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Sunday, June 27, 2004

Next Week in Iraq 


GLASGOW SUNDAY HERALD: “Every Iraqi or foreigner who works with the coalition is a target,” [Baathist generals] said. “Ministers, mercenaries, translators, businessmen, cooks or maids, it doesn’t matter the degree of collaboration. To sign a contract with the occupier is to sign your death certificate. Iraqi or not, these are traitors.”

All rivalry between the disparate resistance groups has been put aside. The resistance, the Baathist generals said, is comprised of “all movements of national struggle against the occupation without ethnic or political distinction. Contrary to what you imagine in the West, there is no fratricidal war in Iraq.” The only rivalry that existed, they said, was to do with which group could kill the most Americans.

They claimed responsibility for the death in September of Akila al-Hashimi, a diplomat and member of the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, and also last month’s car bomb which killed the head of the council, Ezzedin Salim, right in front of the entrance to the Green Zone in Baghdad where the coalition has its headquarters. The generals admitted kidnapping foreigners but denied having any part in Berg’s death, nor did they launch the attack against the UN in August last year or the Red Cross in October.

The resistance leaders also sent a warning to Washington and London that the “puppet” government in Baghdad would be destroyed: “If [Bush and Blair] have won a battle, they have not won the war yet. The great battle is still to begin. The liberation of Baghdad is not far away.”

Just days later, the resistance unleashed a wave of co-ordinated attacks, storming police stations and government buildings on Thursday, leaving more than 100 dead and at least 325 injured. American forces had to fight to control cities around Baghdad and the resistance brought down a US helicopter. It was the Iraqi police force which suffered the most casualties in these military-style attacks.

TIME: The insurgents have no intention of laying down their arms. Indeed, the nature of the insurgency in Iraq is fundamentally changing. Time reported last fall that the insurgency was being led by members of the former Baathist regime, who were using guerrilla tactics in an effort to drive out foreign occupiers and reclaim power. But a Time investigation of the insurgency today—based on meetings with insurgents, tribal leaders, religious clerics and U.S. intelligence officials—reveals that the militants are turning the resistance into an international jihadist movement. Foreign fighters, once estranged from homegrown guerrilla groups, are now integrated as cells or complete units with Iraqis. Many of Saddam's former secret police and Republican Guard officers, who two years ago were drinking and whoring, no longer dare even smoke cigarettes. They are fighting for Allah, they say, and true jihadis reject such earthly indulgences.

Their goal now, say the militants interviewed, is broader than simply forcing the U.S. to leave. They want to transform Iraq into what Afghanistan was in the 1980s: a training ground for young jihadists who will form the next wave of recruits for al-Qaeda and like-minded groups. Nearly all the new jihadist groups claim to be receiving inspiration, if not commands, from Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi, the suspected al-Qaeda operative who the U.S. believes has masterminded the insurgency's embrace of terrorism. Al-Zarqawi's group kidnapped three Turkish workers last Saturday and threatened to behead them within 72 hours unless Turkish companies withdrew from Iraq. And now the conditions are ripening for the insurgents to turn their armed struggle into a political movement that aims to exploit the upheaval and turn parts of Iraq into Taliban-style fiefdoms.

L.A. TIMES: In its scale and intent, President Bush's war against Iraq was something new and radical: a premeditated decision to invade, occupy and topple the government of a country that was no imminent threat to the United States. This was not a handful of GIs sent to overthrow Panamanian thug Manuel Noriega or to oust a new Marxist government in tiny Grenada. It was the dispatch of more than 100,000 U.S. troops to implement Bush's post-Sept. 11 doctrine of preemption, one whose dangers President John Quincy Adams understood when he said the United States "goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy" . . . .

The current president outlined a far more aggressive policy in a speech to the West Point graduating class in 2002, declaring that in the war on terror "we must take the battle to the enemy" and confront threats before they emerge. The Iraq war was intended as a monument to his new Bush Doctrine, which also posited that the U.S. would take what help was available from allies but would not be held back by them. It now stands as a monument to folly.

The planned transfer Wednesday of limited sovereignty from the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority to an interim Iraqi government occurs with U.S. influence around the world at a low point and insurgent violence in Iraq reaching new heights of deadliness and coordination. Important Arab leaders this month rejected a U.S. invitation to attend a summit with leaders of industrialized nations. The enmity between Israelis and Palestinians is fiercer than ever, their hope for peace dimmer. Residents of the Middle East see the U.S. not as a friend but as an imperial power bent on securing a guaranteed oil supply and a base for U.S. forces. Much of the rest of the world sees a bully.

All the main justifications for the invasion offered beforehand by the Bush administration and its supporters — weapons of mass destruction, close ties between Al Qaeda and Iraq, a chance to make Baghdad a fountain of democracy that would spread through the region — turned out to be baseless . . . .

A year later, more than 90% of Iraqis want the U.S. to leave their country. The president boasted in July that if Iraqi resistance fighters thought they could attack U.S. forces, "bring them on." Since then, more than 400 personnel have been killed by hostile fire.

Iraqis hope, with little evidence, that the transfer of limited sovereignty to an interim government will slow attacks on police, soldiers and civilians. Another goal, democracy, is fading. The first concern remains what it should have been after the rout of Hussein's army: security. The new Iraqi leaders are considering martial law, an understandable response with suicide bombings recently averaging about one a day but a move they could hardly enforce with an army far from rebuilt . . . .

It will take years for widely felt hostility to ebb, in Iraq and other countries. The consequences of arrogance, accompanied by certitude that the world's most powerful military can cure all ills, should be burned into Americans' memory banks.

Preemption is a failed doctrine.

As June 30 approaches, let us all pause to appreciate the wisdom and nobility of our leaders; let us offer them our humblest, most heartfelt gratitude for a job well done.

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