Monday, September 27, 2004

Losing the war in Iraq

From "Incident on Haifa Street" by Tom Engelhardt:

"In our ability to let loose destructive power at great distances and by air, the United States military is undoubtedly unparalleled as a power today. And yet here's the counterintuitive way you have to think about American airpower in Iraq: Watch where the bombs and missiles are falling - starting with Falluja and ending up on Haifa Street - and you can map almost exactly where American power is blinking off. The use of air power, in other words, is a sign of American weakness. Its use maps our inability to control Iraq. To the extent that you can monitor our air power, you'll know much about what's going badly in that country, in part because the resort to air power in a guerrilla war means the surefire alienation of the contested population. It means that you've given up on 'hearts and minds,' to use a classic Vietnam-era phrase, and turned to the punitive destruction of bodies and souls."


The United States is losing the war in Iraq one war crime at a time. The Pentagon is completely oblivious to the fact that these air attacks on civilians should be profoundly embarrassing to the United States, and continues to announce these barbarities as if they were military successes. The funny thing is that these crimes are being committed at a time when the right-wingers in the United States seem to want to use the current American election campaign as a chance to return to a debate on the Vietnam War. The emasculating experience of being so roundly defeated by a peasant army in Vietnam has always been excused by the right as being the fault of war protestors, who somehow wouldn't allow the American military to fight the war as it should have been fought and won. The pathetic excuse for the ignominious American defeat in Vietnam is the protests of people like Jane Fonda and John Kerry. The Vietnam veterans seem to think that Jane Fonda still has their balls pickled in a jar somewhere. They shouldn't be so sensitive about their emasculation. Since the French experience in Algeria, no army, no matter how powerful, has been able to prevail against a determined guerilla resistance in a case where the army is attempting to enforce the neo-colonial subjugation of a country. The Vietnamese would have won with or without Jane Fonda, although it may have taken many more American deaths to prove it.


The argument that it was the civilians who lost the Vietnam War continues to reverberate in American politics today, and fear of it seems to lie behind Kerry's inability to come up with a coherent policy on Iraq. Since the whole of the United States appears to be united in support of the war, the Pentagon can't even use the excuse that it is losing because its hands are tied by popular opinion. The fact that it can proudly issue press releases celebrating American war crimes is proof that it is able to fight the war without any restrictions whatsoever.


And still, the Americans are losing, and losing badly. They are not just losing the battle of hearts and minds, as that part of the war was lost a long time ago. They are also not suffering under the PR problems that you would think would be caused by ever increasing numbers of American casualties, as those statistics are either hidden from the American public or apparently are of no concern to it. They are actually losing in the good old fashioned way that would have been understood by the Ancient Greeks. Each time they have a battle, the Americans suffer more debilitating casualties than the resistance. The Americans are losing for the simple reason that they are running out of troops. This explains the more and more ridiculous stories we see of attempts to deal with the lack of American troops. It also explains the reliance on aerial bombardment of civilians. Aerial bombardment is completely useless against the resistance, who are highly mobile and simply evacuate the area, leaving the women and children and old men to die under American bombs. If these bombs are killing any members of the resistance, it is by sheer luck. The increasing American reliance on the war crime of aerial bombardment reflects the desperation of an army that is out of answers. With every battle it cedes more and more ground to the resistance, and suffers a disproportionate number of casualties. The Americans can no longer even afford to fight the resistance in the mano a mano fights that might lead to American success, as the Americans can no longer afford to take the rates of casualties they would suffer. They can't replace the troops they would lose. Each case of aerial bombardment increases the fury of the Iraqi people, and thus the size and determination of the resistance. It is a vicious cycle the Americans can't hope to win.


The attack on Iraq has turned into one of the main embarrassments in American military history. Bush has based his whole election campaign on fighting the war on terror by fighting the war in Iraq, so he has no possible exit strategy. It will be interesting to see how much permanent damage he does to the American military. Once the neocons have tired of Iraq, it's on to Syria and Iran. Will there be enough of an American army left to fight these new illegal wars? How much will the draft help? Will the draft undermine the success of the completely volunteer army? Will the American Empire be over before it has a chance to begin?

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