Friday, April 09, 2004


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Editorial from the April 8 edition of Arab News, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

American policy in Iraq is running deeper and deeper into
trouble. Coalition forces are not only going head to head with
insurgents in the so-called Sunni Triangle, of which Fallujah
is a major part, but they have also vowed to destroy the
10,000 Shiite militia loyal to the fugitive cleric Moqtada
Sadr. Though the insurgents may represent extreme views within
their own communities, moderate Iraqi opinion will be
alienated as the US and its allies try to crush them. We have
already seen the deaths of innocent civilians, either in
cross-fires or apparently because of missiles from US
helicopter gunships. A year after Saddam’s regime ended,
ordinary Iraqis will not accept the same number of collateral
casualties of that original conflict. George W. Bush promised
them peace and security, power, water, hospitals, education.
Most of those promises have not been kept and suddenly the
country is being plunged again into widespread violence.
Even if Coalition forces are successful in the present battles
in Fallujah against Moqtada Sadr’s insurgents, there will be
no lasting victory. Others will come forward to replace those
who are slain and public support for them will grow. Iraqis,
who once placed their faith in Washington, are now despairing.
In times of uncertainty, people understandably turn to their
immediate communities for support. They will abandon the lofty
sentiments of a pluralist, multiethnic united Iraq. The
prospect of civil conflict is now more real than at any time
since Saddam’s ouster.

It didn’t have to be this way. Had America been more informed
and more sensitive to the complexities and subtleties of Iraqi
society, it could probably have avoided what has become its
growing failure. Unfortunately Bush’s overweening confidence
in the rightness of his solution, coupled with a misplaced
certainty in the effectiveness of America’s massive military
power, always promised disaster.

The Iraqi people, for whose future American lives and money
are being spent, are now calling Washington the enemy. In the
face of this perceived ingratitude, the view will grow that
America should leave these thankless people to their own
devices. If such a policy is adopted, what is happening in
Iraq will be transformed from a disaster into a major

There might yet be salvation in a dominant role for the United
Nations. At least Iraqis might feel they were talking to
people more aware and more schooled in conflict resolution and
nation building. In order for the UN to return and take over,
however, would still require massive international military
support. That can only come from Russia, France and Germany
and the anti-war countries which Bush snubbed before the war.
Such a humiliation for America would be disastrous for his
re-election bid.