In a recent interview with CBS television, US Secretary of State Colin Powell predicted that “the insurgency will not end”. He went on to say that “the insurgency will continue and the insurgency will have to be defeated by coalition forces, but increasingly the insurgency will be defeated and brought under control, if not completely defeated, by Iraqi forces that we are building up as rapidly as we can."
So, there you have it from the oracle at Foggy Bottom. To cover all possible outcomes, Powell came up with three scenarios. The Iraqi insurgency could continue -” which by definition means that it would survive undefeated. Or coalition forces will vanquish the rebels in some epic battle like Fallujah – which was supposed to decapitate the insurgency. The third and most unlikely outcome is that the ill-trained 40,000 man Iraqi army will put down the insurgency.
If this was a multiple choice test, the correct answer could be ‘none of the above’.
Middle Eastern wars have a way of extending their shelf life way beyond their official expiration dates. “Mission Accomplished” signs are best reserved for later use. Predictions about final outcomes will need to be modified by many interim outcomes that tend to baffle and disorient the most astute observer.
A year ago, after the capture of Saddam, the administration and their mass media barkers insisted that the insurgency would collapse. It only got stronger and more tenacious. With the bearded lady of Tikrit safely in American hands, the rebels were assured that the dictator would not return to power when the occupation forces left Iraq. Notice that none of the many insurgent groups have ever demanded Saddam’s release.
Every few days – regardless of what transpires on the ground – some administration official comes up with a new assessment of who the insurgents are. One week, they are identified as Saddam loyalists and Bathists. A week later -” they are Syrian or Iranian operatives. The following day, we are informed that they are followers of Bin Laden -” many of them foreigners. Before the slaughter in Fallujah -” the Pentagon went so far as to claim that Chechens were holed up in the town. The whole mess is often blamed on Zarqawi -” who seems to claims credit for virtually every attack against the occupation forces. One can safely assume that others -” including foreign intelligence agencies like the Mossad -” could be doing Bush a few little favors by painting the Iraqi insurgents as nothing more than an Al-Qaeda brigade.
It is worth noting that after the battle in Fallujah, the Pentagon produced little evidence of any foreign fighters. In fact, the vast majority of the estimated 1,500 casualties were not just Iraqis but residents of Fallujah. Even so-called ‘foreigners’ are most likely part of the large immigrant Arab communities that have long lived and worked in Iraq. The barber who clips my hair in Cairo lived in Al Anbar province for nine years. The Iraqis didn’t consider him a foreigner -” he was just another hair stylist. When Fallujah was attacked -” he was in tears. As the Arabs say, they had shared ‘bread and salt’ together. They were his people.
It should be plain to any fool that this is a native insurgency. Yet, we have an administration in Washington fighting an enemy that they have yet to properly identify. We are witnessing a Bush fiasco that is very similar to the non-existent WMDs. Once again, the phenomenon of ‘Group Think’ -” bush league group think -” has taken hold of the neo-con faithful. It is a peculiar malady that prevents its victims from getting in touch with their common sense. That explains why they can’t come up with a straight and consistent story on the nature of the Iraqi resistance.
These neo-con brats make it up as they go. They are the same wizards who were certain of the exact location of Saddam’s phantom chemical arsenals. The ‘slam dunk’ and ‘cake-walk’ crowd can’t help themselves. Their ideological blinders and their passion for deception prevent them from coming to terms with a few simple truths about the nature of the Mess on Potamia that has cost America so much in blood, treasure and international prestige. And they care nothing for the 100,000 Iraqi casualties -” because most Americans tend to ignore the gruesome Iraqi dimensions of this war of choice.
The fact is that this insurgency “is spontaneous, chaotic, opportunistic, unorganized, with multiple independent cells that have different motives. It might go dormant for a few days and then re-emerge with different tactics in unexpected locations. It is well armed, without a need to depend on new supplies from outside sources.” I put that in quotes because I wrote that assessment over a year ago. The insurgency in Iraq is just a very natural and predictable uprising by an occupied people against foreign invaders. For Iraqis, the Anglo-American soldiers roaming their country are considered alien intruders.
The so called ‘coalition forces’ are not in Baghdad to spread the blessings of liberty but to impose America’s imperial will on the natives and the region. If the Bush administration were interested in promoting democracy in the region, they would start by impressing the concept on their clients in the absolute monarchies in the Gulf -” starting with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. If the neo-cons had any interest in spreading freedom and democratic values, they would not have spent four years promoting and financing Sharon’s vicious repression of the Palestinians. According to a recent poll, 44% of Americans support curtailing the civil rights of Arab-American and those who follow Islamic traditions. That hardly sounds like a country with a passion for spreading freedom to the Arabs ‘over there’.
There are two primary factors that determine Bush administration policy in the Middle East -” Israel and oil. It is no state secret that the neo-con architects of the Iraq war are Sharonistas with long standing ties to the Israeli right wing. Evangelical Armageddon worshipers also sit at the design table. These two constituencies have zero interest in the welfare of the people of the region. Together, they represent the forces that articulate the ‘irrational’ motives that compel George Bush to unleash his demonic visions on the hapless people of the Middle East.
Bush and Cheney have intimate relationships with avowed anti-Arab racists like Natan Sharansky and Bernard Lewis. Cheney and his wife actually spent months getting private lessons from Lewis -” a professional Palestinian basher. And George Bush recently met with Sharansky to discuss their common vision for the Middle East. Other neo-cons like Wolfowitz, Feith, Libby and Abrams dominate the policy making process at the Pentagon and the White House. All are radical and passionate Israeli partisans who act as front men for Ariel Sharon. They are motivated by a desire to build a Greater Israel -” not a Greater Middle East. The neo-con agenda has nothing to do with American national interests or national security. The only rational reason politicians of both parties acquiesce to the demands of Tel Aviv is to appease two very powerful religious and ethnic constituencies capable of delivering vital votes in places like Ohio.
But there are also some very rational motives behind America’s military adventures in the Gulf. Oil is not just another precious commodity. The black gold from the Gulf plays a central role in propping up the demand for American dollars. For years, until 1971, the almighty buck was backed by gold. The new standard is black gold. The Gulf Arab princes have a long-standing Faustian bargain with the American imperial project. They price their oil in dollars. They sell their oil in dollars. They then expatriate their dollars to American capital markets. Both the price and volumes of production are coordinated with the United States. As a result, every country that imports oil needs to maintain dollar reserves – which then allows America to export massive amounts of currency. This arrangement helps to defer the day of reckoning with massive trade deficits. Getting a compliant Iraq to join ranks with the Saudis and Kuwaitis would have generated more support for maintaining the primacy of the dollar as an international means of exchange. In the post cold war world, the only real ‘strategic’ value of oil is that it provides the United States with the unique privilege of exporting massive amounts of currency in exchange for very real goods and services.
As things now stand, the neo-con imperial project in Iraq is in tatters. The rational elements in the administration are looking for a face saving exit strategy aimed at cutting further losses. By now, they know that the elections will result in a pro-Iranian Shiite dominated government. Any delay in holding elections poses a real threat of a massive Shiite insurgency. To generate an aura of legitimacy, the first demand by any elected Iraqi government will be a timetable for the withdrawal of all foreign forces.
Behind the scenes, Iran will be asked to guarantee that Saudi Arabia and Kuwait will remain American dominated oil plantations. The new Iraqi regime might yet be convinced to sign on to the petro-dollar protocols. In any event, the realists figure they can make a rational deal with Iran and its allies in Baghdad -” the Shiite dominated Iraqi Unified Alliance. The alternative is to leave Iraq as a failed state dominated by warlords of every ethnic stripe -” duplicating the results of the Soviet misadventure in Afghanistan and creating a new base for the next Bin Laden.
Still, the irrational Likudniks in the administration continue agitating for a ‘win’ in Iraq. Neo-cons are always ready for one more cakewalk to appease Sharon’s real estate fantasies. They are still beating the drums for a march on Tehran or Damascus -” at a time when the US army is having trouble securing the road to Baghdad airport.
Given the President’s religious persuasions – and the fact that he has certain obligations to the Judeo-Christian evangelical identity movement that gave him four more years -” it is still too early to discount the neo-cons. George Bush is a gambler. He spent a good part of his life losing other people’s money on dry holes in Texas. So far, he hasn’t fired a single neo-con – while Powell and the realists in the CIA have been ushered to the rear door. In Powell’s place, Bush has appointed Condoleezza Rice because she shares his messianic ‘values’ and has proven herself to be a very useful walking mat for Dick Cheney’s neo-con Praetorian guards. If the neo-cons can waltz the president through another round of Bush League ‘group think’ -” the Iraq fiasco will only get worst.