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Commentary Last Updated: Jan 17th, 2007 - 00:40:37

When will this nightmare end?
By Mike Whitney
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jan 17, 2007, 00:36

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Former Carter National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski summarized Bush�s plans for a "surge" of troops in Iraq saying: "The commitment of 21,500 more troops is a POLITICAL GIMMICK of limited tactical significance and of no strategic benefit. It is insufficient to win the war militarily. It will engage US forces in bloody street fighting that will not resolve with finality the ongoing turmoil and the sectarian and ethnic strife, not to mention the anti-American insurgency."

Brzezinski is right; Bush�s plan is just a gimmick that has no chance of succeeding and is likely to make matters worse. Seventeen-thousand five-hundred soldiers aren�t enough to "clear and secure entire neighborhoods" as Bush suggests. The only purpose they might serve is to conduct massive sweeps through Sunni neighborhoods terrorizing the local people and displacing larger segments of the population.

That appears to be the real objective of Bush�s "Choosing Victory" strategy; another major crackdown employing air and ground forces to ethnically cleanse the main Sunnis neighborhoods. The promise of "security" is just a diversion.

A number of articles have appeared in the last few days which indicate that Bush�s "purge" is already underway. Jon Swain of the Times-online provides a chilling description of the military onslaught being carried out in the Haifa neighborhood just a few hundred yards outside the Green Zone:

�[The operation involved over] 1,000 American and Iraqi troops backed by Apache helicopters and F-18 fighter jets; it was one of the most spectacular military operations there since the American invasion in spring of 2003. Flames and clouds of smoke filled the area as the battle against Sunni insurgents raged. Helicopters raked the rooftops with rocket and machinegun fire, jets swooped down to almost rooftop level, and tanks and fighting vehicles took up supporting positions as innocent people cowered inside."

Swain�s account proves that Bush�s real intention is not security but terrorizing the civilian population into submission. It's a textbook example of military pacification. As one 55-year old resident of Haifa asked, "Is this the new paradise the Americans said they would give us when they invaded our country?" Then he added, "When is this nightmare going to end?"

Another article which appeared in Azzaman news service, "US Warplanes bomb Baghdad as Street Battles Rage," provides a similar account of US attacks on neighborhoods in the capital: "US troops are deploying massive air and ground fire against heavily populated residential areas in Baghdad as a prelude to the start of a campaign to retake the city they invaded nearly 4 years ago. . . . The victims have been innocent Iraqis and the city�s rickety infrastructure. Witnesses� say US bombing has already knocked out several power lines and water mains in these areas."

"The sky is burning," said one witness who refused to be named for fear of revenge.

Nothing the Bush administration says can be trusted. To fully understand current policy in Iraq, one must follow events on the ground, that�s where the truth lies.

The war in Iraq is not an "ideological struggle against Islamic extremism," as Bush avers, but a brutal colonial war aimed at Iraqi civilians; the rest is merely smoke and mirrors.

Undoubtedly, Bush will make some meager attempt to implement the counterinsurgency strategy of the Pentagon�s newest field marshall, General David Petraeus. Petraeus wrote the War Department�s updated manual on counterinsurgency and he is expected to prove that Bush has changed directions by using the latest tactics for countering an "insurgency". But it's all just show so Bush can silence his critics who say that he is too stubborn to change course.

The Petraeus plan will seal off large areas of Baghdad with barbed wire and checkpoints, forcing residents to use specially made IDs to exit and enter their own neighborhoods. Sections of the capital will be transformed into mini-garrisons to prove that security can be established with the right combination of tactics and military force. But Petraeus' "clear, hold, build" plan ("Ink spot" theory) requires hundreds of thousands of more troops than the US can provide, so there is no real chance that the plan will succeed. Bush is simply "buying time" so he can intensify the bombing and ethnic cleansing campaign which is already being executed behind the iron curtain of media disinformation.

In reality, Bush is sticking with his "stay the course" strategy; expecting a political solution to arise from the scattered-rubble of bombed-out Baghdad. It won�t happen. Baghdad is too big to be turned into a penal colony and the Ba�athist resistance is too cunning to be thrust into a pitched battle with the US military.

The war will persist until political options are pursued.

As for Petraeus, his expertise in counterinsurgency is wasted in Baghdad. Abu Ghraib, Falluja, Haditha, and a thousand other atrocities decided the "hearts and minds" issue long ago. There�s no way to win the people's trust when more than 90 percent believe that "things were better under Saddam" or when 60 percent believe that killing American troops is "justifiable."

Iraqis hate America, and for good reason. Petraeus� efforts won�t change that.

Disbanding the militias? Attacking Iran?

Yesterday in Baghdad, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad announced that American troops would be actively pursuing Iranian networks in Iraq. The Bush administration claims that Iran is directly supporting the resistance even though Iranians are Shiites and the Ba�athist-led resistance is Sunni.

Khalilzad said, "We will target these [Iranian] networks in the expectation of changing the behavior of these states." He further stressed, "Militias will not be allowed to be an alternative to the state or to provide and take on local security around the country."

Khalilzad�s threats sound like Washington has decided to expand the war so that it can carry out military operations against the Mahdi Army or, perhaps, pave the way for a preemptive attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. But there may be another explanation for the American ambassador�s statement. The Bush administration is under growing pressure from the other Sunni-dominated capitals (Riyadh, Amman, and Damascus) to demonstrate that they are not strengthening the Shiites to the detriment of the Sunnis. In fact, members of the Saudi royal family have threatened to provide material support for the Iraqi resistance if the administration fails to stop the ethnic cleansing in Baghdad. It could be that Khalilzad is merely trying to appear impartial to US allies, even though the orders to target the Sunnis have already been given.

Reports from Baghdad suggest that Sunni neighborhoods continue to be the main focus of US-Shiite hostilities.

Thus far, there have been no attempts to disarm the Shiite militias. In fact, there have been many reports that the militias have swept into Sunni areas under the protection of US air power and carried out their attacks.

Moreover, the fact that the US did nothing to stop the hanging of Saddam�s two chief aides yesterday, suggests that the administration has cut off all dialogue with the Sunni resistance and thrown their lot with the Shiites. This is another mistake that will only compound America�s difficulties.

Honor bound; a band of brothers

Middle East scholar Juan Cole has written extensively on the Bush administration�s inability to understand the position of the Sunnis. In his latest article, Misreading the Enemy, Cole points out that Bush�s ignorance is only exacerbating existing divisions and preventing a political solution.

He says: "Guerilla movements can succeed against wealthier, more-populous and better-armed enemies . . . The real question is not America�s supposed superiority . . . but what exactly the resources and tactics of the enemy are and whether they can be defeated. The answer to the second question is 'No.'

"These guerilla cells are rooted in the Sunni Arab sector, some 20 percent of the population, which had enjoyed centuries of dominance in Iraq. From it came the high bureaucrats, the managers of companies, officer corps, the people who know how to get things done. They know where some 200,000 remaining tons of explosives are hidden, secreted around the country by the former regime. They are for the most part unable to accept being ruled by what they see as a new government of Shiite Ayatollahs and Kurdish Warlords, or being occupied by the US Army and Marines. These Iraqi Sunnis enjoy the support of millions of committed and sometimes wealthy co-religionists in Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the oil kingdoms of the Persian Gulf . . . Iraq is a country of clans and tribes . . . of feuds and grudges . . . All members of the clan are honor-bound to defend or avenge all the other members. They are bands not of brothers but cousins.

"US soldiers cannot stop the Sunni Arab guerilla cells from setting bombs or assassinating people . . . And since they cannot stop them, they also are powerless to halt the growing number of intense clan and religious feuds. The US cannot stop the sabotage that hurts petroleum exports in the north and stops electricity from being delivered for more than a few hours a day.

"Since Sunni guerillas cannot be defeated or stopped from provoking massive clan feuds that destabilize the country, there is only one way out of the quagmire. The US and the Shiite government must negotiate a mutually satisfactory settlement with the Sunni guerilla leaders . . . Their first and most urgent demand is that the US set a timetable for withdrawal of its troops.

�As long as the Sunnis Arabs of Iraq are so deeply unhappy, they will simply generate more guerillas over time. Bush is depending on military tactics to win a war that can only be won by negotiation." [Juan Cole]

Jack Murtha: "It�s a whole new ballgame."

President Bush is already meeting stiff resistance in the Congress for his latest change of plans in Iraq. John Murtha, the acting chair of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, said Sunday on "This Week" that he will push for immediate "redeployment of troops out of Iraq" and to "restrict funding until some of the problems are fixed at home."

Murtha's proposals are bound to elicit broad support among the growing number of candidates who see that public opinion has dramatically shifted against the war.

As Congressman Murtha aptly stated to George Stephanopoulos on national TV, "It�s a whole new ballgame now."

Bush�s "surge" is a last-gasp effort to achieve victory through military force. It offers no hope for a political solution or a timely end to the nearly four year-long humanitarian catastrophe.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at:

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