America’s Win in Iraq: A Pyrrhic Victory?
apparent collapse of Saddam Hussein’s notorious regime was good news but hardly deserved
the triumphalist response it got from some supporters
of this war. It represents only a modest beginning to what is going to be a
daunting task. Bringing about the downfall of the Baathist regime is undeniably
a significant achievement, but it was the inevitable outcome of a massively
unequal struggle between America’s powerful military and
the much weaker Iraqi forces. This
operation of questionable legality does not deserve the applause it has been
getting from the media.
we can now be relieved that the dangers facing our troops have been reduced, there
is not a lot to be triumphant about. The results of the invasion of Iraq are quite grim.
Thousands of Iraqis, if we include thousands of young conscripts, have been
killed, thousands more left with serious injuries, and massive destruction has
been inflicted on Iraq’s cities. Thanks to an
apparent lack of preparation, anarchy has descended on most cities following
the breakdown of civil infrastructures. To prepare for this was evidently
neglected by the attacking forces, who should be held
responsible for the subsequent breakdown of civil order.
to ICR and UN reports Iraq has descended into
chaos. This raises questions about the US decapitation campaign,
which left no leaders to surrender and to call on their bureaucrats to continue
operating essential civil services. It also constitutes a disregard for the
international rule of law, according to which even tyrants are entitled to a
fair trial. Saddam, like Milosevic, should have been brought before an
international tribunal, or at least an independent Iraq court, but instead the
Americans appear to have resorted to a modern version of a Wild West
war itself is surely almost over, but that word liberation must ring hollow to
the tens of thousands who have lost relatives and friends, or had their homes
destroyed or ransacked and are now faced with anarchy. With the dictator’s
hometown, Tikrit, yet to surrender, there is obviously some mopping-up ahead.
The jubilant welcome captured by the media was heart-warming, but it was rather
thin, with most of the demonstrators seemed deeply suspicious of US intentions,
and anxious for them to get out of Iraq as soon as possible.
Although most Iraqis
may welcome the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, few relish even the
temporary rule by the country widely regarded as hostile to Islam.
the light of the hazards ahead, it is a bit premature to celebrate. The conduct of this war has not helped the
standing of the participants, outside the nations involved in the Coalition. It
was launched in defiance of the Security Council, with the successes of the UN
weapon inspection teams being disregarded on the grounds that they had failed
to unearth weapons of mass destruction. And now, after three weeks of war and
occupation of much of Iraq, such weapons have yet to be discovered.
In short, the raison d’etre for this destructive
military assault in disregard of the Security Council has yet to be proved. If
some are discovered the fact that the Iraqis did not use them as a desperate
defence measure dismisses as absurd Washington’s claim that it was in danger of
an Iraqi attack of some sort.
Coalition’s military triumph is a matter of relief rather than rejoicing. No
army in Iraq’s circumstances, with
its command structure crumbling around it, could have withstood America’s crushing military
superiority. Even the feared Republican Guard, without air defence to shield
them from the intense air attacks, collapsed. So crushing was the Coalition
assault that the Iraqis failed to organise the expected urban resistance.
Perhaps this failure was the consequence of US ‘decapitation’ operations, which
left much of the Iraqi army effectively leaderless.
the Coalition is facing the hard part, and with that Dr. Strangelove character,
Donald Rumsfeld, running the show one cannot but be deeply concerned. His
dismissive reaction to International Red Cross and UN reports that Iraq was sliding into chaos
was not an encouraging beginning. Americans will need to recognise the urgency
of the humanitarian situation and respond to it, if they are to win Iraqi hearts and
minds. If not the transitional administration will be
considered a hostile occupation.
The Coalition partners need to be forced to confront the fact that they
started this war as an act of aggression, whatever its merits, and are directly
responsible for the casualties, the material devastation, and for the massive
civic breakdown. So far their main achievement has merely been an impressive
demonstration of military muscle. But the damaged city centres serve to remind
Iraqis of the invasion’s brutal nature. In the circumstances it is hardly
surprising that most Iraqis simply don’t want Americans around for any length
of time. Their liberator image will not endure in the present chaotic
conditions, and the Americans will find themselves unwelcome intruders in this
historic centre of Arab culture.
feel that Australia’s acceptance of a role,
however minor, in the US-controlled transitional administration is yet another
impetuous and unwise move. The UN should have been given the key role, as most
Europeans, including Tony Blair, were apparently urging. Just how Washington’s transitional
authority will shape up is yet to be tested. It would be comforting if Colin
Powell were in charge, but he has obviously been
shunted aside. The “occupation” will be run by General Jay Garner, whose early
statements are hardly enlightening, with ultimate control being exercised by
Rumsfeld. Because of Garner’s well-known pro-Israel
bias he will start with a credibility problem. The apparent choice of Ahmad
Chalabi as the Iraqi leader is also contentious. Chalabi had not been in Iraq since 1958, and is
encumbered with a murky past, involving illegal dealings
in Jordan, for which he was sentenced in
absentia to 22 years imprisonment. Our Prime Minister’s quick endorsement of
these arranged is another lamentable in his extraordinary deference to the most
aggressive, and arrogant US administration for more
than half a century. Saddam may have gone, but he leaves behind him a devastated,
divided and demoralised nation, whose future is in the worrying hands of this