Fortified mess-halls, please
Maddening Iraq, conceived as a cakewalk but turning into a quagmire. The one shortage envisioned was of rose-petals: not enough to go around as the grateful people of Iraq lined up to welcome their American liberators.
No one in the Pentagon could have thought that a year and a half after President Bush proclaimed "Mission accomplished" American troops would be complaining of a shortage of vehicle armour.
Now after the lunchtime attack on American troops in Mosul, leaving 20 soldiers dead and over 50 injured, it is safe to bet there will be howls of anguish why every dining facility in Iraq is not a fortified bunker, proof against anything short of a direct nuclear hit.
This is a strange war the Americans are fighting. They don't mind killing Iraqis and reducing Iraqi cities to rubble. But they seem wholly unwilling to get hurt themselves.
Echoing that memorable line from the Vietnam War, that a particular village had to be destroyed in order to save it, destroying Fallujah in order to save it is all right. But if Iraqis hit back they are terrorists and insurgents loyal to that latest bogeyman in America's lexicon, "Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi." The modern American GI is the most heavily-armoured soldier in history. Look at all the things strapped to his body. Yet American soldiers want more protection.
They have destroyed a country and its infrastructure and continue to bomb, kill and torture - yes, serious torture, refining the techniques of the Gestapo and the KGB - but even if there is one American dead to every fifty or hundred Iraqis killed, there is no end to American outrage.
Hence the problems we are facing with the English language. American occupiers are democracy's foot soldiers, making Iraq and the region safe for freedom. Anyone fighting the Americans is an "insurgent" - a label implying rebellion against established and legitimate authority.
When the Soviets brought Babrak Karmal on the back of their tanks to make him ruler of Kabul, the West led by the United States denounced Karmal as a puppet. Ayad Allawi is puppet ruler of Iraq courtesy American tanks and helicopters, although his writ does not run even in the heavily-fortified Green Zone which is the headquarters of the American occupation.
How does he, Proconsul Negroponte or General Abizaid, the Centcom chief in overall command of this military disaster, qualify as the legitimate authority in Iraq? Come to think of it, the Soviets were in a better position in Afghanistan than the Americans are in Iraq.
The Soviets controlled most of Afghanistan's cities, Kabul a peaceful, calm and secure city in their time. (the trouble started when you left Kabul and drove into the interior.) In Iraq no city is secure, certainly not Baghdad, not even the Green Zone which keeps getting hit by rockets and suicide bombers.
Fallujah has been secured only after its complete destruction. Mosul they said was secure. And look what's happened in Mosul. The holy cities of Najaf and Kerbala have been hit by devastating bombings.
Everywhere in Iraq American troops go about in fear of their lives, suspecting every object to be a booby trap or a roadside bomb. Yet American spokesmen can still be heard saying that great progress is being made in Iraq. But one mistake the Americans are not making. Compared to the Vietnam War they are practicing an insidious form of censorship which is successfully shielding the American people, and the rest of the world, from the true horrors of this American exercise in liberation.
Instead of spreading light, 24 hour news is obscuring reality. Al Jazeera of course is different but until it starts broadcasting in English, non-Arabic speakers will not benefit from its services.
There is another aspect to this censorship. Even at the height of the Vietnam War, Saigon was a far safer place than Baghdad. Also a flesh pot in whose bars, night clubs and opium dens American soldiers and reporters were able to forget, if only momentarily, the bitter memories of war.
This promiscuity was a kind of stepping back from the everyday grind of war, fostering a critical attitude which over time gave birth to anti-war reporting and the anti-war movement. This is a far cry from Baghdad which not being a safe place for any foreigner, much less an American, is no begetter of promiscuity.
The lines are more sharply drawn between "us" and "them" and in order to report or move about the average American reporter has to be "embedded" with American troops, a circumstance not conducive to bold or independent reporting. No wonder, much (although by no means all) of the reportage coming out of this war sounds little better than an American version of the truth.
Vietnam? For America and its imperial hubris, Iraq in some ways is worse than Vietnam. The Viet Cong had a secure home-base in North Vietnam and supply lines stretching all the way to China, the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc.
The Iraqis are standing all by themselves, their backs to the wall, receiving support from no communist bloc, let alone the great world of Islam whose intrepid champions are terrified of coming into America's cross-hairs.
The American canard that Syria and Iran are surreptitiously engaged in helping the Iraqi resistance is just that: a canard designed to provide a flimsy alibi for the mess in Iraq.
Isolation puts into bolder relief the astonishing feats of the Iraqi resistance. If there is any frontline of heroism in the world today it is Iraq, its people up in arms against an occupation no less brutal in method or evil in intent than the Nazi occupation of Europe during the Second World War. But the world has changed so much. Even the old slogans which had such a ring to them have fallen into disuse. I don't remember the last time I heard 'down with tyranny' or 'death to imperialism'. But as far as Iraq is concerned, these are relevant slogans.
For there was no reason for this war, no justification for the destruction of Iraq, other than imperial ambition gone mad, imperialism stoked by a new variant, neo-conservatism.
If Iraq had indeed turned out to be a cakewalk and not a quagmire, does anyone think the war party in Washington, allied closely in spirit to the state of Israel, would have stopped there? That next in line wouldn't have been Syria and Iran? And after that who knows. America's imperial march has hit a snag in Iraq for which the rest of us should be grateful.
It is precisely the unexpected resistance of the Iraqi people which lies at the heart of American dismay. By refusing to give up, the Iraqis are leaving the Americans without a handle on this war, no formula for success. The Americans have already thrown more at the Iraqis than against the Viet Cong without breaking their will or inducing defeatism.
Vietnam lasted for a long time, much longer than anyone in Washington had predicted. Do the Americans really think the fake elections scheduled for January 2005 will help stabilize Iraq? On current evidence it looks as if the Iraq specter will haunt Bush for the rest of his term.
War against terrorism? This is a war promoting terrorism. If such a phantom as Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi exists, in the context of Iraq he is a freedom fighter, fighting against a hated occupation, not a terrorist. How does such a perception help the US?
No connection between Baathism and bin Ladenism existed before George Bush's invasion of Iraq. If there is one now, we have only the Bush White House to thank for it.
Muslims are not Native Americans, victory will surely be ours and justice and equity will be reestablished for all of humanity.
We must understand that this is above all a war of perceptions. The minute we accept the imperial US version of events, that's when we begin to lose. Their talk of freedom and democracy is mere window dressing for evil motives, their projection of invincibility a mere facade, their tanks do blow up and their humvees do explode. So we must not lose hope, soon the tides will turn, be patient and persevere.