Friday, August 1, 2003

Uday and Qasay's death may not make a difference

This piece in the New Republic Online (sign up for the trial online subscription) might give pause to the Paul Wolfowitzes of the world, who have proclaimed that the death of Saddam's two sons shows that there's no future in opposing the American occupiers.

In fact, Fattah's piece makes a case that there are more people than ever opposing the American occupiers.

The ambushes are not coordinated, nor are the groups that spring them, Fattah writes. But numerous small groups of Islamists have sprung up in recent weeks, some of them announcing their presence on Arabic television, some of them having connections to the Ba'ath party, few of them wanting Saddam back - but all of them wanting America out:

All of which suggests that the deaths of Uday and Qusay may have less impact than Wolfowitz predicted. Worse, since the anti-U.S. attacks are less coordinated than some American officials believe, they could prove even harder to stop.

Fattah also brings up something I hadn't realized: That there are some 15-20 ambushes of American forces per day in Iraq, though only the attacks that result in American casualties get reported.

But these former Baathists are not attacking U.S. forces to bring Saddam back: They are on the warpath largely for revenge or to boost their own power. "They are gangs, and they have money," Amiri says, suggesting that many of the Baathists are trying to stake out positions for themselves as local leaders in a new Iraq. Some want to scare off U.S. soldiers, while others are simply interested in killing Americans--who may have killed friends or members of their families in the war--or find the occupying forces insulting to them.

Other political analysts say tribal chiefs, independently of the former Baathists, are also organizing violence. Many of these tribesmen are based in the Anbar region of western Iraq, which included Falluja, though some are even in Baghdad. One American officer told me the tribesmen have become violent in response to what they see as assaults on their dignity by occupying troops who have invaded their homes. What's more, some chiefs are instigating violence because their tribal codes hold they must kill anyone who killed a member of their tribe.

What to do? The answer, Fattah suggest, is not to bring in greater firepower, but to try an end run:

Dulaimi and other Iraqi political analysts believe that, because there is no one leadership of the resistance to strike against, military operations by the U.S. forces may be of limited value. Instead, he says, the American soldiers need to not only identify and eliminate resistance fighters but also work to rebuild local institutions and develop a greater understanding of local culture.

Some American troops have already started down this path. As The Washington Post reported this week, in Falluja, some American officers have delivered formal apologies to local tribal leaders for offenses committed by American soldiers, have paid money to the families of noncombatants killed, have ordered soldiers to knock on doors before conducting most residential searches, and have begun building local institutions, starting with the local police force. "It comes down to how well the Americans respond," Dulaimi says. Hopefully, Wolfowitz and the other bosses will get the message.

What I stand for

So, you know, I check the Sitemeter to see where you folks are coming from. And lately I've seen a couple from this site, so I wandered over to see what it was all about. And lo and behold, I'm linked there. Because the owner of the site (Biff the Troll? Kevin the one-armed boy?) says that he (she? it?) disagrees with nearly everything I stand for."

Well, I'm honored, really. But it got me to thinking what it is that I stand for. I mean, I suppose you can sort of get an idea from reading this site, though not really.

For example, I bet a lot of people who have never met me in person have an idea of who I am. What I look like, even. Because after all, I'm a liberal, right? So I'm probably skinny. Maybe gaunt. Short. With some facial hair.

Overeducated. Listen to NPR and "world" music. Live in an apartment, loathe sports, drive a compact car. Oppose gun rights. Drink wine and eat foie gras.


Let me help you out, here:

I'm 6'3", 235 pounds. Swing at me, I'm swinging right back.

I'm married 10 years (to the same woman, by the way), with a 2-year-old son. A homeowner and taxpayer who mows his lawn twice a week.

I am a major Pittsburgh Steeler fan - much to my wife's chagrin.

I've got a concealed carry permit.

I drink Rolling Rock and IC Light. Labatt's, when I'm feeling rich, which isn't often since the kid came along. Basically majored in beer and minored in pharmacology at college. Drive a small SUV (Subaru Forester, if you must know). Have always been a bit of a video game fanatic - Madden NFL 2004 is coming out in a few weeks, meaning my wife gets to be a football widow before football season actually starts.

I actually used to be something of a Deadhead. Though unlike some Deadheads I've known, I actually bathed.

I believe in 12-string Rickenbacker guitars - and on my 50th birthday I've told myself I'm going to buy one as a present to myself. Though I haven't told my wife about this yet.

I believe in not sitting your kid in front of the TV all day long, though if the kid wants to watch Sesame Street so you can catch a break for an hour, there's nothing wrong with that.

I believe in conservative clothing. The only time my pants have hung down my ass is when the elastic has gone out of the waistband.

I believe in the same things, act, and in fact look like your neighbor. Which of course makes it all the more insidious, right? That someone so seemingly... normal... could harbor such subversive thoughts, right?

But the point I'm making is that those thoughts are not really that subversive at all.

It's not that I'm against retaliating after someone smacks you. It's that I'm against retaliating against all of those who look like the guy who smacked you, on the theory that some day, possibly, they just might want to smack you and you've got to head it off at the pass.

It's just that when I read Thomas Jefferson's line about all men being created equal, I took it literally. I don't recall ever looking and seeing some fine print that noted those words didn't apply to those who happened to be gay, or black, or whatever other minority people are reviling these days.

It's that I respect a deep, abiding faith, but that isn't to say that exactly what works for you works for me, and if you try to codify what works for you in the law, I'm going to oppose it.

It's that I think America is a wonderful place, but that this does not permit us carte blanche to do as we like. We are citizens of the world, and therefore must act as citizens of the world. Which, at times, means not getting our way. And getting over it.

It's that I think that deep down, most Americans are kind, good and generous - but on the surface, they can be vindictive, stubborn buttheads.

It's that I believe being informed is always, always, better than thinking you know the answer without having really researched the question. It's that for every black and white you've got gray, for every day and night you've got dusk.

It's that there are no easy answers. And to insist there are is to not use your brain.

And I do very much believe in standing up. Though I'm faceless here on the web, in real life, my picture runs right there alongside the column. I'm always amazed at nasty e-mail I get from people who "forget" to sign their names. Which is the sign of a true pussy.

So there you have it. Ideas, perhaps, that are different than yours. But overall, strange and un-American?

Not on your Rolling Rock, pal.