|The Early Days of a Better Nation|
Sunday, April 11, 2004
In attempting to deal with two thorns in its side at once - Fallujah and the Sadrists - the US has impaled itself on several more. What follows goes beyond the evidence, and is a rough guess. If you want informed comment, go to the War and Revolution links in my sidebar.
The uprising could fizzle. Already, however, it has revealed that the US-led occupation of Iraq is built on sand. The Fallujah insurgents and the Army of the Mahdi, few in themselves, have drawn mass - not necessarily majority - support. What must be far more worrying for the US is what props to its rule the insurgents have kicked away. The IGC puppet government, to which a very nominal 'sovereignty' is supposed to be handed at the end of June, is scurrying to dissociate itself from the US military's handling of the situation; hence the IGC negotiations with the insurgents. Given how unwelcome to the US military these negotiations must be, one can imagine what pressures the IGC must have brought to bear. Perhaps the whole arrangement might have been on the point of collapse. The IP, ICDC, and even the Iraq Armed Forces, built up over the past year, are not just unreliable but in many cases actively hostile. Of the allied troops, the least reliable are the ex-commies, with the possible exception of the Poles, who were never very commie in the first place. Bulgarians, Ukrainians and Kazhaks are unlikely to be called to the imperial colours again any time soon. Gestural allies with symbolic contingents are vulnerable to hostage-taking and other casualties, and therefore a liability. Second and third tier imperialist forces - Spain and Italy - are militarily solid but politically weak. Their troops will fight until they're withdrawn. The Spanish are leaving in a month or two. The Salvadorans are basically US colonial troops, blooded in occupying their own country for decades, and therefore sound. And then there are the Brits, reliable militarily and politically but privately shaking their heads, if not holding their heads in their hands, at the sight of a counter-insurgency strategy derived from that splendid positive role model of a winning approach: Israel.
On the other side, the insurgents have - to all appearances, and for the moment - fought the US to a standstill in Fallujah. On the outskirts of Baghdad they're taking out not just fuel convoys but tanks. The refugees from Fallujah aren't cursing the resistance - if they were, we'd be hearing about it non-stop, as in Basra a year ago. A year ago, Saddam's Fedayeen (etc) were fighting like an unpopular underground resistance movement. Today, elements of the resistance are fighting like a regular army. They haven't yet taken on more US forces in open combat than Saddam's army ever did, but they're getting there.
The US/UK can't afford to lose, and handing over the mess to the UN (or the French and the Russians) would also be to lose. Half the point of the whole exercise is to impress the rest of the world enough to keep the US line of credit open. If the other powers have to pay the butcher's bill, they won't for long accept promissory notes for the heating and the bar tab.
On the other hand, repeating Grozny on Fallujah is to bid for a world of pain. The whole thing could still fizzle, but its repercussions can only grow.