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Is the Iraqi Insurrection Composed
of Nationalists or Cowards?

On February 16, 2004, a homemade bomb exploded in northern Baghdad, killing two people and wounding three others. The difference with similar attacks since Saddam Hussein's régime fell in April 2003 was the location and the age of the victims: the place was the crowded playground of a grammar school and the five victims were all Iraqi children about 7 years of age. The only reason a second "improvised explosive device" did not go off at the Asmaa elementary school for boys was that Iraqi policemen discovered it in time and had it defused by a U.S. Army squad.

While there is speculation that the explosion may have been an accident (due to an old grenade set off inadvertently by trash being incinerated), it certainly fits into the pattern of insurgents trying to strike a deeper chord of fear among ordinary Iraqis. And rumors had been circulating that bombs would target what the New York Times' Neela Banerjee calls "the safest of havens and the most helpless of victims".

Indeed, over the past months, assassins have been increasingly taking aim at Iraqi civilians. A week before the school explosion, the New York Times published an article which shows that the guerillas have taken to targeting doctors, lawyers, bureaucrats, and judges. In what Jeffrey Gettleman calls "a widening campaign against Iraq's professional class … in an effort to sow insecurity and chaos", they have killed hundreds of professionals. (The estimated number of killed in Baghdad alone ranged from 500 to 1,000.)

While U.S, authorities speculate that the attacks may be the work of foreign terrorists, Iraqis themselves point to former Baath elements or displaced military officers and officials of the old government. As Baghdad City Council member Muhammad Zamil Saadi said, "In the past, it was the party people who got the good jobs." The lawyer (whose windshield sports two bullet holes) added, "Now it is the professionals. These killers are desperate to go back to those times."

The point of this article is what it shows more generally about the "insurrection", deductions that are contrary to what much of the mainstream press is claiming, in Europe and America as well as the Arab world.

Claim # 1: "The insurrection is for Iraqi 'independence' and nationhood, it is for Muslim brotherhood, it is to fight the humiliation of the presence of the Allies in occupied Iraq."

The behaviour of the vast majority of insurgents disputes all parts of the above claim, even the last one. The main reason for most of those involved in the "insurrection" is to provide for a return to the easy life of the Baathist officials, those who are "desperate to go back to those times".

The "courage" that the killers are showing is in the same vein as that they demonstrated when they were the agents of a despicable dictatorship who entered unarmed citizens' houses with impunity, removed family members from their loved ones with impunity, and hauled them off to jails with impunity to be tortured and slaughtered. (This was certainly easier and safer than taking on, say, a United States Marine or a British Army soldier.)

Claim # 2: "If only the Americans would leave Iraq, the situation would rapidly improve."

Like the couple, whose son was born on July 11 and whom they named George Bush Abdul Kader Faris Abed El-Hussein, would probably argue, it is simply not credible to think that the main desire of most Iraqis is to see the U.S. troops and their comrades-in-arms vanish as quickly as possible. It may be that many citizens tell pollsters that in an ideal world, there would be no foreign troops in their country, and the country would be one where its citizens would feel safe and free, but the world they (and we) live in is far from ideal.

And it is the assassins, and not the presence of foreign troops, that are at the heart of the violence. If American, British, and other Allied soldiers were to leave, the killings would not end; they would continue. Either they would continue as they do now, or if those who used violence previously to remain in power were to regain power, it would obviously continue to use the same methods, and that with as much impunity as before.

Indeed, anybody (Iraqi, American, or other) with any kind of common sense would say that the current situation is an improvement — one of huge proportions — over what it was for the past 30 years: hundreds killed over a period of several months (almost a year) is not the same as several thousands killed per month.

Now, the cowards have to hide and wait and plan for an opportune moment to carry out their strikes; and if any of them run into the authorities (either in the form of allied soldiers or the Iraqi police force), they risk getting gunned down. Before, the cowards were the authorities, and they would carry out their despicable misdeeds in full openness, and that — as we have seen — at the rate of several thousand deaths per month.

© Erik Svane