YORK -- Nearly 70 percent of Americans tell Newsweek
that "the United States will be bogged down in
[Iraq] for years without achieving its goals."
Yet 61 percent tell the same poll that invading
Iraq was the right thing to do. The reason for
this weird disconnect: people think that we're
in Iraq to spread democracy and rebuild the Middle
East. They think we're The Good Guys. But the
longer we keep patting ourselves on the back,
the more we tell ourselves that the Iraqi resistance
is a bunch of evil freedom-haters, the deeper
we'll sink into this quagmire.
time to get real.
war, the side that most accurately sizes up the
situation ultimately prevails. In this war in
Iraq, our leaders thought the fall of Baghdad
meant the end of the conflict. "Mission accomplished,"
as the banner behind George W. Bush read on the
aircraft carrier. But Saddam understood the truth:
the war began with the occupation. Guerilla warfare
offered the only way for Iraq's tiny, poorly armed
military to resist the U.S. The Baath Party planned
to provoke U.S. occupation forces into mistreating
bombings and sniper hits have made the American
occupiers jittery and paranoid. They've withdrawn
into fortified cantonments where they've cut off
contact with civilians. Their ignorance causes
them to offend Iraqi cultural and religious sensibilities.
Even better, from Saddam's perspective, U.S. troops
push people around: shooting unarmed motorists,
stealing their money and jewelry at roadblocks,
breaking into houses in the middle of the night,
manhandling wives and daughters, putting bags
over men's heads and carrying them off to God
knows where for who knows how long.
troops put their boots on the back of men's heads
as they lay face down, forcing their foreheads
to the ground," the Associated Press' Scheherezade
Faramarzi writes about the procedure used by U.S.
troops during sweeps. "There is no greater humiliation
... because Islam forbids putting the forehead
on the ground except in prayer." Amnesty International
says the U.S. subjects Iraqi prisoners to "cruel,
inhuman or degrading" conditions.
Iraq, we are the bad guys.
about the "terrorists" who bombed the U.N. headquarters
and Jordanian embassy in Baghdad, who sabotage
oil and water pipelines, who use rifles and rocket-propelled
grenades and remote-controlled mines to kill our
soldiers? Aren't these "killers" evil, "killing
people who just want to help," as another AP writer
ad hoc Iraqi resistance is comprised of indigenous
fighters ranging from secular ex-Republican Guards
to radical Islamist Shiites, as well as foreign
Arab volunteers waging the same brand of come-one-come-all
jihad that the mujahedeen fought against Soviet
occupation forces in Afghanistan. While one can
dismiss foreign jihadis as na´ve adventurers,
honest Americans should call native Iraqi resistance
fighters by a more fitting name: Iraqi patriots.
collect propaganda posters. One of my favorites,
from World War II, depicts a strapping young SS
officer holding a smiling local kid in his arms.
"Trust the German soldier," the caption exhorts
citizens of occupied France. But when liberation
came in 1945, Frenchmen who had obeyed that poster
were shot as collaborators. The men and women
who resisted -- the "terrorists" who shot German
soldiers, cut phone lines and bombed trains --
received medals and pensions. Invaders always
say that they come as liberators, but it's almost
never true. Whether you live in Paris or Baghdad
or New York, you're expected to know that, and
to act accordingly.
want deeds, not words," says Abu Mohammad, a retired
teacher about our inability (unwillingness?) to
restore basic services to the city of Baghdad.
Here are our deeds: Talking about democracy as
we cancel elections. Guarding the oil ministry
building while museums are sacked. Exporting Iraqi
oil to Turkey as Iraqis suffer fuel and power
shortages. Iraq's natural resources are being
raped. Its people are being murdered. Yet it's
the patriotic Iraqi resistance, which is trying
to stop these outrages by throwing out the perpetrators
of an illegal war of aggression, that the Bush
Administration dares call "terrorists".
July 5 a bomb killed seven recruits for a U.S.-trained
Iraqi police force in Ramadi. U.S. occupation
administrator Paul Bremer deplored the murder
of "innocent Iraqis." Cops who work for a foreign
army of occupation are not innocent. They are
collaborators. Traitors. They had it coming.
George W. Bush, truth and justice are no longer
the American way. The U.S. occupation of Iraq
is misguided, evil and doomed to failure. The
sooner we accept this difficult truth, the sooner
we decide to stop being the bad guys, the sooner
we'll withdraw our troops. The bloodshed may continue
after we leave -- and we'll be partly to blame
for that. But until we pull out, the carnage is
Tuma's brother was shot to death when he drove
past a U.S. military checkpoint. (The psychotic
U.S. military policy in Iraq, despite countless
killings of innocent civilians and at least five
reporters to date, is not to warn victims before
opening fire.) "It is simple," says Tuma. "If
someone kills your son, wife or brother without
any reason but only that they happen to be walking
or driving in the street, what you will do? You
what I'd do. It's probably what you'd do too.
Rall is the author of the graphic travelogue "To
Afghanistan and Back," an award-winning recounting
of his experiences covering the U.S. invasion
of Afghanistan. It is now available in a revised
and updated paperback edition containing new material.
Ordering information is available at amazon.com.)
2003 TED RALL
August 31, 2003