Monday, November 14, 2005

Who is the "enemy"? 

One of the more annoying aspects of discussing Iraq with pro-war types is their constant insistence that the Iraqi insurgents are Ba-athists, terrorists, or the great catch all “Islamo-fascists”. I’ve never believed that for a minute. Not that some insurgents don’t fall into one of those categories – some probably do. But it has always stood to reason that a great many are probably otherwise regular Iraqis who simply want an invading power that has done little, if anything, to make their country better, to leave. Moreover, how could anyone be so certain that the insurgents were “Islamo-fascists” when it has been acknowledged many times that they don’t know who makes up the insurgents? Today the Salt Lake Tribune published an interesting article on this very subject. Here are some excerpts:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A bright orange haze, where the desert meets the sky, has swallowed the sun once again. At a rough Army outpost, just south of Iraq's capital city, some U.S. soldiers lounge along a row of makeshift benches, sharing with one another some recently obtained "intelligence."
"They keep their foot soldiers drugged," says one.
"Most are from other Middle Eastern countries, coming over the borders to fight us here," says another.
"Once," interjects a third, "a bus drove up into the middle of one town, and over the loudspeaker, a man asked who wanted to give himself to Allah. And right there 20 men jumped on board."
"They hate us," a final soldier adds, "and they hate freedom."


But the insurgency is significantly more diverse than described by many troops. Its warriors' varied motives are much less simplistic than defined by political leaders.
So who is the enemy?
A 13-year-old Sunni boy in Abu Ghraib prison for murder, told by his extremist uncle that the cost of manhood was an American soldier's life.
A 20-year-old Shiite man in Najaf, still pining for retribution in the killing of more than 200 of his fellow militiamen in a battle with American forces last year.
An out-of-work carpenter, engineer or teacher. A former Baathist Army officer, cut off from his pension and not allowed to serve his new nation. The relatives of a Shiite family mistakenly killed by a U.S. soldier who feared their vehicle carried explosives.
"There is not one face, one agenda and one ideology," says Judith Yaphe, a former Iraq analyst with the CIA and a senior fellow at the National Defense University. "What you have is multiple insurgencies."

But Yaphe said there is no way to accurately estimate the number of insurgents in Iraq.
And multiple motives: Political power, resistance to the occupation, a need for money.
Indeed, the enemy described by most - religious extremists from foreign nations, including elements of al-Qaida - makes up only a small percentage of the fighters in Iraq, Yaphe says.
"Ninety percent of this is an Iraqi event," she says.


The roads near Najaf are routinely clear of hidden explosives and suicide car bombers, but small arms fire continues to be a hazard. That doesn't mean, however, those responsible for the gunfire are aligned, even peripherally, with Sunni extremists, like bin Laden and Abu Musab Zarqawi, more commonly associated with the insurgency.
"I've never met a single person who supports bin Laden or Zarqawi," says Will Van Wagenen, a Salt Lake City native and member of the nonprofit Christian Peacemaker Teams, who recently met with members of the al-Mahdi militia at Najaf's Wadi al-Salem cemetery, where they had clashed with U.S. troops for three weeks in August 2004.
"But," Van Wagenen says, "a lot of people support continued attacks against the Americans."
A secret poll commissioned by the British government and conducted by an Iraqi research team confirmed that assessment, according to London's Sunday Telegraph . The newspaper reported last month that nearly half of Iraqis believe attacks against occupation forces are justified.


aphe, the former CIA analyst, says it does seem clear that most insurgent groups want to see the current Iraqi government fail. But she says it would be a mistake to assume any of those groups are of one mind on what they'd like to see in the aftermath.
And she believes the oft-stated notion that insurgents are the enemies of freedom around the world is incorrect.
"That's one of George Bush's favorites, but in my heart of hearts, I really don't think they care if we live in a democracy or we have freedom or that we live on the moon," Yaphe says. "They don't like what we do. We represent incarnate evil to many. Some are glad Saddam is gone and don't like us. Others regret Saddam is gone and don't like us."
Having come to believe such descriptions, Capt. Dan Kwok, an Army physician who treated inmates at the military prison in Abu Ghraib, was taken back by the claims of one highly educated prisoner he came to know.
The inmate, Kwok says, was a medical doctor, like himself, who worked for Zarqawi's network of fundamentalist guerrilla fighters.
"I asked him, 'Where would you like to live, if you could live anywhere in the world?' " recalls Kwok, a graduate of Brigham Young University. "And he told me, 'In the United States, because you have a lot of freedom there.' "
Van Wagenen heard similar themes among those he came to know in Iraq, including resistance supporters of both Shiite and Sunni persuasion.
One Shiite Kurd with whom Van Wagener worked was most upset by the reasoning, often stated by Bush in recent speeches - and commonly repeated by soldiers in Iraq - that the war was being fought abroad "before they attack us at home."
"He told me, 'When you say that, you are saying that American lives are more important than Iraqi lives. We had nothing to do with Sept. 11, but you are making Iraq a magnet for terrorists,' " Van Wagenen recalls.
Rather than wanting to stop the march of freedom, Iraqis desire to accept it on their own terms, Van Wagenen said.
And for some, the fight against American-led occupation forces is part of that struggle.

So for the umpteenth time, its clear the U.S. has no idea who it’s fighting. That certainly doesn’t bode well for their chances of winning this war. Further, it belies their cheap propaganda about fighting terrorism or “Islamo-Fascism”.

It is also interesting to see how their own propaganda used for domestic U.S. consumption doesn’t necessarily play well in Iraq. Many Americans buy the argument of “fight them there, or fight them here” (and by the way, anyone remember the “domino theory”? can’t these idiots have ANY original ideas?). Yet, as the perceptive Iraqi Kurd pointed out that is really insulting to Iraqis implying that its ok if they all get blown up by bombs as long as people in Denver are safe. Again, the U.S. isn’t winning any friends or converts here. And they aren’t making the world safe from “Islamo-Fascism” or terrorism. They are just fighting a bunch of people who don’t want the U.S. war machine subjugating and brutalizing them.


Another little point on Iraq. I hope many readers of Oil Wars are able to watch “Off to War” on the Discovery Times cable channel. It is one of the very few places were some of the reality of the war, at least for U.S. troops, can be seen.

In this weeks episode there was one very illuminating moment. The U.S. soldiers always gather for group prayer immediately before going out on patrol. Generally they are asking for God to protect the them from harm. Some times, when they are going on particularly dangerous missions, they get more specific and ask God to confuse the enemy and render his weapons ineffective.

Of course, one has to wonder what exactly is God getting out of all this. I mean why would God want to go out of his way to protect American soldiers as opposed to say Iraqi civilians who it would seem to me God should be more worried about? Well, at the end of the prayer that preceeded the last mission we finally got to see what was being offered up to God. The Lieutenant leading the prayer prayed that if God so desired it all Iraqis be converted to Christianity!!! (I can’t remember the exact words but praying for Iraqis to be converted to Christianity is definitely what was said).

But of course, we are told, any suggestion that U.S. soldiers are Crusaders is simply ridiculous. Sure.


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