*The killing of some 7 Iraqi civilians by US troops because their vehicle refused to stop at a checkpoint demonstrates the kind of public relations difficulties the US is being drawn into during the Iraq War. The suicide bomber who earlier took advantage of the troops at that checkpoint did more than kill four of our young men. They forced our troops to take a highly suspicious posture toward civilians. The civilian deaths were not an accident; they were forced on us by the guerrilla tactics of the enemy, who is seeking to create bad feeling between us and the general Iraqi populace. The US military must be very careful not to be pushed into causing large numbers of civilian deaths every day, or they will begin to lose the war on the political and diplomatic front, whatever happens on the military front.
*The failure of the British or US troops to turn up any stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons is striking. Perhaps it is the case that they are well hidden or that they are hidden in Baghdad or to the north. It is dangerous to get out on a limb here and say they just don’t exist. But the possibility that they just don’t exist now has to be taken increasingly seriously. We know (scroll down) that the Bush and Blair case for Iraq having started back up its nuclear weapons program after 1998 has collapsed and was based on faulty or actively forged “evidence.” So among the major reasons given for voting for the war by the US Congress has evaporated. The likelihood is that Iraq destroyed almost all its chemical and biological stockpiles in the 1990s. As even Forbes is noting, the Bush administration has now backed off WMD as its major reason for the war, now focusing on ‘links to terrorism’ and on the Iraqi regime’s human rights abuses (well, genocides is more like it). The major link to terrorism is Ansar al-Islam, a small Kurdish group not in the territory under Baath control. The US would not have needed to invade Iraq to clean it out–it was already in the no-fly zone under US and Kurdish dominance, and the Kurdish pesh merga fighters could have been sent in after it with special ops support. As someone who was myself alarmed last fall by reports of Saddam getting nukes, I have to say that I increasingly feel I have been duped. But I hold on to the belief that the Baath regime in Iraq has been virtually genocidal (no one talks about the fate of the Marsh Arabs) and that having it removed cannot in the end be a bad thing. That’s what I tell anxious parents of our troops over there; it is a noble enterprise to remove the Baath, even if so many other justifications for the war are crumbling. But it looks to me like an increasingly bad idea for the US (read: the Pentagon) to try to run Iraq in the aftermath. We should win, cut our losses, and turn Iraq back over to Iraqis.