With Vice-President Dick Cheney describing the presidential election result as “a broad, nationwide victory,” secured on the platform of an unapologetically hard-line foreign policy, the world should expect more of the same from President George W. Bush and his administration in the “war on terror” he declared on September 12, 2001.
Specifically, this means Bush, Cheney, and their coterie of neoconservative ideologues will continue to visualize the ill-defined war on terrorism in purely military terms, and deploy the Pentagon as their primary instrument to win it. What that undoubtedly translates into is: an immediate assault on Falluja in
This will take place in a context in which anti-American feeling, already rife in the Muslim world, is rising yet again in the wake of a recent report from
In other words, the invaders may have managed to kill up to a third as many Iraqis in a year-and-a-half as President Saddam Hussein did in his 24-year dictatorial rule. This comparison led the Riyadh-based, pro-government Saudi Gazette to ask rhetorically, “If this is a war on terror, then who are the terrorists and who are the terrorized?”
The net result of Washington’s escalating confrontation with Muslim countries and peoples under various guises will only be to widen further the gulf that already exists between the United States and Muslims in general, paving the way for a much-dreaded “clash of civilizations” that never need have happened.
Attacking the Fly on the Horse
The Bush administration is clearly intent on attacking Falluja despite warnings from Ghazi al Yawar, Interim President of Iraq, Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, Shaikh Muhammad Bashar al Faidhi of the Association of Muslim Scholars, which represents 3,000 mosques — and a string of bombs that killed at least 34 in Samarra on Saturday, a northern city recently “retaken” from the insurgents and now plagued by fighting between the local police and the American-trained Iraqi National Guard.
“I completely disagree with people who see a need to decide [Falluja] through military action,” Interim President Yawar said. “The coalition’s handling of this crisis is wrong. It is like someone firing bullets at his horse’s head because a fly landed on it; the horse died and the fly went away.”
In his letter to the American, British, and Iraqi governments on October 31, Kofi Annan insisted that the escalation in violence that the taking of Falluja represented would be “very disruptive for
Shaikh al Faidhi, on the other hand, was not so diplomatic. “If the
A majority of the residents of
It is worth recalling what happened last April when the Pentagon mounted an offensive against Falluja in retaliation for the murder of four Americans working for a Pentagon security contractor. A four-week long running battle with the Iraqi insurgents ensued in which the application of overwhelming force by the U.S. Marines led to nearly 600 Iraqi deaths, mostly civilian, and 65 American military fatalities. And yet during that period the Pentagon kept reducing its demands in stages until rebel demands that only Iraqis should police Falluja and that the Marines should withdraw to their bases were essentially accepted.
In the glow of his electoral victory, George Bush is unlikely to grasp the significance of this statement of Annan’s in his letter: “The threat or actual use of force not only risks deepening the sense of alienation of certain communities, but would also reinforce perceptions among the Iraqi population of a continued military occupation.”
Long used to blocking unwelcome reality, the President and his advisors are no more likely to take note of what is happening on the ground in
Forced underground but not out of town, insurgents in Samarra, a predominantly Sunni settlement, are now so well organized that on November 6 they were able to set off four car-bomb explosives within minutes of one another. On the government’s side, fighting has already broken out between the interim government’s National Guard, whose troops have been recruited from
Since their arrival in the city, the National Guardsmen have been breaking into home without warrants, arresting people arbitrarily, and firing into the air at random. As for the local police, they extract bribes from the Samarrans and cooperate with criminal gangs. “We are now caught between an arbitrary authority [the National Guard] and a corrupt authority [the police],” was the way Hisham Nouri al Samarrai, a tribal leader on the local council, summed up the situation.
An attack on Falluja, say most analysts, will act as a catalyst, uniting disparate resistance groups throughout
Following tactics they had already developed in
Finally, a pacified and half-razed Falluja, handed over to the Allawi’s interim government, will most likely only replicate the recent history of
No Carrots, All Stick
In speeches last week in
“A full and sustained suspension of all [uranium] enrichment and reprocessing activities, on a voluntary basis, would open the door for talks on long-term cooperation offering mutual benefits,” said the EU communiquÃ©. It further pledged resumption of suspended negotiations on a Trade and Cooperation Agreement between
Earlier, when shown the EU trio package, John Bolton, the neoconservative American undersecretary for arms control and international security at the State Department, said, “I don’t do carrots.”
Unfortunately for the world at large, there is no sign yet that the Bush administration’s disastrously flat learning curve has risen even by a fraction of an inch. The disjunction between the perceptions of policy-makers in
Dilip Hiro’s latest book is Secrets and Lies: Operation “Iraqi Freedom” and After, a sequel to Iraq: In the Eye of the Storm (Nation Books,
Copyright C2004 Dilip Hiro
A version of this piece will appear in print in issue #738 of Middle East International
[This article first appeared on Tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news, and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, long time editor in publishing and author of The End of Victory Culture and The Last Days of Publishing.]