For a few horrified moments this week, the brutal visage of war gushed into American homes and offices. The anti-American violence in Fallujah and throughout the Anbar Province of Iraq has a face. It is a vaguely familiar face, reminding us of the mob brutality and frenzied hatred we saw for Americans in Mogadishu a decade ago.
We wondered why they hated us in Mogadishu. After all, we were only protecting the weak and distributing food. Then the Clinton Administration shifted policy to hunt down a certain clan leader who was agitating for political control. Warlord Mohamed Aidid became the human face of a new enemy in southern Somalia.
Recalling Mogadishu, the 1992—1993 Director of Operations General Anthony Zinni, in a late 2001 interview said, "…first of all, I think [the resolution to declare Aidid a criminal] was ridiculous. Second of all, I think you were no longer in peace enforcement or peacekeeping. I mean, you were now in a counter-insurgency operation or in some form of war."
This week’s images from Iraq — atrocious, insistent, heartbreaking — remind others of Vietnam. We recall Walter Cronkite’s admission that even after our Tet victory, the war was unwinnable as early as February 1968. Those who study that war know that Cronkite’s opinion, for more salient reasons, was shared by many policymakers and soldiers. Yet it would be seven more bloody years, and would take over 30,000 more American soldiers returned to their homes of record to be buried by their parents and siblings and wives before we ended that misadventure.
So to the war lovers out there, and to the Vulcans, relax. There is plenty more to come in Iraq.
In response to this week’s violence in Fallujah, the White House, reminiscent of those McNamara days, says, "These are horrific attacks by people who are trying to prevent democracy from moving forward, but democracy is taking root."
Of course it is. It’s taking root in its ugliest form — mob rule, insecurity of Iraqi people of all ethnic and religious groups, demagoguery and yellow journalism manipulated by those jockeying for political power.
Yellow journalism in Iraq — rumor-mongering and manipulation of local fears in pursuit of certain political ends — is something we Americans deal with every day here at home. One honorable and brave and lonely American reporter has pointed out that Randolph Hearst had nothing on the mainstream press of modern America. In Iraq, we lock down newspapers and arrest the evildoers. In Washington and New York, they are entertained with degrading jokes, expensive dinners and continued favored access to the administration’s key policymakers.
One year after their order systems were blasted into the past, most Iraqis wait, worry and wonder. But for those in the Anbar Province, they act democratically. Which is to say, the "will of the people" is expressed. Which is to say, using makeshift bombs and a motley array of Cold War weaponry, the people come together to kill Americans and the Iraqis who work with them.
The White House is correct in their assessment — democracy does seem to be taking root in Iraq. It is not emergent with the corrupt government contracts handed to the handpicked Iraqi Governing Council and their extended families. It is nowhere to be found in the U.S. grooming of convicted fraudster Ahmad Chalabi, who last lived in Iraq as a teenager, to be a future (and friendly) Prime Minister.
It is not witnessed in the coming together of Iraqis, joy in their hearts and sleeves rolled up as they savor their newly found "freedom" and "security" and "human rights."
But there is indeed democracy in Iraq. H. L. Mencken observed, "Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under." He also noted that "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard."
Yes, there is democracy in Iraq. God help us all.
Karen Kwiatkowski [send her mail] is a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, who spent her final four and a half years in uniform working at the Pentagon. She now lives with her freedom-loving family in the Shenandoah Valley, and writes a bi-weekly column on defense issues with a libertarian perspective for militaryweek.com.