a - September 11 was (best evidence) completely unrelated to Saddam Hussein,
b - the was no evidence for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq,
c - whatever 'evil was on-going there' was essentially contained,
d - there is reason to believe that Dubya -psychopathically, wanted to 'stand tall in Dad's eyes by finishing what Dad had not',
-and last but not leastly,
e - Iraq was not Dubya's to 'correct'.
Feb 2nd 2006 Economist Magazine book review
Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency in Iraq
By Ahmed S. Hashim
Cornell University Press; 240 pages; $25.
What's really going on?
AHMED HASHIM is well-placed to study the Iraqi insurgents and their opponents. An American of Turkish-Egyptian origin, he is a professor at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, and was an adviser to the American authorities following
Saddam Hussein's fall, both in Baghdad and in hotbeds of violence such as Tel Afar, near the Syrian border. After many delays, his bleak appraisal comes out next month: it may well be the most detailed analysis yet of the insurgency and America's efforts
to squash it.
For those who hope that Iraq will evolve into a benign democracy where the three main groups—Shia Arabs, Sunni Arabs and Kurds—rub along together, Mr Hashim's conclusions are glum. He sees no quick way to end the violence. The United
States, he reckons, “sees the world in black and white rather than shades of grey”. It is “congenitally incapable of waging effective counter-insurgency”. Iraq is “headed towards the division of its peoples”. He sees no good guys coming to power at
Mr Hashim's best chapters concern the insurgency's nature. Many analysts have tried to divide the fighters into Islamist and nationalist components, but Mr Hashim concludes that the core is a “successful fusion of nationalist and
religious sentiment among Sunni Arabs”. He gives a thorough breakdown of about 20 noteworthy groups; some intelligence experts have listed more than 70 in all, but many of them elide into one another and change their names. No person or group has emerged
so strongly that the new order must accommodate or defeat him or it. The insurgency's foreign element, he notes, is “minuscule”; of the first 8,000 suspected insurgents nabbed by the Americans, only 127 had foreign passports.
Mr Hashim also contradicts the prevailing assumption that suicide bombings, of which there were more than 400 in the first two years after Mr Hussein's fall, have been conducted only by Islamists. “Martyr operations are the only
effective weapon the resistance has” against the Americans, explains a secular-minded insurgent. In May last year, by the way, more suicide bombs went off in Iraq than during the entire Palestinian intifada against the Israelis since 2000. Most are now
directed against home-grown Iraqi forces rather than against foreign troops.
Most depressing, for those who hope that a stronger Sunni representation in parliament would give a potential negotiating voice to the insurgents, Mr Hashim says that none of the MPs elected in the December ballot has any real influence
with the fighters. The Association of Muslim Scholars, an informal group of Sunni clerics who tend to justify the insurgents' actions, are also a lot less powerful than is often assumed. “No Sunni political group or personality working legitimately in
the political arena,” he writes, “has been able to reach out to the insurgents.”
One difficulty in addressing the insurgents, beyond killing them, is that their aims are so vague. Their sole unifying desire is for foreign forces to leave the country. Their chief ploy is to make the country ungovernable, not to take
any of it over, although Mr Hashim mentions a clutch of towns that are or have been run by the insurgents. “If we do not hold authority in Iraq, then we'll allow no one else to hold authority,” one leader told him.
Although Mr Hashim expresses respect for several senior American officers with whom he worked, and argues that American counter-insurgency methods have become more effective in the past year, overall he blames American incompetence for
making matters worse. Of the 600-800 Americans who ran Iraq for the first year of occupation, only 17 could speak Arabic, while the briefings he was given by Americans in authority were “amateurish, pathetic, shoddy and heavily politicised”.
If Mr Hashim lays much of the blame for the insurgency on American obtuseness, he has little faith in the ability or even desire of the three main Iraqi groups to accommodate each other. With a host of telling anecdotes picked up across
the country, he illustrates the growing antagonism between them. Some of the most revealing passages describe relations among and between Sunni and Shia Arab groups, for instance between the followers of Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shia firebrand who, he says,
remains hostile to the more cautious and most powerful of Iraq's Shia clergymen, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. As for the Sunnis, few of them have begun to come to terms with their status as a minority group after centuries of supremacy over the Shias.
Indeed, Mr Hashim quotes senior Sunnis vehemently denying that their co-religionists constitute a minority at all.
So far, the vaunted elections have produced the beginnings of “ethnocracy”, not democracy. “Low-level civil war and ethnic cleansing are already taking place,” he writes. “The country is raising not a national army but distinct
mini-armies and a host of official and unofficial militias.” However, despite the insurgents' immediate demands and the long-term hopes of virtually all Iraqis that the Americans and their allies will eventually leave, a precipitate withdrawal must, Mr
Hashim asserts, be avoided, as it would prompt an all-out sectarian war, even bloodier than what exists already.
The nearest he comes to offering a glint of hope is in a concluding discussion of the merits of a “soft partition”, akin to confederalism, whereby Iraq's three main groups agree to divide their territory, presumably with the oil-poor
Sunni areas being given a fair dollop of national oil income. But for this to happen the Sunni Arab mindset, which still revolts at the prospect of Iraq's decentralisation, seeing it as synonymous with fragmentation, would have to undergo a drastic
change. And that, says Mr Hashim, is not yet in the offing.