Ain't Over But It's Lost
By Michael Shannon
Oh what a difference a year makes. On May 1, 2003 George
Bush pulled off one of the most audacious, over-the-top stunts
in the sordid history of political grandstanding. Using the
martial splendor of the USS Abraham Lincoln, a borrowed flight
suit and a swell looking red, white and blue banner Mr Bush
announced to the world that we "had prevailed."
On May 1, 2004 sitting in some undisclosed location, wearing
who knows what and with no visual accompaniment at all, Mr
Bush announced to a decidedly less receptive audience that
the United States and its coalition allies are "implementing
a clear strategy in Iraq."
Unfortunately for Mr Bush, only those true believers who
still accept as dogma anything that comes out of his mouth,
regardless of how inane, pay any heed to such idiocy. For
the rest of us, it is increasingly obvious that this May 1st
just passed will come to mark the end of the United States'
always tenuous opportunity to win a military/political victory
This does not mean for a moment that I contend the fighting
will soon end; on the contrary, it will most likely continue
well into the foreseeable future. However, short of a massive
escalation in American military manpower and firepower, which
would invariably lead to a diplomatic Chernobyl, the war is
For the past several months as the insurgency became an indisputable
fact - remember those idyllic day when we could kid ourselves
that the killing of Saddam's sons was going to end it? - the
American military commanders and their political bosses have
been walking on razor wire trying to strike a balance in their
tactics. They have been faced with two vexing and daunting
questions: do we use all means necessary to quash the insurrection
and thereby run the risk of enraging the populace at large,
or do we use minimal force and only as needed which will only
serve to embolden those who would do us harm?
As hard as it may be to believe, they have managed to do
both simultaneously; with predictably disastrous results.
It makes absolutely no difference what the White House and
the Pentagon call the change in strategy regarding the Marines
in Falluja. They can refer to it as a repositioning, redeployment,
a strategic withdrawal, a successful example of Iraqification,
a combination of all of the above or anything else that suits
their fancy and it doesn't make a damn bit a difference because
the only thing the bad guys are calling it is a victory.
The Marines were sent to Falluja to accomplish three very
specific, clear and measurable military objectives: the capture
or elimination of the people responsible for the deaths and
subsequent mutilations of four American mercenaries, the disarmament
of the insurrectionists, and the pacification of the city.
Through absolutely no fault of the young men who put their
lives on the line to achieve these ends, they accomplished
none of them.
When it became apparent to the higher-ups that in order
for these objectives to be reached they would have to employ
a level of destruction - think Grozny only with satellite
coverage - that would lead to worldwide condemnation, and
still incur dozens if not hundreds of American casualties,
But even in their hour of desperation who could have possibly
imagined that they would chose as a solution to order the
Marines to pull back to positions outside of the city and
put an ex-Saddam general in charge of a hastily assembled
force of former Iraqi soldiers with little or no equipment
or heavy armaments? In light of this thoroughly bewildering
turnaround, it is not hard to imagine that Sheik Sadr is sleeping
a little easier these days.
As bad as this is from a military credibility perspective,
with the release of the pictures of smiling American soldiers
forcing Iraqi prisoners into acts of sexual and physical humiliation,
we have suffered an even more debilitating defeat in the all
important battle for the "hearts and minds" of the Iraqis.
As ashamed, repulsed and horrified as all rational people
feel when they see such depravity, how Americans feel about
this is entirely irrelevant. As with the "repositioning" of
the Marines outside Fallujah, it is only how our enemies react
to it, both those who have already taken up arms against us
as well as those who will do so because of it, that is important.
And while it is undoubtably true that the torture chambers
of Hussein's regime were far, far worse in scope and effect
than we what see in these pictures, try telling that to the
19 year old Iraqi who recognizes his brother at the bottom
of one of the piles of naked bodies
With the release of these picture, coupled with the ongoing
visages of Iraqi civilian deaths and dismemberment that are
a staple of Arabic television, the United States has lost
whatever claim it had to the moral high ground. No longer
can anyone argue with a straight face that we are there as
liberators. From this moment on we are fighting a war of occupation
Contact Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org