*Basra fell early Sunday morning EST, Sunday afternoon Baghdad time. Actually what appears to have happened was that the largely British force surrounding the city negotiated its surrender with the Iraqi army officials. The bulk of the British forces, supported by US Marines, has now headed north for Baghdad. Had the Baathist military put up a fight, it could have tied the British down and made them shell the city even more extensively than they did, maybe even entice them into deadly house to house fighting. By surrendering they gave a huge lift to the Anglo-British war effort. We all expected that the Shiite South would not be so hard to take, but the speed with which it has fallen, and the relative lack of fight it has put up, exceeds expectations. There have been a few “decent” firefights, at Umm Qasr, Nasiriya, and around Basra. But all three urban areas have fallen, despite pockets of resistance. Indeed, the victory has been so fast and so extensive that some worry it will leave chaos in its wake. Apparently there has already been a good deal of looting and disorder inside Basra, and this disorder could spread as the bulk of the US and British forces head to Baghdad. According to the Washington Post, however, some in the administration welcome the civil turmoil, hoping it will initiate an era of de-Baathification. I just hope we don’t have another Panama on our hands, when the mission to capture Manuel Noriega was so badly thought out that it plunged the city into a paroxysm of looting. In contrast to the occasional fighting in the South where the British are, the fighter jets bombing Saddam’s palaces and other targets have reportedly been astonished at how little resistance they have encountered.
*From a message I sent to a list that was discussing the charge that
the Iraq war is a “Jewish” war.
I agree that it is wrong to profile an entire ethnic group with regard to
a particular political issue. Only a small group of US Jews identifies
with the policies of the Likud Party in Israel or votes Republican in US
elections (nor do all the voters for the Republicans idolize Ariel
Even some Bush appointees like Marc Grossman, Undersecretary of State for
Political Affairs, are career USG employees who are far more liberal than
the Perle group. And, if the neoconservatives in the Bush administration
had been the only ones advocating a war on Iraq, while it was opposed by
Cheney, Bush, Rice and other key players, then it would not have happened.
It is overly “neat” and therefore sloppy thinking to put the entire onus
on one group (which are a small minority even within their over-all
[constructed] ethnicity). That the neocons are a significant part of the
mix is not in dispute, but it is not as if Bush is their ventriloquist’s
dummy. And, the neocons derive their power in part from a conviction on
the part of people like Karl Rove that they can articulate ideas appealing
to the core cosntituencies of the Republican Right, including the
Christian Coalition. I think it is indisputable that the ideas of Perle,
Wolfowitz and Feith have far more resonance with rightwing Christians than
with other Jews. So why not blame the second Gulf War on Jerry Falwell
and Pat Robertson, i.e. on fundamentalist Christians? . . .
Unfortunately, the unwise Bush administration decision to appoint Jay
Garner as the pro-consul of a defeated Iraq will probably fan the flames
of this sort of prejudice. Garner has for a long time been close to the
Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, a far rightwing outfit
that is part of the Perle and Pipes network, and he was among signatories
to a statement praising the Israeli army for its “restraint” in the
Occupied Territories during the second intifada.
I don’t personally think the idea of a US pro-consul is a good one to
begin with. If there has to be one, it should not be someone like Garner,
whose views are extreme and whose appointment will appear to confirm the
worst conspiracy theories circulating in the Middle East . . .
*Joschka Fischer, the Foreign Minister of Germany, warned against the possibility that the Bush administration intends to pursue a whole series of wars after Iraq, aimed at disarming one country after another. He said a way had to be found between complacency toward the threat of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the impulse to go to war to stop such proliferation.