Iraq's insurgency

For a while it was the regime remnants, the ‘rumsfeldian dead enders,’ that were taking pot shots at the US military and some soft targets in Iraq . Or so we were told. No more. The Pentagon is finally acknowledging that the resistance encountered is shaping up as an insurgency.

Statements fed for months to the media, or directly given to the American public, painted the resistance as helter-skelter acts by Baathist remnants, Al-Qaeda types and foreign fighters who had crossed from Iran or Syria. That idea has been challenged by most foreign correspondents. What they report is an insurgency in an area that covers about one-half of the Iraqi population, both Sunni and Shi’a, extending from An Najat to Tikrit. An insurgency, they claim, with a profile much different from that drawn by the Pentagon.

Rumsfeld’s tripod holding the resistance (Al-Qaeda, dead enders and foreign fighters) is not what these foreign correspondents see. Instead, they define the insurgency as a multi-prong nationalistic resistance against an invader who was never seen as a true liberator except by much of the Kurd population. Even most Shiites, who held no love for Saddam, never embraced the coalition forces as liberators.

What appears as obvious to foreign correspondents in Iraq is the level of support in the Iraqi population for the resistance, most particularly from the Sunnis; and that such support grows daily as the American military continue with what these Iraqis see as the desecration of their culture and religious values.

American soldiers, scared and unprepared for this type of occupation, are reacting in a way they feel will safeguard their lives. Yet, by so doing, they are humiliating and pushing violence on a proud people who saw them as invaders from the start. Now, after the violent treatment, they see them as immature cowboys bent on destroying anything that stands in their way.

Is it just a small vocal group in the Iraqi population that feels that way? That’s the pitch that you get from the Bush administration who would like Americans to believe that it’s only a few causing all the problems, or that are complicit, or that come out and applaud. But the reality is far from that. Just at the time the Chinook helicopter went down last week near Fallujah killing 16 and wounding 20, there were leaflets at the entrance of the mosque warning the population not to visit the market or other public places since new attacks were going to be launched with sophisticated weapons against the invaders.

Seeing Iraqis rejoice at a successful insurgent attack does not seem to represent the sentiment of a few, but of the many. And those who rejoice are not necessarily former followers of Saddam Hussein. These are faces of angry people now but, at our insistence, potential terrorists later.

Two questions come to mind: if foreign correspondents see the well-drawn, clear picture… why is it so blurred for our politicians and reporters? Why are these realities so difficult to grasp for them?

For starters, our politicians just don’t seem to get it. They live in a world all to themselves. Those who have trekked to Iraq on a fact-finding mission, regardless of political affiliation, come back with embarrassing expertise as shown by their ignorance, chanting the litany of the administration, and de-facto giving their seal of approval to this messy affair. They do it after a trip which was nothing but a dog and pony show by the military during the days, nights spent in the safety of Kuwait .

As for the reporters… little can be said. During the brief war, which turned out to be nothing but a display of American weaponry and shock’n’awe, they were safely embedded with the invading troops. Once the easy part was over most returned home, leaving the in situ reporting for the media to be done by third-country nationals. After all, if we hire Mexicans, mostly illegal, to pick our farm products… why not English-speaking foreign reporters to bring the news from unsafe places?

And… weathering this mess in Iraq, Bush has put in charge Viceroy Bremer, who dismissed the only reasonable source of security for that country, the Iraqi army, and discarded possible help from the Sunni tribal leaders. A surreal story worthy of being added to the Thousand and One Nights… with nightmares replacing all dreams.