The Iraqi town of Fallujah has come to exemplify the incompetence and insensitivity of the American occupation troops which is fuelling the resistance to their presence. Located in the restive "Sunni triangle," the town folk have strong bonds of loyalty to Saddam Hussein and taking revenge is a central tenet of their tribal ethos. All these ingredients would suggest very careful handling. Yet, soon after the occupation began, 15 people were shot dead by the American troops — for demanding that a school building be vacated. Since then, things have only gotten worse. The Americans claim to have made amends by offering blood-money. What they overlook is that while accepting blood-money from fellow tribesmen is a part of the local tradition, the same principle does not necessarily apply to foreign troops. Thus, to the resistance by pro-Saddam and other groups has been added the lethal factor of aggrieved families seeking revenge.
Some progress seemed to have been made when a local governor and police were installed by the US occupation authority. However, they too have been placed in a no-win situation by the shoot-first-think-later attitude of terrified American soldiers. On Friday, ten Iraqi policemen and a Jordanian hospital guard were killed in Fallujah when the Americans suddenly opened fire on the policemen who were, ironically, chasing suspects who had just attacked the governor's office. In the mayhem that followed, the culprits naturally got away. How furious and dispirited the police must be is not difficult to imagine. They are already being targeted by the resistance groups for collaborating with the Americans and, at the same time, they are not safe even from the troops they are collaborating with. There is, thus, little reward and grave risks in supporting the Americans. The implications of this scenario are self-evident.
Such cluelessness is not confined just to the American combat troops. Even the commanders seem unable to craft an effective strategy against the guerilla warfare they are facing. Their response to the problem they themselves have created seems confined to setting up more roadblocks, killing more people if they do not stop instantly, barging into homes and making mass arrests. All these actions only become invitations to more reprisals. In fact, even the Bush administration seems unsure of where to go next in its Iraq "strategy." It has admitted being unprepared for the post-victory resistance, and also the urgent need for cash and troop support from other countries. In going to the UN for this purpose, it has also admitted the original sin of unilateral action. But despite this huge pile of failures at its doorstep, the Bush administration is unwilling to relinquish military command or even civil-political responsibility for remarking Iraq. It seems to believe that the world has an obligation to atone for its sins. This contradiction results from the basic mal-intent which had launched the destruction and occupation of Iraq, and for which the USA seems destined to pay a very heavy cost.
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