Neither Clean Nor Swift

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AMMAN, Jordan, March 27 (UPI) — Shock and awe is anything but clean and swift. A dirty war is getting dirtier and does not look like getting clean any time soon.

Peace, when it comes, may be dirtier still.


Mines are laid in the waterway approaches to Umm Qasr to delay humanitarian relief for the Iraqi civilian population. Iraqi regulars and irregulars and militiamen, all armed but out of uniform, hide among small groups of civilians, waiting for coalition vehicles or troopers on foot to approach. Then weapons are produced from under ankle-length galabiya shirts.

Taking their cue from the 1944 Battle of the Bulge in Belgium when German soldiers in U.S. army uniforms created havoc by infiltrating the Allied lines, these civilian-clad armed Iraqis changed road and street signs in An Nasiriyah and An Najaf to send coalition troops into an ambush.

U.S. and U.K. commanders will soon be pushed into adjusting tactics to root out enemy snipers who take pot shots at the coalition troops before they can claim a city liberated. It will soon be an Iraqi urban insurgency vs. a coalition counter-insurgency, or house-to-house fighting the Pentagon was determined to avoid.

A 350-mile supply line from Kuwait to the outer suburbs of Baghdad is impossible to protect along its entire length without another 100,000 army personnel.

In 1950, the British-occupied Suez Canal zone was known as “Sten-gun alley.” While King Farouk was still on the throne, Egyptian guerrillas kept popping up night after night, like missed targets in a county fair shooting gallery, wearing down the then mighty British army.

Eventually, the British withdrew, and Gamal Abdel Nasser was free to stage his 1952 coup and abolish the monarchy.

Now, already, the U.S. supply line between the Kuwaiti border and U.S. forces approaching Baghdad is dubbed “ambush alley” or “machine-gun alley.”

A country the size of France or California can never be declared safe and secure. After France surrendered to the Nazis in June 1940, underground resistance quickly got organized and kept hitting the Germans for the next four years where they least expected it. Iraq is the reverse, with the local Nazis going underground, but the capabilities of a hostile resistance remain the same.

Churchill once said, “What the horn is to the rhinoceros, Islam is to the Arabs.” No one would be surprised if an Iraqi underground movement against a U.S. occupation force emerges under an Islamist banner. Such an underground could quickly become a new focus for Islamist extremists — and terrorists — the world over.

For many Arabs, the present situation revives historical ghosts from the 1915-22 period “when British and French armies brazenly rearranged our region into strange-shaped countries with Euro-made structures,” according to op-ed editor Rami G. Khouri in the Jordan Times.

The Arab view, he says, “is that this is done mainly to protect western colonial interests, divide up local spoils, and promote Zionist national goals, largely ignoring indigenous Arab, Kurdish and other local interests.”

Arab editorials, from Marrakech to Muscat collected daily by Foreign Broadcast Information Services, a branch of the CIA reflect a revival of colonial fears. The war on Iraq strikes most Americans as a brand new phase of history. But for most Arabs, from university professors to cab drivers, it is seen as yet another return of western colonial armies that have regularly marched through the region for the last two centuries.

The chief of staff of the Jordanian army was the famous Glubb Pasha, actually British Gen John Baghot Glubb. But after the Hashemite monarchy in Iraq was overthrown by a military coup in 1958, the king of Jordan — also a member of the Hashemite royal house — prudently distanced himself from his British connections, including Glubb, to satisfy Arab nationalists in his own country.

So what is America up to according to Arab intellectuals? Washington, say the professors, wants to create a new political order that is unsatisfactory to Arabs because it aims mainly to serve the interests of the United States and Israel, or, as Khouri wrote, “the tiny elite of western-created Arab wielders of power and amassers of wealth.”

The current editorial outpourings are a throwback to Soviet propaganda and disinformation during the Cold War. The fashionable evidence Arab intellectuals now brandish is “Origins of Regime Change in Iraq,” a Carnegie Endowment study, which documents how a small group of activists in the Bush administration has managed to fashion a Bush Doctrine that calls for regime change throughout the Middle East, beginning with Iraq.

Mesopotamia, the fertile land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers south of Baghdad was a separate province in the Ottoman Empire. Iraq is a British-designed construct of three Ottoman provinces that brought together Kurds, a Sunni Arab minority and a Shiite majority in a jigsaw whose pieces never quite fit, but were pressed into place by a blend of strong militaristic rule and a cult of personality that out-cults North Korea’s Kim Jong-il.

Saddam Hussein kept himself on top with a ruthless manipulation of ethnic and sectarian divisions — and two wars, Iran, and Kuwait. His throne, like those of ancient Ashanti kings, was built on a mountain of human skulls.

Copyright 2003 by United Press International. All rights reserved.