Iraq: It’s Getting Ugly

George W. Bush had barely finished bemoaning the “democracy deficit” in his speech to the National Endowment for Democracy when General John Abizaid, commander of U.S. troops in the Middle East, showed the true face of the American occupation. The headline said it all: “Top U.S. general warns of harsh measures unless attacks stop.

Apparently such measures as kicking down doors, conducting impromptu house-to-house searches, terrifying Iraqi children, shooting a pro-American member of the Baghdad Governing Council – and killing 6,000 other Iraqis – aren’t considered harsh enough. “We have the capabilities and equipment,” the Mayor of Fallujah reported the General as saying.

One wonders what Abizaid the Merciless has in mind.

It’s funny, but we often hear the War Party bloviating about how the current conflict is like World War II – yeah, but which side are we? It is positively eerie that a real life American general sounds like nothing so much as a German officer in some World War II movie set in occupied France:

“Zere vill be reprisals!”

This is what it’s like to become an imperial power: ambitious generals are … imperious. Hearts and minds need to be won, but they are in Washington, not Iraq: “We have the capabilities and equipment.” Translation: We’ll kill as many as we have to.

We are told that U.S. forces must remain in Iraq until “stability” is achieved, but then we turn around and commit a series of provocative and profoundly destabilizing acts, of which Abizaid’s ultimatum is only the most recent. At times, the American occupation of Iraq takes on the aura of a ritual humiliation. The American General’s command to jump through this hoop and bark is being met with defiance. The Associated Press quotes one Najih Latif Abbas as saying:

”Neither America, nor the father of America, scares us. Iraqi men are striking at Americans and they retaliate by terrifying our children.”

Fakhri Fayadh, a 60-year-old farmer, was willing to go on the record with a prediction: American reprisals, he said,

”Will only increase our spite and hatred of them. If they think that they will scare us, they are wrong. Day after day, Americans will be harmed and attacks against them will increase.”

Half of Americans now say that the Iraq war was not worth fighting – up from 43 percent in October. And we are only just now entering the first phase of a long guerrilla war, what I called “the real war” some months ago. If I may be permitted an “I told you so” moment, here’s some soothsaying from the lips of Raimondodamus, written before the fall of Baghdad:

“In our accelerated, totally-wired, up-to-the-minute, fully-’embedded’ hyper-reality, where immediacy is everything, the war will have lasted but a few weeks, a month or so at the most. But the real war is going to be the long occupation, during which US troops will be sitting ducks for every Islamist nutball in a region filled with them – and the War Party will be looking for new lands to conquer. The danger could not be greater.

“God help us all.”

First of all, God help the troops. The news is filled with stories of their discontent, of ill treatment of the wounded, of a woman soldier who is being forced to choose between going AWOL and keeping her children, and growing cynicism and doubts in the ranks about their mission. If half of us don’t think the war was worth it, then that statistic is no doubt roughly replicated in the military.

We have the equipment and the capability, but Niall Ferguson is right: Americans have no stomach for empire-building. Which is why George W. Bush had better devise an exit strategy, and fast, or he’ll be exiting the White House.

The latest mishap, the killing of the American-appointed leader of Sadr City and his driver by U.S. soldiers, symbolizes the tragic idiocy of our involvement in Iraq. Apparently the council leader, Muhammed Kaabi, approached the gates of the council chambers and objected to the searching of his car by American guards. A fight ensued, the soldiers shot Kaabi – and, after wrestling the still struggling driver to the floor, shot and killed him, too..

Sadr City is an impoverished Shi’ite ghetto, the Iraqi version of, say, South Central Los Angeles, and a prime breeding ground for Islamic terrorists. The irony is that Sadr City, which writhed under the Ba’athist lash as long as Saddam was in power, ought to be a bastion of support for the “liberation.” Yet thousands marched through the streets demanding the U.S. get out. These are not Ba’athist diehards, but some of Saddam’s greatest victims, members of the majority Muslim sect that the U.S. cannot afford to alienate. So far, the Shia militias outside the “Sunni Triangle” have refrained from joining the insurgency, and their leaders, dominant in the southern part of the country, have counseled restraint. An incident of this kind could easily push them over the edge and, for the first time, give the Iraqi insurrection a truly national dimension.

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

I apologize for the short column, but I’m way behind on my talk for the upcoming meeting of the John Randolph Club. It’s lucky I had a great visit with Scott Richert, the executive editor of Chronicles magazine, who came to the Bay Area recently. I had only bothered to look at one side of the schedule they sent me, as Scott pointed out: I turned it over and discovered I’m also to give a talk on civil liberties in wartime. By the time I get to New Orleans, I’ll be too tired to indulge the pleasures of night life in the French Quarter. But then again, maybe not….

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Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo is editor-at-large at Antiwar.com, and a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and writes a monthly column for Chronicles. He is the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].