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Left Justified: Lessons of guerrilla war—Part two

July 1, 1993

Let’s declare victory and give Iraq to the United Nations! Really, the war is gonna get worse. Remnants of the Baath Party and elements of the military are waging an organized guerrilla war, and foreign Islamists are joining the fight, just as they have done in Bosnia, Chechnya, and Afghanistan. Our troops are sitting ducks, and are not welcomed by the people. The American forces are hunkered down behind barricades, or driving their tanks around still-burning Baghdad. Most of the U.S. echelon is ensconced in air-conditioned former palaces while most of the Iraqis are sweltering in clobbered housing.

Iraqi patriots, infuriated a foreign power is running (or attempting to run) their country, are climbing aboard the mushrooming opposition movement, which Donald Rumsfeld blames on remnants of Saddam’s supporters. Few support Saddam, but even fewer like the Americans’ occupation.

The temperature is topping 107, yet four-fifths of the city has pitifully little electricity. The U.S. military does an admirable job in destroying, but as repairmen, they fail miserably. When the thermometer crests triple digits and there is no fan, forget sleeping, forget eating, and forget patience! All of which is pushing millions of ordinary yet outraged Iraqis into supporting the guerrillas. Not criminals, but guerrillas!

The social and logistical framework for the Iraqi quagmire is taking hold: shopkeepers are being persuaded to look the other way, agreeing to supply food to the guerrillas; old men are offering their spare bedrooms for hiding; and tough young men want to join the freedom fighters. Some have relatives killed by the Americans, while others have no jobs but plenty of complaints against the U.S. troops. The cement of national resistance is hardening.

Excluding Fox News and political numskulls unable to recognize a guerrilla war, is anyone really surprised there are people in Iraq who are willing to risk their lives to throw out a foreign occupier? Would American nationalists take up arms against, say, French troops occupying America? After freeing us from a John Ashcroft-type dictator, would Americans tolerate the French military stealing our California grapes?

The Chickenhawk Bush should extricate us—with “honor,” of course—from this quickly developing quagmire. Once a guerrilla war has been successfully launched, once the guerrillas’ support mechanism has established solid roots in the civilian population, and once the young identify resistance with patriotism, then, in the vernacular of U.S. Marine grunts, “you can’t squeeze that fat pig back into a square bottle.”

This is especially true when guerrillas are fighting a United States blinded by superpower hubris and distracted by an unquenchable thirst for profit, like in the 1960s in Vietnam and today in Iraq. I heard one of the chickenhawks describe Iraq oil as “spoils of war.” How many Americans here want to go to war just for oil? Raise your hands and say “seig.”

Bush could declare total, unequivocal victory and yank our troops out of Iraq, then quickly invade Pago Pago (or Liberia) to distract the media (a media already distracted), followed by a vicious polemical attack on the Democrats for losing Iraq—an Iraq War we supposedly just won.

But the Bush administration has declared victory and plans on keeping our troops in Iraq (it’s not their kids that will bleed). He may invade Pago Pago (or Libya) and distract the media, soon to be followed by a vicious polemical attack on the Democrats for not supporting the war on Iraq—an Iraq War we are supposedly winning.

I again wrote this column with a lot of help from the organization Veterans Against War In Iraq, and Stewart Nusbaumer, editor of Intervention Magazine who attended Guerrilla Recognition School in Vietnam in 1967.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

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