End The War
By Robert Fisk
December 17, 2003
and "reconciliation" were the patois of Downing Street and
the White House. But all those hopes of a collapse of resistance are
doomed. Saddam was neither the spiritual nor the political guide to
the insurgency that is now claiming so many lives in Iraq--far more
Iraqi than Western lives, one might add--and, however happy Messrs Bush
and Blair may be at the capture of Saddam, the war goes on.
In Fallujah, in
Ramadi, in other centres of Sunni power in Iraq, the anti-occupation
rising will continue. The system of attacks and the frighteningly fast-growing
sophistication of the insurgents is bound up with the Committee of the
Faith, a group of Wahabi-based Sunni Muslims who now plan their attacks
on American occupation troops between Mosul and the city of Hilla, 50
miles south of Baghdad. Even before the overthrow of the Baathist regime,
these groups, permitted by Saddam in the hope that they could drain
off Sunni Islamic militancy, were planning the mukawama--the resistance
against foreign occupation.
The slaughter of
17 more Iraqis yesterday in a bomb attack on a police station--hours
after the capture of Saddam, though the bombers could not have known
that--is going to remain Iraq's bloody agenda. The Anglo-American narrative
will then be more difficult to sustain. Saddam "remnants"
or Saddam "loyalists" are far more difficult to sustain as
enemies when they can no longer be loyal to Saddam. Their Iraqi identity
will become more obvious and the need to blame "foreign" al-Qa'ida
members all the greater.
Yet the repeated
assertions of US infantry commanders, especially those based around
Mosul and Tikrit, that most of their attackers are Iraqi rather than
foreign, show that the American military command in Iraq--at least at
the divisional level--knows the truth. The 82nd Airborne captain in
Fallujah who told me that his men were attacked by "Syrian-backed
terrorists and Iraqi freedom-fighters" was probably closer to the
truth than Major Ricardo Sanchez, the US commander in Iraq, would like
to believe. The war is not about Saddam but about foreign occupation.
soldiers have been pointing this out for a long time. Yesterday, for
example, a sergeant in the 1st Armoured Division on checkpoint duty
in Baghdad explained the situation to The Independent in remarkably
blunt words. "We're not going to go home any sooner because of
Saddam's getting caught," he said. "We all came to search
for weapons of mass destruction and attention has now been diverted
from that. The arrest of Saddam is meaningless. We still don't know
why we came here."
There are groups
aplenty with enthusiasm to attack the Americans but who never had any
love for Saddam. One example is the Unification Front for the Liberation
of Iraq, which was anti-Saddam but has now called on its supporters
to fight the American occupation. In all, The Independent has identified
12 separate guerrilla groups, all loosely in touch with each other through
tribal connections, but only one could be identified as comprising Saddam
loyalists or Baathists.
When the first roadside
bomb exploded in the centre of a motorway median at Khan Dari in the
summer, killing one soldier, it was followed by identically manufactured
mines--three mortars wired together--in both Kirkuk and Mosul. Within
a week, another copy-cat mine exploded near US troops outside Nasiriyah.
Clearly, groups of insurgents were touring the country with explosive
ordnance capabilities, organised, possibly, on a national level.
In many areas, men
identifying themselves as resistors have openly boasted that they are
joining the new American-paid police forces in order to earn money,
gain experience with weapons and gather intelligence on their American
military "allies". Exactly the same fate that befell the Israelis
in Lebanon, where their proxy Lebanese South Lebanon Army militia started
collaborating with their Hizbollah enemies, is now likely to encompass
The same men who
are going to carry on attacking the Americans will, of course, be making
a secret holiday in their heart over the capture of Saddam. Why, they
will argue, should they not rejoice at the end of their greatest oppressor
while planning the humiliation of the occupying army which seized him?