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Jewish World Review Sept. 20, 2004 / 5 Tishrei 5765

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Cycle of violence | Winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people is a major goal of the Bush administration since this seems to be the best way to get the Iraqis to stop killing us.

Though our troops came as liberators, they are now seen as occupiers. What's worse, they are seen as targets.

And am I the only one who wonders why the Iraqis are not more grateful to us for freeing them from their evil dictator, Saddam Hussein? Don't they know how much better off they are today? Don't they listen to President Bush's speeches?

Yet not only do U.S. combat deaths now exceed 1,000, but the pace of attacks on U.S. forces has increased and it seems clear that Iraq is less safe for Americans now than it was at the beginning of our occupation.

This is not progress.

Further, we are getting trapped in the familiar "cycle of violence", where attack begets response, which begets new attack, etc.

From the front page of the Washington Post Monday came this chilling story: "A U.S. military helicopter fired into a crowd of civilians who had surrounded a burning Army armored vehicle in the capital, killing 13 people, said Saad Amili, spokesman for the Health Ministry….The U.S. military said it was trying to scatter looters who were attempting to make off with ammunition and pieces of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, which had been hit by a car bomb early in the morning on Haifa Street, a troublesome north-south artery west of the Tigris River."

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Why is that so chilling? Because in Baghdad U.S. force are now firing into crowds of civilians to try "to scatter looters." I would imagine that in post-war Iraq — a poor country to begin with — looting has become a way of life for many. But is firing missiles into a crowd of unarmed people the best way to prevent it?

I am sure the U.S. military is upset that the civilians were trying to steal ammunition that could later be used against U.S. forces. But we are also told there are vast, virtually unguarded Iraqi weapons caches throughout the country and the insurgents we are fighting do not seem to be hampered by a lack of ammunition.

But now those insurgents have a new recruiting tool, what the British newspaper, the Independent, is already calling "the slaughter in Haifa Street."

Those sources are either foreign or liberal, you say. Well, there is this from the front page of the Wall Street Journal Wednesday: "Iraq's once highly fragmented insurgent groups are increasingly cooperating to attack U.S. and Iraqi government targets, and steadily gaining control of more areas of the country."

Got that? The insurgents are controlling more of Iraq now than they did when the occupation began. You can call the U.S. effort many things and one of those things seems to be "losing."

And because the insurgents are doing so well, the United States is shifting funds away from those rebuilding projects that were supposed to win hearts and minds — providing water and electricity, for instance — to military and police forces. We really have no choice. As the Journal states: "The shift marks a recognition that Iraq's security condition is worsening rapidly and that without more local troops and police, the rebuilding effort cannot proceed."

You may wonder what we have to show for our efforts in Iraq so far. Well, an increasing casualty rate for one. According to the Journal, "August's 1,300 wounded was the highest monthly combat-injury total since the war began."

When it will all end, nobody knows. John Kerry, as if awakening from a long slumber, is finally starting to attack Bush on the war in Iraq in new, more stark terms.

"But you know and I know, Americans know and the world knows…that the situation in Iraq is worse, not better, that whole parts of Iraq are in the control of terrorists," Kerry said at a campaign stop in Ohio this week. "I know what we need to do in Iraq and the world to fight a more effective war on terror.…I know how we can reduce the number of terrorists in the world, how we can get other countries in the world to join us."

Now if he would just tell the rest of us.

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