Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Portrait of a Lost War 

I had been wondering what the US military was actually doing in Iraq these days.
Not very much, I think. The Americans military seens to be playing a static, zero-sum game, hoping that no one in Washington notices their lack of progress.
Recent news stories about US soldiers have talked about how some never left their Iraq bases at all. And I haven't noticed any stories anymore about military types - or anyone else for that matter -- going around constructing schools or hospitals or rebuilding electrical substations or water works. They're doing busywork like staffing checkpoints to protect the Green Zone in Baghdad, and they're operating huge prisons, and they're trying to keep the airport open. When American bases are fired on by insurgents, they still seem to be sending out expeditions to try to find the attackers, and they also still seem to be undertaking occasional patrols, though as described by even the cheerleading embedded reporters, these patrols don't seem to have much purpose. In general, it has been my impression that the American troops are hunkered down in their bases and aren't making much progress on anything in Iraq.
This Guardian story confirms that scenario -- Under US noses, brutal insurgents rule Sunni citadel
. . . There is no fighting here [in Haditha] because there is no one to challenge the Islamists. The police station and municipal offices were destroyed last year and US marines make only fleeting visits every few months . . . A year ago Haditha was just another sleepy town in western Anbar province, deep in the Sunni triangle and suspicious of the Shia-led government in Baghdad but no insurgent hotbed. Then, say residents, arrived mostly Shia police with heavyhanded behaviour. 'That's how it began,' said one man. Attacks against the police escalated until they fled, creating a vacuum filled by insurgents. Alcohol and music deemed unIslamic were banned, women were told to wear headscarves and relations between the sexes were closely monitored. The mobile phone network was shut down but insurgents retained their walkie-talkies and satellite phones. Right-hand lanes are reserved for their vehicles. From attacks on US and Iraqi forces it is clear that other Anbar towns, such as Qaim, Rawa, Anna and Ramadi, are to varying degrees under the sway of rebels. In Haditha hospital staff and teachers are allowed to collect government salaries in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar, but other civil servants have had to quit . . . DVDs of beheadings [of accused 'spies'] on the bridge are distributed free . . . One DVD features a young, blond muscular man who had been disembowelled. He was said to have been a member of a six-strong US sniper team ambushed and killed on August 1. Residents said he had been paraded in town before being executed. The US military denied that, saying six bodies were recovered and that all appeared to have died in combat. Shortly after the ambush three landmines killed 14 marines in a convoy which ventured from their base outside the town. Twice in recent months marines backed by aircraft and armour swept into Haditha to flush out the rebels . . . the insurgents withdrew for a few days and returned when the Americans left . . . their strategy appears to be to wait out the Americans, calculating they will leave within a few years, and then escalate what some consider the real war against a government led by Shias . . . The constitution talks, the referendum due in October, the election due in December: all are deemed collaboration punishable by death. The task now is to bleed the Americans and destabilise the government. Some call that nihilism. Haditha calls it the future.

What a pointless excuse for a war this has turned into. And the biggest betrayal is this -- those Iraqis who believed in America and supported the troops and tried to work in the new regime are the ones now being shot or beheaded by the insurgents -- just like Vietnam, eh?

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