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Not Understanding Iraq

30 March 2003

By Yisrael Ne’eman

Apparently the Americans are bogged down in Iraq.  No matter how ‘hi tech’ war is nowadays, air forces, long range missiles and high explosives just accompany those who face the brunt in winning a war.  Only when the ground forces reach their destination and capture their objective the battle is won.  Supply lines must be guarded against ambushes and suicide bombers.  There is no such thing as a sterile war where you do not get your hands dirty. 

The American administration thought massive bombings would frighten the Iraqis into surrendering, but after the 1991 War where the Coalition abandoned the Shi’ite and Kurdish uprisings, the Iraqis learned the ultimate fear is from Saddam and no one else.  When one is not resolute to the end one pays a price.  Certainly you cannot say one thing and do another.  Saddam is consistent, the Allies were not.

The average Iraqi knows there will be many more brutal regimes (and not the American – British promised democracy) and he does not want to alienate anyone.  There is also the issue of Arab nationalism vs. Western democracy.  The former is seen as powerful in potential and representing the true wishes of a great people on the way to regain a previous lost glory.  The latter are seen as hypocrites who use puppet Third World dictatorships to advance their causes while their system of government leads to instability in their own countries as coalitions, governments, prime ministers, presidents and congresses come and go, vacillate in policies and worship individual human rights.

In the Arab world, society takes precedence over the individual and extended family connections are of greater importance than any ideology of socio-economic commitment (capitalism, socialism or anything in between).  The Americans and British come in for condemnation because of their direct hand in the war, but one should not think the continental European powers are not ridiculed for all their democratic and ‘humanist’ objections to the war when they support a murderous regime.  The minute they will not afford Saddam full support they too will be condemned as liars and cheats by his regime.  And the Iraqis will be justified. This has already happened to Kofi Anan and the UN. 

So when will the Iraqis support the US – UK operation?  Either when they understand there is no choice or quite possibly never.  And even for those who will show support, this must address a narrow interest, such as succession (Shi’ite or Kurdish) or a close and fruitful connection to the next dictatorship.

The Allies are not battling for a new Iraqi democracy but to free the world from Saddam’s particular dictatorship.