senior US military officers now believe the war
on Iraq has turned into a disaster on an unprecedented
them on!" President Bush challenged the early
Iraqi insurgency in July of last year. Since then,
812 American soldiers have been killed and 6,290
wounded, according to the Pentagon. Almost every
day, in campaign speeches, Bush speaks with bravado
about how he is "winning" in Iraq. "Our
strategy is succeeding," he boasted to the
National Guard convention on Tuesday. But, according
to the US military's leading strategists and prominent
retired generals, Bush's war is already lost.
Retired general William Odom, former head of the
National Security Agency, told me: "Bush
hasn't found the WMD. Al-Qaida, it's worse, he's
lost on that front. That he's going to achieve
a democracy there? That goal is lost, too. It's
lost." He adds: "Right now, the course
we're on, we're achieving Bin Laden's ends."
general Joseph Hoare, the former marine commandant
and head of US Central Command, told me: "The
idea that this is going to go the way these guys
planned is ludicrous. There are no good options.
We're conducting a campaign as though it were
being conducted in Iowa, no sense of the realities
on the ground. It's so unrealistic for anyone
who knows that part of the world. The priorities
are just all wrong." Jeffrey Record, professor
of strategy at the Air War College, said: "
see no ray of light on the horizon at all. The
worst case has become true. There's no analogy
whatsoever between the situation in Iraq and the
advantages we had after the second world war in
Germany and Japan."
Andrew Terrill, professor at the Army War College's
strategic studies institute - and the top expert
on Iraq there - said: "I don't think that
you can kill the insurgency". According to
Terrill, the anti-US insurgency, centred in the
Sunni triangle, and holding several cities and
towns - including Fallujah - is expanding and
becoming more capable as a consequence of US policy.
have a growing, maturing insurgency group,"
he told me. "We see larger and more coordinated
military attacks. They are getting better and
they can self-regenerate. The idea there are x
number of insurgents, and that when they're all
dead we can get out is wrong. The insurgency has
shown an ability to regenerate itself because
there are people willing to fill the ranks of
those who are killed. The political culture is
more hostile to the US presence. The longer we
stay, the more they are confirmed in that view."
After the killing of four US contractors in Fallujah,
the marines besieged the city for three weeks
in April - the watershed event for the insurgency.
"I think the president ordered the attack
on Fallujah," said General Hoare. "I
asked a three-star marine general who gave the
order to go to Fallujah and he wouldn't tell me.
I came to the conclusion that the order came directly
from the White House." Then, just as suddenly,
the order was rescinded, and Islamist radicals
gained control, using the city as a base.
you are a Muslim and the community is under occupation
by a non-Islamic power it becomes a religious
requirement to resist that occupation," Terrill
explained. "Most Iraqis consider us occupiers,
not liberators." He describes the religious
imagery common now in Fallujah and the Sunni triangle:
"There's talk of angels and the Prophet Mohammed
coming down from heaven to lead the fighting,
talk of martyrs whose bodies are glowing and emanating
wonderful scents." "I see no exit,"
said Record. "We've been down that road before.
It's called Vietnamisation. The idea that we're
going to have an Iraqi force trained to defeat
an enemy we can't defeat stretches the imagination.
They will be tainted by their very association
with the foreign occupier. In fact, we had more
time and money in state building in Vietnam than
Odom said: "This is far graver than Vietnam.
There wasn't as much at stake strategically, though
in both cases we mindlessly went ahead with the
war that was not constructive for US aims. But
now we're in a region far more volatile, and we're
in much worse shape with our allies." Terrill
believes that any sustained US military offensive
against the no-go areas "could become so
controversial that members of the Iraqi government
would feel compelled to resign". Thus, an
attempted military solution would destroy the
slightest remaining political legitimacy. "If
we leave and there's no civil war, that's a victory."
Hoare believes from the information he has received
that "a decision has been made" to attack
Fallujah "after the first Tuesday in November.
That's the cynical part of it - after the election.
The signs are all there." He compares any
such planned attack to the late Syrian dictator
Hafez al-Asad's razing of the rebel city of Hama.
"You could flatten it," said Hoare.
"US military forces would prevail, casualties
would be high, there would be inconclusive results
with respect to the bad guys, their leadership
would escape, and civilians would be caught in
the middle. I hate that phrase collateral damage.
And they talked about dancing in the street, a
beacon for democracy."
Odom remarked that the tension between the Bush
administration and the senior military officers
over Iraqi was worse than any he has ever seen
with any previous government, including Vietnam.
"I've never seen it so bad between the office
of the secretary of defence and the military.
There's a significant majority believing this
is a disaster. The two parties whose interests
have been advanced have been the Iranians and
al-Qaida. Bin Laden could argue with some cogency
that our going into Iraq was the equivalent of
the Germans in Stalingrad. They defeated themselves
by pouring more in there. Tragic."
Blumenthal, a former senior adviser to President
Clinton, is Washington bureau chief of salon.com
Posted: September 20, 2004