Tuesday, October 28, 2003

The news from Iraq is not good at all; 40 people were killed in a wave of bombings in Baghdad. All of them were Iraqis except for one American soldier. The bombings hit the Red Cross international committee's headquarters and four Iraqi police stations.

Robert Fisk, in today's Vanguardia, says that

During Ramadan--the press likes to call it the "month of sanctification of the holidays," which is only appropriate up to a point--Muslim feeling flourishes: during these days, a Muslim feels that he or she has to do something important so that God will listen to him or her. There is no passage in the Koran related to violence during Ramadan, nor about suicide bombings--just as there is nothing in the New Testament that calls upon Christians to perpetrate genocide or "ethnic cleansing", in which they became experts during the past two centuries--but the loyal Wahabi Sunnis have gotten used to combining holy war with the "message", the "dawa" during Ramadan.

As a consequence, what has the message been? In Baghdad, the political message of the last two days has been clear: it indicated to the Iraqis that the Americans cannot control Iraq, and it told--something more important, perhaps--the Americans that their country cannot control Iraq...which is a sign to the Iraqis that--an even more essential factor--they must not cooperate with American forces! (By the way: After yesterday, who's going to want to be an Iraqi policeman?)

...We must add, of course, what happened at the headquarters of the Red Cross, the last "honest broker" for the Americans, the last truly neutral international organism--after the double suicide attacks against the United Nations--still able to provide a certain degree of communication in the actual circumstances between American forces and their adversaries. But now that possibility is finished. It is possible that some elements hostile to the United States really come from other Arab countries...but most of the armed opposition to the American presence comes from the Iraqi Sunnis. Not from the "remainder" of Saddam's forces, from his "hardcore sympathizers" or "people with no future" (Paul Bremer's typical expressions, covering up a real and growing Iraqi resistance), but from men who in many cases hated Saddam.

They don't work for Al Qaeda. They don't work for Mullah Omar or for Osama Bin Laden. But they've learned their own vision of history. Attack the enemy during the holy month of Ramadan, Learn form the war in Algeria. And from the war in Afghanistan. Learn the lessons of the "war against terrorism" that the United States is waging. Go for the throat. Remember that about "Bring them to me"...Kill their leaders. And then "You're either with us or against us. You're either collaborators or patriots."

That was the lesson of yesterday's bloodbath in Baghdad.

Now, Mr. Fisk's celebration of these events in Baghdad is, of course, disgusting, but Mr. Fisk is not stupid. Evil, probably, but not stupid. He is actually an expert propagandist, which is what has led him to make so many mistakes in the past and to get people to forget about them, since he's always off on a new wild tangent, more reckless than the last. This time he has not made a mistake. As a longtime sympathizer with dictators and totalitarians, he well knows what Step One is in organizing your "people's struggle movement." Step One is: Kill all of your people who don't want to struggle and would prefer a negotiated peace to a victorious--or losing--violent conflict. This is why the Palestinians are so united while the Israelis are all divided--because any Palestinian who openly disagrees with the people's struggle movement has an appointment with a death squad.

The most notorious places this strategy has been practiced include Vietnam, with the Vietminh and Vietcong; Spain, where anarchist terrorists murdered workers who opposed the CNT, the anarchist union; and Algeria. Says Paul Johnson in his book Modern Times (pages 497-98), on the post-1945 civil war:

These (Algerian FLN terrorists), who had absorbed everything most evil the twentieth century had to offer, imposed their will on the villages by sheer terror; they never used any other method. Krim told a Yugoslav paper that the initiation method for a recruit was to force him to murder a designated "traitor", mouchard (police spy or informer), French gendarme or colonialist: "An assassination marks the end of the apprenticeship of each candidate." A pro-FLN American reporter was told: "When we've shot (the Muslim victim) his head will be cut off and we'll clip a tag on his ear to show he was a traitor. Then we'll leave the head on the main road." Ben Bella's written orders included: "Liquidate all personalities who want to play the role of interlocuteur valable." "Kill any person attempting to deflect the militants and inculcate in them a bourghibien spirit." Another: "Kill the caids...Take their children and kill them Kill all those who pay taxes and all those who collect them. Burn the houses of Muslim NCOs away on active service." The FLN had their own internal reglements des comptes too; the man who issued the last order, Bachir Chihani, was accused (like Roehm) of pederasty and sadistic sex-murders, and chopped to pieces along with eight of his lovers. But it was the Muslim men-of-peace the FLN killers really hated. In the first two-and-a-half years of war, they murdered only 1,035 Europeans but 6,352 Arabs (authenticated cases; the real figure was nearer 20,000). By this point the moderates could only survive by becoming killers themselves or going into exile.

The FLN strategy was, in fact, to place the mass of the Muslims in a sandwich of terror. On one side, the FLN killers replaced the moderates. On the other, FLN atrocities were designed to provoke the French into savage reprisals, and so drive the Muslim population into the extremist camp. FLN doctrine was spelled out with cold-blooded precision by the Brazilian terrorist Carlos Marighela:

"It is necessary to turn political crisis into armed conflict by performing violent actions that will force those in power to transform the situation into a military situation. that will alienate the masses who, from then on, will revolt against the army and the police...the government can only intensify its repression, thus making the lives of its citizens harder than ever...police terror will become the order of the day...The population will refuse to collaborate with the authorities, so that the latter will find the only solution to their problem lies in the physical liquidation of their opponents. The political system of the country will then become a military situation."

Of course, this odious variety of Leninism, if pursued ruthlessly enough, has a certain irrestible force.

Robert Fisk doesn't seem to have any problem with it, though. You might remember that attacks that fit in with the above perverse but effective strategy have already happened at the UN headquarters, the Jordanian Embassy, two mosques (one was a moderate Shiite leader's in Najaf, where 83 innocent people died), and several Iraqi police stations.

This is why backing out now will only make things worse. Yes, I'm aware that's what they said in Vietnam. We have some advantages in Iraq: 1) there's no big nearby country that is supporting the terrorists within Iraq with weapons, supplies and cash 2) armor and airpower are a lot more effective in the desert than the jungle 3) our own equipment is many times better than what we had in Vietnam 4) our soldiers are volunteers, not draftees 5) we know damn well that these people may not be exactly the same folks who blew up the World Trade Centers, but they're fighting on the same side.

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