SCHONRIED, Switzerland -- Misled and misread. That pretty well sums up America's growing disaster in Iraq.
First, President George W. Bush, VP Dick Cheney and a coterie of neo-conservatives led by Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle misled Americans into an unprovoked, unnecessary war by claiming Iraq was about to attack the U.S. with nuclear and biowarfare weapons. This was a grotesque lie that anyone with knowledge of strategic weapons knew was arrant nonsense, but few had the courage or honesty to refute.
Next, the White House gravely misread the strategic situation by swallowing neo-con assurances the "liberation" of Iraq would be a cakewalk and oil bonanza. Last week, Iraqis responded to Bush's foolish challenge, "Bring 'em on," by blowing up UN headquarters in Baghdad and inflicting serious sabotage on Iraq's oil infrastructure.
These attacks show the U.S. has got itself into a truly awesome mess in Iraq. Far from easily plundering Iraq's oil wealth, U.S. occupation troops - almost half the U.S. Army's combat forces - are now under siege, at a cost of $1 billion US weekly.
Bush has literally stuck his head in a hornet's nest in Iraq and is now getting royally stung. He, his scandalously inept national security advisers, and the media's so-called "Iraqi experts" failed to comprehend that a U.S. occupation would be a frightful, expensive, bloody mess - a disaster that was totally predictable.
Worse, the U.S. occupation is clearly creating the kind of violence and car bomb terrorism that Bush used as an excuse to invade Iraq. Call this a terrorism perpetual motion machine. Iraqis who resist U.S. occupation are branded "terrorists" and lumped into Bush's crusade against Islamic militancy.
Blame the neighbors
When the U.S. finds itself unable to crush Iraqi resistance, it will blame neighboring Iran and Syria for "fueling terrorism," and may attack them. Tehran and Damascus thus have every reason to stir the pot in Iraq to tie down American forces and make it less likely the U.S. will next invade them, as neo-cons are urging.
Just a score of Syrian or Iranian-supplied snipers, for example, could inflict punishing losses on the U.S. garrison in Iraq. A few truck bombs causing heavy U.S. casualties might well convince hitherto trusting Americans that Bush's Iraq adventure is a bloody fiasco.
This writer, who covered the Afghan struggle against Soviet occupation in the 1980s, sees many of the same elements developing in Iraq: tribal and ethnic divisions, a foreign-supported puppet regime with a useless army, an intractable guerrilla war and a great power with overreaching imperial ambition.
Worse for the U.S., Iraq may be emerging - like Afghanistan - as a new, pan-national cause for the Muslim world. Thousands of jihadi volunteers are reportedly slipping into Iraq to battle U.S. troops. They range from youthful idealists to battle-hardened jihadis from other wars and a handful of suicide bombers. Just as the Afghan jihad electrified the Muslim world and helped assuage its feelings of weakness and inferiority, for a new generation Iraq may come to be a passionate struggle against another foreign invader.
President Bush has conveniently provided anti-American militants and fanatics across the Mideast with an ideal target: the U.S. army in Iraq.
Ironically, the American neo-conservatives who played a primary role in engineering this war have stuck the U.S. in much the same morass that their hero and ally, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, found himself in after he engineered the invasion of Lebanon.
Each passing day makes Bush's ill-fated invasion of Iraq increasingly resemble Lebanon's ugly civil war in the 1980s. Sharon, then Israel's defense minister, ordered his army to invade war-torn Lebanon in 1982 under the pretext of fighting terrorism. In fact, Sharon's real goal, which he hid from Israel's prime minister and cabinet, was to crush the Palestine Liberation Organization, turn Lebanon into an Israeli protectorate and make himself prime minister.
The result was a calamity for Israel, as its intelligence agency, Mossad, had warned. Like recent CIA warnings over Iraq, Mossad was ignored. At first, Israeli troops were welcomed by many Lebanese, but, they soon ended up in a bloody guerrilla war. Israel's Lebanese Christian allies, many neo-fascists, turned out to be as inept, conniving and treacherous as America's Iraqi yes-men.
Israel was eventually car-bombed and blasted out of Lebanon by Hezbollah guerrillas who, like today's Iraqi resistance forces, were branded "terrorists." The war cost Israel heavy casualties and billions of dollars. Syria emerged as the real winner, and overlord of Lebanon. Israel suffered its first-ever military defeat. Sharon was convicted of indirect responsibility for the massacres of thousands of Palestinian civilians at the Shatilla and Sabra refugee camps.
The U.S. finds itself in a disturbing analogue of the long Lebanese civil war, with confused American troops, like Israeli soldiers in Lebanon, not knowing why they are there or who is the enemy and venting their frustration on civilians. Protracted guerrilla warfare eventually turns even the best-disciplined troops into brutes, and corrupts entire armies.
The very neo-cons who fathered this disaster are now calling for more American troops to be sent to Iraq.
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