Monday, August 23, 2004

Najaf and Falluja

From the - ahem - New York Times (my emphasis):

"Just five days after they arrived here to take over from U.S. Army units that had encircled Najaf since an earlier confrontation in the spring, new Marine commanders decided to smash guerrillas loyal to the rebel Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

In recent interviews, the Marine officers said they turned a firefight with al-Sadr's forces on Aug. 5 into a eight-day pitched battle - without the approval of the Pentagon or senior Iraqi officials."

Not a very likely story (but one they liked so much they repeated it in an editorial essentially complaining that some civilians were left alive in Falluja, a mistake the United States cannot afford to make again). It is improbable that American commanders would start a battle without Pentagon approval - this isn't an era where you have to communicate using pigeons - and utterly preposterous that they would be able to carry out a battle for eight days without official approval. The story is so preposterous, and the source, the always unreliable New York Times, so questionable, that we are obviously seeing disinformation in order to hide an embarrassing truth. Najaf is just like Falluja. The neocons are desperately trying to start World War III by bombing Islamic holy sites - just why do you think of all the places they could pick a completely unnecessary fight they decided to pick Najaf? - and the State Department, possibly with some elements in the Pentagon, is trying to stop them. All the confusion on the ground reflects all the confusion in Washington. In Falluja, it appears that American commanders on the ground decided that slaughtering a bunch of civilians wasn't the good idea that the bloodthirsty neocons thought it was, and made peace while the time zone difference meant the neocons slept (even absolute evil has to sleep sometime). The many conflicting stories about what is going on in Najaf - is there peace or not? - reflects a similar duality in American policy. Every time a ceasefire is about to be negotiated, the neocons manage to send another A-130 gunship to stir things up (American forces have conducted completely outrageous war crimes in both Falluja and Najaf, with absolutely no comment in the American media that this might not be such a good thing). Hopefully, when Wolfowitz takes a nap, peace will break out. Otherwise, Najaf may be the first battle in World War III.