McCain vs. Iraqi Public
The rather bloodthirsty demand launched by Arizona Senator John McCain that the US military conquer Fallujah and other Sunni Arab cities of al-Anbar Province will not in fact enhance the possibility of free elections in January.
There are bad characters in those al-Anbar cities, without any doubt. There are persons responsible for the massive bombs that killed Kurds last winter and Shiites during Muharram rituals last spring. There are old-time Baath fascists and there are Sunni fundamentalists with a mindset not much different from that of al-Qaeda (even if they are, unlike al-Qaeda, mainly concerned with Iraqi independence of the US). I don’t doubt that finding ways to combat them or convince them to turn to civil politics is crucial to the future of Iraq.
But for the US military to frontally invade those cities, inevitably killing large numbers of innocent civilians, and potentially pushing even more of their inhabitants into joining the guerrilla war will not be without a political cost. During the US siege of Fallujah last April, several key Iraqi politicians resigned or threatened to, and even the Shiites of Kazimiyah (who ordinarily despise Sunni fundamentalists) sent them truckloads of aid. Even Coalition Provisional Authority polling that May found that Iraqi politicians who opposed the US action and attempted to negotiate an end to it had become national figures with high favoribility ratings. Hareth al-Dhari of the Association of Muslim Clerics is an example. His influential Association, by the way, has already said it will not contest the elections now set for January because they are being held under the shadow of a foreign Occupation. Razing Fallujah will not earn the US any good will with the Sunni Muslim clerics.
What does McCain think the election would look like, with Ramadi, Fallujah and other Sunni cities reduced to rubble? Does he think the sullen Sunni Arabs will actually just jump on a US bandwagon in the wake of such brutality? Does he have any idea of the sheer number of feuds that will have been incurred with the Sunni tribes?
Some much more subtle and effective form of counter-insurgency strategy is necessary.
It seems almost certain that most candidates for high office in Iraq will run against the US. I.e., their platform will probably include a promise to get US troops out of the country ASAP. Others will boycott the elections. The number of such boycotters, and the number of those running against the US, would be even greater in the wake of a bloody and indiscriminate US campaign against the townspeople of al-Anbar.
At the end of this misadventure, it seems more and more likely that a US soldier will report to his general, “We had to destroy the country to save it, sir!”
Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, visiting London, reaffirmed Sunday that his government will hold elections as scheduled, to the incredulity of Kofi Annan and other UN officials.
In bad news for the Allawi government, which had trumpeted the political settlement it had achieved with clan chieftains of Samarra, guerrillas blew up a roadside bomb there on Sunday, kiling an Iraqi soldier and a civilian, and wounding four American and three Iraqi troops.
Late Saturday and early Sunday, US warplanes and artillery struck Fallujah repeatedly. The bombardments killed four persons and wounded six. Although the US military typically points to the guerrillas it kills in such operations, it makes no accounting of the innocent civilians it kills and injures when bombing residential neighborhoods.
In Suwayrah, the Darwin Prize goes to four guerrillas who accidentally blew themselves up while planting a roadside bomb Saturday night.
Also over the weekend, US talks with the Shiite leaders of East Baghdad broke down over American demands that the Mahdi Army be disbanded in Sadr City and that the militiamen turn in their weapons.
Some 300 Iraqis were killed in violence during the past week.