Monday 31 March 2003

Once more into the swamp

Saddam learned a lesson in 1991, the U.S. and Britain did not ... now their forces are tied down fighting a guerrilla war in Iraq

by Eric Margolis

The opening weeks of the Second Oil War against Iraq - a.k.a. Operation Iraq Freedom - produced the advertised "shock and awe" all right, but it came in Washington rather than bombarded Baghdad.

The immediate uprisings against Great Satan Saddam, the quick, almost effortless "liberation" of Iraq, and the joyous reception by grateful Iraqis promised by the neo-conservatives who misled America into this increasingly ugly war have been exposed as a farrago of lies or distortions.

Iraqis, quite clearly, do not want to be "liberated" - even many who have long opposed Saddam's brutal regime. To the contrary, the American-British invasion appears to have ignited genuine national resistance among 17 million Arab Iraqis, just as the 1941 German invasion of the USSR rallied Russians and Ukrainians behind Stalin's hated regime.

So far, regular Iraqi army units, militia groups and guerrillas have been delaying and harassing the northward advance of U.S. forces by assaulting their overextended supply lines, then retreating into cities and towns. Any 18th century general worth his snuff would tell you never leave enemy garrisons athwart your communications (supply lines). Napoleon said lines of communications were the most important factor in war, a lesson U.S. forces are painfully relearning in Iraq.

So 100,000 more American troops are being rushed to Iraq, meaning almost half of the U.S. Army will be stuck in Mesopotamia at a time when North Korea is threatening war. And this before U.S. forces have even clashed with Iraq's Republican Guards.

Last week, British Prime Minister Tony Blair admitted British forces have been forced to lay siege to Basra, Iraq's second city - a "humanitarian" operation he laughably claimed. Some reports claimed that British shelling had destroyed Basra's water and electricity systems. The nasty, bloody urban warfare the Americans and Brits sought to avoid at all costs is now confronting them.

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