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Texas Gentleman

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About Texas Gentleman

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  1. Spending time in the United States after a tour of Iraq can be a disorienting experience these days. Within hours of arriving here, as I can attest from a recent visit, one is confronted with an image of Iraq that is unrecognizable. It is created in several overlapping ways: through television footage showing the charred remains of vehicles used in suicide attacks, surrounded by wailing women in black and grim-looking men carrying coffins; by armchair strategists and political gurus predicting further doom or pontificating about how the war should have been fought in the first place; by authors of instant-history books making their rounds to dissect the various fundamental mistakes committed by the Bush administration; and by reporters, cocooned in hotels in Baghdad, explaining the carnage and chaos in the streets as signs of the country’s impending or undeclared civil war. Add to all this the days alleged scandal or revelation an outed CIA operative, a reportedly doctored intelligence report, a leaked pessimistic assessment and it is no wonder the American public registers disillusion with Iraq and everyone who embroiled the U.S. in its troubles. It would be hard indeed for the average interested citizen to find out on his own just how grossly this image distorts the realities of present-day Iraq. Part of the problem, faced by even the most well-meaning news organizations, is the difficulty of covering so large and complex a subject; naturally, in such circumstances, sensational items rise to the top. But even ostensibly more objective efforts, like the Brookings Institutions much-cited Iraq Index with its constantly updated array of security, economic, and public-opinion indicators, tell us little about the actual feel of the country on the ground. To make matters worse, many of the newsmen, pundits, and commentators on whom American viewers and readers rely to describe the situation have been contaminated by the increasing bitterness of American politics. Clearly there are those in the media and the think tanks who wish the Iraq enterprise to end in tragedy, as a just comeuppance for George W. Bush. Others, prompted by noble sentiment, so abhor the idea of war that they would banish it from human discourse before admitting that, in some circumstances, military power can be used in support of a good cause. But whatever the reason, the half-truths and outright misinformation that now function as conventional wisdom have gravely disserved the American people. For someone like myself who has spent considerable time in Iraq a country I first visited in 1968current reality there is, nevertheless, very different from this conventional wisdom, and so are the prospects for Iraq’s future. It helps to know where to look, what sources to trust, and how to evaluate the present moment against the background of Iraqi and Middle Eastern history. Since my first encounter with Iraq almost 40 years ago, I have relied on several broad measures of social and economic health to assess the country’s condition. Through good times and bad, these signs have proved remarkably accurate as accurate, that is, as is possible in human affairs. For some time now, all have been pointing in an unequivocally positive direction. The first sign is refugees. When things have been truly desperate in Iraq in 1959, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1980, 1988, and 1990long queues of Iraqis have formed at the Turkish and Iranian frontiers, hoping to escape. In 1973, for example, when Saddam Hussein decided to expel all those whose ancestors had not been Ottoman citizens before Iraq’s creation as a state, some 1.2 million Iraqis left their homes in the space of just six weeks. This was not the temporary exile of a small group of middle-class professionals and intellectuals, which is a common enough phenomenon in most Arab countries. Rather, it was a departure en masse, affecting people both in small villages and in big cities, and it was a scene regularly repeated under Saddam Hussein. Since the toppling of Saddam in 2003, this is one highly damaging image we have not seen on our television sets and we can be sure that we would be seeing it if it were there to be shown. To the contrary, Iraqis, far from fleeing, have been returning home. By the end of 2005, in the most conservative estimate, the number of returnees topped the 1.2-million mark. Many of the camps set up for fleeing Iraqis in Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia since 1959 have now closed down. The oldest such center, at Ashrafiayh in southwest Iran, was formally shut when its last Iraqi guests returned home in 2004. A second dependable sign likewise concerns human movement, but of a different kind. This is the flow of religious pilgrims to the Shiite shrines in Karbala and Najaf. Whenever things start to go badly in Iraq, this stream is reduced to a trickle and then it dries up completely. From 1991 (when Saddam Hussein massacred Shiites involved in a revolt against him) to 2003, there were scarcely any pilgrims to these cities. Since Saddams fall, they have been flooded with visitors. In 2005, the holy sites received an estimated 12 million pilgrims, making them the most visited spots in the entire Muslim world, ahead of both Mecca and Medina. Over 3,000 Iraqi clerics have also returned from exile, and Shiite seminaries, which just a few years ago held no more than a few dozen pupils, now boast over 15,000 from 40 different countries. This is because Najaf, the oldest center of Shiite scholarship, is once again able to offer an alternative to Qom, the Iranian holy city where a radical and highly politicized version of Shiism is taught. Those wishing to pursue the study of more traditional and quietist forms of Shiism now go to Iraq where, unlike in Iran, the seminaries are not controlled by the government and its secret police. A third sign, this one of the hard economic variety, is the value of the Iraqi dinar, especially as compared with the regions other major currencies. In the final years of Saddam Hussein’s rule, the Iraqi dinar was in free fall; after 1995, it was no longer even traded in Iran and Kuwait. By contrast, the new dinar, introduced early in 2004, is doing well against both the Kuwaiti dinar and the Iranian rial, having risen by 17 percent against the former and by 23 percent against the latter. Although it is still impossible to fix its value against a basket of international currencies, the new Iraqi dinar has done well against the U.S. dollar, increasing in value by almost 18 percent between August 2004 and August 2005. The overwhelming majority of Iraqis, and millions of Iranians and Kuwaitis, now treat it as a safe and solid medium of exchange. My fourth time-tested sign is the level of activity by small and medium-sized businesses. In the past, whenever things have gone downhill in Iraq, large numbers of such enterprises have simply closed down, with the country’s most capable entrepreneurs decamping to Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf states, Turkey, Iran, and even Europe and North America. Since liberation, however, Iraq has witnessed a private-sector boom, especially among small and medium-sized businesses. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, as well as numerous private studies, the Iraqi economy has been doing better than any other in the region. The country’s gross domestic product rose to almost $90 billion in 2004 (the latest year for which figures are available), more than double the output for 2003, and its real growth rate, as estimated by the IMF, was 52.3 per cent. In that same period, exports increased by more than $3 billion, while the inflation rate fell to 25.4 percent, down from 70 percent in 2002. The unemployment rate was halved, from 60 percent to 30 percent. Related to this is the level of agricultural activity. Between 1991 and 2003, the country’s farm sector experienced unprecedented decline, in the end leaving almost the entire nation dependent on rations distributed by the United Nations under Oil-for-Food. In the past two years, by contrast, Iraqi agriculture has undergone an equally unprecedented revival. Iraq now exports foodstuffs to neighboring countries, something that has not happened since the 1950s. Much of the upturn is due to smallholders who, shaking off the collectivist system imposed by the Baathist’s, have retaken control of land that was confiscated decades ago by the state. Finally, one of the surest indices of the health of Iraqi society has always been its readiness to talk to the outside world. Iraqis are a verbalizing people; when they fall silent, life is incontrovertibly becoming hard for them. There have been times, indeed, when one could find scarcely a single Iraqi, whether in Iraq or abroad, prepared to express an opinion on anything remotely political. This is what Kanan Makiya meant when he described Saddam Hussein’s regime as a republic of fear. Today, again by way of dramatic contrast, Iraqis are voluble to a fault. Talk radio, television talk-shows, and Internet blogs are all the rage, while heated debate is the order of the day in shops, tea-houses, bazaars, mosques, offices, and private homes. A catharsis is how Luay Abdulilah, the Iraqi short-story writer and diarist, describes it. This is one way of taking revenge against decades of deadly silence. Moreover, a vast network of independent media has emerged in Iraq, including over 100 privately-owned newspapers and magazines and more than two dozen radio and television stations. To anyone familiar with the state of the media in the Arab world, it is a truism that Iraq today is the place where freedom of expression is most effectively exercised. That an experienced observer of Iraq with a sense of history can point to so many positive factors in the country’s present condition will not do much, of course, to sway the more determined critics of the U.S. intervention there. They might even agree that the images fed to the American public show only part of the picture, and that the news from Iraq is not uniformly bad. But the root of their opposition runs deeper, to political fundamentals. Their critique can be summarized in the aphorism that democracy cannot be imposed by force. It is a view that can be found among the more sophisticated elements on the Left and, increasingly, among dissenters on the Right, from Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska to the ex-neoconservative Francis Fukuyama. As Senator Hagel puts it, you cannot in my opinion just impose a democratic form of government on a country with no history and no culture and no tradition of democracy. I would tend to agree. But is Iraq such a place? In point of fact, before the 1958 pro-Soviet military coup d’etat that established a leftist dictatorship, Iraq did have its modest but nevertheless significant share of democratic history, culture, and tradition. The country came into being through a popular referendum held in 1921. A constitutional monarchy modeled on the United Kingdom, it had a bicameral parliament, several political parties (including the Baath and the Communists), and periodic elections that led to changes of policy and government. At the time, Iraq also enjoyed the freest press in the Arab world, plus the widest space for debate and dissent in the Muslim Middle East. To be sure, Baghdad in those days was no Westminster, and, as the 1958 coup proved, Iraqi democracy was fragile. But every serious student of contemporary Iraq knows that substantial segments of the population, from all ethnic and religious communities, had more than a taste of the modern worlds democratic aspirations. As evidence, one need only consult the immense literary and artistic production of Iraqis both before and after the 1958 coup. Under successor dictatorial regimes, it is true, the conviction took hold that democratic principles had no future in Iraq a conviction that was responsible in large part for driving almost five million Iraqis, a quarter of the population, into exile between 1958 and 2003, just as the opposite conviction is attracting so many of them and their children back to Iraq today. A related argument used to condemn Iraq’s democratic prospects is that it is an artificial country, one that can be held together only by a dictator. But did any nation-state fall from the heavens wholly made? All are to some extent artificial creations, and the U.S. is preeminently so. The truth is that Iraq one of the 53 founding countries of the United Nations is older than a majority of that organizations current 198 member states. Within the Arab League, and setting aside Oman and Yemen, none of the 22 members is older. Two-thirds of the 122 countries regarded as democracies by Freedom House came into being after Iraq’s appearance on the map. Critics of the democratic project in Iraq also claim that, because it is a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional state, the country is doomed to despotism, civil war, or disintegration. But the same could be said of virtually all Middle Eastern states, most of which are neither multi-ethnic nor multi-confessional. More important, all Iraqis, regardless of their ethnic, linguistic, and sectarian differences, share a sense of national identityuruqa (Iraqi-ness) that has developed over the past eight decades. A unified, federal state may still come to grief in Iraq history is not written in advance but even should a divorce become inevitable at some point, a democratic Iraq would be in a better position to manage it. What all of this demonstrates is that, contrary to received opinion, Operation Iraqi Freedom was not an attempt to impose democracy by force. Rather, it was an effort to use force to remove impediments to democratization, primarily by deposing a tyrant who had utterly suppressed a well-established aspect of the country’s identity. It may take years before we know for certain whether or not post-liberation Iraq has definitely chosen democracy. But one thing is certain: without the use of force to remove the Baathist regime, the people of Iraq would not have had the opportunity even to contemplate a democratic future. Assessing the progress of that democratic project is no simple matter. But, by any reasonable standard, Iraqis have made extraordinary strides. In a series of municipal polls and two general elections in the past three years, up to 70 percent of eligible Iraqis have voted. This new orientation is supported by more than 60 political parties and organizations, the first genuinely free-trade unions in the Arab world, a growing number of professional associations acting independently of the state, and more than 400 nongovernmental organizations representing diverse segments of civil society. A new constitution, written by Iraqis representing the full spectrum of political, ethnic, and religious sensibilities was overwhelmingly approved by the electorate in a referendum last October. Iraq’s new democratic reality is also reflected in the vocabulary of politics used at every level of society. Many new words accountability, transparency, pluralism, dissent have entered political discourse in Iraq for the first time. More remarkably, perhaps, all parties and personalities currently engaged in the democratic process have committed themselves to the principle that power should be sought, won, and lost only through free and fair elections. These democratic achievements are especially impressive when set side by side with the declared aims of the enemies of the new Iraq, who have put up a determined fight against it. Since the country’s liberation, the jihadist’s and residual Baathist’s have killed an estimated 23,000 Iraqis, mostly civilians, in scores of random attacks and suicide operations. Indirectly, they have caused the death of thousands more, by sabotaging water and electricity services and by provoking sectarian revenge attacks. But they have failed to translate their talent for mayhem and murder into political success. Their campaign has not succeeded in appreciably slowing down, let alone stopping, the country’s democratization. Indeed, at each step along the way, the jihadists and Baathists have seen their self-declared objectives thwarted. After the invasion, they tried at first to prevent the formation of a Governing Council, the expression of Iraqs continued existence as a sovereign nation-state. They managed to murder several members of the council, including its president in 2003, but failed to prevent its formation or to keep it from performing its task in the interim period. The next aim of the insurgents was to stop municipal elections. Their message was simple: candidates and voters would be killed. But, once again, they failed: thousands of men and women came forward as candidates and more than 1.5 million Iraqis voted in the localities where elections were held. The insurgency made similar threats in the lead-up to the first general election, and the result was the same. Despite killing 36 candidates and 148 voters, they failed to derail the balloting, in which the number of voters rose to more than 8 million. Nor could the insurgency prevent the writing of the new democratic constitution, despite a campaign of assassination against its drafters. The text was ready in time and was submitted to and approved by a referendum, exactly as planned. The number of voters rose yet again, to more than 9 million. What of relations among the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds the focus of so much attention of late? For almost three years, the insurgency worked hard to keep the Arab Sunni community, which accounts for some 15 percent of the population, out of the political process. But that campaign collapsed when millions of Sunnis turned out to vote in the constitutional referendum and in the second general election, which saw almost 11 million Iraqis go to the polls. As I write, all political parties representing the Arab Sunni minority have joined the political process and have strong representation in the new parliament. With the convening of that parliament, and the nomination in April of a new prime minister and a three-man presidential council, the way is open for the formation of a broad-based government of national unity to lead Iraq over the next four years. As for the insurgency’s effort to foment sectarian violence a strategy first launched in earnest toward the end of 2005 this too has run aground. The hope here was to provoke a full-scale war between the Arab Sunni minority and the Arab Shiites who account for some 60 percent of the population. The new strategy, like the ones previously tried, has certainly produced many deaths. But despite countless cases of sectarian killings by so-called militias, there is still no sign that the Shiites as a whole will acquiesce in the role assigned them by the insurgency and organize a concerted campaign of nationwide retaliation. Finally, despite the impression created by relentlessly dire reporting in the West, the insurgency has proved unable to shut down essential government services. Hundreds of teachers and schoolchildren have been killed in incidents including the beheading of two teachers in their classrooms this April and horrific suicide attacks against school buses. But by September 2004, most schools across Iraq and virtually all universities were open and functioning. By September 2005, more than 8.5 million Iraqi children and young people were attending school or university an all-time record in the nations history. A similar story applies to Iraq’s clinics and hospitals. Between October 2003 and January 2006, more than 80 medical doctors and over 400 nurses and medical auxiliaries were murdered by the insurgents. The jihadists also raided several hospitals, killing ordinary patients in their beds. But, once again, they failed in their objectives. By January 2006, all of Iraq’s 600 state-owned hospitals and clinics were in full operation, along with dozens of new ones set up by the private sector since liberation. Another of the insurgency’s strategic goals was to bring the Iraqi oil industry to a halt and to disrupt the export of crude. Since July 2003, Iraq’s oil infrastructure has been the target of more than 3,000 attacks and attempts at sabotage. But once more the insurgency has failed to achieve its goals. Iraq has resumed its membership in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and has returned to world markets as a major oil exporter. According to projections, by the end of 2006 it will be producing its full OPEC quota of 2.8 million barrels a day. The Baathist remnant and its jihadist allies resemble a gambler who wins a heap of chips at a roulette table only to discover that he cannot exchange them for real money at the front desk. The enemies of the new Iraq have succeeded in ruining the lives of tens of thousands of Iraqis, but over the past three years they have advanced their overarching goals, such as they are, very little. Instead, they have been militarily contained and politically defeated again and again, and the beneficiary has been Iraqi democracy. None of this means that the new Iraq is out of the woods. Far from it, Democratic success still requires a great deal of patience, determination, and luck. The U.S.-led coalition, its allies, and partners have achieved most of their major political objectives, but that achievement remains under threat and could be endangered if the U.S., for whatever reason, should decide to snatch a defeat from the jaws of victory. The current mandate of the U.S.-led coalition runs out at the end of this year, and it is unlikely that Washington and its allies will want to maintain their military presence at current levels. In the past few months, more than half of the 103 bases used by the coalition have been transferred to the new Iraqi army. The best guess is that the number of U.S. and coalition troops could be cut from 140,000 to 25,000 or 30,000 by the end of 2007. One might wonder why, if the military mission has been so successful, the U.S. still needs to maintain a military presence in Iraq for at least another two years. There are three reasons for this. The first is to discourage Iraqs predatory neighbors, notably Iran and Syria, which might wish to pursue their own agendas against the new government in Baghdad. Iran has already revived some claims under the Treaties of Erzerum (1846), according to which Tehran would enjoy a droit de regard over Shiite shrines in Iraq. In Syria, some in that country’s ruling circles have invoked the possibility of annexing the area known as Jazirah, the so-called Sunni triangle, in the name of Arab unity. For its part, Turkey is making noises about the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), which gave it a claim to the oilfields of northern Iraq. All of these pretensions need to be rebuffed. The second reason for extending Americas military presence is political. The U.S. is acting as an arbiter among Iraq’s various ethnic and religious communities and political factions. It is, in a sense, a traffic cop, giving Iraqis a green or red light when and if needed. It is important that the U.S. continue performing this role for the first year or two of the newly elected parliament and government. Finally, the U.S. and its allies have a key role to play in training and testing Iraq’s new army and police. Impressive success has already been achieved in that field. Nevertheless, the new Iraqi army needs at least another year or two before it will have developed adequate logistical capacities and learned to organize and conduct operations involving its various branches. But will the U.S. stay the course? Many are betting against it. The Baathists and jihadists, their prior efforts to derail Iraqi democracy having come to naught, have now pinned their hopes on creating enough chaos and death to persuade Washington of the futility of its endeavors. In this, they have the tacit support not only of local Arab and Muslim despots rightly fearful of the democratic genie but of all those in the West whose own incessant theme has been the certainty of American failure. Among Bush-haters in the U.S., just as among anti-Americans around the world, predictions of civil war in Iraq, of spreading regional hostilities, and of a revived global terrorism are not about to cease any time soon. But more sober observers should understand the real balance sheet in Iraq. Democracy is succeeding. Moreover, thanks to its success in Iraq, there are stirrings elsewhere in the region. Beyond the much-publicized electoral concessions wrung from authoritarian rulers in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, there is a new democratic discourse to be heard. Nationalism and pan-Arabism, yesterdays hollow rallying cries, have given way to a big idea of a very different kind. Debate and dissent are in the air where there was none before a development owing, in significant measure, to the U.S. campaign in Iraq and the brilliant if still checkered Iraqi response. The stakes, in short, could not be higher. This is all the more reason to celebrate, to build on, and to consolidate what has already been accomplished. Instead of railing against the Bush administration, Americas elites would do better, and incidentally display greater self-respect, to direct their wrath where it properly belongs: at those violent and unrestrained enemies of democracy in Iraq who are, in truth, the enemies of democracy in America as well, and of everything America has ever stood for. Is Iraq a quagmire, a disaster, a failure? Certainly not; none of the above. Of all the adjectives used by skeptics and critics to describe today’s Iraq, the only one that has a ring of truth is messy. Yes, the situation in Iraq today is messy. Births always are. Since when is that a reason to declare a baby unworthy of life? AMIR TAHERI, formerly the executive editor of Kayhan, Irans largest daily newspaper, is the author of ten books and a frequent contributor to numerous publications in the Middle East and Europe. His work appears regularly in the New York Post. http://www.commentarymagazine.com/Producti...Taheri_0606.htm
  2. In tribute: Steven Vincent RIP Words probably killed Steve Vincent, ....let his words be his lasting legacy. In his own words below: (from a interview) Words matter. Words convey moral clarity. Without moral clarity, we will not succeed in Iraq. That is why the terms the press uses to cover this conflict are so vital. For example, take the word "“guerillas."” As you noted, mainstream media sources like the New York Times often use the terms "insurgents" or "“guerillas"” to describe the Sunni Triangle gunmen, as if these murderous thugs represented a traditional national liberation movement. But when the Times reports on similar groups of masked reactionary killers operating in Latin American countries, they utilize the phrase "paramilitary death squads."” Same murderers, different designations. Yet of the two, "insurgents" —and especially "“guerillas" —has a claim on our sympathies that "paramilitaries?” lacks. This is not semantics: imagine if the media routinely called the Sunni Triangle gunmen "right wing paramilitary death squads." Not only would the description be more accurate, but it would offer the American public a clear idea of the enemy in Iraq. And that, in turn, would bolster public attitudes toward the war. Supporters of the conflict in Iraq bear much blame for allowing the terminology - and, by extension, the narrative - —of events to slip from our grasp and into the hands of the anti-war camp. Words and ideas matter. Instead of saying that the Coalition "“invaded" Iraq and "“occupies"” it today, we could more precisely claim that the allies liberated the country and are currently reconstructing it. More than cosmetic changes, these definitions reflect the nobility of our effort in Iraq, and steal rhetorical ammunition from the left. The most despicable misuse of terminology, however, occurs when Leftists call the Saddamites and foreign jihadists "“the resistance."” What an example of moral inversion! For the fact is, paramilitary death squads are attacking the Iraqi people. And those who oppose the killers--the Iraqi police and National Guardsmen, members of the Allawi government, people like Nour - they are the "“resistance."” They are preventing Islamofascists from seizing Iraq, they are resisting evil men from turning the entire nation into a mass slaughterhouse like we saw in re-liberated Falluja. Anyone who cares about success in our struggle against Islamofascism - —or upholds principles of moral clarity and lucid thought - —should combat such Orwellian distortions of our language. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ it's a beginning !! "Today, this editorial board (The Dallas Morning News) resolves to sacrifice another word -- 'insurgent' -- on the altar of precise language. No longer will we refer to suicide bombers or anyone else in Iraq who targets and kills children and other innocent civilians as 'insurgents.' The notion that these murderers in any way are nobly rising up against a sitting government in a principled fight for freedom has become, on its face, absurd. They drove that point home with chilling clarity Wednesday in a poor Shiite neighborhood. As children crowded around U.S. soldiers handing out candy and toys in a gesture of good will, a bomb-laden SUV rolled up and exploded. These children were not collateral damage. They were targets. The SUV driver was no insurgent. He was a terrorist. People who set off bombs on London trains are not insurgents. We would never think of calling them anything other than what they are -- terrorists. Words have meanings. Whether too timid, sensitive or 'open-minded,' we've resisted drawing a direct line between homicidal bombers everywhere else in the world and the ones who blow up Iraqi civilians or behead aid workers. No more. To call them 'insurgents' insults every legitimate insurgency in modern history. They are terrorists." --The Dallas Morning News
  3. December 13, 2004, 8:52 a.m. The Power of Shame Why so many American’s don’t get the Sunni opposition. By Steven Vincent The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not "insurgents" or "terrorists" or "The Enemy." They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow — and they will win. — Michael Moore She was a Sunni Muslim, an attractive, thirty-something writer, one of the few women I met who eschewed a scarf in public. And she was overjoyed at the demise of Saddam. "I am so happy! Freedom at last! The world is open to me now!" she exclaimed during a small social function at an art gallery in Karada. "Can you recommend some American magazines I might send my writing to?" I promised I'd draw up a list of suitable periodicals, then added — carelessly, for this was my first trip to Iraq — "You must not mind seeing American soldiers on the streets." The woman's smile vanished. Her brow darkened and she shook her head. "Oh, no. I hate the soldiers. I hate them so much I fantasize about taking a gun and shooting one dead." Stunned by her vehemence, "But American soldiers are responsible for your freedom!" I replied. "I know," the woman snarled. "And you can't imagine how humiliated that makes me feel." He was a short, intense, bespectacled lawyer from Baquba, who claimed he had connections with anti-Coalition forces in the Sunni Triangle. As we drove through the desert into Baghdad, "I hate your country," he informed me. "Every time I see a U.S. tank I feel like it is crushing my skull." Less startled by this expression — for this was my second trip to Iraq — I asked the attorney the cause of his feelings. As if explaining the most self-evident thing in the world, he replied, "America is occupying my country — as a patriot, of course I must resist." He fixed his wire-rimmed gaze on me. "Imagine if a foreign power was occupying America — wouldn't you resist?" I think of these people each time I read about violence in the Sunni Triangle, that one-hundred-mile area stretching from Tikrit to the north, Ramadi to the east, and Baghdad to the west. I think of similar Iraqi confessions of shame, resentment, or "patriotism" each time I hear of an American soldier or Iraqi civilian killed by an IED, mortar assault, or car bomb. I feel a simmering anger over the pointlessness of these attacks and those aspects of Arab psychology that cling to humiliation and rely on violence to satisfy grievances. And my anger burns hotter when I read comments from the Western media ennobling these murderous "insurgents" by calling them the "Resistance" — or, more horribly, the "Revolution" — ignoring the thousands of Iraqis who risk their lives every day opposing the nihilistic bloodlust of these men. After more than eighteen months of fighting in Iraq, there seems to be no means of dealing with this insurrection. The Kurds and the Shia (renegade cleric Moqtada al-Sadr notwithstanding) have shown a willingness to negotiate over the future of Iraq — why not the Sunnis? What do they hope to gain from their "guerrilla" war against the U.S. and against the interim government of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi? More important, what factors in the Arab Iraqi character lie behind Sunni opposition to a democratic Iraq, and why can't American politicians, military personnel and members of the media seem to understand them? ******* Nothing is more humiliating to a man than to be the subject of another man's authority. — Arab proverb We hadn't considered it, those of us who supported the war. After all, it made no sense, it was unreasonable. And yet, the moment I spoke to that woman at the art gallery, I knew: even as they were being liberating from Saddam, Iraqis felt shamed by the fact that they couldn't do the job themselves. "If only you'd given us more time, we would have risen up and overthrown him," a waiter at the Orient Palace lectured me a couple of days later. "It's terrible, when I think of it," a student at Baghdad University said. "A foreign army has to come across the world to free us from Saddam — who are we, then?" This sense of indignity, of loss of "face," explained the ungracious gratitude many Iraqis evinced toward the U.S. — the "Thanks America, now go home" syndrome. How naïve we were to believe that they would greet our troops with flowers, as Dick Cheney so famously and wrongly predicted. As the Center for Strategic and International Studies explained in a report on Iraq's reconstruction, "the United States should expect continuing resentment and disaffection even if the U.S.-led reconstruction efforts seem to be making positive, incremental improvements to the country according to quantifiable measures. In other words, the occupation will not be judged by the sum of its consequences, but rather qua occupation." In retrospect, it seems obvious. No one likes being beholden to another for his freedom. The Iraqis consider it incomprehensible that a people with a glorious Sumerian and Babylonian heritage and a country with rich natural resources had to rely on foreigners for rescue. "No wonder civilization began here," said a teacher at the Shabandar café. "We have everything — food, water, oil, minerals." This pride, however, has its negatives. Since Iraq today isn't in much of a position to fulfill its potential, its people often project their sense of superiority outward — most notably on the United States — which only reinforces their sense of national disgrace. December 14, 2004, 3:50 p.m. America the Omnipotent Many Iraqis overestimated U.S. capabilities. France may see us as a barely-restrainable "hyperpower"; the Iraqis — at least in the beginning of the "occupation" — saw us as simply omnipotent. The ease with which our armies overran their country reinforced that idea, as did America's chest-thumping over its technological know-how. As a result, many Iraqis developed a warped view of U.S. competence and intentions. Since America was all-powerful, they reasoned, we couldn't make mistakes or act incompetently: such blunders must really be part of some Bush Administration master strategy. Take, for example, the looting and fires that wracked Baghdad immediately after Saddam's fall. Where we might blame a catastrophic lack of Pentagon foresight, numerous Iraqis contended that America encouraged the looting in order to demonstrate the Iraqi people's inability to govern themselves. Approaching the status of an urban legend was the story of GIs who broke open the National Museum and invited passersby to help themselves to priceless antiquities. A cab driver swore to me that he had witnessed American soldiers exhorting crowds to ransack government buildings with hearty cries of, "Go on, people, take what you want!" I heard similar stories about Americans urging the pillage of expensive homes in Karada — although in my perambulations through the neighborhood, I saw no evidence of such damage. But that is incidental: the real point of these stories isn't truth, but rather the comfort they provide Iraqi people in shifting the blame for acts of criminal vandalism from themselves to devious Uncle Sam. The overestimation of U.S. capabilities also distorted Iraqi notions of what to expect from our country. Since America was omnipotent, why couldn't it gin up the electrical grid, restore peace and tranquility, and provide employment to everyone — today? Here again, the U.S. was victim both of Iraqi projections and its own high-tech wizardry. Try to explain to an Iraqi housewife the difficulties of repairing an electrical system decades out of date and beset by saboteurs, and she'd cock a skeptical eyebrow. This from a nation with weapons so smart they can look up a target's address in the Baghdad yellow pages? No, the only reason America dropped the quality-of-life ball was that Bush wanted to keep Iraq downtrodden and dependent. Not every Iraqi thought this way, of course. Still, I encountered these sentiments often enough to recognize that they pervade the nation's self-image and compensate for another, equally unrealistic, but even more debilitating characteristic: severe feelings of defeat and impotence. As Raphael Patai wrote in his classic, and controversial, 1974 book, The Arab Mind, "The encounter with the West produced a disturbing inferiority complex in the Arab mind which in itself makes it more difficult to shake off the shackles of stagnation." A good illustration of Patai's observation was the conversation I had with Ahmed, the piano player at Fifties. Possessed of a superb knowledge of the American songbook, Ahmed would play, at my request, medleys of Sinatra songs, accompanying himself in a reedy, but serviceable, voice. One night, however, he ventured beyond "Angel Eyes" and "A Quarter to Three" to give me the low-down on the Iraq situation. "The only reason America invaded was to steal our national resources," he confided, during a break from his ivory-tickling. Ahmed's proof? America didn't actually have to invade Iraq in order to topple Saddam, he noted; all it really had to do was beam down special radiation from super-secret satellites orbiting overhead, which would scramble Baath Party communications and enable "the Iraqi people to overthrow Saddam." Why hadn't they overthrown him before? "Saddam wasn't in power just by himself, you know — he had very powerful backers." And who were these backers? "The Jews," Ahmed replied. You see, Jews not only supported Saddam, the pianist maintained, but also manipulated him into attacking Iran in order to "keep the Arabs down and — " At this point, I requested he play "Send in the Clowns," and escaped to my room. It is tempting to discount Ahmed's analysis as typical of the anti-Semitism one finds with tedious regularity in Iraq. But it reveals many of the demons that lie beneath the surface of the Iraqi national character: historical grievances, conspiratorial thinking, and a kind of bi-polar superiority-inferiority dynamic. Moreover, his comments point to another, equally troubling impulse that confuses Western observers and informs the nature of the Iraqi "insurgency": an unwillingness to take the blame for Saddam. As dissident Iraqi intellectual Kanan Makiya wrote in The Monument, his 1991 book about art and culture in Iraq, "The question of responsibility has to be posed completely differently in a state ruled by fear than it would in an ordinary state, because on the whole the populace does not feel itself responsible for the actions of its rulers, even when it knows that momentous life and death decisions are taken in its name." Iraqis refuse to accept that their society allowed a monster like Saddam to take power. Instead, they see him as an aberration, as if he were a maniacal gunman who suddenly burst into their homes, seized their families, and terrorized their neighbors, until the police finally stormed in and captured the lunatic. Now, standing amidst the ruins caused by the raid, they say to their rescuers, "It wasn't our fault this madman got in here. Thanks for getting rid of him — now, how soon are you going to repair our house?" They overlook that from 1968 to 1980, Iraq lived happily under the control of the Nazi-inspired Baath Party, while reaping the benefits of an oil-rich economy. (How many times did I hear how wonderful Baghdad was in the 1970s?) Not until Saddam seized complete control of the nation in 1979 and launched the war on Iran — and then on the Kurds, and then on Kuwait, and then on the Shia — did they realize they belonged to a madman. But by then it was too late. At the same time, though, there are many Iraqis who, like my Baquba lawyer, don't care why American troops are in their country, only that they are here — and so must pay for that offense in lost and shattered lives. The shame that many Iraqis feel is not enough to compel them to take up arms against the Coalition — if that were the case, the volume of weaponry in Baghdad alone would make the U.S. presence untenable. (The Shia, in particular, must have enormous secret depots of small-arms ordinance just to shoot into the air to celebrate marriages.) Rather, there is another, more combustible aspect in the Iraqi personality, something that seeks healing for the wound of humiliation in violence and bloodletting. To find it, I traveled to the Sunni Triangle itself. December 15, 2004, 8:58 a.m. The Oppressive Occupier? This wasn’t how the liberation was supposed to go. Violence is a cleansing force. It frees the native from his inferiority complex and from his despair and inaction; it makes him fearless and restores his self-respect. — Franz Fanon Nam, nam, Saddam! (Yes, yes, Saddam!) — An Iraqi boy, Fallujah, January, 2004 One beautiful late winter morning, I found myself standing on a street corner in downtown Fallujah, surrounded by a crowd of Iraqi men, each person shoving forward to express an identical sentiment: hatred for the United States of America. "America bad, worse than Saddam. They must leave our country at once!" one man growled. "American soldiers no good. Life was better under Saddam!" said another. "We have no gas, no electricity, no security. When Saddam was president, everything was fine, life was good." "Saddam was a good man. We hate President Bush! We hate America!" The conversation didn't start this way. At first, I approached two men on the corner and we engaged in a reasonable, relatively balanced critique of the U.S. presence near their city. Gradually, though, as more people joined the group, the volume of the voices rose. Each accusation against America spawned another, harsher, castigation. Newcomers entering the discussion added even more severe views, until the entire encounter took on a radical tone. It was a phenomenon I noticed several times over there, especially in the Sunni Triangle. In heated conversation, there was a rush toward the extremes: the more vehement and violent the view, the more likely it would emerge as the consensus of a group. Not that I was particularly alarmed this morning. Anticipating a flood of anti-American invective in this ancient smugglers den thirty-five miles west of Baghdad, I identified myself as a Yugoslavian journalist, gambling on Iraqi ignorance of southeast Europe to see the deception through. It worked. No one challenged me, or asked for any documents; in fact, nearly everyone was exceedingly polite, if agitated. Perhaps the residents didn't care where a reporter was from, just as long as he gave an ear to their complaints. "The people here are angry," observed Dhia, as we drove away, passing a broken-down amusement park near Fallujah's souk. I nodded, resisting a temptation to ask him what he felt about America: the last thing I needed was to be alienated from my own driver in the heart of the Sunni Triangle. I met Dhia in the fall when I asked the Armenian desk clerk at the Orient Palace to recommend someone to take me to the holy Shia cities of Karbala and Najaf. A gentle, slightly effeminate man with a soft smile and feathery voice, the twenty-nine-year-old dressed in neat slacks and polo shirts, had a good command of English, and drove his own BMW. In our travels throughout southern Iraq, he proved a good and trustworthy companion. When I returned to Iraq that winter, I contacted him, asking if he could take me to the towns of the Sunni Triangle. "No problem, Mister Steve — with me, you will be safe," Dhia promised. And so, under his watchful eye, I assessed the intensity of anti-American sentiment. In Ramadi, a bustling market town of around 450,000 people, I conversed with a man preparing for the Friday lunch rush at an outdoor café. "America should leave now, not tomorrow," he declared, chopping lamb into little kebob squares. "Iraq is not safe because they are here. Americans shoot anyone, they break into homes and steal money." At a tea stand, a studious-looking young man shook his head. "At first we welcomed America. Then the soldiers began killing people." Another crowd gathered, everyone eager to tell the inquisitive Yugoslav why they despise the U.S.: no electricity, no gas; GIs break into houses, arrest people, and "touch" women. Life was better under Saddam. I asked nine small boys gawking at me if the former dictator was a "good man." All nine said yes. One can perhaps understand why. Although totaling around 15 percent of Iraq's Arab population, the Sunnis have dominated Iraq since the mid-sixteenth century, when the Ottoman Empire used the sect as a bulwark against the Shia-influenced Persians to the east. In the twentieth century, the British and Iraq's British-controlled monarchy continued the policy of favoring the Sunnis and their well-developed administrative skills. Under Saddam, a Sunni himself, the religious sect reached the apogee of its power, thriving under a system of patronage and government benefits that awarded them top positions in all aspects of Iraqi life. In 2003, the American war machine ended their reign; suddenly, the jobs, pensions, and prestige the Sunnis used to lord over the Kurds and Shia were gone. On a Ramadi street corner, I found a graying old man wearing a tattered brown sweater struggling to serve a small knot of men gathered around his portable tea stand. "I was a teacher, in my retirement," he related when the rush subsided and he had a moment to talk. "I received a nice pension from the government. When the Americans came at first I was happy — no more Saddam! Then they cut my pension. Later, they gave me $30 a month, then raised it to $60. But how can I live on that much? I had to come out of retirement. Meanwhile, there is no gas, no electricity, no salaries for the people. When Saddam was in power, we had all this. My life was fine. Now look at me. I have to sell tea to support my family." En route to Khaldiya, we encountered a parked m-1 Abrams tank, its barrel aimed at windshield level at oncoming traffic. Dhia, however, would not enter the town itself. "They kill foreigners there," he murmured, reminding me that a few days previously, an IED killed three GIs in the area. Instead, we stopped at a roadside vegetable stand for an earful of anti-U.S. vituperation. At one point, a young man motioned toward three Bradleys lumbering down the road. "There go the Ali Baba," he spat. I noticed that Iraqis either sped up or slowed down to distance themselves from the convoy; one car actually drove off the road. No one wanted to be near a potential target of an IED or a rocket-propelled grenade. It was painful to see America the object of so much hatred and fear, the very image of an oppressive occupier. It was worse when we found ourselves behind a trio of Humvees. Dhia crept several car lengths behind the rear vehicle, and I looked at the GI manning the roof-mounted m60 machine gun (Where was he from? What city? Where did his parents live?), reflecting on the isolation of these young men out here, how the Iraqis shun and avoid them, even as they face the threat that a roadside pile of debris will erupt into fire and shrapnel. This was not how the liberation was supposed to go. December 16, 2004, 8:38 a.m. Rage Against the Foreigner Dishonor propelled the Sunni insurgency. In Fallujah, Dhia and I visit the headquarters of the Islamic Political Party of Iraq. There, I asked a Sunni cleric seated on his diwan, or long couch, why he thought his Shia brethren had proven more cooperative with the U.S. He offered a mirthless smile. "The Shia think America liberated them from Saddam. But America did not come to liberate, they came for oil. America must leave immediately." But without the presence of U.S. troops, wouldn't Iraq slide into terrorist violence? "Let the soldiers leave, peace will come," the cleric replied, fingering his prayer beads. "They are the terrorists who kill the Iraqi people." He has a point. Heavily-armed American soldiers, untrained for the kind of constabulary work that urban combat demands, are guilty of killing Iraqi civilians. In April, 2003, for example, 82nd Airborne troops in Fallujah shot and killed eighteen, apparently unarmed Iraqis; in September, 2003, troops mistakenly killed eight policemen just west of the city. In every town through the Sunni Triangle, similar incidents have taken place. (The military claims it does not keep statistics on civilian deaths.) Moreover, the day-to-day aspects of the American presence are infuriating: roadblocks, bridge closings, curfews. House searches can be brutal: doors kicked in, furniture overturned, rooms ransacked, whole families rousted. In the Sunni Triangle, American troops truly are an occupier. Over the next couple of weeks, Dhia and I crisscrossed the area, popping out of his car in towns west of Baghdad, as well as in Samarra, Baquba, and Tikrit (hometown of Uncle Saddam) to the north, to interview tea sellers, waiters, students, clerics, and unemployed Baathist-supporting thugs. Again and again, I heard the same litany of complaints about U.S soldiers — civilian casualties, thefts from houses, vague accusations that "they touch women." The charges sounded serious — a number of them were no doubt true. But could they all be true? Had each of these Iraqis actually seen or experienced such abuses, or were they simply repeating rumors? In Fallujah one afternoon, I chatted with three guys at a corner tea stand who swore that, just the day before, they saw a U.S. soldier shoot a woman dead in the street. A week earlier, they continued, another GI killed a man and his son who were working as night guards in a garage. My heart sinking, I asked for directions to the scene of the woman's murder, and within minutes, Dhia and I were at the vacant street corner, where, by good fortune, a policeman was walking by. No, the men in the teahouse were wrong, the cop explained to my relief. The woman's slayer was a local man whose father had been murdered by her son. "Revenge," he shrugged. "She was Kurdish," he added, as if that explained something. With his intelligent eyes, ruddy complexion, and barber-shop-quartet moustache, the officer struck me as a decent fellow able to separate fact from rumor when it came to reports of American crimes. I asked him about the father and son killed at the garage. "Oh, yes," his jaw clenching, "that was done by an American soldier." "What happened to the soldier?" "Nothing! Nothing ever happens to the soldiers who kill us." "Does it happen a lot?" The policeman's face turned crimson. "Americans have killed thousands of Iraqis since they came here. Do you hear me? Thousands! They killed my brother's thirteen-year-old son, his only son!" I had struck a nerve: faster and faster spilled the man's words, a kind of reverse-image of the pro-American Shia cab driver I had met in Baghdad three months earlier. "The Americans hate the Sunnis and insha'allah, we hate them. Believe me, this is why the people kill the soldiers! We were kings when Saddam was president — now what? Nothing! Life is so expensive, there are no jobs — especially for Sunnis! This is what George Bush brings us! Nothing! Saddam's shoes are better than George Bush!" Trembling with rage, he thrust a finger in my face. "In Fallujah, there are 135 mosques! This is a Muslim city. It is forbidden for Americans to be here. The people of Fallujah say, 'You must leave!' Especially to the American soldiers, for they are all Zionists! And they are here with fighters from other Arab countries, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia. All here with Zionist America to steal from Iraq!" Just when I feared the policeman might explode, his feverish anger seemed to break, and he blinked and looked at Dhia and me as if noticing us for the first time. Then he invited us for lunch. It was the Iraqi temperament all over again. The policeman began reasonably enough, accusing the GIs of civilian deaths. But Arab anger is a volatile force, one that easily "sweeps over the dam of self-control and in an astonishingly short period of time transforms the entire personality," as Patai writes. From denouncing U.S. soldiers, it was a short step for the cop to declare his support for Saddam, anger at the "infidel" and hatred for Zionists, the whole ascending scale of rage climaxing with his view of Iraq as the victim of a worldwide conspiracy. (Although, in fairness, his mention of the Arab fighters was a tantalizing reference to foreign jihadists operating in the Sunni Triangle.) Then, just as suddenly, he calmed down and seemed to emerge from his fury. I felt sympathy for him, as I did for most of the Sunnis I spoke with. And yet, the same question kept nagging me: What do they want? What is the point of this "Resistance?" From Tikrit to Ramadi, whenever I asked people what they thought killing American troops would achieve, they voiced the hope that the bloodshed would drive the hated foreigner out of Iraq. When I suggested that perhaps an easier way to attain such an end would be to form a stable democratic government that would then ask the U.S. to leave — giving America no pretext to remain in the country — people looked at me with a blank expression. Even more startling, at least for me, were the Sunni responses when I asked them what kind of government they envisioned if the U.S. suddenly did up and leave. Nearly everyone declared their interest in a new Saddam ("Only more democratic," one Baquban qualified) or a reconstituted Baath Party. Never mind that neither of these alternatives was likely, given armed Kurds to the north, armed Shia to the south, and American interests in the country, not to mention Saddam's impending trial for war crimes. Nor did these Sunnis express the slightest misgivings about agitating for the return of a dictator who modeled himself after Stalin and a political party based on the National Socialists. They felt no responsibility for the crimes of the tyrant they wanted returned to power. Rather, it was the idea of the resurrected "strong man" they liked. It acted like a comforting balm on their sense of "rage" — that blind, amoral, unforgiving thirst for vengeance that fed on its own indignation until it drove many to violence. This vague, inchoate "rage against the foreigner" is nothing new in the Arab Middle East, of course. Especially in the aftermath of World War II, as David Pryce-Jones observes in his 1989 study of Arab culture, The Closed Circle. When Arab leaders began advocating nationalism, he writes, they "restricted themselves to the one-dimensional platform of evicting the Europeans," while at the same time refusing to "discuss what social and political institutions they might consider appropriate in the event of independence. One and all incited nationalism and then exploited it as the surest way of arousing the mob on their behalf, frightening the authorities, demoralizing the Europeans, and so levering themselves as their successors into the positions of supreme power holders. What would actually happen in the event of their seizing the state, they left undefined." Fifty years later, the situation is the same, only now anonymous ex-Saddmites seek to demoralize and evict the United States in their hopes of transforming a slice of Iraq into a miniature caliphate. But this is not all that stokes the fires of Sunni hatred. Beneath Iraqi religious and political affiliations lies a complex web of family, clan, and tribal associations that knits the country together in a tradition-based social order. Whereas in Shia-dominated Iraq, religious leaders tend to command more respect than tribal sheikhs, in the Sunni Triangle, kinship groups like the Dulaym federation, the Shammar, the al-Jaburi, and Saddam's own tribe, al-Bu Nasir, have for centuries wielded considerable, if poorly-understood, power. Although the Ottomans, the British, and even the Baathists tried to circumscribe tribal authority, it has stubbornly persisted, especially in the form of behavioral codes derived from the earliest inhabitants of the desert. This "Bedouin substratum," as Patai terms it, affirms as its highest principles hospitality, courage, loyalty and, above all, honor — a concept which itself comprises virility, dignity, and martial valor. "All these different kinds of honor," Patai writes, "interlock to surround the Arab ego like a coat of armor." And if this psychic chain-mail is breached? The Arab, he continues, "must defend his public image. Any injury done to a man's honor must be revenged, or else he becomes permanently dishonored," Pryce-Jones writes. "Shame is a living death, not to be endured, requiring that it be avenged." For my part, I discovered this cultural and psychological phenomenon throughout the Sunni Triangle. While conversing with dozens of residents, I felt much less the anger of a population that was "occupied," "oppressed," or "enslaved" than the self-loathing of a people in disgrace. After decades of imperious rule, the Sunni Baathists were crushed by America — shamed, humiliated, they felt they had lost something perhaps even more precious than jobs or political power: honor. Dishonor. This, I came to understand, was a huge factor that propelled the Sunni insurgency and gave it such an air of pointless, self-destructive violence. It is also the reason, I believe, why non-Middle Eastern observers have such trouble understanding the nature of this conflict — particularly Americans, who have no real experience with those extended families called tribes. Nor do we feel any longer a visceral connection between honor and self-respect, or the necessity of the lex talionis ("an eye for an eye," or, as an Arab proverb has it, dam butlub dam, "blood demands blood") to avenge humiliation. But the militants in the Sunni Triangle do. In order to reclaim their personal, family and clan reputations, these Iraqis seek to kill American troops, for only American blood can redeem their honor. The roadside ambushes and barbaric immolations correspond to archaic tribal codes where self-respect is restored only through violence and loss of life. No wonder the insurgents — and many other Iraqis as well — seem to dwell on the edge of a bottomless chasm of rage: the shame they experience from the American invasion eats away at them. No wonder, too, that the insurgents' movement seems so vague. In my travels through the Sunni Triangle and my time in Baghdad I never once saw any symbols, propaganda, or call letters (FLN, NLF, IRA, and so on) that might refer to an organized "liberation front." These "resistance" fighters — or, à la Moore, Iraqi "minutemen" — seemed to have no leaders, issue no communiqués, propound no programs, or even have a name. But why should they? Their primary interest is their own "honor." They may claim they are "patriots" fighting for Iraq — many are, in fact, soldiers and officers from the old Iraqi Army — but at heart they see themselves as tribal warriors engaged in the venerable tradition of honor killings against the biggest tribe of all: America. By failing immediately to occupy and pacify the Sunni Triangle during the war, the U.S. allowed the affiliation between tribal groups and the Baath Party to reform and reassert itself. Gradually, a combination of embarrassment, humiliation, disgrace, and dishonor, fueled by a genuine diminution in the Sunnis' quality of life, compelled these Iraqis to seek revenge rather than political negotiation. Attacks on U.S. soldiers produced American counter-responses, killing Iraqi civilians and initiating further cycles of honor and revenge slayings. Gradually, the Sunni's tribal mentality drew the U.S. into a new kind of war: an unreasonable war fought not for familiar goals like territory, riches, or ideology, but for the irrational, intangible prizes of honor and self-respect. December 17, 2004, 8:43 a.m. The Wrong Words Moral and linguistic clarity are crucial in this conflict. We must also take action against our own Iraqi citizens who choose to collaborate with the enemy. . . . If someone you know is considering taking a job with the Americans, tell him that he is engaging in treason and encourage him to seek honest work instead. If he refuses, you must kill him as a warning to other weak-minded individuals.— Ted Rall As long as we're here, we're the occupying power. It's a very ugly word, but its true.— Paul Bremer Barely a week after my last visit to Fallujah, twenty-two policemen died when their station came under a fierce and organized assault by some seventy attackers. I have often wondered if my mustachioed friend with whom I lunched was among the fatalities, but I will never know. Nor will I ever know the identity of the assailants. Hearing about the attack in Baghdad, I surfed the internet for additional information. I found anti-war websites — among them, the indomitable Occupation Watch — that called the gunmen the "resistance." The London-based news service Reuters used the term "guerrillas"; another news source mentioned "insurgents." Returning to my room, I caught a BBC-TV newscaster who reported that the fighters were "insurgents, anti-Coalition forces, whatever you want to call them." Of those three descriptions, the BBC's was the most accurate — if nothing else, the reporter captured the confusion over what to call the combatants who continue to kill American soldiers and Iraqi civilians. Despite their VC-like stealth, are they really "guerillas"? Even though they appear to be rising up against a foreign "occupation," do they deserve the term "insurgents?" Although they, and others, claim they are "resisting" the Coalition, does that make them a "Resistance?" This is not mere semantics. The terms the media use to report on Iraq profoundly affect how Americans perceive this conflict and, by extension, how much blood and treasure they are willing to sacrifice on behalf of the Iraqi people. To put it another way, the degree to which America's conception of this war remains unclear and misleading constitute victories to those who would rob the Iraqis of their future. Moral clarity is crucial in this conflict. Unfortunately, America lost this clarity within weeks of the war's beginning. As soon as Saddam's statue fell in Firdousi Square, both pro- and anti-war camps accepted the notion that the U.S.-led Coalition was an "occupying" power. The term is accurate in a legal sense, of course, enshrined in international conventions and recognized by the U.N., but supporters of the war should have avoided and, when confronted with it, vigorously contested its use. For there is another way of viewing the situation. Once, in a Baghdad restaurant, I overhead some Westerners and Iraqis discussing the conflict — when the Westerners asked what they thought of the "occupation," one Iraqi retorted, "What 'occupation'? This is a liberation." Words matter. By not sufficiently challenging the term "occupation," Coalition supporters ceded crucial rhetorical ground to opponents of the war, and in the process fell into a dialectical trap. Simply put, the epithet "occupation" has a negative connotation — for example, "occupied France." Conversely, anyone who objects to being occupied and chooses to "resist" has our sympathies. (How many movies have you seen where the resistance fighters are the villains?) On an emotional level, skillfully manipulated by the Coalition's enemies, the situation in Iraq quickly boiled down to an easily grasped, if erroneous, equation: the occupation is bad; the resistance is good. Since the Coalition represented the negative pole, its motives, means, goals, and very presence were prejudged as suspect. In contrast, since the "Resistance" reflected the positive pole, it received automatic validation, if not the admiration and actual support of people all over the world. If one side suffered the burden of proof, the other enjoyed the benefit of the doubt. "America is occupying my country — of course I must resist," the Baquba lawyer had stated, a declaration that, in the minds of the anti-war crowd from Baghdad to Seattle, seems fair, legitimate, and admirable. In 2004, the June issue of Harper's featured an article entitled "Beyond Fallujah: A Year with the Iraqi Resistance." In the July 1 edition of England's Guardian newspaper, Seumas Milne, a bitter opponent of Iraq's liberation, wrote, "It has become ever clearer that [the insurgents] are in fact a classic resistance movement with widespread support waging an increasingly successful guerrilla war against the occupying armies." "Iraqi Resistance Breaks Away From Zarqawi," announced the July 5, 2004, Washington Times. The word "guerrillas" is used even more frequently: "ABC Footage Shows Iraqi Guerillas With Hostage," announced the website for ABC News on April 10. "Iraqi Guerrillas Gun Down Four Americans," declared the AP on June 21. "Guerrillas Seize Six Foreign Hostages In Iraq," read the AP headline for a July 21 article. Let's unpack these terms for a moment. What do we mean when we say the "Resistance?" Like the word "occupation," it is technically true: the people planting IEDs, piloting car bombs, and beheading foreign workers are "resisting" the Coalition. But like "occupation," "resistance" is not a neutral word. It conjures images of heroic struggles for national liberation: the French "Resistance," for example, or the Viet Cong or Algerian FLN. The same holds true with the word "guerrillas" — it, too, evokes heroic rebels, flaunting their independence in the face of impotent U.S. rage: Che, Fidel, Uncle Ho, Daniel Ortega, Sub-Commander Marcos. But apply these concepts to Iraq and you misrepresent the situation. The conflict there is not a mid-twentieth century colonial uprising. The anti-government fedayeen are not Fanon's "wretched of the earth." The gunmen are not "indigenous peoples" fighting an anti-imperialistic conflict. To view them through a Marxist-Chomskyite-anti-capitalist-Hollywood template is an exercise in false moral clarity. As New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote in October, 2003: "The great irony is that the Baathists and Arab dictators are opposing the U.S. in Iraq because — unlike many leftists — they understand exactly what this war is about. They understand that U.S. power is not being used in Iraq for oil, or imperialism, or to shore up a corrupt status quo, as it was in Vietnam and elsewhere in the Arab world during the cold war. They understand that this is the most radical-liberal revolutionary war the US has ever launched — a war of choice to install some democracy in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world." And this doesn't include the hundreds of foreign jihadists operating in Iraq. Their car bombs and kidnappings and beheadings form part of the "Resistance," too. In February, Coalition authorities intercepted a letter they believed originated from Jordanian terror-master Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Writing to unknown associates, this murderer — the man probably responsible for bombing the Jordanian Embassy, and decapitating Nicholas Berg — complained that "America has no intention of leaving, no matter how many wounded nor how bloody it becomes." Worse, he noted, the U.S. intends to pull its forces back to bases, replacing soldiers with Iraqis who "are intimately linked to the people of this region." He went on to write: "How can we kill their cousins and sons and under what pretext, after the Americans start withdrawing? The Americans will continue to control from their bases, but the sons of this land will be the authority. This is the democracy, we will have no pretext." Zarqawi clearly prefers that democracy fail in Iraq, thus forcing the U.S. to adopt a higher profile in the country — all to justify his terror campaigns. Campaigns specifically directed, he goes on to reveal, at Iraq's Shia population, in order to spark a sectarian war between the two Muslim groups: "The solution, and god only knows, is that we need to bring the Shia into the battle because it is the only way to prolong the duration of the fight between the infidels and us." So here, finally, we see in all their glory the anti-Coalition forces so admired by many on the left and in the media: ex-Baathists who kill American troops out of a sense of humiliation and dishonor, and foreign jihadists who wish to see the U.S. "occupiers" remain in the country in order to justify additional attacks against their fellow Muslims. What kind of "Resistance" is this? There is nothing romantic, Che Guavaresque, or progressive about the goals of these murderers: they are thugs, fighting for the most nihilistic of causes. How, then, should we describe this war? What words and concepts define the situation more accurately? Since Iraq is now liberated, we might replace "occupation" with a word taken from the post-Civil War era: "reconstruction," as in, "the Coalition is reconstructing Iraq." We might then exchange the term "guerrilla fighters" for the more precise term "paramilitaries." Rather than noble warriors fighting to liberate their people, "paramilitaries" evoke images of anonymous right-wing killers terrorizing a populace in the name of a repressive regime — which is exactly what the fedayeen and jihadists are doing. Or we could simply dust off the venerable term "fascists." It was a good enough for the anti-Republican forces in the Spanish Civil War. Why shouldn't we use it to describe similar enemies of freedom in Iraq? I repeat — words matter. Terms like "paramilitaries," "death squads," and "fascists" clarify the nature of our enemy and underscore a fundamental point that the American media has inexcusably ignored: it is the Iraqi people who are under attack. They are the victims, their future is threatened, they are bleeding from wounds inflicted by pan-Arab Baathists and pan-Islamic jihadists. By calling these neo-fascists the "Resistance" the media reverses the relationship of assailant and defender and renders a terrible disservice to the millions of Iraqis who oppose, in ways large and small, these totalitarian forces. Hadeel gave her life resisting fascism. Yet to the Ted Ralls and Michael Moores of this world, she was a Quisling who deserved to die. How did this happen? How did the media confuse the real forces of resistance — police officers, administrative workers, translators, truck drivers, judges, politicians and thousands of others — with men who plan car bombings, assassinate government officials, and rampage through religious shrines in their quest to reinstate tyranny? Part of the reason is the anti-American bent of the international media: many reporters will sacrifice anything — including journalistic integrity — to defame the U.S. effort in Iraq. Then there is the semantic problem of the word "occupation" and its pejorative connotation: in the rudimentary arithmetic of the media, anything that "resists" a negative must, by definition, be positive. But there is another, more banal reason for the press' confusion we might consider. Reporters, like generals, are always fighting the last war. And in their need to fix upon a narrative, baby-boomer journalists returned to a decades-old script that pits indigenous Third World freedom fighters against aging imperialist powers. Iraq became Vietnam redux — Apocalypse Again — only with sand and kheffiyas instead of deltas and black pajamas. (Neoconservatives, of course, hoped the conflict would resemble World War II, with Baghdadis dancing in the streets, waving American flags, and strewing flowers on the liberators.) Or maybe — heaven help us — Gen-x reporters may have seen the conflict as a replay of Star Wars: after all, whenever the empire strikes back, we root for the rebels, right? However it happened, today we suffer for our lack of clarity in this war. Unwilling to call our enemies fascists, afraid to condemn the brutal aspects of Iraqi and Arab culture, we have allowed the narrative to slip out of our control. Truth is made, not found, in Iraq. Gradually, in the war of ideas, the U.S. became the evil occupier, opposing the legitimate wishes of an indigenous "resistance." We forgot the lessons of Vietnam and the people whom our defeat abandoned to the Killing Fields, re-education camps, and desperate flotillas of boats: sometimes, the empire is on the side of right — and it is the rebels who deserve to be crushed. — Steven Vincent is a freelance investigative journalist and art critic living in New York City. He is blogging about Iraq at www.redzoneblog.com.
  4. these insurgent jahadist cockroaches have been given every opportunity to rejoin humanity...... NOW THEY WILL DIE and be sent straight to badWord !!! Monday, November 08, 2004 The Assault Begins The ground assault on Fallujah has apparently started -- from a surprising direction -- the river. According to the Bakersfield Californian; US forces stormed into western districts of Fallujah early Monday, seizing the main city hospital and securing two key bridges over the Euphrates river in what appeared to be the first stage of the long-expected assault on the insurgent stronghold. ... The action began after sundown on the outskirts of the city, which has been sealed off by U.S. and Iraqi forces, and the minaret-studded skyline was lit up with huge flashes of light. Flares were dropped to illuminate targets, and defenders fought back with heavy machine gunfire. Flaming red tracer rounds streaked through the night sky from guerrilla positions inside the city, 40 miles west of Baghdad. Although nothing is certain in war, there are indications that the reduction of Fallujah has a timeline measured in weeks rather than months. The British Black Watch regiment, which Chester believes is playing the role of a blocking force outside Fallujah has been attached to the operation for 30 days from the end of October. Blair has promised to bring the Black Watch home by Christmas. The senior officer said: "The operation is approximately thirty days' duration, approximately, i.e., it could be longer. And we've heard, but not formally, that we could be replaced, but that is a political, high-level military decision which I'm not going to go into." As Chester puts it, the British troops block any retreat to the north and east of the Euphrates (which is in the direction away from where the Marines assaulted last night the anvil to hammer) The Black Watch has moved to positions east of the Euphrates, at the request of US military commanders, in order to "stop reinforcements moving north and block the way of insurgents leaving the city." This is consistent with my prediction last week that the Black Watch will be serving as a blocking force, so that it can clean up any insurgents who flee to the east of the city of Fallujah. Presumably US planners have calculated that resistance in the central redoubt will have crumbled before the end of November and enemy survivors would then be trying to evade crosscountry to other Sunni towns to make sense of the Black Watch deployment. It should also be recalled that the Fallujah operation is part of a wider campaign against other strongholds in the Sunni triangle. In this connection, the 60-day declaration of Martial Law by Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawie on December 7 suggests a time horizon for related operations. Marine Corps News reports that several embedded reporters are having second thoughts about accompanying combat troops into the city on the basis of what they have been briefed to expect. The Marines recently embedded more than 30 media agencies with units that are operating in the Al Anbar province where the well-known towns of Ramadi and Fallujah are located. All were invited, many accepted the offer, but now some have doubts. The Marines are trained for this, the media is not, continued the CNN reporter who was actually covered other battles including the Iraq invasion during the spring of 2003. One photographer, who has prided himself since his arrival here, on being in more than 17 conflicts, says he is more worried about this operation than any before. Because of the tactics the insurgents are using there is much more uncertainty, he explained. He went on to say that he did not expect to have this much access or be this involved with the Marines when he arrived. “What if I get separated, what if I think I’m in a safe place and all of a sudden an insurgent walks in with a gun,” he said. Many of these reporters are experienced men who have been under some type of fire before. But the urban combat facing the troops they will accompany will probably consist of small units in constantly moving through a very dangerous kind of environment, full of IEDs, snipers and close-range engagements. In this situation, getting lost may well mean dying from enemy fire or blue on blue. Sticking close to Marine infantry advancing under fire is only slightly more palatable. Everyone knows the saying that 'war is badWord, you cannot refine it'; but Sherman might have added, 'you cannot describe it'. The Marines and many reporters will come to know what can never be described and what no sane person should ever hope to experience at first hand. # posted by wretchard : 2:01 AM 40 comments The Banner of Zarqawi Ralph Kinney Bennet at Tech Central Station asks why Zarqawi should fight for Falluja and whether his men have not already melted away to other Sunni towns in the face of the imminent American strike. The legendary Arab insurgent leader T. E. Lawrence described the characteristics of a guerrilla force as "speed and endurance, ubiquity and independence of arteries of supply." The "ubiquity" of al-Zarqawi and his fighters - their presence as a force to be reckoned with in Iraq -- will be severely compromised or eliminated if they choose to stay and fight in Fallujah. One partial answer is that Zarqawi will fight for Falluja for the same reasons he wanted it in the first place. Anecdotal evidence in April 2004 suggested that many bunkers had been built. The secondary explosions from US strikes over the last days implies that a lot of explosive has also been stored up. Zarqawi had invested quite a lot of effort into Fallujah and he would have done this only if it were valuable to him. The interesting and apparently paradoxical thing about terrorism -- which is often characterized as rootless and spectral -- is how rooted it is in sanctuaries, an apparent indication of their utility. Whether South Waziristan, Pankasi Gorge, the Bekaa Valley, Fallujah or the banlieus of Paris, terrorism apparently needs some locus in order to exert a material force. In Dark Networks the Belmont Club referred to idea of the Dunbar Number, which John Robb and others have related to terrorist networks. Robb observed: Distributed, dynamic terrorist networks cannot scale like hierarchical networks. The same network design that makes them resiliant against attack puts absolute limits on their size. If so, what are those limits? A good starting point is to look at limits to group size within peaceful online communities on which we have extensive data -- terrorist networks are essentially geographically dispersed online communities. Chris Allen does a good job analyzing optimal group size with his critique of the Dunbar number. His analysis (replete with examples) shows that there is a gradual fall-off in effectiveness at 80 members, with an absolute fall-off at 150 members. The initial fall-off occurs, according to Chris, due to an increasing amount of effort spent on "grooming" the group to maintain cohesion. The absolute fall-off at 150 members occurs when grooming fails to stem dissatisfaction and dissension, which causes the group to cleave apart into smaller subgroups (that may remain affiliated). Al Qaeda may have been able to grow much larger than this when it ran physical training camps in Afghanistan. Physical proximity allowed al Qaeda to operate as a hierarchy along military lines, complete with middle management (or at least a mix of a hierarchy in Afghanistan and a distributed network outside of Afghanistan). Once those camps were broken apart, the factors listed above were likely to have caused the fragmentation we see today (lots of references to this in the news). Chester says more or less the same thing in commonsense terms. ... the sanctuary of weaponry, local political support, command and control infrastructure (however sophisticated), and ready ties to cash sources cannot be picked up and moved. I've touched on this earlier when I mention why I think Zarqawi is still in the city. I'm not saying that small bands of insurgents can't leave, posing as civilians and setting up shop elsewhere. What I'm saying is that by doing so, they will completely cut themselves off from command and control from above, and will no longer be able to mass in a single place. The US won't let this happen again. Therefore, if some small groups do leave, even if they are successful afterwards in some bombings or beheadings, eventually they will run out of steam without the logistical, moral, and command support that can be readily found when they have coalesced in a physical place. Lawrence's Arab guerillas always had a base, -- their tribes -- fixed in concept yet mobile as camels and his perennial difficulty was keeping the tribes in the field in the face of pastoral demands. It was a difficulty Lawrence did not surmount until he obtained sufficient gold from General Allenby to keep his warriors in funds, for ride where they would, the desert legions could live only for as long as somewhere, their tribe existed. When Falluja is taken, Zarqawi's tribe will be dispersed, to meet furtively by the roadside perhaps, but never to muster under their full banner again. # posted by wretchard : 6:19 AM 38 comments Tuesday, November 09, 2004 Fallujah Again Although the US military has refused to give a timeline for the capture of Fallujah developments suggest they are moving at very rapid operational pace. Hours after starting the offensive, U.S. tanks and Humvees from the 1st Infantry Division entered the northeastern Askari neighborhood, the first ground assault into an insurgent bastion. In the northwestern area of the city, U.S. troops advanced slowly after dusk on the Jolan neighborhood, a warren of alleyways where Sunni militants have dug in. Artillery, tanks and warplanes pounded the district's northern edge, softening the defenses and trying to set off any bombs or boobytraps planted by the militants. Marines were visible on rooftops in Jolan. This reporter, located at a U.S. camp near the city, saw orange explosions lighting up the district's palm trees, minarets and dusty roofs, and a fire burning on the city's edge. Just outside the Jolan and Askari neighborhoods, Iraqi troops deployed with U.S. forces took over a train station after the Americans fired on it to drive off fighters. The Fallujah can be conceived as a rough rectangle two miles on a side bounded by the Euphrates to the west, the railroad track to the north, a highway to the east and an "industrial park" and suburbs to the south. The recognized enemy stronghold is the upper northwest corner called the Jolan but their forces are likely to be more widespread than that. But in two successive nights, US forces have compressed the enemy from three sides (probably a fourth, as it is likely the US has also seized the 'industrial area' to the southeast) and have actually penetrated the enemy stronghold of Jolan in parts, without any published casualties apart from the two Marines who died when their bulldozer flipped into the Euphrates. Readers will recall the same pattern of operations in Najaf where US infantry secured the buildings and rooftops while vehicles advanced on the streets below. In Najaf as in Fallujah too, apparently, US forces did not advance on a single broad front but snaked in to seize key areas, breaking up enemy defenses into pockets which can no longer support each other. The pockets may be further isolated by bulldozing fire lanes. The low number of casualties so far indicates that US forces have successfully sidestepped enemy forces the way a broken field runner dodges tackles. The Strategic Studies Institute warns that heavy casualties may result from assaulting "mini fortresses", but many of those redoubts may be entirely bypassed and fields of fire cleared around them. "The big fights, where you're going to see lots of casualties, are when defenders create miniature fortresses," Millen said. "Your infantry gets sucked into those things, and that's when you see casualties building up." U.S. forces have managed to keep casualties relatively low in previous urban battles in Iraq. In three weeks of fighting a Shiite Muslim insurgency in the streets and massive cemetery of Najaf this summer, seven Marines and two soldiers were killed out of a force of about 3,000. "If you go in there well and you go in there methodically - if you have a good plan - you're not going to have as many casualties," Millen said. I believe (speculation alert!) that the enemy mobile defense is nearly at an end; that his active response has probably fallen to pieces much quicker than he anticipated and they are probably going to concentrate their resistance into mutually supportive strongpoints or explosive barriers fairly soon. The enemy's remaining hope is to hit the "jackpot" by demolishing a building or blowing up a street just as US forces occupy or overrun it. As they become squeezed into a smaller and smaller area, the risk that US forces will run into an exploding house or building will increase. But the rapid progress of the last two nights may be tempting US commanders to accept the risks and snap at the enemy's heels. Going fast may prevent the enemy from setting up their defense. One almost certain thing is that a fearful execution is being inflicted on the enemy, and probably worst among their officers and NCOs. Tonight's events will probably indicate whether the US goes for broke or takes a more deliberate approach. Update The Daily Telegraph has an atmospheric article which describes the terrible effect of networked forces on the enemy inside Fallujah. "I got myself a real juicy target," shouted Sgt James Anyett, peering through the thermal sight of a Long Range Acquisition System (LRAS) mounted on one of Phantom's Humvees. "Prepare to copy that 89089226. Direction 202 degrees. Range 950 metres. I got five motherf****** in a building with weapons." A dozen loud booms rattle the sky and smoke rose as mortars rained down on the co-ordinates the sergeant had given. "Yeah," he yelled. "Battle Damage Assessment - nothing. Building's gone. I got my kills, I'm coming down. I just love my job." ... The insurgents, not understanding the capabilities of the LRAS, crept along rooftops and poked their heads out of windows. Even when they were more than a mile away, the soldiers of Phantom Troop had their eyes on them. Lt Jack Farley, a US Marines officer, sauntered over to compare notes with the Phantoms. "You guys get to do all the fun stuff," he said. "It's like a video game. We've taken small arms fire here all day. It just sounds like popcorn going off." This engagement is all the more chilling because it probably happened at night. Five enemy soldiers died simply because they could not comprehend how destruction could flow from an observer a mile away networked to mortars that could fire for effect without ranging. All over Fallujah virtual teams of snipers and fire-control observers are jockeying for lines of sight to deal death to the enemy. For many jihadis that one peek over a sill could be their last. "Everybody's curious," grinned Sgt Anyett as he waited for a sniper with a Russian-made Dragonov to show his face one last, fatal time. A bullet zinged by. ... His officers said that the plan to invade Fallujah involved months of detailed planning and elaborate "feints" designed to draw the insurgents out into the open and fool them into thinking the offensive would come from another side of the city. "They're probably thinking that we'll come in from the east," said Capt Natalie Friel, an intelligence officer with task force, before the battle. But the actual plan involves penetrating the city from the north and sweeping south. "I don't think they know what's coming. They have no idea of the magnitude," she said. "But their defences are pretty circular. They're prepared for any kind of direction. They've got strong points on all four corners of the city." The aim was to push the insurgents south, killing as many as possible, before swinging west. They would then be driven into the Euphrates. From UAVs wheeling overhead to Marines going through alleys linked by their intra-squad radios (a kind of headset and boom-mike operated comm device), the US force is generating lethal, real-time information which is almost immediately transformed into strike action. Against this, the jihadis have no chance. This doesn't mean (as I pointed out above) that there will be no American losses. The battlefield is too lethal to hope for that. But it does mean that terrorism has unleashed a terrible engine upon itself. Capabilities which didn't exist on September 11 have now been deployed in combat. It isn't that American forces have become inconceivably lethal that is scary; it is that the process has just started. Update 2 An NYT article with an accompanying photo essay illustrates the high level of skill which some of the enemy display. It's not that the enemy is dumb, just that the US is that much better. A sequence of photos shows US troops observing targets from a rooftop to call in fires. Right after the Americans scoot off, enemy mortars land on the roof, too late to hurt their tormentors. It is a perfect illustration of the lethality of information and essentially futile enemy attempts to negate it. As the battle progresses, enemy snipers, mortarmen and machinegunners -- who are desperately trying to deny Americans their lethal targeting information -- will be picked off or run low on ammunition. The combat, already lopsided to start with, will grow more unequal. If it sounds unfair, it’s meant to be. The Strategy Page points out that the enemy has dug tunnels under streets, utilized overhead cover and knocked holes in walls in an attempt to negate the US information warfare advantage. But the price for living like moles is relative immobility in trading concealment for stasis. The battle for Fallujah illustrates the relative strengths and weaknesses of both sides. The enemy, whatever his faults, is not obviously short on courage or resourcefulness and America can expect to encounter the same tenacity anywhere he is met. But against these strengths, enemy inherited not only the weakness of a poor technological base but a fundamentally flawed concept of American determination. They wrongly assumed, as Osama often claimed, that Americans were too morally weak to fight. They believed they could use physical remoteness and terrorist tactics to wage "asymmetrical warfare" on an American force geared to fight conventional battles -- the army of Desert Storm. Both these assumptions have proved poor bets. There are now tens of thousands of Americans with a good understanding of the Middle East; there are many systems now coming online which are designed to fight the terrorist enemy. They are going to get snowed under by the same tidal wave that buried the Imperial Japanese Army and the Wehrmacht in World War 2. Thinking Muslim and Arab leaders probably recognize the handwriting on the wall, but like the peace factions in wartime Germany and Japan, are still reluctant to step forward. This is tragic, because like the unequal struggle in Fallujah, once the US gains the strategic upper hand its advantages will progressively mount and a hideous, irresistible annihilation of enemy forces will unfold, until despair brings an enemy statesman forward; not too late for his society, but too tardy to save the wasted lives of their young men. # posted by wretchard : 1:52 AM 118 comments The Enemy Starts to Collapse Enemy resistance in Fallujah is starting to collapse, with US forces deep inside the city and fighters pulling back to their ultimate stronghold in the Jolan district. There is no more room to retreat with the Euphrates to the west and American forces on every side. Troops have been advancing towards the center, fighting insurgents armed with rifles and mortars street by street. Early on Tuesday the US-led troops reached a key objective early -- a mosque in the north part of Falluja. ... The BBC's Paul Wood, embedded with US soldiers - and whose reporting is subject to military restrictions - says US-led forces reached their first major objective early on Tuesday, when they surrounded al-Hidra mosque in the northern parts of Falluja. The US military said the building was being used as an arms depot and a meeting point for the leaders of the insurgency. Our correspondent says Iraqi forces fighting alongside US marines will storm it. Earlier, a US tank commander said guerrillas were putting up a strong fight in the north-western Jolan district. "These people are hardcore," Capt Robert Bodisch told Reuters news agency. "A man pulled out from behind a wall and fired an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) at my tank. I have to get another tank to go back in there." "I can see heavy street-fighting from my house in the center of the city -- US soldiers are here, moving from house to house", according to BBC reporter Fadil Badrani. A synoptic view of the same engagement comes from Ned Parker in the Australian. US troops moved from house to house through the Jolan neighbourhood of Fallujah yesterday, knocking down walls and spraying machinegun fire at buildings from which insurgents fought back with small arms and mortars. The US forces, supported by Iraqi soldiers, pushed towards the centre of the besieged rebel city as columns of smoke plumed skyward after a night of heavy air raids and artillery shelling. "We are downing them," said US marine officer Major Todd Desgrosseilliers. "We're using good old American firepower." A smattering of trained Iraqi forces accompanied the marines in their assault on the city, while more were poised on the outskirts, preparing to enter in an offensive codenamed Phantom Fury. Helicopter gunships swooped overhead, dropping flares on buildings from where the muzzles of insurgent rocket launchers jutted out, while the rebels fought back with anti-aircraft fire. White and red flashes lit the sky in a relentless barrage of artillery shells and aerial bombing that thundered throughout the night. Mortars are what the enemy has for reserves, the only part of their firepower that remains mobile on the Fallujah battlefield because its high-angle fire allows it to shoot over obstacles in built up areas. Enemy forces have also been known to volley RPGs upward into neighboring streets. But their fire is largely blind. They have no comms and direction centers to mass fires or shift them as the battle progresses. The BBC press account indicates that heavy armor has actually penetrated deep inside the city (with an armor company commander joking about the disabling of his vehicle) with infantry progressing over and through the walls of houses on either side (probably what the BBC reporter is describing as 'moving from house to house'). Today's news will tell whether American commanders have decided to keep up the tempo and profit from enemy confusion or slow down and reduce the remainder by fire. One of the factors will be the condition of the Iraqi troops fighting alongside Americans. As suggested in the article above, Iraqi troops are employed to clean out areas like mosques that have been bypassed by US forces. This is dangerous and exhausting work. The limited number of trained Iraqi troops may enforce a limit on tempo. As the enemy fragments it will become a battle of small unit holdouts in dozens of locations. Each enemy position is doomed but they will take time to clean out. Readers will remember that Fallujah is only a part of the wider campaign in the Sunni triangle. Chester has pointed out that the 3rd Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment, identified as fighting at Fallujah, was detached from Ramadi. The enemy is now trying to relieve pressure on Fallujah with demonstration attacks in Ramadi, where they may have sensed the departure of the battalion. This has taken the form of a repulsed car bomb attack on checkpoints controlling access to the city and low level skirmishing. This report from the AP describes how two enemy vehicles were destroyed as they bore down on a checkpoint. The military says five U-S troops have been injured after they attacked two suspected car bombs in the Iraqi city of Ramadi. It also says seven insurgents were killed in yesterday's attack. It gave few other details, but says the U-S troops wounded had shot at and destroyed the vehicles. In a portentous development, the Marines have apparently withdrawn their observation posts inside Ramadi. Middle East Online reports: Rebel fighters massed in the centre of the restive Iraqi city of Ramadi Tuesday after US military snipers withdrew from their positions following 24 hours of clashes, an AFP correspondent said. The US military could not immediately be contacted for comment. US snipers left a hotel from where they were able to control most of Ramadi's main roads, but the military remained in its headquarters in the governor's office nearby, the correspondent said. Other US soldiers left the city for their bases in the east and west of the city. As the snipers departed, large crowds of armed insurgents, their faces hidden by scarves, began dancing in the street and shooting in to the air, yelling "Allah Akbar" (God is great). Banners proclaiming solidarity with insurgents in Fallujah, where US-led forces launched a massive offensive to retake the city on Monday, were hung in the streets. "The residents of Ramadi condemn the attack against Fallujah and we appeal to the inhabitants of Ramadi to wage jihad against the American occupants who want to eradicate Islam," said one man who did not want to be named. An earlier generation of historians would call the withdrawal of snipers "bringing in the pickets" and concentrating the fist. The feeble enemy response suggests a real weakness. The car bomb attack and public demonstration of "fighters" who are apparently unable to hinder the comings and goings of snipers will be portrayed as a great jihadi victory but is pathetic in reality. They are being measured for a pine box and the best they can do is caper in the streets. In a few days 3rd Battalion will be back in Ramadi, together with powerful units currently busy in Fallujah and the dance tempo will change to a funeral march unless the enemy lays down his arms. Wellington once observed that "nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won." Nothing about it is nice; but better them than us. Update An Agence France Press report describes the terrible closed loop of networked firepower. For the first time in a major battle, guided artillery is being used in quantity. In addition to the now familiar JDAMs, or GPS guided bombs, there are now GPS guided shells. Space based positioning satellites, laser range finding, robotics and networked computing are now as much a part of infantry combat as the boot heel. "Body parts everywhere!" cries a US soldier as a shell crashes onto a group of suspected rebels in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, where a punishing torrent of firepower thundered down on Tuesday. More than 500 rounds of 155-millimetre Howitzer cannon shells have been fired on the besieged Sunni stronghold west of Baghdad since a US-Iraqi offensive to take control of the city started on Monday evening, said Sergeant Michael Hamby. Using a global positioning system, each shell is precision aimed and fired at insurgent spots, while unmanned reconnaisance aircraft check whether the target was hit and feed back the information, Hamby told AFP. "We probably had 20-to-30 air strikes in the Jolan and probably two-to-three times that in artillery missions," he said. Attack helicopters swooped overhead, dropping flares on buildings from where the muzzle of insurgent rocket heads jutted out. Though the enemy is to be frank, very brave, news reports them falling back everywhere. The Washington Post says: Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, commander of multinational forces in Iraq, predicted "several more days of tough urban fighting." He said insurgents were "fighting hard, but not to the death. They are falling back," adding that the U.S. advance was progressing "ahead of schedule." The enemy withdrawals have sometimes been explained by suggesting that the enemy is suckering in US forces into a trap. But this is impossible. Their backs are to the river and the Marines are across that. Every retrograde movement compresses the enemy into a smaller area and forces them to leave behind prepared positions painstakingly stockpiled with food, batteries and ammo. Running backward with wounded, they can't carry much ammunition and won't find any unless a prepared position is already available. And how does anyone stand fast in the face of the otherworldly violence of the American onslaught? Small bands of gunmen -- fewer than 20 -- were engaging U.S. troops, then falling back in the face of overwhelming fire from American tanks, 20mm cannons and heavy machine guns, said Time magazine reporter Michael Ware, embedded with troops. Ware reported that there appeared to be no civilians in the area he was in. On one thoroughfare in the city, U.S. troops traded fire with gunmen holed up in a row of houses about 100 yards away. An American gunner on an armored vehicle let loose with his machine gun, grinding the upper part of a small building to rubble. This is a description of platoon-sized enemy units attempting to hold back the Martians. The bravado of Al Jazeera has this completely wrong. If classical history were still widely taught, these scenes would be instantly recognizable as a rout, that terrible disintegration of ranks as the foe closes in before and behind. Describing the rout of the Roman Legions by Hannibal at Cannae, Livy wrote: It was a terrible slaughter. ... On a narrow area 48,000 corpses lay in heaps. ... Hannibal once more released non-Roman prisoners. ... Roman knight's gold rings were collected in baskets and later poured out onto the floor of the Carthaginian senate. One of the consuls Lucius Aemilius Paulus (and one of the preceding year's) were killed, as well as both quaestors of the consuls, 29 out of 48 military tribunes and 80 other senators. There can be no joy in war: it is always repulsive in actual detail, but if we are not left with the facts, then the world is deprived even of the doleful experience of the battlefield. The jihadi dream was a fraud. September 11 opened the door, not to Paradise but the portal to badWord and the jihadi nightmare will continue for as long as they are nourished on illusion and false encouragement. We are not their permanent enemies; that foe is within their breast. # posted by wretchard : 4:23 PM 91 comments Wednesday, November 10, 2004 badWord in a Very Small Place The Bakersfield Californian reports that US forces have reached the major east-west highway that runs through Fallujah. U.S. Marines said American forces had taken control Wednesday of 70 percent of Fallujah in the third day of a major offensive to retake the insurgent stronghold. Major Francis Piccoli, of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said enemy fighters were bottled up in a strip of the city flanking the major east-west highway that splits Fallujah. Army and Marine units had pushed south to the highway overnight, Piccoli said. ... As the American forces crossed the highway that split Fallujah, armored Army units stayed behind to guard the thoroughfare. To realize the significance of this, refer to this map from Global Security, which shows the start lines of the participating American units: USMC 3/1, USMC 3/5, Army 2/7 Cavalry, USMC 1/8, USMC 1/3 and Army 2/2 Infantry. These units were attacking north to south, down towards the highway. The east-west highway referred to in the paragraph above is the bright green line running horizontally across the map. US Army armor is now on that highway, after advancing south and probably swinging west. US forces are probably waiting across the highway. We are fairly sure of this because the London Telegraph recounted how a US Army Cavalry Unit was moving through the industrial area which is located in the southeast corner of the city, below the green line which represents the highway which US armor is now patrolling going north to south; that is up towards the highway. We know it is cavalry because they call their companies "troops". The flimsy metal door was ripped off its hinges as a hefty boot from a Legion platoon soldier made decisive contact. Inside the small room lay an AK-47 rifle, alarm clock parts and a handwritten notebook in Farsi. Moments earlier, the gunman, thought to be Iranian, had fled as Legion, Hunter and Outlaw platoons of the US army's Task Force 2-2 undertook one of the more dangerous tasks of the battle for Fallujah. Clearing buildings door to door in a guerrilla stronghold is risky at any time. Into the bargain this time, the platoons from Phantom troop had been ordered to sweep Fallujah's industrial zone, a haven for foreign fighters. Simply reading the map shows that the enemy is pinned in a strip north of the highway, which is now a barrier to further escape south. As Major Piccoli put it, the "enemy fighters were bottled up in a strip of the city flanking the major east-west highway that splits Fallujah". Pressing them against the highway are four US battalions from the north and two from the east. Two days ago, the Telegraph carried an interview with Captain Natalie Friel, which eerily anticipated this very outcome. "They're probably thinking that we'll come in from the east," said Capt Natalie Friel, an intelligence officer with task force, before the battle. But the actual plan involves penetrating the city from the north and sweeping south. "I don't think they know what's coming. They have no idea of the magnitude," she said. "But their defences are pretty circular. They're prepared for any kind of direction. They've got strong points on all four corners of the city." The aim was to push the insurgents south, killing as many as possible, before swinging west. They would then be driven into the Euphrates. The reader is invited to draw his own conclusions about the enemy's prospects in this position. They are pinned against the highway, with no exit north, east or south. # posted by wretchard : 8:14 AM 8 comments http://belmontclub.blogspot.com/
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