tender mercies a decade ago. And the U.S.-enforced blockade of Iraq — the “sanctions” which the world’s only superpower got the U.N. to impose — inflicted more suffering by denying the civilian population medicine and food in the long years of desperation since the 1991 massacres.
The U.S. war makers apparently forgot this sorry history. But the country’s civilian population has not. Most Iraqis have had no role in the morbid fantasies of Saddam Hussein, and are ordinarily no more dangerous than the average resident of, say, Oxnard. They are hostages to the Ba’ath regime and its thugs — and they have not forgotten either that, as a former Iraqi oil minister, now in exile, put it on France2 television this past weekend, “The Ba’ath Party came to power in an American train.” The U.S. was in many ways the midwife for the birth of the murderous Iraqi regime we are trying to decapitate now, a gang whose control was sustained and nourished with American help — including military aid — right up until the invasion of Kuwait. All this is living history not just for ordinary Iraqis but for the entire Muslim world.
To this must be added the mushrooming roster of Iraqi civilian deaths, of which the two marketplace bombings in Baghdad last week were only the tip of the iceberg: We do not yet know how many more have died in the cities to which the invading forces are now laying siege. And how many more will die in the process of taking them? As the London Times’ excellent Simon Jenkins wrote on March 28:
“Every soldier knows that cities level the logistical playing field. Bombers are useless in house-to-house fighting. Helicopters become targets, not weapons. Every building is a fortress, every adult a suspect. The rule book says it needs ‘10-on-one’ to fight in cities.√§ Districts are hell to win by day, and more hell to hold by night. Remember Beirut. Ask the Israelis. Baghdad is not Kuwait or the Falklands. The captive Iraqi boy who was asked why he fought so overwhelming a foe merely muttered: ‘It’s my country.’ The answer was worth a dozen Tomahawks.”
General Tommy Frank continued to insist in his March 30 morning CENTCOM briefing that the Iraqis “will welcome their liberation.” But will they welcome their “liberators”? Resentment at the number of civilians killed by the failed, brain-dead “shock and awe” strategy — with its promises of a quick collapse of the Ba’ath regime that proved entirely illusory — will only be magnified a thousandfold as the invaders take over the cities. If there is one secular commonality in the different Arab societies, it is the widespread culture of vengeance. That vengeance will be visited on the American occupier and his British counterpart (if one wants to convince the people of that region that one is not waging a colonial war of conquest, it’s genius to have as one’s sole ally the former proprietors of the British Empire, whose bloody tutelage of the region during its post–World War I occupations has not been forgotten either). And it will be visited as well on the deposed regime’s supporters, on ethnic rivals in a land of over 150 puissant, organized tribes (Human Rights Watch has already reported evidence of ethnic violence in Kirkuk), and on rivals for money and power. The result will be chaos and a series of simmering insurgencies — out of which will emerge not the “democracy” which Bush has promised but most likely a shari’a state of the type long proposed by the Shiite mullahs. The same kind of chaos and insurgencies as when the Taliban emerged from the chaos resulting from the U.S.-backed war to free Afghanistan from Soviet domination. And the Iraqis have only to look at how Bush’s promises to rebuild Afghanistan have proved largely empty to imagine a bleak future in his hands. (There’s not a single new dollar proposed for Afghani reconstruction in Bush’s new budget.)