Been There, Done That
Been There, Done That
Quote of the day (1): "Our military operations have as their object the defeat of the enemy, and the driving of him from these territories. In order to complete this task, I am charged with absolute and supreme control of all regions in which American troops operate; but our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators. Since the days of Halaka your city and your lands have been subject to the tyranny of strangers, your palaces have fallen into ruins, your gardens have sunk in desolation, and your forefathers and yourselves have groaned in bondage. Your sons have been carried off to wars not of your seeking, your wealth has been stripped from you by unjust men and squandered in distant places." (Okay, okay, so you have to replace that "American" with "British," but otherwiseâ€¦ from a proclamation issued to the inhabitants of Baghdad issued on March 19, 1917, by Lieut. General Sir Stanley Maude, shortly after the occupation of the city by British forces and now posted at Harper's Magazine on-line)
Quote of the day (2): "'You have to understand the Arab mind,' Capt. Todd Brown, a company commander with the Fourth Infantry Division, said as he stood outside the gates of Abu Hishma. 'The only thing they understand is force - force, pride and saving face.'" (This only sounds like it was spoken in 1917 â€¦ from Dexter Filkins, "Tough New Tactics by U.S. Tighten Grip on Iraq Towns, New York Times, 12/7)
The week that was
It was just another day, just another week in occupied
The Koreans were subcontracted to work for the
And oh yes, not so surprisingly, electricity in
"Today few scenes in postwar
Time magazine, on the basis of numerous meetings with the Iraqi insurgents (one of its journalists even seems to have gone out on an operation against an American base), reports on an increasingly well organized guerrilla movement into whose hands the military equivalent of all those TVs and refrigerators are pouring, and offers the following from an unnamed Pentagon official: "'They know they can't beat us militarily, but they think they might be able to defeat us politically.' The guerrillas are trying to drive
And the Iraqi Governing Council is now seen by a large majority of Iraqis as an illegitimate body, the creature of the occupiers. According to Steven Komarow of USA Today ("Iraq Governing Council in a 'serious crisis'," 12/3):
"A nationwide survey released on Monday by Oxford Research, a British consulting firm, found that nearly three-fourths of Iraqis had little or no confidence in the government led by
When you get desperate and panic -- and the Bush administration was as unprepared for a world out of control as the Pentagon was for what actually happened in post-war
When you see Bush fixer James Baker returning to the fray, you know you've hit a hairy moment. When the Sunni triangle is simply written off in "hearts and minds" terms and then occupied in an especially brutal and humiliating way, you know you're witnessing the writing off of those dreams of a "democratic," compliant Iraq.
John Barry and Evan Thomas of Newsweek offer this pungent quote ("Dissent in the Bunker," 12/15): "'This is what Westmoreland was doing in Vietnam,' says a top Special Forces commander, referring to the firepower-heavy tactics favored by the military's senior commander in Vietnam, Gen. William Westmoreland, who lost sight of America's essential mission in that lost war: winning the hearts and minds of the people."
"'The military has the money and the daily contact with the locals. But it's using the same tactics in a guerrilla struggle that led to defeat in
At the invaluable Common Dreams website, Ira Chernus suggests another, if allied image.
"When the debacle comes in
And yet, let it never be said that
The front-page Filkins piece on Sunday, Dec. 7, described this vividly. Much of the resistant Sunni triangle is being wrapped in barbed wire, enclosed and contained, West Bank-style.
"As the guerrilla war against Iraqi insurgents intensifies, American soldiers have begun wrapping entire villages in barbed wire. In selective cases, American soldiers are demolishing buildings thought to be used by Iraqi attackers. They have begun imprisoning the relatives of suspected guerrillas, in hopes of pressing the insurgents to turn themselves inâ€¦The response they chose is beginning to echo the Israeli counterinsurgency campaign in the occupied territoriesâ€¦
"American officials say they are not purposefully mimicking Israeli tactics, but they acknowledge that they have studied closely the Israeli experience in urban fighting. Ahead of the war, Israeli defense experts briefed American commanders on their experience in guerrilla and urban warfare. The Americans say there are no Israeli military advisers helping the Americans in
Filkins may be correct on this. Perhaps at this very moment there are no Israeli advisors there, but consider Julian Borger of the Guardian on the subject ("
"Israeli advisers are helping train
"US special forces teams are already behind the lines inside Syria attempting to kill foreign jihadists before they cross the border, and a group focused on the 'neutralisation' of guerrilla leaders is being set up, according to sources familiar with the operations.'This is basically an assassination programmeâ€¦ This is a hunter-killer team,' said a former senior US intelligence official, who added that he feared the new tactics and enhanced cooperation with Israel would only inflame a volatile situation in the Middle East. 'It is bonkers, insane. Here we are -- we're already being compared to
Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker claims ("Moving Targets," 12/15):
"Israeli commandos are expected to serve as ad-hoc advisers-again, in secret-when full-field operations [for these hunter-killer teams] beginâ€¦ There is much debate about whether targeting a large number of individuals is a practical-or politically effective-way to bring about stability in Iraq, especially given the frequent failure of American forces to obtain consistent and reliable information there.
"Americans in the field are trying to solve that problem by developing a new source of information: they plan to assemble teams drawn from the upper ranks of the old Iraqi intelligence services and train them to penetrate the insurgencyâ€¦ A former C.I.A. station chief described the strategy in simple terms: '
"But many of the officials I spoke to were skeptical of the Administration's plans. Many of them fear that the proposed operation-called 'preemptive manhunting' by one Pentagon adviser-has the potential to turn into another Phoenix Program."
This was, of course, the CIA assassination program that resulted in the deaths of somewhere between 20,000-40,000 Vietnamese, depending on whether you believe American or South Vietnamese figures, and was a pottage of corruption, war crimes, and settled scores.
Today, Dan Williams of Reuters added to the story ("US Eyeing Israeli Tactics for Iraq Insurgents," 12/9): "Mass assaults by covert squads of soldiers to confound guerrillas and swoops by troops posing as Arabs are among Israeli tactics U.S. forces are studying for use in Iraq, Israeli security sources said Tuesdayâ€¦ " He quotes a Senior Israeli Intelligence official as saying, "Israel has been providing advice on how to shift from a reliance on heavy, armored occupation troops to mobile forces that are more effective in quelling urban resistance and cause less friction with the general populace." Of course, if our army is buying the idea that the Israelis can teach us how to do an occupation with "less friction" -- maybe that's a misprint for "fiction" -- then do I have a bombed-out bridge to sell you!
And let's not forget about those Sharonista-style targeted assassinations from the air about which this administration is most enthusiastic and of which we've just had a horrifying Afghan example. An assassination strike to assassinate a low-level Taliban official netted nine dead children, the wrong man, and the wrong house destroyed; to be followed, of course, by one of those hopeless "investigations," which like others of its kind will undoubtedly quietly disappear beneath the waves.
Paul Woodward, who runs www.warincontext.org, wrote a brief, striking description of the shameful way CNN, as opposed to the BBC, reported this botched Afghan mission (Freedom from guilt doesn't imply freedom from blame). He ends his report (which should be read in full) this way: "The bottom line: If an American bomb falls on your house, be assured, it was dropped with the best of intentions."
Say whatever you want, you are what you do. If we destroy the houses of "suspects," enclose towns (remember the "strategic hamlets" of
There's usually something touching about the deep but modest desire of those uprooted from their surroundings to recreate home, or some small hint of home, elsewhere. But as in
"In Elzain Elzain's
"The cafeteria [in the Republican Palace], run by U.S. contractor KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton Inc., has retro silver tables that look like part of a 'Happy Days' setâ€¦ Near the swimming pool in the back is a giant television screen, which usually is showing sports events. On the rare occasions when people are able to break away from work, they come out here, often in shorts and T-shirts. There's a new gym with free weights and yoga classes."
But the people inside the Green Zone, who are, of course, supposed to be running
Digging Junior out of ditch
, the B1-Team (for Bush the Father) seems to be returning to the White House, empowered to search not for weapons of mass destruction but for an exit strategy that won't explode in the face of Bush the Son. With them, it seems, may come an older policy, the one that led us to support Saddam as Washington 's strongman back in the good old 1980s. (You know, back when we really understood how that Arab mind works and all). In Rupert Murdoch's flagship Australian paper, Simon Jenkins points out ("Needed: Iraqi boss with mo'," The Australian, 12/8) that Baghdad has now seen three regime changes within a year -- Saddam's overthrow, followed by that of the first American viceroy Jay Garner and now (so he claims anyway), L. Paul Bremer. Iraq
"[A strongman] strategy is now being rammed down the throat of the US administrator in Baghdad, Paul Bremer, by George W. Bush's new 'realist', Deputy National Security Adviser Bob Blackwill. He answers to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, not US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and is the new boss of
"The Pentagon, Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz, architects of the old 'idealist' strategy, are in retreat. The Iraqi Governing Council, which Bremer reluctantly created, will be disbanded.
While they've set Blackwill above the stinking heap of
"The dispatching of Baker, who will be assigned a
Behind such language can't you just hear the strangled cry, "Get me out of here!"
And only months ago their dreams were so filled with primal greed. It must be painful even to contemplate departure. In an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, John Dower, historian of America's post-World War II occupation of Japan, dismantled the President's recent claim that this occupation was "proceeding faster" than the Japanese one did. In the process, he made the following comparison ("History in the Remaking," 12/8):
"In 1945, no one dreamedâ€¦ that a small, makeshift team of civil-affairs specialists could just march into a complex, ravaged land with a few changes of clothing and install a government of handpicked favorites.
"Hereâ€¦ is the one area in which
Remarkably enough, it looks like we may actually be in the process of losing our various wars -- in
"Osama bin Laden, two years and three months after the
"There is a tendency in the west to play down - or ignore - the extent of Bin Laden's success. The US and
Containment in its post-cold war incarnation is already in tatters.
[This article first appeared on Tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news, and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, long time editor in publishing and author of The End of Victory Culture and The Last Days of Publishing.]