Before the war in Iraq began--the covert black operation known as Operation Iraq Freedom--then-Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill predicted a cost of approximately $200 billion for the operation. The media storm that greeted his forecast cost O'Neill his job. Unfortunately, the meter's still running, while the war machine idles at the curb, like an overheated Abrams tank. Now the estimate is $300 billion and rising.
I'd rather be a Pollyanna than a Cassandra. Pollyannas live happier lives, right up to the moment of impact of their merry little ship with that iceberg in the night. But the Pollyanna option was wrenched from a lot of us who've watched Washington these last 40 or 50 years. We saw a coup (JFK) that led to a fraudulent foreign war that lasted almost a decade. Likewise, the fraudulent foreign war in Iraq seems equally doomed, equally destined to last nearly as long, especially with the Pollyanna running the world from the White House.
We will lose the war in Iraq. Let us count the ways.
Time Is Not On Our Side
By now, had the mass of Iraqis bought into the idea we were "freeing" them, the guerilla war would have ended. The Japanese, among the fiercest fighters and suicide soldiers in history, accepted unconditional surrender after World War II. Why won't the Iraqis? Maybe because these Iraqis have seen things our army of occupation has done--mass arrests, brute force searches, imprisonments and tortures--that would make General MacArthur roll over in his imperial grave, shaking his head in disbelief.
Iraqis, Sunnis and Shiites, do not want us there, just as Colonial Americans did not want the British troops here, occupying our towns and villages. Historian David McCullough's book 1776 makes that abundantly clear. Still, American opposition to the British measured less than half the population, with Loyalists and Tories rallying opposition to the nascent Revolution. "There were too few soldiers and too few guns," wrote reviewer Jon Meachen, of the so-called American patriots. Anyone seeking an overview of the Iraqi resistance might be excused for thinking the same: How can too few Iraqis with too few guns defeat the most powerful army in the world?
Because They Won't They Fight Fair
Fourth Generation War wasn't invented by the Iraqis, nor the Vietcong, nor even the American insurgents fighting the British. To the British redcoat, an American "patriot" was nothing but a terrorist and a cowardly traitor, fighting behind trees and using sneak attacks, burning the homes and destroying the property of Loyalists.
Not surprisingly, most of us are aghast at bloodthirsty Iraqis who massacre fellow Iraqis who've collaborated with the American "Coalition." Yet these Iraqis wage war as the Vietcong waged it, as WE would wage it if we were the occupied country and turncoat Americans collaborated with the occupying army. We wouldn't fight fair; many Americans--conservative, liberal or anarchist--would fight just as fiercely.
According to William Lind, "We have pointed out over and over that the 4th Generation is not novel but a return, specifically a return to the way war worked before the rise of the state." In this type of warfare, time is on the side of the guerilla fighter, while the occupying force expends his wealth, squanders his soldiers, and spreads increasing resentment and thus resistance.
Lately, even a few high ranking American officers in the field seem to comprehend this warfare. US Army Major General Joseph Taluto remarked: "They're offended by our presence . . . Who knows how big these networks are, or how widespread?" Remarks probably spoken by British General John Burgoyne 225 years ago against American colonists.
The Hubris of History Ignored
Collectively, the current crop of US leaders--Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz--may be the most amoral, historically ignorant of any in recent times. I cannot imagine any of that claque reading McCullough's book 1776 or understanding what it might mean today. History befuddles those full of bluster and hubris, and Bush may be one of the most befuddled emperors ever.
Certainly, at the height of their empire, the English could subjugate smaller, neighboring countries like Ireland and Wales, as we subjugate Haiti or Honduras. But against distant enemies the English lost, as we shall lose. Robert Fisk wrote vividly of one doomed column, "On the heights of the Kabul Gorge, they still find ancient belt buckles and corroded sword hilts. You can no longer read the insignia of the British regiments of the old East India Company but their bones, those of all 16,000 of them, still lie somewhere amid the dark earth and scree of the most forbidding mountains in Afghanistan ."
The English lost in Gallipoli; they lost against the American colonists. They learned that foreign wars fought far away, against an impassioned enemy, cost a lot of money. An enormous amount of money, men and material. No wonder Treasury Secretary O'Neill calculated $200 billion before the war, a conservative estimate nowadays. America will bankrupt itself (morally it already has), in a vain effort to force a fraudulent freedom on Iraq and the Middle East. The Neocons' fixation with this extremely costly imperial adventure--which costs nothing to them personally--could well become the first trillion dollar war in history.
Know Thy Enemy
According to The Art of War, by Sun Tzu, knowledge is power. "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not your enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle."
In Vietnam, the people practiced ancestor worship, worshiped a blend of Confucism and Buddhism, and believed in a spiritual kinship to the land. We did not know the Vietnamese; a gentle people but fierce fighters. If we had, we might never have fought them. They fought for their land; they fought for their ancestors; they fought because they had no choice. We lost.
Losing The Moral War
"Victory or Death," wrote George Washington before crossing the Delaware and defeating the Hessians at Trenton. George F. Smith, historian, essayist and scriptwriter, observed, "Hessian brutality swung many New Jersey neutrals to the American cause . . . Washington ordered . . . the men to storm the town. As they fell upon the enemy, many of them shouted, 'This is the time to try men's souls!' With their gunpowder soaked and useless, Sullivan's men relied on the bayonet to roust the Hessians out of the houses. Earlier in New York, Rall's men had mercilessly slaughtered Americans as they tried to surrender."
Make no mistake about it, we've become the punitive British of "The Patriot." Our allies in Iraq--the Iraq National Guard--have become almost as the Hessians, mercenaries and opportunists aligned with what they perceive as the stronger power, us. Lowly paid gatekeepers, akin to plantation overseers with divided loyalties, they serve the occupation force as the Hessians did the British.
"Occupation forces use terrorism to 'fight terrorism' and only create more terrorists. We see this in both the Israeli and US occupations. I don't believe that this is an accident or an oversight of brilliant military strategists, but an intentional strategy used to maintain chaos and justify ongoing occupation. Occupation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, using 'security' to exploit, dominate, and colonize," wrote Joe Carr in the The Self-Fulfilling Prophesy of Occupation.
"Divide and conquer is a standard practice of colonial powers. In Iraq, the US is following the British example by pitting Sunni vs. Shiite vs. Christian vs. Kurd; they keep them fighting with each other so that they are all easier to control," added Carr, an unembedded journalist in Baghdad, in A Short Taxi Ride, Another Road Block.
Tom Paine wrote in 1776--while American patriots fought a British occupation not half so brutal as ours in Iraq--"By perseverance and fortitude we have the prospect of a glorious issue; by cowardice and submission, the sad choice of a variety of evils--a ravaged country--a depopulated city--habitations without safety, and slavery without hope--our homes turned into barracks and bawdy-houses for Hessians, and a future race to provide for, whose fathers we shall doubt of. Look on this picture and weep over it!"
Draw Your Own Conclusion
We will lose the war in Iraq, whether in five years time or 50. The longer the postponement, the more costly the delay. We do not know the enemy; we do not know our own history; we do not know ourselves. That collective ignorance may lead to knowledge one day, a knowledge too painful to accept at the present, but we're fated to learn some fragments of it one day in the future, more than a few painful lessons.
Lastly Sun Tzu wrote: "If an enemy has alliances, the problem is grave and the enemy's position strong; if he has no alliances, the problem is minor and the enemy's position weak." I think perhaps a billion people are aligned against us.