Sunday, December 02, 2007

Terror is a Barbaric Tactic

Below is a recent interview with Nir Rosen.  Iraq doesn't exist anymore?  There is no Iraq?  He makes it sound like Iraq is doomed.  My comments are in red.

Terror is a tactic

Interview with Nir Rosen

By Mike Whitney

11/30/07  -- - Question: Is the "surge" working as Bush claims or is the sudden lull in the violence due to other factors like demographic changes in Baghdad?

Nir Rosen: I think that even calling it a surge is misleading. A surge is fast; this took months. It was more like an ooze. The US barely increased the troop numbers. It mostly just forced beleaguered American soldiers to stay longer. At the same time, the US doubled their enemies because, now, they're not just fighting the Sunni militias but the Shiite Mahdi army also.  [The US military has been fighting the Mahdi Army, or "rogue elements" of it, for a long time now.]

No, I don't think the surge worked. Objectively speaking, the violence is down in Baghdad, but that's mainly due to the failure of the US to establish security. That's not success. [HUH?  Violence is down in Baghdad due to the failure of the US to establish security??  That doesn't even make sense.]

Sure, less people are being killed but that's because there are less people to kill. [Again he doesn't make sense here.  There are plenty of people left "to kill".  Maybe he meant that Shia and Sunni Arabs for the large part are segregated in Baghdad.  However, the trend of sectarian segregation appears to be reversing.]

The violence in Iraq was not senseless or crazy, it was logical and teleological. Shiite militias were trying to remove Sunnis from Baghdad and other parts of the country, while Sunni militias were trying to remove Shiites, Kurds and Christians from their areas. [I think I am the only person in the world who points out that Sunni militias started murdering and expelling Shia from their homes before Shia militias reacted by expelling and murdering innocent Sunni Arabs.  I guess this makes me "sectarian".]   This has been a great success. [Success for whom?]  So you have millions of refugees and millions more internally displaced, not to mention hundreds of thousands dead. There are just less people to kill.

Moreover, the militias have consolidated their control over some areas. The US never thought that Muqtada al Sadr would order his Mahdi Army to halt operations (against Sunnis, rival Shiites and Americans) so that he could put his house in order and remove unruly militiamen. And, the US never expected that Sunnis would see that they were losing the civil war so they might as well work with the Americans to prepare for the next battle. [I'm hoping that will be no "next battle".]

More importantly, violence fluctuates during a civil war, so people try to maintain as much normalcy in their lives as possible. It's the same in Sarajevo, Beirut or Baghdad---people marry, party, go to school when they can---and hide at home or fight when they must. [I hope the downward trend in violence is permanent and results in peace.  Call me an optimist.  Or not.  I'm sure that "real" Iraqis like Omar of "24 Steps to Liberty" would rather call me "an ignorant" for looking at the positive.]

The euphoria we see in the American media reminds me of the other so-called milestones that came and went while the overall trend in Iraq stayed the same. [I suppose the media should report only the bad news.]   Now Iraq doesn't exist anymore. [In his dreams maybe]  Thats the most important thing to remember. there is no Iraq. There is no Iraqi government and none of the underlying causes for the violence have been addressed, such as the mutually exclusive aspirations of the rival factions and communities in Iraq.

Question: Are we likely to see a "Phase 2" in the Iraq war? In other words, will we see the Shia eventually turn their guns on US occupation forces once they're confident that the Ba'athist-led resistance has been defeated and has no chance of regaining power?

Nir Rosen: Shiite militias have been fighting the Americans on and off since 2004 but there's been a steady increase in the past couple of years. That's not just because the Americans saw the Mahdi army as one of the main obstacles to fulfilling their objectives in Iraq, but also because Iraq's Shiites---especially the Mahdi army---are very skeptical of US motives. They view the Americans as the main obstacle to achieving their goals in Iraq. [If the Mahdi Army's goals are to expel all Sunni Arabs from their homes, detonate explosives at the pet market, and kill Iraqi women who don't wear hijab, I hope the Americans continue to be a main obstacle for the Mahdi Army.]   Ever since Zalmay Khalilzad took over as ambassador; Iraq's Shiites have worried that the Americans would turn on them and throw their support behind the Sunnis. That's easy to understand given that Khalilzad's mandate was to get the Sunnis on board for the constitutional referendum. (Khalilzad is also a Sunni himself)  [I'm glad Khalizaid encouraged Sunni Arab clerics to urge their followers to participate in the December 2005 elections and even met and negotiated with insurgent groups earlier this year.]

But, yes, to answer your question; we could see a "Phase 2" if the Americans try to stay in Iraq longer or, of course, if the US attacks Iran. Then you'll see more Shiite attacks on the Americans.

Question: Hundreds of Iraqi scientists, professors, intellectuals and other professionals have been killed during the war. Also, there seems to have been a plan to target Iraq's cultural icons---museums, monuments, mosques, palaces etc. Do you think that there was a deliberate effort to destroy the symbols of Iraqi identity--to wipe the slate clean--so that the society could be rebuilt according to a neoliberal, "free market"model?

Nir Rosen: There certainly was no plan on the part of the occupying forces. In fact, that's the main reason that things have gone so horribly wrong in Iraq; there was no plan for anything; good or bad.

The looting was not "deliberate" American policy. It was simply incompetence. The destruction of Iraq's cultural icons was incompetence, also---as well as stupidity, ignorance and criminal neglect.

I don't believe that there was really any deliberate malice in the American policy; regardless of the malice with which it may have been implemented by the troops on the ground. The destruction of much of Iraq was the result of Islamic and sectarian militias--both Sunni and Shiite--seeking to wipe out hated symbols. The Americans didn't know enough about Iraq to intentionally execute such a plan even if it did exist. And, I don't think it did.

Question: The media rarely mentions the 4 million refugees created by the Iraq war. [What is "rarely"?  I have read about Iraqi refugees in the media at least once a week.  I'm sure I could find an article on Iraqi refugees every day if I search for it every day.]   What do you think the long-term effects of this humanitarian crisis will be?

Nir Rosen: Well, the smartest Iraqis--the best educated, the professionals, the middle and upper classes---have all left or been killed. So the society is destroyed. So there is no hope for a non-sectarian Iraq now. [So according to Rosen, there are no smart Iraqis left in Iraq.  To him, all 25 million remaining Iraqis are sectarian idiots.  Interesting.]

The refugees are getting poorer and more embittered. Their children cannot get an education and their resources are limited. Look at the Palestinian refugee crisis. In 1948 you had about 800,000 Palestinians expelled from their homes and driven into Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and elsewhere in the Middle East. Over time, they were politicized, mobilized and militarized. The militias they formed to liberate their homeland were manipulated by the governments in the region and they became embroiled in regional conflicts, internal conflicts and, tragically, conflicts with each other. They were massacred in Lebanon and Jordan. And, contributed to instability in those countries.

Now you have camps in Lebanon producing jihadists who go to fight in Iraq or who fight the Lebanese Army. And this is all from a population of just 800,000 mostly rural, religiously-homogeneous (Sunni) refugees.

Now, you have 2 million Iraqi refugees in Syria, a million in Jordan and many more in other parts of the Middle East. The Sunnis and Shiites already have ties to the militias. They are often better educated, urban, and have accumulated some material wealth. These refugees are increasingly sectarian and are presently living in countries with a delicate sectarian balance and very fragile regimes. Many of the refugees will probably link up with Islamic groups and threaten the regimes of Syria and Jordan. They're also likely to exacerbate sectarian tensions in Lebanon.

They're also bound to face greater persecution as they "wear out their welcome" and put a strain on the country's resources.

They'll probably form into militias and either try go home or attempt to overthrow the regimes in the region. Borders will change and governments will fall. A new generation of fighters will emerge and there'll be more attacks on Americans.

Question: You have compared Iraq to Mogadishu. Could you elaborate?

Nir Rosen: Somalia hasn't had a government since 1991. I've been to Mogadishu twice. Its ruled by warlords who control their own fiefdoms. Those who have money can live reasonably well. That's what it's like in Iraq now---a bunch of independent city-states ruled by various militias---including the American militia and British militias.

Of course, Somalia is not very important beyond the Horn of Africa. It's bordered by the sea, Kenya and Ethiopia. There's no chance of the fighting in Somalia spreading into a regional war. Iraq is much more dangerous in that respect.

Question: Is the immediate withdrawal of all US troops really the best option for Iraq?

Nir Rosen: It really doesn't matter whether the Americans stay or leave. There are no good options for Iraq; no solutions. [An extremely pessimistic view that I disagree with.]  The best we can hope for is that the conflict won't spread. The best thing we can say about the American occupation is that it may soften the transition for the ultimate break up of Iraq into smaller fragments. A couple of years ago, I said that the Americans should leave to prevent a civil war and to allow the (Sunni) rejectionists to join the government once the occupation ended. Turns out, I was right; but, obviously, it's too late now. The civil war has already been fought and won in many places, mainly by the Shiite militias. [No mention that it appears Sunni militias are winning against Al Qaeda, with the help of the US.]

The Americans are still the occupying force, which means that they must continue to repress people that didn't want them there in the first place. But, then, if you were to ask a Sunni in Baghdad today what would happen if the Americans picked up and left, he'd probably tell you that the remaining Sunnis would be massacred. So, there's no "right answer" to your question about immediate withdrawal. [The right answer is this: America must remain committed to Iraq until Iraq is stable and Iraqi ISF are able to provide security on their own.]

I truncated  the interview because it's too long to post here.

...[Last] Question: Bush's war on terror now extends from the southern border of Somalia to the northern tip of Afghanistan---from Africa, through the Middle East into Central Asia. The US has not yet proven---in any of these conflicts-- that it can enforce its will through military means alone. In fact, in every case, the military appears to be losing ground. And it's not just the military that's bogged down either. Back in the United States, the economy is rapidly deteriorating. The dollar is falling, the housing market is collapsing, consumer spending is shrinking, and the country's largest investment banks are bogged down with over $200 billion in mortgage-backed debt. Given the current state of the military and the economy, do you see any way that the Bush administration can prevail in the war on terror or is US power in a state of irreversible decline?

Nir Rosen: Terror is a tactic; so you can't go to war with it in the first place. You can only go to war with people or nations. To many people it seems like the US is at war with Muslims. [People who think this way are probably the same people want to see a British teacher killed for naming a teddy bear Muhammad]  This is just radicalizing more people and eroding America's power and influence in the world. But, then, maybe that's not such a bad thing.

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