Skip to content

Der Spiegel: Hope and Despair in Iraq

August 14, 2007

David’s Medienkritic, an observer of German media, notes this “fascinating and remarkably honest report on the complex situation in Iraq from German magazine Der Spiegel. Follow the first link for more background on Der Spiegel’s Iraq coverage. A year ago the cover story was “Power and Lies: George W. Bush and the Lost War in Iraq”. Now they observe:

Ramadi demonstrates that large parts of Iraq — not just Anbar Province, but also many other rural areas along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers — are essentially pacified today. This is news the world doesn’t hear: Ramadi, long a hotbed of unrest, a city that once formed the southwestern tip of the notorious “Sunni Triangle,” is now telling a different story, a story of Americans who came here as liberators, became hated occupiers and are now the protectors of Iraqi reconstruction.

Interesting, that “want to believe” part. I was just thinking about the “I Want to Believe” poster from the X-Files, and how that really tapped into something deep in our culture that still applies. I’ve been reminded lately how many people believe 9/11 was an inside job. Same thing. The War in Iraq too has a kind of iconic power, whatever side you are one.

Why one would not want to believe there is at least military success at this time in Iraq is beyond me but confirms my observation that facts are largely irrelevant compared to values when considering one’s position on the war. The situation is complex and quickly changing to the point where just understanding what is happening has proven to be very difficult, even in this age of instant news. What I’m seeing now is the desire for peace to be greater than anti-americanism or BDS on the part of some formerly hostile observers or the war.

Der Spiegel on Ramadi:

The Turning Point

In October, 90 “incidents” were reported in Tameem, an area no larger than a few city blocks in Berlin. Twenty of those incidents involved attacks on US troops by gangs of insurgents. Wherever the Americans went they were shot at from apartment buildings, three times with rockets and four times with rocket-propelled grenades. Sixteen remote-controlled bombs exploded along the neighborhood’s streets, 14 homemade explosive devices were found and defused, snipers attacked the occupying troops twice and one hidden car bomb was found, ready for use. And so the story continued: throughout November, December, January and February.

By March, however, the number of incidents reported in Tameem had dropped to 43, including only four direct attacks with rifles and pistols and one rocket attack. There were no bombings, snipers, rocket-propelled grenades or car bombs. And the leaders of the region’s 23 powerful clans were finally meeting with US commanders for “security conferences,” while the imams from the city’s mosques met with the military’s chaplains.The Iraqis in Ramadi, almost all Sunnis, had been worn down by chronic violence. Many had been victims of kidnappings or blackmail at the hands of mafia-like terrorist groups. They had finally come to the realization that, in the long run, the Americans were less of a threat and offered more hope than the fanatical holy warriors from Iraq and abroad.

Families began sending their sons to join the new Iraqi police force and military and fathers ran for municipal offices. They began cooperating with US military officials, turning in bombers and revealing their weapons caches, all while going about their daily lives, running their businesses, working as contractors, shipping agents and garbage collectors. Teachers returned to their classrooms, doctors began treating patients again and store owners restocked their shelves. Iraqis were now building the barbed wire barriers around the city, constructed to force travelers through checkpoints. Iraqis even manned the checkpoints as the Americans — the Iraqis’ former enemies — retreated to the background, watching over as the city made a fresh start.

Since June, Ramadi residents have only known the war from televison. Indeed, US military officials at the Baghdad headquarters of Operation Iraqi Freedom often have trouble believing their eyes when they read the reports coming in from their units in Ramadi these days. Exploded car bombs: zero. Detonated roadside bombs: zero. Rocket fire: zero. Grenade fire: zero. Shots from rifles and pistols: zero. Weapons caches discovered: dozens. Terrorists arrested: many.

This is a very long and nuanced article but the intial tone of it cannot be disputed. I hope this change of heart can expand and continue.

What if the effort to pull troops out hastily had succeded earlier this year?

One Comment leave one →
  1. Timmy C. permalink
    August 22, 2007 8:07 pm

    I agree some of the military effect seems to have had an effect of capping a lid on the civil war and the outside agitation in regions… but as you mentioned in the other post…who are we really aligning with with and arming the Sunni’s miltias?

    (isn’t this the same thinking that armed the taliban in their jihad against the russians?)

    I found the 8 active duty US soldiers Op Ed to be very powerful in that case:

    “Reports that a majority of Iraqi Army commanders are now reliable partners can be considered only misleading rhetoric. The truth is that battalion commanders, even if well meaning, have little to no influence over the thousands of obstinate men under them, in an incoherent chain of command, who are really loyal only to their militias.

    Similarly, Sunnis, who have been underrepresented in the new Iraqi armed forces, now find themselves forming militias, sometimes with our tacit support. Sunnis recognize that the best guarantee they may have against Shiite militias and the Shiite-dominated government is to form their own armed bands. We arm them to aid in our fight against Al Qaeda.

    However, while creating proxies is essential in winning a counterinsurgency, it requires that the proxies are loyal to the center that we claim to support. Armed Sunni tribes have indeed become effective surrogates, but the enduring question is where their loyalties would lie in our absence. The Iraqi government finds itself working at cross purposes with us on this issue because it is justifiably fearful that Sunni militias will turn on it should the Americans leave.

    In short, we operate in a bewildering context of determined enemies and questionable allies, one where the balance of forces on the ground remains entirely unclear….

    Given the situation, it is important not to assess security from an American-centered perspective. The ability of, say, American observers to safely walk down the streets of formerly violent towns is not a resounding indicator of security. What matters is the experience of the local citizenry and the future of our counterinsurgency. When we take this view, we see that a vast majority of Iraqis feel increasingly insecure and view us as an occupation force that has failed to produce normalcy after four years and is increasingly unlikely to do so as we continue to arm each warring side.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: