The Foe We Face
Posted by Stanton Denman
Hello, my name is Stanton, one of the people Lorelei asked to post while she's gone-- I'm still scratching my head over that, as I don’t have the impressive credentials of the other folks here. As for me, I've been an actor, musician, landscaper, journalist, and now a contractor for the government (be a musician, if you get the choice), but I won't bore you with my ADD resume any more.
I was reading this about the car bombings in Baghdad yesterday. Couple things:
1) there is seething anger at what was done, stoked by non-stop coverage of the event, a first in Iraq; anger at those behind the bombings, but also and especially at occupation forces and the Iraqi government for lack of protection. Why the extra rage for what seems a weekly occurrence? IMO, there was something exceptionally remorseless about the bombings yesterday-- something especially vicious that stabbed at the hearts of Baghdadis. Perhaps because, asassination-tag between Sunni and Shia militias aside, insurgents had lately been targeting US or Iraqi forces and not civilians, and there was an unspoken hope that despite looming violence, the rest of Iraqi society would be more or less left alone. Perhaps because there seems progress, even if it turns out illusory, towards a constitution, and a real government could actually be envisioned in the distance like an oasis. For whatever reason, it seems many Iraqis had let themselves hope-- just a bit-- and this return to savagery was a numbing blow. This was a methodical, triple hit, with especially cruel intentions-- on a police station, then two civilian targets, the second a hospital. The bombers could have easily hit the police station with each -- but they didn’t: one bomb to intimidate police, one bomb to kill Shias travelling south at the bus terminal, and a finale down the street at the hospital entrance, as the injured streamed through its doors . As COL Kurtz says to Willard towards the end of Apocalypse Now:
And then I realized...like I was shot...Like I was shot with a diamond...a diamond bullet right through my forehead...And I thought: My God...the genius of that. The genius. The will to do that.
The will to do that.
Posturing aside, do we as nation-- truly-- have the stomach for this fight? We know the answer-- we don't, which is why even the old faithfuls on the right on are starting to get happy feet. If anyone thinks a quick exit isn't already being planned at the highest levels, I invite them to read this front page story from Sunday's Washington Post. So we will be getting out, sooner than later. But we can't leave overnight, and the Iraqis (except the educated urbanites we desperately need to stay there) can't leave at all.
Well, then, what does the future hold?
2) Some of the witness statements are chilling predictors, with or without US troops there. From a taxi driver at the terminal:
"I was waiting to get two more passengers to go to Kut when this explosion occurred," he said. "I found myself bleeding and my car damaged. Why would anyone detonate his car here? Are they trying to kill passengers, but for what purpose? Only because most of the ones traveling south are Shiites?"
A reminder, from the bombers and their support network to the rest of the country -- especially Shias-- that, a) the sectarian fight ain't over, it's a multi-pronged war, and they are capable of fighting both simultaneously, and; b) their abilities to execute these types of sophisticated operations have, if anything, become enhanced. An ominous calling card for when the inevitable US withdrawal occurs, and they can focus their murderous attention on other, much less challenging targets.
This, though, disturbed me most:
"But how can we stop these attacks?" asked a woman who identified herself as Um Karim, a passenger in a bus that had just turned out of the terminal onto a main street when the third bomb exploded. "We have a saying in Arabic: 'It's hard to catch the thief if he is a member of the family.' That's our predicament."
It's now fairly obvious, at least to me, that US forces will never "get inside the decision-making loop" of the insurgency. But now it appears that the native Iraqis doing intel work with the best of intentions may fare no better; her quote is a haunting look at just how buried the insurgency is, and how vicious and anonymous this fight will continue to be, even after US forces begin to leave. Imagine our own Civil War, fought without uniforms.
As we make our plans for the future, we need to look down the road, at the evolution of the foe both the US and the Iraqi governments will be facing. The picture I see is bleak. To paraphrase Paul Rieckhoff (sp?) of Operation Truth: you can't plan unless you establish a baseline. And part of the baseline is finding out the capability of the opponent. It seems, as we start to truly gauge the opponent's capabilities, that our government is now tripping over itself to get out of Dodge, while Iraqis, who have borne witness to the inabilities of our war machine against this wraith, are now coming to terms with both the monumental cruelty of the war to come, and the increasing likelihood that it will be theirs to fight alone.
I'm not smart enough to have or even suggest a solution. But I do know it's past time we take a long hard look at where we are, and what we have wrought.