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Saturday, April 10, 2004
 
Brooks, You Ignorant Slut

This week, Chicken Littles like Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd were ranting that Iraq is another Vietnam. Pundits and sages were spinning a whole series of mutually exclusive disaster scenarios: Civil war! A nationwide rebellion!

Maybe we should calm down a bit. I've spent the last few days talking with people who've spent much of their careers studying and working in this region. We're at a perilous moment in Iraqi history, but the situation is not collapsing. We're in the middle of a battle. It's a battle against people who vehemently oppose a democratic Iraq. The task is to crush those enemies without making life impossible for those who fundamentally want what we want.

Oh, you've talked to people who say everything's ok. Imagine my relief. I've been reading stuff like this and this and this that say things are getting worse. Thank heavens there's someone out there who won't buy the obvious falsehoods put forward by people on the ground in Iraq (traitors, all) in favor of some prudently anonymous "people who've spent much of their careers studying and working in this region." I was almost beginning to believe, with the enormous upsurge in violence, defections of Iraqi police, resignations of Interim Governing Council members and near-universal expressions of hatred for the U.S. occupation, that things were going badly. Thanks for setting us straight, you ignorant slut.

The Shiite violence is being fomented by Moktada al-Sadr, a lowlife hoodlum from an august family. The ruthless and hyperpoliticized Sadr has spent the past year trying to marginalize established religious figures, like Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who come from a more quietist tradition and who believe in the separation of government and clergy. Sadr and his fellow putschists have been spectacularly unsuccessful in winning popular support. The vast majority of Iraqis do not want an Iranian-style dictatorship. Most see Sadr as a young, hotheaded murderer who terrorizes people wherever he goes.

So it's just Sadr we're worried about. Whew. We can lick any "lowlife hoodlum" they can throw at us. When you think about it, it's kind of funny how he got all pissy and started beating his chest when we shut down his newspaper and arrested his spokesman. Funny, little, ineffectual man, that Sadr. Iraqis won't support a guy who wants to install a theocracy, unless the uprising is actually about getting rid of the oppressive, dehumanizing occupation. Which it isn't.
Nonetheless, Sadr faces long odds. Iraqis may be frustrated with the Americans, but they don't want to jump from Baath fascism to theocratic fascism. In a February poll, only 10 percent of Iraqis said it was acceptable to attack Americans. In Kut yesterday, CNN reported, local tribesmen, disgusted by Sadr's violence, rose up against his troops. If you'd listened to the recent hysteria, you never would have expected that to happen.
It's only 2.5 million Iraqis who want to kill our troops and drive us out of their country. That's managable. Things couldn't have changed that much since February, anyway. Our little collective punishment drive in Fallujah didn't make things worse.

One of the strongest pro-U.S. voices on the council, Adnan Pachachi, denounced the U.S. siege, launched after Sunni insurgents killed four U.S. contract workers and a mob dragged their burned and mutilated bodies through the streets and hung two of them from a bridge.

"These (U.S.) operations were a mass punishment for the people of Fallujah," Pachachi told Al-Arabiya TV. "It was not right to punish all the people of Fallujah and we consider these operations by the Americans unacceptable and illegal."

None of this matters, because our side is steadfast. We've got what it takes to win.

Most important, leadership in the U.S. is for once cool and resolved. This week I spoke with leading Democrats and Republicans and found a virtual consensus. We're going to keep the June 30 handover deadline. We're going to raise troop levels if necessary. We're going to wait for the holy period to end and crush Sadr. As Joe Lieberman put it, a military offensive will alienate Iraqis, but "the greater risk is [Sadr] will grow into something malevolent." As Charles Hill, the legendary foreign service officer who now teaches at Yale, observed, "I've been pleasantly surprised by the boldness and resolve."

Even if the IGC disbands, we'll find someone to hand the government over to, so everyone stop worrying. When we stomp Sadr, even if we "alienate Iraqis," it won't be a problem. If we kill a bunch of women and children en route to purging the Mahdi army from every city in the south of Iraq, armed resistance to the occupation will not swell enormously, ok? We've got "boldness and resolve," sayeth the Oracle of New Haven, and no amount of well-armed vengeance-fueled blood fury can hope to stand against that. So there.

Nonetheless, yesterday's defections from the Iraqi Governing Council show that populist pressure on the good guys is getting intense. Maybe it is time to pause, to let passions cool, to let the democrats marshal their forces. If people like Sistani are forced to declare war on the U.S., the gates of hell will open up.

Over the long run, though, the task is unavoidable. Sadr is an enemy of civilization. The terrorists are enemies of civilization. They must be defeated.

Ok, maybe they are pressuring us some. Maybe we should just cool it with the shooting and the shelling and the 500-lb. laser-guided bombs for a bit. We have the boldness and resolve to step back and do nothing while those determined to get us out of Iraq continue to blow our soldiers and mercenaries to bloody hell.

And let's not forget one thing: even if the enemy is fighting a foreign occupation in their own country that currently has no legitimate government, they're terrorists. Terrorists, terrorists, terrorists.


All links courtesy of the indefatigable and indispensable Agonist.