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  Thursday  November 25  2004    11: 05 PM


Tomgram: On "Iraqifying" the Quagmire

Our gamblers in Washington cast the die in March 2003 and invaded Iraq based on a "theory." Now, the game is being played out ever more extremely and murderously by others on the ground. In the penultimate paragraph of a recent piece -- oh, those last, seldom-read paragraphs of news reports in our imperial press where reporters can finally slip in their hunches and opinions, usually through the words of others -- Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post quotes a "Special Forces veteran, who speaks Arabic" as summing up the situation this way: "Across Baghdad, Latifiyah, Mahmudiyah, Salman Pak, Baqubah, Balad, Taji, Baiji, Ramadi and just about everywhere else you can name, the people absolutely hate us. . . . The Iraqi people have not bought into what the Americans are selling, and no amount of military activity is going to change this fact."

Simon Jenkins writes this:

"No statement about Iraq is more absurd than that ‘we must stay to finish the job.' What job? A dozen more Fallujahs? The thesis that leaving Iraq would plunge it into anarchy and warlordism defies the facts on the ground. Iraq south of Kurdistan is in a state of anarchy already, a land of suicide bombings, kidnapping, hijackings and gangland mayhem. There is no law or order, no public administration or police or proper banking. Its streets are Wild West. The occupying force is entombed in bases it can barely defend or supply. Occasional patrols are target practice for terrorists. Iraq is a desert in which the Americans and British rule nothing but their forts, like the French Foreign Legion in the Sahara."

But perhaps the simplest way to sum up where matters may rest in Iraq today I ran across in the final lines of a recent long New York Times piece by Edward Wong and James Glanz (Rebels Attack in Central Iraq and the North): " [T]he violence [in Mosul] had calmed since then, and children could be seen playing in some parks. At one playground, Amin Muhammad, 10, and his friends raced around with plastic guns. 'We divide ourselves into two teams,' he said, 'the mujahedeen versus the American forces.'' And in their battles, he said, the mujahedeen always win."


More blood, More chaos

In Ramadi today 6 civilians were killed in clashes between the resistance and military.

The military sealed the city, closing all the roads while announcing over loudspeakers for residents in the city to hand over “terrorists.”

A man, woman and child died when the public bus they were riding in approached a US checkpoint there when they were riddled with bullets from anxious soldiers. A military spokesman said the bus was shot because it didn’t stop when they asked it to.

The city remains sealed by US forces as fierce clashes sporadically erupt across the area while the military decides how to handle yet another resistance controlled.

As the mass graves in Fallujah continue to be filled with countless corpses, sporadic fighting flashes throughout areas of the destroyed battleground.

“The Americans want every city in Iraq to be like Fallujah,” said Abdulla Rahnan, a 40 year-old man on the street where I was taking tea not far from my hotel, “They want to kill us all-they are freeing us of our lives!”

His friend, remaining nameless, added, “Everyone here hates them because they are making mass graves faster than even Saddam!”


Fallujah Refugees

“Doctors in Fallujah are reporting there are patients in the hospital there who were forced out by the Americans,” said Mehdi Abdulla, a 33 year-old ambulance driver at a hospital in Baghdad, “Some doctors there told me they had a major operation going, but the soldiers took the doctors away and left the patient to die.” He looks at the ground, then away to the distance.


Up to 50,000 more US troops needed in Iraq: Senator McCain

U.S. struggles to find troops for Iraq, Afghanistan

Last Exit Before Gas

Between now and January, the Bush administration will have to decide whether or not to take the last dignified exit from Iraq. That is, to announce before the Iraqi elections that we will be leaving soon after them. If Bush and his neocon handlers miss this opportunity, our only choice will be to remain in Iraq until we are driven out in a humiliating defeat. Like the kid who knows he has to eat his spinach, we will be better off pretending to choose the inevitable.

What is the chance this will happen? Behind the scenes, a growing number of conservative leaders are working to make it happen. But events are moving the other way. The elevation of the Tea Lady, Miss Rice, to Secretary of State is intended to silence any voices of prudence from that department. New CIA Director Porter Goss recently told his people, "As agency employees we do not identify with, support, or champion opposition to the administration or its policies." If you want to guarantee disaster, there is no better tool than turning your intelligence agency into a closed system. Most indicative is the fact that not a single neocon has been given his walking papers. So long as they are running the show, substantive change is unlikely.

But what are the neocons going to do about Iraq? The insurgency is growing, American casualties are rising, and at some point the American public will demand something better than the nonsense being mouthed by our commanders. (My favorite last week was the American general who claimed Fallujah had "broken the back" of the insurgency. Insurgencies, like octopi, are invertebrate.)

With other fools throughout history, the neocons' answer to defeat will probably be escalation. What I had predicted as a likely "October Surprise" may instead be a Christmas present: a joint Israeli-American air and missile attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.

Knowing nothing about war, the neocons probably expect any Iranian response to be symmetrical: an air and missile counterstrike. But Iran cannot do much that way, and surely knows it. Why shoot a few ineffective missiles at Israel when you have two juicy targets right next door, in the form of American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq?

An Iranian riposte in Afghanistan probably would come slowly, in the form of a guerilla war in that country's Shi'ite regions. That might also be Iran's response in Iraq, where it already has Revolutionary Guard troops in Shi'ite areas. But there is another possibility. Under the cover of bad weather, which winter often provides, Iran could strike suddenly into Iraq with several armored divisions. Our forces are scattered throughout Iraq, and they cannot mass rapidly because Iraqi guerillas control the roads. With skill that is not beyond what Iran might manage (the Iranian army is better than Saddam's was) and a bit of luck, they could roll us up before American airpower could get the clear weather it needs to be effective. America would not only lose a war in Iraq; it would lose an army.