Only a few weeks after the anniversary of the grand cakewalk through Iraq by American forces, it is obvious that the war that was supposed to have been over a year ago is not only still going on but is escalating—and that American forces are not exactly winning.
Sometime between the Madrid bombing last month and the ever-rising casualties of American soldiers and civilians in Iraq in the last few weeks, the whole argument for the war began to unravel.
Of course the previous arguments for the war—the non-existent “weapons of mass destruction” and the equally non-existent “links” between Iraq and Al Qaeda—were exposed as fraudulent long ago.
But now, in the last few weeks, even the administration’s back-up argument, that the war rid Iraq of a repressive, bloodthirsty and dangerous regime, has crumbled.
What that argument told us was that Americans should fight and die so Iraqis could be free. Even on its face, the argument was false—it assumes that Iraqi lives are worth more than ours—but with the escalation of the war, the argument becomes ridiculous.
The very resistance to American occupation by Shiites as well as Sunnis shows clearly that Iraqis don’t want the “freedom” American bayonets are supposed to deliver.
Indeed, it shows the Iraqis hate us and the horse we rode in on.
Back when Saddam Hussein himself was captured in December, the confident predictions from the administration’s tame experts were that his arrest would end the resistance in Iraq.
I didn’t think so. As I wrote then,
“The cutting edge of the war is being pressed by Islamic fundamentalists of one kind or another—people, many of them not even from Iraq, who identify with Osama bin Laden or similar figures far more than with Saddam, always one of the most secularized leaders of one of the most secularized regimes in the Middle East.”
And that’s what the experts now admit. Neither the death of Saddam’s two sons nor his own capture have helped quell the armed resistance to American occupation.
The real political force in Iraq today is neither the U.S. forces nor Saddam’s Baathists but the Shiites and their leader Moqtada Sadr, who promised last week to turn Iraq into “another Vietnam for America.” He may well do just that—with our cooperation.
“Another Vietnam for America” would take more than just a well-armed guerrilla force. It would also require the support of a large portion of the civilian population, which, with the Shiites making up 60 percent of the Iraqi people, is entirely likely. It would take a supply of weapons that the Iraqis also have from the vast conventional arsenals of the old regime, as well as whatever they can bring in from outside sources.
And, maybe most importantly, it would take a foreign source of support, comparable to North Vietnam, that can provide sanctuary, arms, supplies and a base. The Washington Times reported last week that “military sources with access to recent intelligence reports”say that Sadr “is being supported by Iran and its terror surrogate Hezbollah.”
You never can tell about these “military sources with access to recent intelligence reports.” The same kind of sources told us last year all about the weapons of mass destruction and other fables, and the claims about Iranian support may merely be government propaganda to justify yet another war, this one against Iran, that Israeli agents of influence inside the administration are yelping for.
But Iranian support for Sadr and his militia is also entirely plausible and indeed was predictable. Why should Iran, a Shiite nation itself, want to allow the United States and its Israeli ally to take over Iraq?
Why shouldn’t forces naturally sympathetic to Iran rule in Baghdad? So the “military sources” for once may actually know what they’re talking about. If so, Sadr’s ambition for “another Vietnam” may be close to reality.
But there’s one more ingredient necessary for turning Iraq into another Vietnam, and that’s the stupidity of the U.S. government. In the 1960s Lyndon Johnson walked into the Vietnamese trap without knowing where he was going or what would happen when he got there.
This week, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld assured the nation that “We’re facing a test of will and we will meet that test” in Iraq. The Pentagon indicated that it would delay bringing back home some 25,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, and Mr. Rumsfeld says he will consider sending more troops there if the military command wants them.
President Bush himself bubbled last week that “we’ve got to stay the course, and we will stay the course.”
Sheik Sadr appears to have everything he needs to make his dream of another Vietnam for America come true.