"You play, you pay"
(Ben Heine © Cartoons)

Democracy's foot soldiers in Iraq stumble

By Fawaz Turki (*)

Does it really take the combined efforts of 16 intelligence agencies in the US government to come up with the pedestrian conclusion that the war in Iraq has fuelled the "global jihadist" movement, drawing new adherents to it and breeding a sustained rage by Muslims against American intervention in their world?

Hardly a striking revelation, you would think, but that is what the National Intelligence Estimate (the mother of all classified intelligence reports), parts of which were leaked last week, had to say.

The NIE depicts a war in Iraq that is triggering "deep resentment" throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds and creating a new generation of "terrorist leaders" running decentralised struggles and cultivating new recruits independent of Al Qaida but nominally loyal to its ideology.

The report's conclusions, though hardly news to those commentators who had warned the administration on the eve of the invasion about the pitfalls of the day after, are sobering, not to mention embarrassing, to government officials. Thus, not to be outdone, US President George W. Bush responded by announcing the release of key judgments of the NIE which, he said, simply showed that "because our successes against Al Qaida, the enemy is becoming more diffuse and independent".

But even a cursory reading of the report suggests no such cause and effect. Rather it notes that Iraq has become a "cause celebre" for jihadists, fuelled by forces that Al Qaida is exploiting or inspiring, but not by any means directing. The cause celebre, if that's what the dreadful war in Iraq is, would then remind one, if you wish, of the 1936-1939 civil war in Spain that attracted all manner of leftists, communists, socialists, progressives, romantics and other lost souls, from several countries in Europe and North America, to fight on the republican side.

The bottom line is that many of us, including large segments of the American public, do not need yet another report from the intelligence community to "reveal" that Iraq today is a basket case, a quaqmire, a killing field, a society teetering on civil war, engaged in a ruinous sectarian Sunni-Shiiite conflict that continues to daily claim the lives of innocent civilians all over the country.

Sectarian violence

Look at it this way: sectarian violence, just in Baghdad and in the month of August resulted in the deaths of 1,500 people. That is virtually the same number of bodies that went through the Baghdad morgue in July. Anywhere you travel in Iraq, you take your life in your own hands because you travel through a war zone a war zone controlled not only by lurking insurgents but by death squads from the interior ministry. And both mete out their brand of grizzly justice.

At a recent press conference inside the so-called Green Zone, according to the current issue of the Economist, "The Americans have stuck to their story: that they have witnessed a marked downturn in killings in the districts of Baghdad where their efforts have been concentrated."

Yes, sure. We'll take that with a grain of salt because we have known all along, from day one, that this administration has always been in denial.

We know, for example for it's already in the history books, in PBS documentaries and in the pained utterances of former administration officials chastened by the blunder they had contributed to bringing about how the vice-president and the secretary of defence, egged on by their neocon cohorts, manipulated the inflow of intelligence into the White House and twisted arms at the state department and the CIA to insure that only those reports that reinforced their own biases reached the clueless president.

On the eve of war, as a case in point highlighted in the Frontline documentary The Dark Side, released last June, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld appointed loyalists in key government agencies created separate "intel fiefdoms" in the Pentagon to bypass the CIA, leaked selective information to the media and advanced the now discredited Ahmad Chalabi and others from the Iraqi National Congress (INC) as reliable sources.

These sources included the notorious "Curveball", a man later shown to have been both a liar and mentally unstable, but whose tall tales about "mobile biological labs on trucks" improbably found their way into Secretary of State Colin Powell's speech at the UN Security Council in late January 2003.

There was, in addition to that, the assertion that not only did Saddam Hussain possess those infamous stockpiles of deadly weapons, but that he was buying large quantities of "enriched uranium from Niger", an assertion that, equally improbably, found its way into Bush's State of the Union address.

It was all humbug. What the US has wrought in Iraq was not just unwarranted, it was unspeakable and unpardonable.

If the recent revelations in the National Intelligence Estimate tell us anything, it is this: You play, you pay.

(*) Fawaz Turki is a veteran journalist, lecturer and author of several books, including The Disinherited: Journal of a Palestinian Exile. He lives in Washington DC.

This article first appeared on Gulfnews the 1st of October 2006.