We have to remember that war doesn’t stop for Christmas.
Even though Christians are celebrating the holiday season, more American soldiers are paying the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq. Though the military seems to be announcing more victories against Iraqi insurgents, more Americans are wondering why the United States choose to fight this conflict, when seemingly the very real threat of Al Qaeda is still at our doorstep. The war within Iraq is noticeably different than the “war on terror” promised by the Bush administration. No matter how the story is written, the result remains the same.
We don’t know the enemy.
The latest reports from the battlefield show Americans as rounding up the remnants of the insurgency in and around the Sunni triangle, performing house to house raids picking up weapon caches as detaining family members for questioning. These tactics, used most often by the Israeli military, are meant to place a “stranglehold” on the opposition, not letting the resistance get a moment’s rest, while captured subjects are coerced into revealing the contacts and safe houses.
However, there are some similarities between Palestinians and Sunni Muslims which the U.S. military needs to consider and take notice before continuing Palestinian-occupation style warfare.
First, such occupation authoritative vigilance, from the continuing home invasions to barb-wiring villages, may open the door for fundamental Islamist recruitment.
Second, the rising death toll of Iraqis in the crossfires as well as the declining standard of living could develop a larger phenomenon of suicide bombers who, like their Palestinian counterparts, do not see a future under the rule of the U.S. led-coalition authority, and an impending Iraqi governing council controlled by the previously-repressed Shiite majority.
In short, what may occur could be the intersection of revenge politics from the Holy Land and the cultural fractionalization of post-Yugoslavia. Any way it’s cut, from a military or an intelligence perspective, the area is a developing “black hole” in a region already under tremendous stress from a growing conservative populace under largely, autocratic regimes.
And unlike previous Republican administrations, the United States will be unable to demonize or distance ourselves from the geopolitical landscape of the Persian Gulf region, we as Americans, directly created.
The understated triumph of Saddam Hussein’s capture by the Bush administration was hailed by the media as the noble, validation of their pre-emptive strategy, as President Bush continued to associate Saddam Hussein and his former regime, being prime “examples” of the continued war on terror. Even though nearly everyone in the intelligence field, the international community, as well as the administration itself, concedes Iraq had nothing to do with September 11th.
In the eyes of Sunni Iraqis, comparisons of the former Iraqi regime as a “terrorist” group will not embolden them in trying to conform with the Iraqi provisional authority, nor the Kurds to the north. Though Saddam was a dictator, he did provide the basic necessities of infrastructure and his rule was an Iraqi –led dictatorship. Under the provisional authority, there is shame for being on the wrong side of war, and not knowing quite why. Until Iraq endangered U.S. oil interests in Kuwait, the former President Bush and Hussein were on solid diplomatic terms. The confusion of everyday Iraqis as to whether we are friend or foe seems apparent in the neutered answers they give to the American press. Saddam or no, the war is not over, and the knowledge that neither is their safety.
Nor the feelings of being abused, the Clintonian terms used to describe Iraqis according to American prevailing interest (whether as victim or vermin) will not change the average mind that U.S. foreign policy is nothing more than a blame game, “guns-for-oil” gamblers roulette gone bad. The rich reconstruction contracts authorized by the Bush administration to the Vice President’s former employer Halliburton and the heavily Bush-invested Carlyle Group illustrate the level of business influence meeting public policy and confusion of which more influences the other.
All the while, everyday Iraqis do what can do: watch, wait, and grow angrier at the foreign intrusion into their homeland.
Can the American public be surprised if, with incidental destruction or to feed their families, Iraqis conduct passive resistance to coalition forces?
Would we be surprised if these acts by our revered forefathers were similar to what occurred during Revolutionary War or World War II? How do ordinary citizens react during war, do they fight for the cause they believe in, or should they become invisible? How much disrespect can the psyche take? Your life is someone else’s hands, like Saddam, like the means to control the violence.
One thing Americans do know is that revolutions are always born with thoughts of worthlessness.
Ordinary citizens cannot become the enemy or war will engulf the entire region, with the holiday Christmas becoming a catch phrase for a prayed deliverance.
In Iraq, President Bush cannot let that happen.
Tommy Ates is a writer living in Cincinnati, Ohio. His columns have appeared in several publications, such as The Houston Chronicle, Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, The Wichita Eagle, The Macon Telegraph, and Global Black News, among others. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright © 2003 Tommy Ates. All Rights Reserved.