Wednesday, November 24

Errors or enemies?

For the last few weeks, lots of people who supported the removal of Saddam have started to pepper their speech with qualifications and back-pedalling, some even going so far as to support John Kerry in the election. The idea seems to be that, while, yes, it was right to invade Iraq in principle, if only it could have been done under an administration that hadn't fucked it up. There was no planning for post-war Iraq; the Iraqi army should never have been dismissed; Fallujah should have been dealt with sooner, or possibly later, but not just now; the blundering Yanks know nothing about peace-keeping, unlike us Brits, with our experience of defeating Northern Irish terrorists by making them Minister for Education.

None of this has rung true for me. It always struck me that war isn't as neat and easy as a lot of commentators seem to think it should be. Paul Wolfowitz puts it better than I can:

People make a lot about the decision to dismiss the Iraqi army. But I don’t think people are shooting at Americans and blowing up schools because we dismissed the Iraqi army. When people talk about why Iraq is as difficult as it is, they always start and finish with a list of American mistakes. Nobody ever talks about the enemy. It would be like saying why the battle of the bulge was tough without ever mentioning the German army.


Well, of course. The anti-war crowd don't just avoid mentioning the enemy: they don't want to admit that the enemy even is an enemy; in fact, they find the whole concept of "enemy" rather outmoded. Unless they're talking about Bush or Blair, of course: they're the enemy.

It is a great shame that the anti-warriors have had such success: no, they didn't stop the war, thank God, but they have succeeded, largely thanks to the media, in defining the terms of the debate. So here we are in the ridiculous situation where anyone who mentions the well documented links between Saddam and terrorism is regarded as stark staring mad, and all debate about the success or failure of the war — even amongst those who support the US — is framed in terms of American competence versus American incompetence, with no thought given to the actions, or even the existence, of the enemy.

Saddam Hussein didn’t stop fighting us, at least until he was captured in December last year. Al-Zarqawi didn’t surrender when Baghdad fell. He stepped up his efforts. There are all these organisations that are unheard of in Europe and barely known in the U.S. that people ought to know about. There was the M-14 division of the Iraqi intelligence service, its so-called “anti-terrorism” division, which specialised in hijackings and bombings, kidnappings and assassinations. There was the M-16 division, which perfected new bombing techniques. Many of these guys are out in Falluja and Ramadi in the western parts of Iraq today making bombs. A fellow named Abu Ibrahim spent 20 years in Iraq developing these techniques. He can fashion plastic explosives in the shape of decorative wall hangings. He was putting bombs in suitcases on American airplanes in 1982. If you don’t understand that the people who killed and raped and murdered and tortured for 35 years are not quitting and still think they can win, then you won’t understand what we’re fighting.