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The Beginning of the End?
April 6, 2004
By Michael Shannon

Mark your calendar: 04/04/04, the day the Iraqi house of cards stamped Made in America collapsed. That it has collapsed hardly comes as a surprise. The only surprise is that it stood for as long as it did. Nor will it be a surprise if the administration apologists in Washington and elsewhere, as well as their alter egos in Baghdad, try to dismiss the events of this bloody Sunday as representative of the "up-tick" in insurrection which they have long anticipated as the date for transfer of political authority draws ever closer.

But doing so will be nothing more than whistling past the graveyard. As anyone with eyes, both on the ground in Iraq, or reading a newspaper or watching television anywhere else can plainly see, this is the manifestation of the nightmare scenario for the American occupation.

Rearguing the merits of the invasion of Iraq are long since moot. What is obviously of continued pressing concern is what are we going to do now. As the events of the past several days clearly show, our options are as few as they are lousy.

First off, pulling out is simply not one of them. Regardless of how ill-conceived the rationale for war with Iraq was, now that we are there we are not leaving. Who resides in that big fancy house on Pennsylvania Avenue will have little impact on that reality. There is far too much at stake, and we have already paid far too high of a price in blood and treasure, for any President to simply cut and run. So, what do we do now?

Of course, there are some who argue at the top of their lungs that we should respond with overwhelming military force to crush the insurrection before matters get completely out of control. This was particularly the response advocated in the immediate aftermath of the brutal slaying and desecration of the bodies of four American private security agents in Fallujah. But as horrible as that despicable act was, and as problematic as Fallujah has been since the very first days of the occupation, if that was the extent of the challenges facing the American high command, things would still be semi-manageable.

If the American political and military command does authorize a full-scale assault on Fallujah in retaliation for the inhumane treatment of our people, they will be faced with battling a hostile population in their own backyards. As any military tactician will tell you, street fighting in an urban environment can be the most difficult and costly assignment any force has to face. But as daunting as this challenge is, suddenly with the eruption of violence in cities from one end of Iraq to the other, it now seems to be only one of many such deadly challenges facing the young men and women of the American Armed Forces.

It has long been believed by military/political analysts that as long as the Shia went along with the occupation then the American plan would be viable. As the Shia make up approximately 60 percent of the Iraqi population, their cooperation has been central to the success of any American strategy. Now that they have joined the battle, all bets are off.

It has been proven hundreds of time in the course of history: no indigenous population can be dominated by an outside force if they choose not to be so dominated unless the occupying force applies a continuous and maximum application of lethal force. And even with such an application, unless the native population is reduced to levels which are barely able to support regeneration - ie. the American Indian - it is only a matter of time until the suppressed population reasserts its right to self-determination. What we are now seeing in Iraq is that the battle is no longer being waged by small numbers of holdouts from the Sunni-dominated Baath party, or even smaller numbers of Islamic jihadists, both from within Iraq and from the surrounding Muslim states.

Rooting out a band of people responsible for any number of the horrific acts of terrorism which have taken place against non-military targets over the past year in Iraq is one thing. Going into a city and taking on entire segments of the population is completely different, both in scope and effect. Few would argue that seeking to bring to justice people who bomb mosques, hotels or other "soft" targets is not a justifiable application of force. Trying to find justification to suppressing a nationalistic uprising is a whole different ball of wax.

The struggle to control/pacify Iraq has never been about a majority of the Iraqi people. Historians estimate that during the American Revolution one third of the populace was supportive of the revolution, one third remained loyal to the King and the other third just tried to stay out of the way. Using that same ratio with a population in Iraq of approximately 26 million people and the numbers become very chilling indeed.

The United States, a nation which has long, and rightfully so, taken great pride in its track record as a liberator from tyranny, is now in the eminently unenviable position of trying to suppress a nationwide insurrection waged against it as the foreign occupying power. This is something that we have tried only a few times in our history. And we all know how it turned the last time we were so blinded by hubris to put ourselves in a similarly wretched position.

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