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"Losing my faith in humanity ... one neocon at a time."

Sunday, April 13, 2003

posted by Jazz at 4/13/2003 12:33:00 PM

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April 11, 2003
Picking up the Pieces  Link

Assuming things go smoothly in Tikrit, the primary military engagement portion of the American invasion of Iraq should be nearly over. War historians will look back on this war as one of the swiftest, most precisely executed, and generally successful invasions in all of history. While the death toll among Iraqis will not be known for a very long time, and is surely horrific, the American and British casualties were kept to surprisingly low numbers; even lower than originally predicted by an optimistic Pentagon. Yes, from a strictly military perspective the war couldn't be called anything but a stunning success. An evil, oppressive regime was overthrown, a terrorist training facility was decimated, and we are now ready to open the badly needed cornucopia of humanitarian aid and begin the establishment of a representative, democratic government where all Iraqis can enjoy the fruits of liberty.

Now we need to pray to each of the deities or higher powers in which we collectively believe for a miracle - that our government leaders be suddenly infused with Divine Inspiration and develop the ability to rebuild a shattered nation. We can only hope the results are a bit better than what we did for Afghanistan.

You remember Afghanistan, don't you? It was that nation where we overthrew an evil, oppressive regime, decimated terrorists by the score, opened a cornucopia of humanitarian aid and established a representative, democratic government under which all the people could flourish. Well, that was the plan, anyway. Unfortunately it turns out to be a lot more difficult than the West Wing spin doctors make it sound.

The government of President Hamid Karzai, installed by the United States, currently only has solid control of Kabul, Kandahar, and a handful of other major population centers. Out in the rural areas, particularly in the more mountainous regions and near the Pakistan border, tribal warlords are back in control of the civilian populations as they have been for centuries. Some openly support the still extant Taliban. Others appear to be completely independent agents. What they have in common is a complete lack of interest in being "liberated" by the United States, nor being governed by any new and decidedly non-Muslim government placed in power there. When U.N. coalition peacekeeping forces arrive, they disappear into the wilderness, but return as soon as the troops are gone. And even though there is a substantial military presence there, (the result of an actual U.N. coalition, unlike the one currently in Iraq) the solders can't be everywhere at once.

The opposition continues to grow emboldened as U.S. attention and interest in the region wanes. As the Washington Post reported recently, attacks against U.N. troops and the Karzai administration have increased sharply in the past few weeks. Rebels attacked an Afghan military checkpoint, injuring a number of peacekeeping troops. In response, American helicopters launched laser guided bombs. One of them missed their target entirely, striking a home where it killed eleven civilians, mostly women. In a second report it is revealed that, in March, rebel forces killed two United States solders and a Red Cross worker outside of Kandahar. Villagers near the city of Spin Boldak rose up in answer to a Taliban call to Jihad, attacking Afghan and U.S. Special Operations forces in the area. Meanwhile, Mohammad Omar, the current leader of the Taliban, continues to muster growing support among the recently liberated populace and eludes capture.

The humanitarian aid seems to have been handled well in the major cities, and continues to flow. Unfortunately recent reports indicate that a large portion of it shipped to other regions is either being confiscated by rebel troops, or rotting as it fails to reach its intended recipients. It is worth pointing out that the current budget proposal submitted by President Bush includes no funding at all for Afghanistan.

It's certainly far too early to declare victory or failure with similar efforts in Iraq, but the initial signs don't bode well for us. One of the first Iraqi officials named to a position of authority was Sheik Muzahim Mustafa Kanan Tameemi, in Basra. His home was promptly surrounded and stoned by a mob of villagers unhappy with his selection. In a separate report, Nicholas Kristof was able to interview some of the Iraqis in Basra who appeared to be gathering to cheer on the U.S. forces tearing down statues and portraits of their former dictator. When asked what he was doing there, one jubilant villager responded in a surprising fashion. "We've come to rob the banks, but those British soldiers won't let us in," he said indignantly. "We're very upset."

Looting and the revenge killing of former Baath Party members have become the avocation of choice in the streets of many Iraqi cities. One of our first acts of governance in the country appears to be the imposition of a dusk to dawn curfew, enforced by the military.

Given our history of attempting to "fix" Islamic nations, this is most certainly not an auspicious start.