The Quagmire Deepens
Jude Wanniski
April 9, 2004


Memo To: Website Fans, Browsers, Clients
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: The Occupation Begets Violence

When the mob of Iraqi men murdered four American civilian security contractors a week ago and mutilated their bodies, I e-mailed Mohammed Obeidi in London to get his reaction. As an opponent of the Ba'ath regime living in exile for more than 15 years, Obeidi would give me a view clear of any ties to Saddam Hussein, I thought. He quickly e-mailed me back that his view was represented by Firas A-Atraqchi, a Canadian journalist who has covered the Middle East for more than a decade, writing for Here's part of the column to which Obeidi directed me:

While the killings are indeed gruesome and God help the families of those killed, I would like to ask what on Earth do you expect? These are people who suffered under 13 years of sanctions, constant and consistent bombing throughout the 1990s and persistent random trigger-happy killing of civilians by U.S. troops in the last year. Depleted uranium is destroying children and the future of Iraq. Joblessness, power outages, lack of communications -- no phones in 80 percent of the country -- and lawlessness. You want candy and flowers?

Grow up. Occupation begets every single form of violence to reject, deject, and eject the occupier. Take how the human body functions; enter a virus and white blood cells kick into action, surround the virus and eat it, adding to the body's catalogue of immunity victories.

Believe me, I wish it were not so, but for the reasons stated by the reporter I'd never believed the people of Iraq would treat the US-led coalition as liberators from an oppressive regime. For every Iraqi who died at the hands of the regime over the quarter century of Saddam's rule, there have been a thousand who have perished from the 13 years of sanctions dictated by a bipartisan American foreign policy that was explicitly aimed at causing the Iraqi population so much pain and suffering that they would overthrow the dictator. Every Iraqi family, Sunni or Shi'ite, has lost loved ones to this policy and the attendant military campaigns in support of it.

The noble goal may have been the democratization of the Arab Middle East, but you need only put yourselves in the shoes of these Iraqi families and the fathers and sons who survived to know there would be no flowers greeting Coalition troops -- who almost certainly killed tens of thousands more, civilians and military, in the process of liberation. Yes there was a period when the Pentagon could still assert pockets of resistance would soon be wiped out. But now the larger "pockets" are being targeted by gunships blowing up neighborhoods and mosques, enraging Iraqis throughout the country who had thusfar been standing aside to see what develops. We are also discovering that Shi'ites and Sunnis are willing to put aside religious differences to make common political cause in driving out the Americans.

Stephen Pelletiere, the CIA's lead analyst at Langley covering the eight-year Iran/Iraq war, told me two years ago he believed Iraq became a nation in 1988 when it celebrated its victory over Iran. From that point, he said, Sunnis, Shi'ites and that large fraction of the Iraqi Kurds who fought on Iraq's side thought of themselves as an Iraqi nation, not just groups cobbled together by the British at the breakup of the Ottoman Empire after WWI. This is a quagmire much worse than the war in Vietnam, where at least the population in South Vietnam identified with the broad coalition of the free world in trying to save it from communism. In Iraq, at this point at least, there seems no cohort of people praying for the USA to succeed, excepting those individuals who Washington is planning to empower -- in what the 20 million Iraqis will see as a puppet government doing Washington's bidding, and that of the Likud government in Tel Aviv. Why should anyone be surprised that religious differences between Islamic sects would not trump the political differences that arise between Muslims and Israelis over the Palestine struggle?

In recent days, I've seen no better, more concise assessment of the situation in Iraq than from Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's national security advisor, in an interview Tuesday with Lou Dobbs on CNN:

DOBBS: [What do you see] as the most profound implications arising from this broader violence over the past four or five days?

BRZEZINSKI: I would say we are running the risk of setting the Middle East on fire. The American occupation of Iraq has been perceived increasingly as a brutal occupation. This may be unfair. In fact, it is unfair, but perceptions are important in politics. Look at the difference between Iraq and Afghanistan. Not everything is perfect in Afghanistan. But in Afghanistan, we have allies whose are helping us. We have Afghans helping us because we helped them earlier against the Soviets. And we have an American administrator in Afghanistan, he's called ambassador, who is flexible and able to work with all the different parties. None of these conditions apply in Iraq, and that's part of the problem.

DOBBS: A fact though, is as you know, a number of the countries in the coalition today, in fact, withdrew troops back to their bases. Also sought, reportedly, security assurances from the United States forces there for their protection. Are you, in fact, criticizing Ambassador Bremer for his administration and adjudication in Iraq?

BRZEZINSKI: I'm concerned by the reports that he has not been able to delegate authority, hasn't been able to work with his British counterpart. That he has had a rather, should we put it, didactic style in dealing with the Iraqi. I think, that's not the way to create consensus and general support of an authority, for which allegedly we are going to be yielding sovereignty within a few weeks.

DOBBS: Do you believe, Mr. Brzezinski, that we should put more troops in Iraq to ensure better security for America and coalition for the Iraqis?

BRZEZINSKI: My answer may sound paradoxical and even contradictory to you, but answer is yes, we put in more troops, absolutely. We should make a much more concerted effort to transfer formal authority to the United Nations and get our allies to become more engaged and they will only become more engaged if we're prepared to deal with the wider problems of the Middle East, including a more active effort to pursue the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Because in the eyes of our allies, and I think they're right, the issue Iraq and the issue of peace between the Israelis and Palestinians are issues that are becoming conflated.

DOBBS: As you describe the Mideast process, despite everything over the course of half a century, been the most frustrating region in all the world. But now a road map that a year ago looked like it could be a hopeful approach to peace in the Middle East, we now see it in tatters. We don't have a particular well enunciated or executed plan to bring any resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. We have even though the United States, as Secretary Rumsfeld says remains in control, the policy of this country in the Middle East is, without question under attack, and at best lacking firm enunciation. What would you do to reset?

BRZEZINSKI: Well, first of all, it is absolutely true what you have said, our policy looks totally one-sided. Purely militaristic. And increasing occupation of Iraq and Israeli occupation of the West Bank are seen as two sides of a single coin. I think at the very least we could is try to relate the peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians. The so called road map, to some definition of the outcome. Some description of what that peace that is supposed to be reached by that road is going to look like. And we have a preview of that in the Geneva Accords which were negotiated in great detail by a group of Israelis, very important Israelis, including former military loaders and Palestinians. If we were to endorse that, then that means the road map would lead somewhere. And over time, we'll begin to mobilize support from it, from moderate Israelis, from moderate Palestinians. And, similarly, Iraq, we have to have more rapid movement towards ending what appears increasingly to be a very overt U.S. military occupation.