FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Real Game

by WILLIAM S. LIND

Bush’s splurge is already bringing premature claims of success, even though the first troops are just arriving in Iraq. A column in yesterday’s Washington Times by Ollie North quotes an American officer in Iraq as saying, “Do they (Members of Congress opposed to the war) even know that in the last two weeks we have set AQI (al Qaeda in Iraq) and the Mahdi Army both back on their heels?” Well, maybe, but if they are back on their heels, it is only to sit and see how their enemy’s latest operation evolves. That is smart guerilla tactics, and does not mean they have suffered a setback.

In Anbar province, al Qaeda may have overplayed its hand. A number of reports suggest some of the local sheiks have turned against al Qaeda, and we are providing the sheiks with discreet assistance in going after them. That is smart on our part. But Bush administration propaganda to the contrary, al Qaeda does not represent the bulk of the Sunni resistance. The nationalists will continue to fight us because we are there, and the Baathists will continue to fight us so long as we represent a despised Shiite regime in Baghdad. We can and should try to negotiate settlements with both nationalists and Baathists, but political considerations in Washington and in Baghdad have largely tied the hands of our local commanders.

The Mahdi Army and other Shiite groupings have a different perspective. Once we understand what it is, we can see that it makes sense for them to avoid a confrontation with the U.S. military if they can. From the Shiite perspective, American forces are in Iraq to fight the Sunnis for them. Our troops are, in effect, the Shiites’ unpaid Hessians.

Thus far, we have been willing to play the Shiites’ game. Their challenge now is to make sure we continue to do so as Bush’s “big push” in Baghdad unfolds. Originally, they wanted U.S. forces to control access to Baghdad, cutting the Sunnis’ lines of communication and reinforcement, while the Shiite militias carried on their successful campaign of ethnic cleansing. With Bush insisting American forces work in Baghdad, the Shiites came up with an alternate plan, one we have seemingly accepted: the Americans will drive out the Sunni insurgents, leaving Sunni neighborhoods defenseless. As the American troops move on, they will be replaced by Iraqi soldiers and police, mostly Shiite militiamen, who will ethnically cleanse the area of Sunnis, just as in plan A. Again, the Americans will have fulfilled their allotted function, fighting the Sunnis on behalf of the Shiites. Aren’t Hessians great?

The potential spoiler is the possibility that the Americans will also go after some Shiite militias, particularly the Mahdi Army. If we do so by entering Sadr City in strength, the Mahdi Army can simply let us come — and go. We cannot tell who is a militiaman and who is not. They can let us mill around for a while, achieving nothing, then watch us leave. Big deal.

An action that might force them to respond would be an intensification of our ongoing drive to capture or kill Mahdi Army leaders. But they still would not have to respond in Baghdad. The classic guerilla response in such a case is to retreat from the area where the enemy is attacking and hit him somewhere else. An obvious place would be in Iraq’s Shiite south, with our supply convoys coming up from Kuwait the target. Another response would be to match our escalation of raids with an escalation of mortar and rocket attacks on the Green Zone. As we go after their leaders, they return the favor by going after ours. There are some indications this may be occurring.

No doubt, our forces will attempt to be even-handed between Sunnis and Shiites. But this merely shows that we do not understand the real game. The real game, and a successful one to date, is to let the Americans take the brunt of the fight with armed Sunni organizations, whether nationalist or Baathist or Al Qaeda or whomever, while the Shiite militias get the softer job of terrorizing Sunni civilians and forcing them out. That is likely to be the story of Operation Baghdad, regardless of our intentions.

Should the day ever come when we cease to play that game, our utility to the Shiites, and thus to the Shiite-controlled Iraqi government, will be over. Like Hessians in earlier wars, we will then be sent home. All it takes is a fatwa from Ayatollah Sistani, telling us to go. If we don’t understand this, everyone else in Iraq certainly does, including Muqtada al Sadr.

WILLIAM S. LIND, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation.

 

More articles by:

WILLIAM S. LIND, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation.

January 17, 2018
Seiji Yamada
Prevention is the Only Solution: a Hiroshima Native’s View of Nuclear Weapons
Chris Welzenbach
Force of Evil: Abraham Polonsky and Anti-Capitalist Noir
Thomas Klikauer
The Business of Bullshit
Howard Lisnoff
The Atomized and Siloed U.S. Left
Martha Rosenberg
How Big Pharma Infiltrated the Boston Museum of Science
George Wuerthner
The Collaboration Trap
David Swanson
Removing Trump Will Require New Activists
Michael McKinley
Australia and the Wars of the Alliance: United States Strategy
Binoy Kampmark
Macron in China
Cesar Chelala
The Distractor-in-Chief
Ted Rall
Why Trump is Right About Newspaper Libel Laws
Mary Serumaga
Corruption in Uganda: Minister Sam Kutesa and Company May Yet Survive Their Latest Scandal
January 16, 2018
Mark Schuller
What is a “Shithole Country” and Why is Trump So Obsessed With Haiti?
Paul Street
Notes From a “Shithole” Superpower
Louisa Willcox
Keeper of the Flame for Wilderness: Stewart “Brandy” Brandborg
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Sinister Plan to Kill the Iranian “Nukes” Deal
Franklin Lamb
Kafkaesque Impediments to Challenging Iran’s Theocracy
Norman Solomon
Why Senator Cardin is a Fitting Opponent for Chelsea Manning
Fred Gardner
GI Coffeehouses Recalled: a Compliment From General Westmoreland
Brian Terrell
Solidarity from Central Cellblock to Guantanamo
Don Fitz
Bondage Scandal: Looking Beneath the Surface
Rob Seimetz
#Resist Co-opting “Shithole”
Ted Rall
Trump Isn’t Unique
January 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Democrats and the End(s) of Politics
Paul Tritschler
Killing Floor: the Business of Animal Slaughter
Mike Garrity
In Targeting the Lynx, the Trump Administration Defies Facts, Law, and Science Once Again
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Hong Kong Politics: a Never-Ending Farce
Uri Avnery
Bibi’s Son (Or Three Men in a Car)
Dave Lindorff
Yesterday’s ‘Shithole Countries’ Can Become Classy Places Donald, and Vice Versa
Jeff Mackler
Lesser Evil Politics in Alabama
Jonah Raskin
Typewriters Still Smoking? An Interview with Underground Press Maven John McMillan
Jose-Antonio Orosco
Trump’s Comments Recall a Racist Past in Immigration Policy
David Macaray
Everything Seems to Be Going South
Kathy Kelly
41 Hearts Beating in Guantanamo
Weekend Edition
January 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
George Burchett
Wormwood and a Shocking Secret of War: How Errol Morris Vindicated My Father, Wilfred Burchett
Roberto J. González
Starting Them Young: Is Facebook Hooking Children on Social Media?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Between the Null and the Void
Andrew Levine
Trump After Bannon: What Next?
John Davis
Mud-Slide
Ajamu Baraka
The Responsibility to Protect the World … from the United States
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Stirs the Methane Monster
Paul Street
Lazy Liberals and “the Trump Effect”
Carmen Rodriguez
Trump’s Attack on Salvadoran Migrants
Mike Whitney
Oprah for President, Really?
Francisco Cabanillas
The Hurricane After Maria
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail