Thursday, May 12, 2005

I FEEL A RESISTANCE, as every day brings fresh news reports about Iraqis being killed by the dozens in suicide bombings and other insurgent violence, to write about it here. The carnage is so continuous, so common, so never-ending, that I wonder what is the point of writing about it. Everybody knows it's happening. What purpose is served by mentioning it, by dwelling on it?

I have to resist that resistance. Because I know that this is what constant violence does to us. When every day is a horror show of real human beings, brothers and parents and children, being blown apart, and blood and body parts everywhere; and there is nothing you can do about it in any immediate or direct sense, a kind of numbing of the mind and heart takes place. It's a self-protective mechanism, I suppose.

But I don't want to become numb, or keep silent about murder and mayhem that results from a war of aggression and a brutal occupation by the government I send my tax dollars to.

In the last two weeks, according to an article in The Independent, 400 Iraqis have been killed in the massive upsurge of violence since the elections two weeks ago.

Pres. Bush claimed that a new government chosen by the Iraqi people would speed up the birth of democracy in Iraq; but only someone like our president, who famously refuses to hear or listen to any negative news, could have believed that. Iraqi voters did not even know who they were voting for -- the names of individual candidates were kept off the ballot for fear they would be assassinated. To the extent that insurgent violence against voters was prevented, it was only because the polls were bristling with U.S. troops -- and even with the American presence, there was violence in many parts of the country. This is hardly the logistical or procedural context in which democratic elections can take place.

The New York Times article, however, mentions none of this. Quite the opposite: the paper which is the focus of an entire website that exists solely to expose its "liberal political agenda" accepts the Bush administration's underlying assumptions without question.

American officials had hoped that the advent of an elected government, with a mandate from nearly nine million Iraqis who voted in January's elections, would persuade wavering elements in the Sunni-led insurgency to join in the American-sponsored effort to establish a Western-style democracy.

A mandate? From people who didn't even know who they were voting for? With most of the Sunni population boycotting the election? And what does the Times reporter, John Burns, mean by "wavering elements" in the Sunni-led insurgency? He makes it sound like a handful of disgruntled detractors were uncertain about whether to support the elections, and it was the overwhelming majority, as the Robert Dreyfuss piece in Rolling Stone makes clear.

In central Iraq, millions of formerly dominant Sunnis opted out of the elections for the new government, which they see as being almost entirely in the hands of southern Shiites and northern Kurds. There are now several dozen Sunni organizations fighting the U.S. occupation, broadly divided into two camps: mainstream, secular Arab nationalists who served as military officers and Baath Party leaders under Saddam, and Islamist fundamentalists, including extremists associated with Abu Musab Zarqawi.
The Sunni insurgency is larger and more homegrown than the Bush administration acknowledges. American forces, after first insisting that the resistance was composed of no more than 5,000 foreign fighters with ties to Al Qaeda, now hold more than twice that many prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Camp Bucca and Camp Cropper -- and admit that as many as 20,000 well-funded fighters remain at large. "We're facing a well-developed, mature insurgency with the support of the local population," Maj. John Reed, stationed outside the city of Husaybah, said recently.

Obviously that "well-developed, mature" insurgency is going full-steam ahead, given the carnage in the last two weeks. And don't fool yourself: Even though most Iraqis hate the insurgents, they also hate the Americans and hold them ultimately responsible for the violence. In fact, if the Bush administration were trying to increase Iraqi resentment and anger at the U.S. occupation, they could hardly be doing a better job.

Passers-by, showing clear resentment of the Americans, were confused about the possible target of the attack, as there are no police stations or other official buildings in the area. An angry crowd gathered, with some asserting that they had seen an American airplane overhead that they believed could have been linked to the strike, although there was no evidence to support the claim.

Demonstrators, some of them holding up photographs of the fiery Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr and chanting slogans in his support, threw stones and bricks at United States military vehicles. They then clashed with Iraqi security forces, who asked the Americans to leave. Iraqi policemen eventually controlled the situation by firing their weapons into the air.

Guess what, though? I doubt the Bush administration cares much about ordinary Iraqis' displeasure at the U.S. occupation. As long as there's a government there that's bowing and scraping and saying "Yes, massa, whatever you say," the born-again devoutly religious Christian leader in the White House can deal with a little bit of resentment.

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