Jewish World Review April 8, 2003 / 6 Nisan, 5763
Bagpipes in Baghdad
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Three weeks after the opening pitch, we have bagpipes in Basra and United States Marines in Baghdad's Zawra Park. Chemical shells and vats have been found in Karbala (as at other sites, yet unpublicized), and Iraqi citizens are rising to support the Brits and Yanks. Beginning with "Chemical Ali", the bodies of Iraq's senior leadership are now being collected. By every known standard of military history, a brilliant Pentagon strategy has been brilliantly executed -- with a miraculously small number of casualties among both allied soldiers and non-combatants, again by any historical standard. A considerable number of potential disasters have been systematically averted or obviated by bold action, mostly behind the scenes.
The anti-Bush and anti-American media, "Old Europe", peace marchers, and the "Arab Street" have now been proved totally wrong on every point of contention. The comprehensively opposite positions to which I happen to subscribe have been vindicated in every significant detail. One might almost gloat.
Of course there is more to come. The danger (almost entirely to Iraqi civilians) from the sudden use of still-concealed biological or chemical weapons remains to sober us. There is still danger of a major humanitarian disaster in the anarchy left by a fallen regime. I think the danger of outside intervention has passed.
Since Sunday the transition has begun from the attack phase to the mopping-up phase; it is unlikely what's left of Saddam Hussein's tyranny will give the satisfaction of a formal surrender to mark the tipping point; the enemy will instead continue to capitulate unit by unit.
It is difficult to tell precisely how far the battle has progressed in Tikrit and elsewhere, for the simple reason that most operations there have been conducted by U.S. and allied special and air forces, which travel without embedded journalists. What we can see this morning is the blatantly obvious, heavily populated foreground; we can't yet see the rest of the victory.
From what I can descry, a mark of the success of this secret war is how it has remained secret. A major component of that success has been, however, not clever Pentagon planning so much as the sheer ineptitude of media assigned to the story. While they, for instance, were screaming their surprise at the discovery of the Fedayeen Saddam (known members of which are now being cut up by Iraqi civilians in every nearly-liberated city), the intelligence communities of the U.S., Britain, and Australia were almost publicly anticipating and resolving the problem.
To my understanding, the U.S. has been able to move the equivalent of an entire infantry division (in addition to the delayed 4th Infantry) into the Baghdad-Tikrit vicinity without anyone noticing, by routes other than through Kuwait.
The allies have been able to act co-operatively with various Iraqi underground allies not only in the north but throughout the country without calling Saddamite attention to them through the media. The present U.S. incursion into Baghdad itself is dependant upon these brave Iraqis, who've repeatedly smuggled American special ops into the middle of the city, under Saddamite noses, as well as performing missions themselves. They have played the major role, at unimaginable personal risk, in opening lines of communication between allies and conventional Iraqi commanders, thus keeping various Iraqi military units out of the fight, dissuading recourse to the most lethal weapons, and where negotiations have failed, providing the means to local tactical surprise.
We will hear more in the coming weeks and months about this specifically Iraqi heroism, of heroes as worthy as were the most effective operatives in the French and Danish undergrounds during the last World War. But the war is not yet over, the mopping-up will require their continued, mostly invisible work, and it is not yet time for them to take their bows. But it should be said that Iraqis themselves, working under tight discipline, have been laying the foundations of a new Iraqi state in their sweat and blood.
They are remaking both future and past. The archives of one of the most monstrous regimes -- monstrous even by the precedents of modern history -- are falling into allied hands, I think mostly through Iraqi middlemen. (One of the purposes of the current deep thrusts into Baghdad is to gather materials that might otherwise be destroyed.) They will tell free investigators in the future much about the history of the entire Middle East over the last generation, and more urgently, help the U.S. and its friends around the world to form a picture of the larger enemy that is much more precise. There was never any doubt within the Bush administration of the co-operative nature of state and private terror networks: and thanks to victory in Iraq, the shape and extent of the beast will be exposed to a much broader view, increasing opportunities for injuring and eventually killing it.
For the enemy beaten in Iraq survives in Syria, and Iran; within Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Pakistan, North Korea; and more deeply hidden in many other places. The nexus of terrorism, fiendish weapons, and rogue states remains at large -- and Iraq is a battle being won, not the end of that war.
At the outset, I expected the present juncture to be reached within six to 12 weeks; it has instead taken three. I expected the mop-up to take between six months and two years, and am beginning to entertain optimistic expectations about that, too. I expected at least 1,000 allied dead by this point, not much less than 200.
What may make Iraq rather easier than Afghanistan -- for the mopping up -- is the attitude of the Iraqi people, in combination with the physical geography. Paradoxically, densely populated cities provide no safe, permanent shelter for terrorists whom the local population want rooted out. It is extremely unlikely that the various Palestinian and other foreign terrorists will be able to blend in, or that former Saddam operatives will go unrecognized. As we know from Kuwait and Gulf War 1991, the local mostly Palestinian fifth column of Saddam-supporters were sent packing very quickly. They will not last in the desert, without visible and therefore destructible means of supply.
No: the victory is essentially won in Iraq. Any reversal, from this point on, will not come from the battlefield; it will come by the method of diplomacy, by resuming the attempt to appease the same groups of people who were wrong on every point about the war. For that reason, attention should now turn to Prime Minister Blair's insistence that the United Nations and the "international community" be involved in every aspect of Iraqi reconstruction -- not on American but on European, Russian, and Arab terms.
That is the one remaining unclosed road to disaster, the means of clutching
defeat from the jaws of victory. For it is still possible, if unlikely, for
Bush the younger to repeat Bush the elder's remarkable achievement in
1991 -- to win a huge victory and then give it away.
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