Nov 17, 2003
The first two weeks of November were the bloodiest two weeks for U.S. troops in the "post-war" war on Iraq. The four helicopters brought crashing down symbolize the quagmire into which the U.S. government has placed American soldiers.
A few weeks ago, the Bush administration sent out teams to explain that "good things" were happening in Iraq. In the infamous words of Republican U.S. Representative George Nethercutt, the "reconstruction" of Iraq "is a better and more important story than losing a couple of soldiers every day..."
But reality, in the form of helicopter crashes, reasserted itself. And even Bush, as adept a liar as has been seen in a long time, can't pretend that things are going well.
So Bush retreated to the tried and true: blame Saddam Hussein, and when he can't be blamed, blame Osama bin Laden.
Absurd. But for the sake of argument, accept his claim. It still begs the question. This is a guerrilla war, what General Abizaid, U.S. commander in the region, called a "classical guerrilla campaign." And guerrilla campaigns cannot be carried out by their partisans without support from a very sizeable part of the population.
Not possible, says Bush, that the Iraqi population could support Saddam Hussein, who for decades imposed his rule through a brutal military dictatorship. It's only a few die-hard Saddam Hussein loyalists in the so-called "Sunni triangle" that want Saddam Hussein back – again, according to Bush.
But there's a big problem with that claim – it ignores the facts. Attacks have been taking place in all areas of the country – those with a Sunni majority, those with a Shia majority and those with a Kurdish majority. In fact, the Kurdish areas have seen some of the biggest demonstrations against the U.S. authority in recent weeks, and the Shia areas of Baghdad are some of the most dangerous for U.S. troops.
However much they may have hated Saddam Hussein, large parts of the Iraqi population today hate the U.S. more.
Was Saddam Hussein a butcher who used nerve gas on the Shiites? The U.S. used a napalm like substance on concentrations of troops in the first phase of this war. Did Saddam Hussein kill tens of thousands and put them in mass graves? The U.S. has killed close to 50,000 – directly or indirectly – in the current campaign, coming on top of the million and a half Iraqis who were killed in the first Gulf War, its after-effects, and the decade-long embargo.
Today, as the result of the U.S. occupation, there is no work. As the result of the bombing, there isn't enough housing or medical care. Some electricity may finally have reappeared in Baghdad, but not all the time, and most villages are without power. The population is living in misery – much worse than before the war – while the U.S. authorities have taken over the sumptuous palaces and luxury hotels that Saddam Hussein and his friends used to occupy. U.S. troops patrol the streets, shooting down people who don't quickly obey an order. U.S. troops drag people out of their beds in the middle of the night.
The U.S. has invaded their country, throwing them into misery. The U.S. is imposing the military dictatorship that controls them now – in order to take over Iraq's oil.
Today, U.S. troops say they don't know who their enemy is. That's what it means to be fighting a guerrilla war in a country from which the population wants you gone.
U.S. troops today are finding out just how dirty such a war can be, and not only because they are coming under attack. It's a dirty war because of what the troops are ordered to do – attack civilians.
Thirty years ago, a whole generation of young men, ground up in the quagmire of Viet Nam, went through the same filthy experience. We should not let it be repeated. This government should not be allowed to continue this war for years – as the recent call-up of more reserves and voting of more funds make clear that the government intends to do.
Get U.S. troops out of Iraq! Return them to their own homes now! Let the Iraqi people decide their own fate themselves.