Well, this should do it for today. I’m getting ready to go on leave, and visit my Mom and Dad, who reside over by the citadels of power. But I just wanted to get down a few thoughts before I go down for the next few hours, and take care of little details like packing and transportation.
Well, apparently we seriously damaged one of the minarets of Fallujah’s second-largest mosque, when we shelled it. And we’ve been shelling the city fairly regularly, plus the Marines seem to be digging in, so it’s a safe bet that we’ve decided to take the gloves off. Which is only fair, given that our forces there were coming under attack, so the truce was pretty one-sided, in any case
Now, it’d be nice if we could exercise extraordinary restraint and not shell the mosque. This sort of thing is tailor-made for some truly inflammatory footage on al-Jazeera and al-Arabiyah, and it’s guaranteed to win us precisely zero fans amongst the populace.
But, being familiar with the Law of War and how it relates to targeting things like a mosque, I’m fairly sure that the Marines decided to target the mosque because insurgents were using it as a firebase and shelter. So they’re perfectly within their rights to do what they’ve done–and the odds are probably better than even that I would have done the exact same thing if I were in their shoes. Things like the perception of the Arab street tend to fall by the wayside in the heat of battle.
Just be prepared for some ugly footage coming out of that benighted town over the next few days and weeks. It’s not going to be pretty, and I’ll lay even odds that the reaction of your average Iraqi won’t be, “Gee, thanks, guys, for getting rid of those pesky foreign terrorists.”
Which leads me to my basic qualms about staging an operation like Fallujah. The main reason we did it, it seems, is because of the grisly way in which the four private securitymen died. And we’ve demanded that the locals turn over the guilty parties ever since, and we’ve threatened them with all kinds of reprisals.
The sad fact is, however, that the vermin responsible for that ambush likely have flown the coop, and they’re probably lounging in the Bekaa Valley Econo Lodge, looking at pictures of their promised 72 virgins. The local residents are now left to face the consequences. And while I’m not shedding many tears for people who were, frankly, rather celebratory about the whole affair, still, it does seem that we’re using a Gatling gun to silence a fly. Our actions now are, for the most part, only serving to create more blowback, and it’s hard for me to think that we couldn’t have gone about this in a more subtle way.
So, I suppose that what we’re seeing now is the final stages of the Fallujah resistance, at least in its overt form. And it will be sanguinary, but in the end, I think we’ll win and subdue Fallujah. But will it be worth it, if in the end, the dead of Fallujah are celebrated as martyrs, instead of reviled as thugs?
So many deaths, but for what purpose or effect?
Just when you thought the other insurgency was winding down…
To our families in Baghdad:
Do not leave your homes and do not go to school, universities, offices. Do not walk around in the markets and to all supermarket owners and commercial markets: close your shops from April 15 2004 to April 23 2004, since your brothers the Mujahadieen in Ramadi, Khaldiya, and Fallujah will transfer the resistance fire to Baghdad, the capital, to help out Mujahideen brothers from the Al-Mahdi Army to free you from the darkness of the occupier, and so you have been warned.
Your Brothers the Mujahideen companies
From God victory and success
(courtesy of The Agonist)
Now, I haven’t heard of any firefights in Baghdad, but this should serve cause for serious concern. And here’s why (courtesy of Tacitus):
So let’s assume for a moment that the reports that Juan Cole is reading are correct. Moqtada Sadr gets a ten-week vacation in Iran, the Madhi Army disbands, and the Americans leave the environs of Najaf. All under the benevolent eye of the mediating Iranians. And all then returns to normal, right? Well, no. Sadr is coming back, albeit for a trial which may or may not happen; the Madhi Army, which was more or less a collection of irregulars anyway, is not disarmed, not militarily defeated and will re-form at his command; the Americans are implicitly accepting Najaf as a no-go area just like they accepted Fallujah as such; and now the Iranians are overtly and formally players in internal Iraqi politics. This isn’t a solution — it’s a deferral at best. At worst, it’s still more trouble down the road. This isn’t over.
He’s got a great point, one that I allowed myself to gloss over in my relief over the possible avoidance of a battle in Najaf. But it’s true, and we shouldn’t think that just because al-Sadr folded now, he’s through. He isn’t. He’s a survivor, from a whole line of survivors, and it’s more than likely that he’ll be back, causing us trouble. And the opening for Iran to serve as an actor on the Iraqi stage worries me; this may be the opening al-Jaafari needs.
As for the Mehdi Army, if we don’t round them up as they stream out of Najaf, then we’re setting ourselves up for whatever happens when al-Sadr returns as the “conquering” hero.
Something tells me that the worst-case scenario is what we’ll end up seeing here. Tacitus is right: this isn’t over yet, not by a long shot.
A lot of people, particularly on the right side of the commentariat, are making a lot of hay about how we’ve decided to come off the fence and back Ariel Sharon’s bid for an imposed settlement on the Palestinians. Ummm…let’s don’t pat yourselves on the back much, okay? Look, this settlement has as much chance of being a genuine blow for peace as I do of joining the starting lineup of Crossfire. Which is to say, none at all.
The sad fact is, neither side’s covered themselves in glory here. Personally, I think Yasser Arafat’s a bloody fool, who basically had 95% of what he ever wanted in 2000, and instead decided to spurn that and go for the whole hog. The result? 100% of nothing, and nothing is what they’ll get until they decide to settle for something less than perfection.
But the Israelis’ aren’t little angels either. The Israeli insistence that they won’t deal unless the violence stops guarantees that extremists on both sides have veto power over the peace process–and allows Sharon to claim that he wants peace, but those dastardly Palestinians just don’t want it. And so he can pander to his extremists, who harbor mad dreams of a Greater Israel stretching from the Tigris to the Sinai, and promise all sorts of things that, in the long run, he can’t deliver.
Enough. If we’re going to resolve this, then we need to sit both Israel and the Palestinians down, and knock their heads together. I’ll have to think more on this, but already I feel a few ideas germinating in my brain.
Finally, a response to Jim Henley: Thanks, and you bring up a good point. I’ll have to work on what my response would be if I were leading the insurgency. Generally, it’s good to try to walk a mile in the other guy’s shoes, and I think yet another reason we haven’t done well in Iraq is our failure to try to see things from their perspective.
Sorry that this post ended up being longer than I thought. As always, more depending on the situation. And I’ve added “Victory” to the list of featured posts.