FTW Military Affairs Editor
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March 29, 2006 1400 PST (FTW) - ASHLAND -When I wrote “The Global Battlefield” in July 2005 for From The Wilderness, I cited Pepe Escobar’s description of emerging faction-lines developing around the US occupation of Iraq as “Lebanonization.” Colin Powell was still Secretary of State.
On October 23, 1983, a mammoth truck bomb exploded in a Marine compound at the Beirut Airport, killing 241 American troops and more than 100 others. That was when Americans began to ask in earnest, what exactly are we doing there? In this case, the notion of building democracy would have choked the public with ludicrousness.
Powell would write later in his memoirs, “America [was] sticking its hand into a thousand-year-old hornet’s nest with the expectation that our presence would pacify the hornets.”
In February 1984, Reagan announced the withdrawal from Lebanon, saying, “We’re not bugging out; we’re just going to a little more defensible position [the ships sitting off the shores of Lebanon].” No doubt Reagan coached Donald Rumsfeld, then his envoy to the Middle East, on how to mangle the English language in the service of obfuscation.
Powell, it seems, still intuits trouble well (like any successful bureaucrat), maintains his Orientalist ignorance of political history, and is willing to shut up and take orders to oversee disastrous lies. He will be remembered by history as a man who gave good advice based on bad but fortuitous logic, and who got paid well for being an obedient house negro.
Now Powell has been replaced by his female counterpart, Condoleeza Rice—not merely an African decoy for the white supremacist Republicans, but also a female decoy for an administration characterized by a lot of dress-up masculinity. Her own lack of any military experience is no doubt comforting for both Bush and Rumsfeld, and the behind-the-scenes bureaucratic tussle between Rumsfeld and Powell has obviously been resolved. There will be no talk of hornets in this White House. Not even behind closed doors.
But as this is written (April 1, 2006), there are hornets aplenty, and when they sting, someone is bound to cry out.
Just days ago, someone—either the American spec-ops establishment or one of their Iraqi surrogates—attacked Muqtada al Sadr. De rigeur, it was a sloppy attempt and failed, and consistent with every other action of the Bush administration in Iraq, it backfired politically.
The March 26 mortar attack on Sadr’s Najaf compound missed the cleric, wounding an adult and a child; and it was followed up in short order by a combined US-“Iraqi Special Forces” attack on the Sadrist Mustafa mosque in northeast Baghdad that witnesses say involved the massacre of at least 17 people. Hussein al-Tahan, the provisional governor of Baghdad summarily suspended all security cooperation between his government and US forces, pending an investigation.
This is the second time US hostility to Sadr has raised the specter of a generalized Shia rebellion. This time, these politically disastrous attacks appear to be motivated by the US desire to rid itself of Da’awa Party prime minister-elect Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who Muqtada al-Sadr supported in the latest election. Sadr’s ability to emerge from every confrontation with the Americans as a more popular leader and a pivotal king-maker, it seems, had galled the US authorities quite enough.
The compliant unity government envisioned by the ever-self-delusional Americans had just been subjected to another assault when Jaafari—without clearing his trip with the US Central Command—took a trip to Turkey to meet with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This in turn provoked an apoplectic response from Kurdish “unity government” President, Jalal Talabani.
Iran is at least as hostile to the notion of an independent Kurdistan blossoming in northern Iraq as the Turks, and Jaafari’s Da’awa Party as well as the larger Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim are united in a pro-Iranian bloc. Sadr, who has played the role of political broker ensured the hair-thin majority required for Jaafari to beat out the SCIRI prime ministerial candidate, Adel Abdul Mahdi, who had to settle for the Vice Presidency. Sadr secured his place as a power broker thus, as well as the contingent loyalty of Jaafari.
There are credible reports now of a Kurdish-Sunni alliance to balance the Iranian-Turkish condominium manifested in the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA – the Hakim-Jaafari bloc). Curiously enough, Sadr himself is the only prominent Shia who has consistently warned of splitting Sunni from Shia, always directing his ire toward the American occupation, and arguing for a consolidated but truly independent Iraq. People should think twice before playing poker with this man.
Regardless of repeated doomsday predictions of an impending US or Israeli attack on Iran, not only is the US in a position where an attack on Iran would precipitate a seismic Shia resistance within Iraq that would quickly translate into an American military defeat, the US—even with all its saber-rattling rhetoric directed at Tehran—was conducting back-channel communications with the Iranian government since last February.
Bush may have finally gotten a clue after all this time that the Cheney-Rumsfeld faction’s prediction of “turning corners” in Iraq, and encouraging even more reckless behaviors, has borne nothing but poisonous fruit. Holding discussion with Iranians about how they might pull the US cookies out of the Iraqi fire is about as grim an irony as can be imagined, and is likely too little too late.
Talabani was frothing by late March at hearing of these talks, and accused the Iranians of trying to destabilize the Iran-Iraq border of Kurdistan…which they very well may be doing.
There are at least two credible reports circulating of American massacres, one in Haditha last year, and one near Balad on the 15th of March at a village named Abu Sifa. Babies murdered execution style with a single bullet to the head. These are widely spoken of inside Iraq, where word travels fast.
It seems another splash of irony, talking about hornets, that the latest recapture-the-initiative attack, Operation Swarmer, billed as a bold offensive, swept into Samarra only to meet no resistance and haul off 50 detainees.
The difference between perception and reality…real hornets and imaginary ones…is evident yet again in Iraq. Welcome to Lebanon.
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