Friday, November 18, 2005

Speaking of Fallujah

Robert Fisk:

Prevail" is the "in" word in the United States just now. We are not going to "win" in Iraq - because we did that in 2003, didn't we, when we stormed up to Baghdad and toppled Saddam? Then George W. Bush declared "Mission Accomplished." So now we must "prevail." That's what F.J. "Bing" West, ex-soldier and former assistant secretary for international security affairs in the Reagan administration, said last week.

Plugging his new book "No True Glory: A Frontline Account of the Battle for Fallujah," he gave a frightening outline of what lies in store for the Sunni Muslims of Iraq.

I was sitting a few feet from Bing - plugging my own book - as he explained to the great and the good of New York how Gen. Casey was imposing curfews on the Sunni cities of Iraq, one after the other, how if the Sunnis did not accept democracy they would be "occupied" (he used that word) by Iraqi troops until they did accept democracy. He talked about the "valor" of U.S. troops - there was no word of Iraq's monstrous suffering - and insisted that the United States must "prevail" because a "Jihadist" victory was unthinkable. I applied the duke of Wellington's Waterloo remark about his soldiers to Bing. I don't know if he frightened the enemy, I told the audience, but by God Bing frightened me.
I would only note that the white phosphorous stories still seem to be showing up primarily in non-U.S. media (BBC, RAI, etc.; still can't find any mention of it on the NYT website) and slowly making their way back "over here." Fiske's column (this time!) is from a Seattle paper. Why is that important? Because John Donne was right, no man is an island; and no country is, either.

Our appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations was part of a series titled "Iraq: The Way Forward." Forward, I asked myself? Iraq is a catastrophe. Bing might believe he was going to "prevail" over his "Jihadists" but all I could say was that the American project in Iraq was over, that it was a colossal tragedy for the Iraqis dying in Baghdad alone at the rate of 1,000 a month, that the Americans must leave if peace was to be restored and that the sooner they left the better.

Many in the audience were clearly of the same mind. One elderly gentleman quietly demolished Bing's presentation by describing the massive damage to Fallujah when it was "liberated" by the Americans for the third time last November. I gently outlined the folk that Bing's soldiers and diplomats would have to talk to if they were to disentangle themselves from this mess - I included Iraqi ex-officers who were leaders of the non-suicidal part of the insurgency and to whom would fall the task of dealing with the "Jihadists" once Bing's lads left Iraq. To get out, I said, the Americans would need the help of Iran and Syria, countries that the Bush administration is currently (and not without reason) vilifying.

Silence greeted this observation.
And because:

It's like living in a prism in New York and Washington these days.

"Torture" is out. No one tortures in Iraq or Afghanistan or Guantanamo.

What Americans do to their prisoners is "abuse" and there was a wonderful moment last week when Amy Goodman, who is every leftist's dream, showed a clip from Pontecorvo's wonderful 1965 movie "The Battle of Algiers" on her Democracy Now program. "Col. Mathieu" - the film is semi-fictional - was shown explaining why torture was necessary to safeguard French lives.

Then up popped Bush's real spokesman, Scott McClellan, to say that while he would not discuss interrogation methods, the primary aim of the administration was to safeguard U.S. lives.

U.S. journalists now refer to "abuse laws" rather than torture laws.

Yes, abuse sounds so much better, doesn't it? No screaming, no cries of agony when you're abused. No shrieks of pain. No discussion of the state of mind of the animals perpetrating this abuse on our behalf. And it's as well to remember that the government of Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara has decided it's quite all right to use information gleaned from this sadism.
We know it doesn't work. Yet we still we are led by those who believe in it. The "morals" of our leadership would shame a congress of whores.

Ah, but I'm all right, I'm all right.
I'm just weary to my bones.
Still you don't expect to be bright and bon vivant,
so far away from home,
so far away from home.

And I don't know a soul who's not been battered.
I don't have a friend who feels at ease.
I don't know a dream that's not been shattered,
or driven to its knees.
Ah, but it's all right. It's all right.
For we've lived so well so long.
Still, when I think of the road we're travelin' on,
I wonder what's gone wrong.
I can't help but wonder what's gone wrong.
Paul Simon

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