“He is neither a strategist nor is he schooled in the operational arts, nor is he a tactician, nor is he a general. Other than that he’s a great military man.” Once again, Norman Schwartzkopf’s assessment of Saddam’s military talents was proven correct. He might have added that the Bearded Lady of Tikrit was no soldier and no resistance leader. Just a paranoid pathetic disoriented disheveled ex-brute of a dictator hiding away in a crypt sized hole not fit for a dog burial.
When the US military finally located the Bearded Lady of Tikrit, they must have immediately realized that the Ace of Spades was no ace in the hole. He was packing a pistol and a few hundred thousand dollars. He didn’t even have a cell phone. Perhaps that explains why Bush’s speech, following the capture of Saddam, did not sound triumphal.
George Bush doesn’t have Saddam Hussein to kick around any more. But the resistance lingers on. Worst still, Saddam was still alive and will be accorded some kind of public trial. He might even have time to write his memoirs while preparing for his defense. That is no comfort to the many willing Iraqi, American, Arab and European collaborators who played along with Saddam during various stages of his reign of terror.
With Saddam out of the way, Iraqi patriots inclined to join the resistance against the Anglo-American invasion will be certain that a successful insurgency will not result in another decade under the bloody thumbs of the Lady of Tikrit. Put your feet in an Iraqi pair of shoes. Bush has yet to locate a single ounce of the fabled WMDs. Saddam and his sons pose no further threat to the future of Iraq. So what excuse does the Bush administration have for occupying their land and the oil beneath their sands?
The behavior of American troops has not exactly endeared them to the natives of our oil colony by the Tigris. Like most occupation armies, the American forces have not been able to avoid serious friction with their colonial subjects. The attitudes of many of the grunts on patrol probably mirror the views of Mississippi Senator Trent Lott. He was quoted as saying, “if we have to, we just mow the whole place down, see what happens” (Newsweek, November 10, 2003). In the next edition of the magazine, Newsweek published some very frank quotes from the frustrated troops. “F— ’em. Kill ’em all’ said one. Another had this to say, “I don’t trust the hajis. If they do something I’ll pop one of them.”
No, it’s not Vietnam. Back then, they used to refer to the natives with the equally derogatory ‘gooks’.
So, while the vast majority of Iraqis are elated that Saddam will finally be held accountable for his crimes, they don’t trust American intentions and they don’t appreciate the attitude of some of the American soldiers. It doesn’t help that they also understand that the architects of American policy are the very same anti-Arab racists who applaud Sharon’s repression of the Palestinians. In the Middle East, Wolfie the Liberator is seen as a vicious Likudnik operative.
Iraqis might have placed most of the blame for their suffering on Saddam and his Baathist thugs, but they ranked America second on their list of tormentors. With Saddam’s demise, America just moved into first place. More Iraqis were killed by the American enforced sanctions than those murdered in Saddam’s purges. Two of Saddam’s three disastrous wars were also battles against American armed forces that pulverized an army made up mostly of draftees. They were not just Saddam’s soldiers. They were also the sons and brothers of ordinary Iraqi citizens caught up in the darkest chapters of their modern history.
The humiliation of Iraqis during security sweeps and the rising body count of innocent civilians killed by edgy American soldiers have alienated a significant part of the population. A case can be made that these day to day encounters have been, in effect, a recruiting campaign for the insurgency.
It was pretty naÃ¯ve to buy into the notion that Saddam was playing a significant command and control role in coordinating the insurgency. Chances are he was hiding from Iraqis as much as he was hiding from the Americans. Yet, as recently as a few weeks ago, Douglas Jehl of the New York Times was reporting that Saddam was coordinating attacks against coalition forces. As usual, he was quoting ‘senior American officials’ (NYT, Oct 31, 2003). No doubt, this was just another Douglas Feith ‘leak’ to shore up the home front and promote the neo-con agenda. It is worth noting that Judith Miller of the Times played a similar role in propagating the WMD canards that paved the path to war.
But we are where we are. The Lady of Tikrit and her two boys are off the streets of Baghdad. Frustrated impatient American soldiers who want to go home and angry local insurgents who want to send them home are now contesting those very same streets. Recent history suggests that the locals are more likely to get their way. If only because rolling back this year’s insurgency obliges the occupation forces to hang around and deal with next year’s insurgency.
A little dose of pragmatism might go a long way to resolving this mess. Exploit Saddam’s capture as an opportunity to exit on a high note and achieve “peace with honor”. Half the amount of money being spent on the occupation could be put in a United Nations trust fund for rebuilding and stabilizing Iraq. The United States and Great Britain would than sign a formal non-belligerency treaty with an elected Iraqi leader. Elections can be set up in a month using the ration card system set up during the years of sanctions. American troops would than be rapidly withdrawn and replaced by an international security force. The Iraqis would come out ahead with their national pride intact. The United States will also stand to gain by not postponing the inevitable. Like they say in the occupation business, time is big money. The sooner you leave, the more you save in blood and treasure.
The domestic political fallout in an election year should not be a consideration. But, since it is, Bush should do what LBJ did and abandon his re-election plans to concentrate on the end game in Iraq. But first, fire all the delusional neo-cons and ship them to Tel Aviv.