January 3, 2005
From: Dean Lawrence R. Velvel
When one has spent most of his life in opposition to the conventional wisdom, and has accordingly paid an Americanized version of the Ibsenian price (see An Enemy of the People), perhaps he can be forgiven an occasional crowing, an occasional "I told you so." Thus a comment about the most recent public revelations about Saddam’s guerrilla war.
Relatively early on it was said here, and it was said even before that in messages that were precursors to a formally instituted blog, that it looked to one writer as if Saddam had planned for a guerrilla war, not a conventional one, from the outset. It was said that it looked as if he had fooled the hell out of the incompetent George the Second -- perhaps even more of a fool than his 225-years-ago predecessor, George III. (Is it numerically ironic that a foolish George III is followed centuries later by a foolish George the Second?). Saddam had equally fooled the hell out of George the Second’s combined force of Jewish and Christian crusaders -- Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, Rumsfeld, Cheney, et. al.
This view was inevitably based on a minimum of fact, because only a few facts were available, and was based more on what seemed to me rather obvious analysis. Saddam’s conventional army did not stand and fight, it did not engage in a battle whose result would surely have been its quick slaughter by American forces. Instead, it melted away. As well, Saddam said that there would be some surprises for the Americans. And then we found ourselves involved in a guerrilla war, an ever increasing one, no less. What could be more logical in these circumstances than the obvious conclusion that Saddam had planned not for a conventional war, but for a guerrilla one?
But logical analysis is not the strong point of our American leaders, who fundamentally are ideologues, not logicians. Nor is it the strong point of the mainstream media, who approach their jobs as (embedded) cheerleaders who, since Viet Nam, generally report the good news about our military actions abroad, not the bad news, who report the happy talk, not the sad or bitter talk. (On Christmas Day of all days), I note, The Times, in an exception to this, carried a front page story about the bombing in Mosul that was called Remembering the Dead and the Horror of Mosul. It told the dreadful details of the chaos, the American deaths, and the American maimings in the blowing up of the mess tent. But while this was one example of carrying sad, bitter news, did anyone notice that neither The Times nor other mainstream media usually carry the same bitter details of the destruction, deaths and maimings of Iraqi families -- of the deaths and maimings of babies, children, women, old men -- from American 500 pound bombs or 1,000 pound bombs, or from American rockets or howitzers? To learn the bitter details about these deaths and maimings -- arising from what we choose to call by the whitewashing phrase "collateral damage" -- I guess that one has to be a middle eastern Arab watching Al Jazeera. (And Americans wonder why we, not bin Laden, are considered by scores of millions to be the world’s major terrorists?)
Logical analysis not being the strong point of our crusaders or media, the fact that Saddam fooled the hell out of our Jewish/Christian crusaders was not recognized, nor publicly reported except for a few articles, widely scattered in time, which noted that the Pentagon had or was working on some reports about it. George And The Crusaders (they sound like a bad rock group, don’t they?) naturally did not want people to focus on how Saddam fooled the living bejeezus out of them, lest this jeopardize George’s reelection because people would focus on how dumb and incompetent he and the crusaders in fact are. And -- heavens to Murgatroid! -- were the media to have focused on the fact that the insurgents are simply carrying out long established, if loose and flexible, plans, this would have lent credence to a comment by Howard Dean. If I remember rightly -- please let me know if my memory is incorrect -- when George the Second was trumpeting the capture of Spider Hole Saddam, Howard Dean, who was then still very much in the race, made a comment to the effect that the capture didn’t really mean much because the guerrilla war was still going on. But the media and the Democrats had made up their minds that Dean could not be allowed to become the Democratic candidate, and so this truth which his comment inevitably (even if unintentionally) encapsulated -- the fact of a long planned guerrilla war -- could no more be allowed to become a focus by them than by George the Second.
So secrecy was employed by all hands -- George, his opponents, and the media -- to insure that the conclusion ineluctably pointed to by even the simplest logic did not become the focus of public attention. To hide incompetence and misdeeds is, of course, the most important function of secrecy, governmental, corporate, and otherwise. So it was here (to use a Galbraithian turn of phrase).
But now to the crowing, to the "I told you so" part. Although the politicians and the media did not want to focus on the truth, the Pentagon and intelligence groups were focusing on it (secretly, of course). And recently U.S. News & World Report somehow got access to a trove of the secret reports, and in mid December published an article reporting on what the reports say. Lo and behold, they confirm in spades that Saddam and his cohorts were planning to fight a guerrilla war several months before the American army rolled across Iraq’s borders. Here are just a few of the highlights of the U.S. News article:
• In the fall of 2002, months before we invaded in 2003, somewhere between 1,000 and 1,200 Iraqi security, intelligence and military officers were sent to two military facilities near Bagdad for two months of guerrilla training. Each attendee was given an alias and a number, with Saddam himself being "‘No. 1.’" (How the hell did our so-called intelligence agencies not learn about all this before we invaded? 1,000 to 1,200 officers? Two months of training? And we didn’t know anything about it? Is this incompetent or what?)
• Saddam planned the insurgency and, until his capture, played a role in directing it. But because the insurgency was planned as a hydra headed operation, his capture changed nothing. Sorry, George (a phrase of quite a different meaning if one removes the comma).
• So called "former regime elements," including major figures in Saddam’s government, have played the biggest role in carrying out the insurgency, although other groups and foreign fighters also play a role.
• New organizations were created beforehand to participate in carrying out the insurgency.
• Weapons were stored in mosques. As well, the "former regime elements" have access to almost all weapons previously controlled by Saddam’s government; the weapons are in "‘unsecured arms depots, and storage facilities.’"
• Iraqi documents recommended the structure for insurgent groups, recommended that cells be small to prevent penetration, told what was to be encoded, etc., etc.
• "Former regime elements" infiltrated coalition operations and seized opportunities to "‘place agents in positions that permit them to monitor all coalition activities from the inside.’" (Shades of Viet Nam! And does this help explain how some guy managed to get himself inside a mess tent in Mosul and make a true mess of it, or how truck bombers got right up next to UN headquarters and blew the place up?)
• Shortly after Spider Hole Saddam was captured, American intelligence analysts said that it would change little, that new leaders would arise, and that "attacks would continue, and even worsen," all of which came true. And this at the time when George And The Crusaders were trumpeting Saddam’s capture and when Howard Dean, if memory serves, was being lambasted for saying the capture changed nothing -- exactly what our analysts were saying. Of course, their views were kept secret -- you couldn’t have the analysts make Dean look right, could you?
So, Henrik Ibsen and his An Enemy Of The People be damned, there shall be some crowing here because what turns out to be the truth was said here early in the game, fundamentally on the basis of obvious analysis. And why political leaders and media are incapable of obvious analysis escapes me -- it must be due to some combination of remarkable lack of acumen, focus on the non birdie instead of the birdie, and, probably most importantly, a desire not to see the obvious.
The desire not to see the obvious leads me to another point. This blogger rarely reads U.S. News & World Report. My attention was called to its article on the planning for the insurgency by a very bright, immensely conservative blog reader who disagrees with virtually everything said here and, in the apparently undying but nonetheless forlorn hope that I might learn something, keeps emailing me articles by such formidable conservative analysts as Victor Davis Hanson as well as by right wing wackos. This reader also called my attention to the U.S. News piece, saying it appeared to substantiate some of the views expressed here, as it does.
But that it took this reader to call my attention to the U.S. News piece raises an obvious question. Why had this blogger not heard about it before? As said here on other occasions, the writer reads The Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Boston Globe everyday. He reads The Washington Post’s estimable national weekly edition, possibly the best thing done in mainstream print journalism. He will occasionally look at Newsweek or Time. But never did the writer see any reference to the U.S. News piece or to what it was reporting. Why? Was it in these newspapers but I just missed it? -- somebody should let me know if this is the case. Surely it cannot be, can it, that the mainstream media honestly believes it has given sufficient coverage to a matter which it has given almost no coverage -- Saddam’s extensive pre-invasion planning for guerrilla war? One inevitably is left to think that the failure to report on U.S. News’ report represents one or both of two phenomena. For sure it represents a particular bete noire of this blog: incompetence, in this case incompetence by the press, as well as lack of concern for its own duties. And possibly, just possibly, it might also represent a continuing desire to give George the Second, at least in this instance,the same free pass that the press gave him for his first four years. After all, in the middle of a war in which our men and women are being killed, what element of the mainstream media wants to impress upon the troops or their families or the citizens at large that the guy who ordered the war, the Viet Nam draft dodger who stood on the Abraham Lincoln and announced that major combat operations in Iraq are over, is in reality an incompetent military chief who got badly, badly fooled by one of the most evil guys of the 20th century, by a guy who ranks with the Hitlers, the Stalins, the Maos, the Pol Pots, the Kim Il Sungs, the Hafez Assads and the rest of those horrid deformities born of woman.*
*This posting represents the personal views of Lawrence R. Velvel. If you wish to respond to this email/blog, please email your response to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your response may be posted on the blog if you have no objection; please tell me if you do object.
Addendum: A Blinding Perception Of The Obvious
After proofing this post, the writer suddenly had an epiphanous, a blinding, perception of the obvious. Americans like to think that we won the war itself against Saddam, since operations against the Iraqi army were over in a brief period, but that what we are facing now, and may lose, is a subsequent guerrilla war. This view almost certainly is wrong. From the standpoint of Saddam, there was always going to be only one continuous war: it would start with American conventional operations, which the Iraqis knew they would lose, and would then turn to its guerrilla phase, its final phase, which the Iraqis thought they could win (and they haven’t been proven wrong yet). The situation is very akin to Viet Nam, where Americans say, with some fair measure of truth, that we won every conventional battle. But -- as the Viet Namese say to us -- that was irrelevant because, though we won every battle, at the end of the day we lost the war.
So it may be here. From the Saddamist standpoint, conventional operations were only the opening gun[s] of what would be a long, protracted war fought mainly by guerrilla means, and what would count would not be the result of the opening conventional operations, but who is the eventual winner at the end of the day, after long guerrilla operations. And if we are not victorious at the end -- which seems increasingly likely to me -- then Gulf II will be America’s second loss out of the three major wars we have been in since 1960 -- Viet Nam, Gulf I, and Gulf II.
Sorry George (no comma) has really put his foot into it this time, hasn’t he? Instead of being a big hero, he bids fair to be the loser in the second major defeat that America is likely to suffer in her three most recent major wars. And if that happens, what will Sorry George say on the Abraham Lincoln then?