|Wolfowitz's wakeup call in
By Jim Lobe
WASHINGTON - US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul
Wolfowitz's weekend tour of Iraq appeared to be going
splendidly: everywhere he went - even in Saddam
Hussein's former stronghold of Tikrit - Iraqis greeted
him with smiles and warm handshakes, no doubt adding to
his conviction that the war really was for "liberation"
rather than "occupation".
Until Sunday morning,
that is, when the Pentagon's chief Iraq hawk was rudely
awakened by an unprecedented missile barrage fired from
a home-made rocket launcher less than half a kilometer -
and well within the capital's heavily-patrolled "green
zone" - from the al-Rashid hotel where he was sleeping.
A US colonel on a floor just below Wolfowitz's
was killed in an attack that wounded at least 16 others
and proved to be a mere foretaste of a much more
devastating series of coordinated car bombings carried
out early on Monday on four police stations and the
headquarters of the International Red Cross in Baghdad.
At least 40 people were killed and well over 200
more injured in the blasts, making it the worst day of
violence in the capital since US forces captured Baghdad
in early April.
President George W Bush, meeting
with Coalition Provisional Authority chief L Paul
Bremer, insisted that the attacks were merely signs of
"desperation" on the part of "terrorists" opposed to the
US presence in Iraq, who were motivated by anger over
the progress made by occupation authorities in restoring
normal life and creating a free society.
are terrorists in Iraq who are willing to kill anybody
in order to stop our progress," Bush said. "The more
successful we are on the ground, the more these killers
But to more impartial analysts, the
one-two punch by anti-US forces suggested that, if
anything, resistance to the occupation is growing and
becoming more coordinated and sophisticated.
Until now, US officials have contended that
resistance is confined to die-hard loyalists - or what
the Pentagon often refers to as "deadenders" - of ousted
President Saddam Hussein, foreign jihadis inspired by or
associated with al-Qaeda and common criminals, several
thousand of whom were released from prison in a general
amnesty just before the US-led invasion.
characterization naturally suggests that the resistance
lacks any legitimacy.
But this description
appears increasingly at odds with accounts by
journalists who have interviewed men identified as
resistance fighters, very few of whom have had good
words to say about Saddam, as well as recent statements
by US military officers on the ground.
maintain that troops either do not really know who is
behind the attacks or that they suspect resistance is
much more broadly based than the official rhetoric
suggests. "The attacks are being committed by three
broad categories of guerrillas, none with close ties to
Saddam," wrote Hassan Fattah, a Baghdad-based
journalist, for The New Republic.
In addition to
former lower-ranking Ba'athists, the two major groups,
according to Fattah and other reporters, include
conservative predominantly Sunni tribesmen, increasingly
angry at disrespectful behavior by US troops, and an
indigenous Islamist group, the best-known arm of which
is Mohammed's Army.
All of them are opposed to
US occupation, and their ranks appear to be growing as
the larger population becomes increasingly disaffected
by the US presence, according to recent reports.
Indeed, despite arrests and round-ups of
thousands of suspected fighters over the past several
months, the number of attacks on US forces has doubled
over the past two months, to well over 20 a day.
And, after a relatively peaceful September, the
toll they are taking in US lives has surged over the
past two weeks to an average of just about one a day.
"It is my impression that the guerrilla campaign
against us is spreading and intensifying, and the other
side does not seem to be losing enough people in the
process," the former Middle East analyst for the Defense
Intelligence Agency during the first Gulf War of 1991,
Walter Lang, told the New York Times recently.
Already in August, indications were worrisome,
according to John Zogby, whose polling group conducted a
major door-to-door survey in four major Iraqi cities.
Three in five Iraqis said they wanted to be left alone
to work out a future government, while one-half
predicted the US will hurt Iraq over the next five
years, compared to 36 percent who said it will help.
Earlier this month, just under one-half of some
1,620 representative Iraqis around the country said they
considered coalition forces to be liberators or
peacekeepers when they first arrived. Now, according to
the survey, which was commissioned by the International
Republican Institute, that percentage has fallen to 19,
with 10 percent willing to tell pollsters that they
"strongly opposed" the coalition's presence.
Worse, the perception of US troops as occupiers
has grown most sharply in Shi'ite and Kurdish cities,
which, in contrast to the so-called Sunni triangle, have
been seen as the most pro-coalition areas of the
Those statistics are contributing to
the notion that Washington now faces a real insurgency -
even one that has no explicit political ideology other
than being anti-occupation - as opposed to a terrorism
campaign carried out by a small and ever-diminishing
group of diehards and foreign Islamists.
rhetoric around the resistance is already changing, as
even neo-conservative war-boosters who predicted US
forces would be greeted as "liberators" by the Iraqi
population and did not conceive of an active post-war
resistance have begun recognizing that opposition to
occupation has a broader popular base than they
Tom Donnelly of the
neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute and Garry
Schmitt, director of the Project for the New American
Century, have now called on Washington to launch a major
counter-insurgency campaign based on the experience of
US Marines in the Caribbean Basin and the Philippines in
the first half of the 20th century.
using big-unit search-and-destroy missions as in
Vietnam, they said, the military should "swamp a given
area in order to root out insurgents and their
supporting infrastructure". Such operations could
require increasing overall US troop levels in Iraq.
But if, as a growing number of military analysts
believe, Washington now faces a real insurgency,
fighting it effectively might simply be too costly, both
financially and politically, according to retired army
Colonel Andrew Bacevich of Boston University.
has called instead for the administration to reduce its
expectations of installing democracy in Iraq and the
Middle East, give greater authority to the United
Nations for administering the occupation if it will
accept the mission, and to begin reducing US troop
numbers according to a schedule that will make clear
"this is not a neo-colonial occupation of indefinite
(Inter Press Service)