Originally posted April 22, 2004
As of this writing, the occupation of Iraq continues. Within the last few weeks minor uprisings have occurred in Fallujah and Baghdad, and Najaf is still a stand-off. It is becoming more apparent that many Iraqis have been very unhappy with the occupation, and are starting to actively resist it. I don’t know how widespread the anger at the occupation is. Generally the U.S. government is saying things are going well, while most of the reports I hear from non-governmental sources are more pessimistic. Given my mistrust of the government, I’m inclined to pessimism.
One disturbing statement has come from the British commander, complaining that many Americans, and particularly American soldiers, see the Iraqis as “untermenschen”, and thus care very little about damage to Iraq lives, property or pride. As an example, Fallujah initially welcomed the soldiers in. Then there was a demonstration (April 28, 2003), the soldiers panicked, and 15 Iraqis ended up dead. Things have gone downhill there since. The administration keeps blaming the problems in Fallujah on Baathist and Al-Qaeda elements, but I’m wondering if our treatment of the city is the bigger problem. And so it seems to be going with the rest of the country.
A number of people have commented that they are surprised how difficult the transformation of Iraq has been, and how nobody forsaw this difficulty. I can only shake my head at this. Millions of people foresaw exactly how difficult this would be, and demonstrated to that effect before the war. And a year after the invasion, we still haven’t gotten to the hard part yet! We’re still working on basic security. We have barely started down the road to getting the institutions in place to allow the different groups to live together in a stable, peaceful Iraq.
Trying to look inside GW Bush’s mind is a scary prospect, but let me propose this line of thought. He isn’t much affected by polls, given that he has a direct link from God who tells him what to do. He isn’t likely to admit, even to himself, that he has made a terrible mistake. He would be even less willing to admit that God made a terrible mistake. In spite of all the political pressures that might arise to get us to abandon Iraq, I wonder if he would hang in there for a very long time, in spite of the hopelessness of the cause.
I certainly hope the previous paragraph is in error, and I still think we will declare victory, leave, and blame it on someone else when Iraq falls apart. Probably when Carl Rove tells him that domestic politics requires it. I have no idea what happens if Kerry wins. He might be able to gather more international support, and that remains our best hope for salvaging this thing. My money is still on Bush’s re-election.