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Iraqi Guerilla
Wednesday, 22 November 2006 13:48
by Mike Whitney

 “We must bear in mind that imperialism is a world system, the last stage of capitalism—and it must be defeated in a world confrontation. The strategic end of this struggle should be the destruction of imperialism. Our share, the responsibility of the exploited and underdeveloped of the world, is to eliminate the foundations of imperialism: our oppressed nations, from where they extract capital, raw materials, technicians, and cheap labor, and to which they export new capital-instruments of domination-arms and all kinds of articles, thus submerging us in absolute dependence.”

- Ernesto Che Guevara.

While critics of the Iraq war are quick to point out that US occupation is failing, they hesitate to draw the obvious conclusion; that the Iraqi resistance is winning. Observations like that are tantamount to treason and thus banned in the establishment-media. The idea of American invincibility is such a carefully-nurtured myth that is defended in all quarters and at all times. Even if U.S. troops were caught red-handed pushing their helicopters into the Euphrates while hastily fleeing Baghdad, the “embedded” media would twist it around so it looked like a “strategic redeployment”.

There’s nothing new about media bias, but its effect on the ongoing war has been negligible. The media’s “spin” cannot alter the reality on the ground, and the fact is the US is getting beaten quite badly. They’ve locked-horns with a crafty enemy that has neutralized their advantages in terms of firepower and technology and limited their range of movement. It’s shocking to think that after 4 years of bloody conflict, occupation forces still control “no ground” beyond the looming parapets of the Green Zone. This is a stunning admission of defeat.

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By every objective standard, the US is losing the war in Iraq. Still, America’s misfortunes are simply the result of administrative miscues or a bungled strategy, but the unavoidable effect of a shrewd and ferocious adversary that strikes unexpectedly and then hides among the population. As Mao Tse-tung said, “The guerilla must move among the people as a fish swims in the sea.” The Iraqi resistance has managed this feat with greater dexterity than anyone expected.

The benchmarks for winning a guerilla-type war are fairly well known. The occupying army must quickly establish security in order to elicit the support of the general population. That’s why winning “hearts and minds” is such a critical task. If the occupation iswidely unpopular, then reconstruction and security become impossible, and the armed-struggle flourishes. Now that 80% of the Iraqi people say that they want to see a rapid draw-down of American troops, we can be certain that victory, in any conventional sense of the word, is out of the question.

Guerilla warfare has reached a new level of complexity in Iraq. After 4 years, we know little moreabout the resistance and their methods of operating as we did at the time of the invasion. Is there a central-command or just small independent cells? How do they communicate among themselves? Do they have a reliable source of weaponry and explosives? What are their funding sources? How many men are in the resistance? How many women? Do they move around the country or stay in one location? Are there foreign donors or are they self-sustaining? How deeply is the public engaged in supporting resistance activities?

Without knowing the answers to these questions, the United States, with all its high-tech surveillance gadgetry, is just a lumbering giant stumbling around aimlessly. The dependence on rounding up and torturing “military aged men” (MAMs) to gather intelligence about resistance activities and networks has backfired entirely; galvanizing the public against the occupation and eroding America’s claim of moral superiority.

Guerilla warfare is a war of attrition; the steady, inexorable wearing away of the enemy’s forces and morale. The object is to invoke various asymmetrical strategies to keep the invading army constantly off-balance and on the defensive. The guerilla must keep probing for vulnerabilities; picking away at potential soft-spots while executing a program of sabotage and deception. As Mao advised, “Withdraw when the enemy advances; harass him when he stops; strike him when he is weary; pursue him when he withdraws.”

The overall effect of this strategy is already apparent. The mission’s goals have become vague and muddled, the troops are increasingly demoralized, and there are no clear benchmarks for success. Under these circumstances, increasing troop strength is an act of pure desperation. “Victory” is not possible when no one has a clear idea of what victory means. That’s the problem with waging a war simply to extract the wealth and resources from another country. Eventually the mask of ideology slips and everyone can see the true nature of the fraud.

There is a tendency in the West to minimize the accomplishments of the Iraqi resistance, but no one can dispute the results. With limited arms and resources, they have out-flanked, out-maneuvered and thoroughly-confounded the best-trained, best-equipped, high-tech military war-machine the world has ever seen. That’s no mean achievement. I expect that many high-ranking American officers secretly admire their enemy’s effectiveness. They’ve waged an impressivebattle under very thorny circumstances and they'vepersevereddespite clear disadvantagesin communications, logistics, firepower, propaganda, mobility and supplies. With the most primitive of weaponry and bomb-making equipment, they’ve gone nose-to-nose with the world’s only superpower and forced a stalemate.

In truth, the Iraqi resistance has succeeded where the Congress, the United Nations, and the millions of peace-loving antiwar citizens across the globe failed; they stopped the Bush juggernaut dead in its tracks.

Last week, Lt General Michael Maples admitted that resistance attacks have increased “in scope, lethality, and intensity.” Attacks on US forces are now up to a whopping 180 per day, nearly doublethe number just a year ago. The armed-struggleis clearly growing stronger by the day.

At the same time, Bush’s problems continue to mount. His army is stretched to the breaking-point, sectarian fighting is on the rise, and the Al-Maliki government has failed to disband the militias or devise a strategy for establishing security beyond the Green Zone.

No part of the occupation has succeeded.

Bush’s plan for Iraq is doomed to fail, because it is based on flawed logic. Overwhelming force and extreme violence do not produce political solutions; just more bloodshed. Iraq is not the Gaza Strip.

The only way forward now is for the United States to declare an immediateceasefire, call for negotiations with the leaders of the Iraqi National Resistance, convene a meeting between the main groups, (Sunni, Shiite and Kurd) and agree in principle tothecomplete withdrawal all American troops.

Even at this late date, there is reluctance among conservative and liberal pundits alike, to acknowledge that the Sunni-backed, Ba’athist-led resistance must be dealt with and brought to the bargaining table.

Negotiations with the Iraqi Resistance is the “first step” on the path to a political solution.

“Staying the course”, “phased withdrawal” or even meeting with other regional powers, (such as Syria and Iran) are merely superficial remedies that do not address the central issue. The United States needs to make a deal with the men who “carry the guns and pack the explosives”;they are the ones who are fighting this war and they are the ones who will decide the terms of a political settlement.

Whether negotiations take place now or 5 years from now depends entirely on George Bush, but the outcome of the war is already certain. Bush’s imperial ambitions have been smashed by a small cadre of committed Iraqi nationalists. They’ve blocked thepath to Tehran and Damascus and paved the way for their country’s liberation.

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