If only those “axis of evil” fellas were a little more … cooperative.
In Iraq, the Sunni Arab resistance insists on being on a roll, thus disturbing the Pentagon’s plans of quietly building its 14 military bases. In Iran, the new game has not even started, but Tehran and Washington are already at each other’s throats. Only one day after his victory, Iranian president-elect Mahmud Ahmadinejad said at his first press conference in Tehran, “Iran is on a path of progress and elevation, and does not really need the United States on this path.” A few hours later, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was snarling on Fox News, “I don’t know much about this fellow … But he is no friend of democracy.”
Double standards rule. Imagine the fury in the US if, for instance, an Iranian government official in 2000 said, “I don’t know much about this cowboy Bush. But he stole the American elections.”
Karl Marx may be rolling (with laughter) in his Highgate, north London grave. Talking about classic class struggle: in Iran, a left-wing, working-class hero (Ahmadinejad) has beaten a super-bourgeois, millionaire mullah (Rafsanjani). In Iraq, the local, deposed, militarized Sunni Arab bourgeoisie is fighting a national liberation movement against an imperialist occupation. According to one of the current running jokes in the vast Iranian blogosphere, Ahmadinejad is already doomed because Bush will never be able to pronounce his name. On a more serious note, as much as for Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the election result is a “humiliation” to America. Yet a much harsher humiliation is being inflicted by a few thousand Sunni Arab guerrillas in Iraq, bogging down the self-described mightiest army in the history of the world.
No wonder Rumsfeld is in a foul mood.
Wait for 2017
Fresh from being invited last week by Senator Ted Kennedy to graciously step down, Rumsfeld is back on his usual attack-dog mode – but now with a downbeat twist. In May, Vice President Dick Cheney said the “insurgency was in its last throes”. Now – without even appealing to semantic contortionism of the “unknown unknowns” kind – Rumsfeld in fact has clarified to American and world public opinion that the “throes” will go on until 2017. He said, “We’re not going to win against the insurgency. The Iraqi people are going to win against the insurgency. That insurgency could go on for any number of years. Insurgencies tend to go on five, six, seven, eight, 10, 12 years.”
So Rumsfeld is in fact admitting what many people already knew: the Lebanonization of Iraq. With the added element of Vietnamization/Iraqification: when Rumsfeld said “the Iraqi people are going to win against the insurgency”, he actually meant former Mukhabarat pals of former interim prime minister Iyad Allawi at the Interior Ministry, plus the militia inferno at the core of the ministry (the so-called “Rumsfeld’s boys”), ganging up to fight the resistance. Sunni Arab intelligence plus Shi’ite and Kurd militias fighting Sunni Arabs. In other words: civil war. Iraqification as the way to civil war was more than evident when Rumsfeld said, “We’re going to create an environment that the Iraqi people and the Iraqi security forces can win against that insurgency.”
Rumsfeld also said that the Pentagon is “talking with insurgent leaders”: “Well, the first thing I would say about the meetings is they go on all the time.” What this actually means is that the Sunni Arab “Rumsfeld’s boys” exchange information with the Sunni Arab guerrillas and play a double game, looking for the best deal. It’s not dissimilar to the mujahideen in eastern Afghanistan in late 2001 bagging cases full of dollars from the Americans with one hand and passing sensitive information to the Taliban with the other. The resistance has infiltrated each and every government and official body in Iraq, Interior Ministry included. If the Pentagon throws around a lot of money-stuffed cases, it might reach some degree of success.
Rumsfeld took pains to remind and alert American public opinion that the Pentagon does not talk to terrorists, so there’s no conversation with cipher Abu Musab al-Zarqawi – maybe for the simple reason that the Pentagon doesn’t have a clue where he is (or, cynics would add, because Zarqawi is dead). It gets curiouser. Only hours after Rumsfeld did the Sunday talk show round in the US, al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers and Ansar al-Sunnah denied that they were talking with anybody. Al-Qaeda said these were “lies”, they would never talk to “crusaders, Jews and the enemies of Allah”. “Axis of evil” observers will be fascinated by the symmetry: the Pentagon does not talk to terrorists in Iraq as much as it does not talk to the new, weapons of mass destruction-pursuer president of Iran, and vice-versa.
General John Abizaid, the US Centcom commander, was more precise than Rumsfeld when he said that the Pentagon was “looking for the right people in the Sunni community to talk to”. “Right people” can only mean people such as the Association of Muslim Scholars. Anyway, all the Sunni Arab “right people”, even if they were willing to talk, would press on the Americans their number one condition: the end of the occupation itself.
This blockbuster is a dud
Whoever is talking to whichever evildoers, it all boils down to a massive, desperate public-relations campaign in Washington. The Bush administration must imperatively convince American public opinion that it will “win ” in Iraq as a nagging Titanic feeling starts to fill the air. When confronted with a non sequitur, the White House and the Pentagon have always been able to change the script of the Iraqi movie. No weapons of mass destruction? No problem: let’s go with “democracy and freedom to the Arab world”. Terrorism? Let’s fight it with “free elections”. Oops, we didn’t want these Iran-friendly Shi’ites in power. No problem, let’s support them and use them to build an Iraqi army to fight the Sunnis on our behalf.
Now growing numbers of Americans seem to have had enough of all the plot twists – and would rather switch to a Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise vehicle where the bad guys always lose and the good guy always gets the girl. People around the world are always bemused by the fact that American society is a strictly winner-takes-all universe. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld may end up being branded as losers – the ultimate insult (or “unknown unknowns”, in Rumsfeld doublespeak). Rumsfeld has finally admitted that the Iraq war is unwinnable. No amount of Washington spin can have it packaged and sold to the American people – again.