Posted by Tony from 69-pool1.ras11.calan-e.alerondial.net (220.127.116.11) on Thursday, March 27, 2003 at 0:52AM :
Is the United States stumbling into another Vietnam?
Newspapers throughout the Arab world highlight the unexpectedly fierce resistance that the US-British invasion force appears to be encountering in southern Iraq.
Verdicts differ on what it means. Some commentators suggest the Americans have seriously underestimated both the will and the capacity of the Iraqis to fight, and could even be in the process of embroiling themselves in a “new Vietnam.” Others doubt that the setbacks the Americans have encountered will have much impact on the outcome of their military campaign, given their incomparably superior firepower.
But there’s a near-consensus in the Arab press that the first few days of the campaign cannot be going as the Pentagon planned, and that the armed conflict is likely to prove longer and bloodier than it had led most people to believe.
“It may be premature to celebrate the failure of the infernal plan to spawn freedom for Iraq’s via cruise missiles, the mother of all bombs” and giant B-52s, but one must applaud the foresight of the slogan-makers and PR and marketing experts in London and Washington who named it “shock and awe,” writes Talal Salman, publisher of the Beirut daily As-Safir.
“For five days, American and British invasion forces have been trying to advance into Iraq from the south (Umm Qasr, Basra, Zubair and Najaf) and encountering brave resistance that they did not anticipate. Perhaps they imagined the masses would go out to welcome these ‘liberators’” It is natural, therefore, that their political masters and military commanders should be awe-struck by the unexpected shock.
Salman attributes this to the Americans’ erroneous assumption that the people of Iraq “hate their regime more than they love their country,” and that sectarianism is stronger than patriotism among the Shiite population of the south. Perhaps they were misled into believing that by ‘the Iraqi oppositionists’ who they bought or recruited as volunteers, hence their choice of Iraq as the target for their ‘war for hegemony.’
But American and British leaders are not the only ones to have been taken aback. The same applies to “their friends and collaborators among the Arab rulers who have opened up their countries, skies and seas to the invading armies, not to mention their coffers and hearts, thereby astounding their subjects and provoking them even more than the military attacks do,” Salman writes.
“All of them had assumed that Iraq would be felled by an aerial knockout blow within hours, after which its occupation would be a mere picnic for these forces, equipped as they are with the most horrific weapons and annihilation that the human brain has ever conceived. Some of them declared candidly that they had received formal promises at the highest level of a quick war, which would be over before people could get over their awe after the shock of the fall of Iraq.”
But while the people of the Arab world have “suspended their many objections” to the Iraqi regime, and taken to the streets to protest against the war, their rulers have done the opposite. This despite the fact that “none of the said rulers (not even Kuwait’s) have a serious problem with Iraq at the moment that could warrant them welcoming its destruction, the humiliation, murder, displacement and starvation of its people, and its dismemberment into rival sects, confessions and ethnicities which could feud until the day of judgment if … freedom for Iraq is established under the rule of an occupying American Army general.”
Abdelbari Atwan, publisher/editor of the pan-Arab daily Al-Quds al-Arabi, writes that the resilience the Iraqis have been showing is turning the tables in the “propaganda war.”
He writes that since the war was launched, US publicists have made a number of claims including about the death or surrender of senior Iraqi figures which have proven to be false.
The Iraqis, whose crude propaganda machine could have been expected to grossly exaggerate the scale of enemy losses, have in contrast been remarkably accurate in their announcements. Their claims to have killed or captured American troops were initially denied, only to be vindicated by TV footage broadcast on Al-Jazeera satellite TV.
The Iraqis vowed to mount stiff resistance to the invasion, “and it seems that they mean what they say,” says Atwan. They have been “standing fast, downing planes, capturing troops and halting the American advance,” and their self-confidence appears to be growing.
“The signs suggest than an Iraqi Vietnam may already have begun, and that there are extremely troubling days ahead for US President George W. Bush,” he says.
“The moral victory that the Iraqis have scored by their steadfastness in the face of the mighty US military machine will have major impact on the Arab street, and is a body blow to the Arab regimes, which colluded and sided with the American aggression.”
Atwan suggests that the outrage voiced by US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at the way captured American soldiers were shown on TV, on grounds that this violated the Geneva Conventions regarding the treatment of POWs, is a mark of his frustration at the way things are developing. It is also the height of hypocrisy. “Is slaughtering 70 Iraqi civilians in Basra with cluster bombs consistent with the terms of the Geneva Conventions? Is the bombardment of Baghdad with mega-bombs in keeping with international law?” he wonders.
“The Iraqis aren’t welcoming the invading American forces with dances to the beat of tambourines or bouquets of roses and sweet herbs, as the Pentagon’s Americanized Iraqi advisers told it they would,” he continues. “That alone is a gauge of the scope of the predicament in which their valuable advice and great expertise has landed Bush and his acolyte Tony Blair.”
Syria’s government-run daily Tishrin agrees, saying that during the months of intensive planning for the war, US publicists had “inundated the world with leaks” about how quick and decisive the war would be, how the Iraqi Army would collapse and join the invaders, and how the people would welcome their “heavily-armed colonizers” with open arms.
“Yet five days into the war of aggression on the people of Iraq, we and the rest of the world can be sure that America and Britain’s predicament is growing by the day, that the surprises will increase and multiply the further they delve into the Iraqi sands, and that clashing directly with Iraqi forces will be a calamity for the invaders,” the paper says.
“And on one thing we can be certain: the thousands of missiles and bombs with which they are pounding Iraq’s cities, and the casualties they are causing, will strengthen the Iraqi people’s cohesion, their national unity, and their heroic determination to resist and sacrifice in defense of their land, their honor and their independence,” Tishrin writes.
Abdelwahhab Badrakhan writes in Saudi-run pan-Arab Al-Hayat that Washington could not have imagined that “the corpses of civilians in Basra and American soldiers in Nasseriya would be the defining images of the first few days of a war it envisaged differently, and over which it believed it would have absolute control.”
These images “will make the dirty war dirtier,” he predicts. They are bound to influence the course of the military operations, whether by galvanizing Iraqi resistance or making the Americans less discriminate about their targeting, he says.
This does not negate the fact that American and British forces have mounted a major thrust deep inside Iraq, which could produce results at a later stage.
“But the Iraqis haven’t shown their cards yet. And there can be no doubts that any news of resistance anywhere troubles the Americans and increasingly makes them anticipate a long war. The impression they’ve hitherto been giving is that they are intent on a swift war with few casualties and limited destruction. They may now have to reconsider that.”
Badrakhan judges that much of the “news” reported about the armed hostilities so far, especially by the American media, has proven to be incorrect including claims that President Saddam Hussein or other top Iraqi leaders were killed. This is standard in wartime, but while it may sustain support for the war among American TV viewers “who are prepared to swallow anything they’re told,” it is undermining Washington’s credibility.
Badrakhan says that the Bush administration has had to amend its plans for opening a “northern front” against Baghdad after Turkey refused to allow its territory to be used as a springboard for American forces. They are now planning to airlift troops to the north via Jordan and Israel.
“But everything was war-ready in the south, and the assumption was that it would fall to the Americans in record time. We are likely to see a radical change in American moves during the second week of the war aimed at speeding up achievements” on the ground. Then we would know whether the ‘clean war’ option will remain on the cards, or turn into a myth,” Badrakhan says.
“It’s true that the resistance that has been mounted so far has exceeded expectations. But it does not provide any clear or final idea of what it might actually achieve. More resistance will prompt the Americans to resort to overkill, Israeli-style, which is exactly what they wanted to avoid. As for the Iraqi side, which has feared this war for the past 10 years, it appears to aspire to a ‘new Vietnam,’ which is exactly what the Americans don’t want to hear or repeat,” he remarks.
In Doha, the Qatari daily Al-Sharq suggests that it was in order to evoke memories of Vietnam that the Iraqi authorities released TV footage of the captured US soldiers and the American and British troops killed near Nasseriya.
“It doesn’t seem that the Anglo-American war on Iraq is going to end in days, weeks, or even months,” the paper comments. “Many surprises await the invading forces,” it says. Meanwhile, persistent international opposition to the invasion, expressed in global demonstrations, “is likely to increase the bitter political divisions in whose shadow this unjustified war began.”
Jordan’s decision to expel five Iraqi diplomats at the behest of the Bush administration meanwhile earns it a sharp rebuke and warning from pan-Arab Al-Quds al-Arabi.
While a number of Western countries “who take their orders from the White House” have done the same, even though Iraq has done nothing against them, in Jordan’s case it is particularly “regrettable,” the paper says in its leader.
“The Jordanian people, who are totally supportive of their Iraqi brethren and their fierce resistance to the invasion to which their country is being subjected, are unlikely to accept this move, however much the government tries to offer excuses,” the paper says.
The official line is that the diplomats were expelled “for security reasons unrelated to politics,” but “such an unconvincing explanation will not go down well with Jordanians, who are seething with anger at their government’s involvement in the war, be it direct or indirect,” it says.
“The situation in Jordan is extremely sensitive, and the Jordanian government should not have made it even more difficult with a demeaning step like this,” Al-Quds al-Arabi continues. It could have simply turned down the American request, as could the other Arab states whose bases are being used as launching pads for the aggression, such as Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE.
“We do not believe the five Iraqi diplomats, which the government decided to expel, ostensibly on security grounds, would have posed a threat. What does pose a threat to Jordanian security is this demeaning compliance with the American demand to kick them out. For it will inflame the Jordanian street and compound its disappointment in, and anger at, its government.”
Al-Quds al-Arabi writes that Iraq has for years supplied Jordan with free or cut-price crude oil, which has been vital to its economy, and never stopped doing so despite the ‘harassment’ it faced at the hands of successive Jordanian governments, and the way the kingdom has been turned into a base for the Iraqi opposition.
“It is neither sensible nor logical to treat Iraq in this way, and expel its diplomats from the country at a time when Baghdad is being bombarded with one thousand missiles per day,” it concludes.
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