Cockburn Misrepresents Cole Alexander

Cockburn Misrepresents Cole

Alexander Cockburn says in his piece in The Nation: ‘Cole says to The Nation Institute’s Tom Engelhardt that for the United States to “up and leave” Iraq would be to become an accomplice to genocide. He counsels the heightened use in Iraq of “special forces and air power.” In other words, assassinations and saturation bombing.’

Cockburn is referring to my interview with Tom Engelhardt.

I actually haven’t called for any assassinations or saturation bombing, and Mr. Cockburn’s “In other words” is just a trite way to open up a mendacious smear.

For the thousandth time, what I have in mind is that in the wake of a substantial drawdown of US troops (which I think advisable), a civil war may well break out in Iraq. It is also likely that Sunni Arab militiamen will attempt to kill the members of the current government. (I mean, they are already trying to kill them, they just aren’t usually succeeding.)

I am distressed at the prospect of a Cambodia in Iraq, which strikes me as a real possibility. As it is, there was that nastiness of Shiite and Sunni militiamen killing each other Thursday.

I’d like to see such an outcome prevented. I said earlier that I thought the best outcome would be for Iraq to be internationalized and to have a United Nations military force enforce the peace. However, it does seem increasingly a rather forlorn hope (the UN is made up of member nations whose politicians would like to stay in power, and that might be difficult if they send their constituents’ young men into the meat grinder of Anbar province.) The Bushies aren’t very likely even to allow it during the next 3 years. I haven’t stopped advocating it, I just don’t see it happening tomorrow.

So what is left, if I am right that the US ground troops engaged in assaults such as Fallujah, Tal Afar and Qaim are doing more harm than good and there is no cavalry coming to the rescue any time soon?

I’m suggesting that the sort of tactics used in northern Afghanistan be retrofitted. The Northern Alliance fighters (surely not that much better than the current Iraqi army) accepted Special Ops embeds. They told the Special Ops guys where the Taliban positions were, and the GIs put lasers on the targets and called down smart air strikes on warlord HQs, tanks, etc. Once the Taliban positions were disrupted and their armor and machine guns taken out, the Northern Alliance could advance on cities like Mazar and take them, even on horseback. I think the same sorts of synergies can be deployed to protect, e.g., the Green Zone from the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement should it mount an aggressive army to march on parliament.

Many readers have told me that this tactic would not prevent car bombings or other killings. That is correct. Nothing can prevent the low-intensity guerrilla war from continuing, probably for a decade or more. The question is only if it can be kept from escalating into a civil war that kills a million Iraqis and sparks a generalized Middle East war.

I am arguing for a defensive set of tactics, not offensive. I think I am probably the first observer in Iraq to speak out consistently against US bombing raids on civilian neighborhoods in Iraqi cities. I don’t know where Cockburn gets his weird misinterpretation of what I said.

If Mr. Cockburn has any realistic ideas for preventing this outcome, I’d be glad to hear them. But, he can’t just dismiss the possibility of massive killing– that would be intellectually dishonest and morally reprehensible. The real possibility exists. How to guard against it?

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