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The Iraq war is not going well

Although the U.S. government offers a steady drumbeat of optimism that the
insurgency is losing its support and that democracy is taking root in Iraq,
there are credible reports that the country is in a state of increasing
chaos, the U.S. plans are making little headway, and that the country is
too dangerous for westerners, even western mercenaries and military forces.
A year ago, Paul Bremer, then temporary dictator, said the U.S. planned to
occupy Iraq for two years. The attacks intensified such that by November it
was impossible to ignore them. The Bush strategists decided to make plans
to create an interim government so that Iraqis would be attacking Iraqis
and not Americans.

By spring things were going badly but, as a pessimist would say, they could
always get worse. In April, four security contractors - formerly known as
mercenaries - were killed in Falluja. In retaliation, U.S. marines besieged
the city, and at least 600 Iraqis were killed. Then Bremer committed a
second military blunder when he decided to try to arrest or kill Muqtada
al-Sadr, a radicalized Shiite cleric who has his own private militia.
Al-Sadr retreated to Najaf. American forces found themselves unable to
storm either place for fear they might ignite a Shiite rebellion and they
withdrew from both Falluja and Najaf, leaving the insurgents (or resistance
movement, depending on your use of language here) in possession of
important areas of sovereignty from which to operate.

The press has generally reported that the occupation is a success and the
resistance is in retreat, but this is a view that goes beyond optimism. The
Iraqi fighters have made mistakes, especially the bombings that have killed
many innocent civilians, but they appear to have learned from their
mistakes that they need popular support. The coalition forces, on the other
hand, have made questionable judgments that they are most successful
responding to with public relations tools instead of on-the-ground
strategies.

In June, according to reports from unnamed sources, Iyad Allawi, the new
prime minister, personally assassinated as many as six suspects in a
Baghdad police station. He allegedly shot the men in the head. This is the
kind of report that no one wants to believe, but no one wanted to believe
United Kingdom and U.S. soldiers were torturing Iraqi prisoners, either. It
needs to be investigated by credible people, but it probably won't happen.

Journalists in Baghdad say it is a much more dangerous place than reported
in the U.S. media, that the new government has little control outside
Baghdad and controls only small areas within the city where their ministers
are routinely assassinated. Almost every day a company from some country in
the coalition pulls out. Bombings of oil pipelines are almost as frequent
as electricity blackouts, and many areas of the city have electricity about
25 percent of the time.

Meanwhile, an opinion piece appeared in the Guardian (United Kingdom) by
John Chapman commenting on why the U.S. and the United Kingdom invaded
Iraq. Iraq, he pointed out, is second only to Saudi Arabia in known oil
reserves, and 90 percent of the country remains unexplored. The big weapon
of mass destruction wielded by Saddam was the potential production of
around six million barrels of oil per day, enough to challenge OPEC
pricing. Since the 1970s, oil has been traded in U.S. dollars. The U.S.
trade deficit of $489.4 billion for 2003 is enormous. At present, about 80
percent of foreign exchange and 50 percent of world trade is conducted in
dollars, but the euro, the currency of the European Union, is a viable
alternative.

In 1999 and 2000, Iran and Iraq switched oil pricing to euros, and both
subsequently were soon dubbed (along with North Korea) the axis of evil. If
other OPEC countries had followed suit, there would have been a massive
plummeting of the dollar and an economic crisis in the U.S. (This kind of
explains why the Saudis were given preferential treatment and safe passage
out of the U.S. immediately following 9/11.) "Oil and the dollar are the
real reasons for the attack on Iraq," Chapman wrote. He is a former
high-level bureaucrat, an assistant secretary in the British civil service.
Even if he is right (and this opinion, or variations of it, is widely held
in Europe) and the invasion of Iraq had understandable (if not laudable)
motives other than non-existent WMDs, the invasion and occupation suffered
from serious lapses of judgment.

In the past few weeks, despite assurances that the coalition was working
and things were getting better, the real news is that Iraq is plunging into
a state of chaos. The flow of news, dribbled out one piece at a time,
demonstrates the point. On June 22, a Korean was beheaded. Two days later,
69 people were killed, 270 injured by car bombs and grenades. Four days
after that, Bremer handed "sovereignty" over to the Allawi government. As
he left the country, he gave an interview in which he stated that the
biggest success of his tenure was the privatization of everything that
could be privatized. In context, it seems such an odd accomplishment.

Most of the press was excluded from Saddam's court appearance on July 1,
and it is deemed unlikely the world will see much of his trial because he
can be expected to be quite vocal about who his partners were who armed him
with illegal chemical weapons he used to slaughter Iranians and Iraqis
prior to the first Gulf War and the occupiers have no interest in
broadcasting that. The following day, Turkish hostages were released when
their trucking firms agreed to leave Iraq. On July 5, to test its new
power, the Iraqi government announced an amnesty for insurgents who had
been involved in the fighting. Amnesty was reportedly popular among Iraqis,
but not among Americans on the scene, and somehow the original amnesty has
been watered down since then.

Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Tony Blair's envoy to Baghdad, accused the Bush
people of bad judgment in their optimistic assessment of the size of the
insurrection, which has proven to be wildly inaccurate. Blair is under
intense criticism for his part in the war even after a report sort of
clears him of any specific act of dishonesty. On July 20, another member of
the coalition, the Philippines, announced it would pull out to save the
life of a truck driver. On July 22, the Pentagon admitted that torture and
other human rights abuses took place on a larger scale than had been
previously admitted, that at least 94 have died in U.S. custody. On July
28, 68 died in a suicide bombing in front of a police station. War in Iraq
continues on, and optimism about its outcome is, in a word, unjustified.

John C. Mohawk Ph.D., columnist for Indian Country Today, is an author and
professor in the Center for the Americas at the State University of New
York at Buffalo.