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Who Are the “Insurgents”?

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The “insurgents” in Iraq aren’t primarily nationalists, jihadis, family members of war victims or anything else remotely ideological or principled: they are Sunni/Baathist thugs with a pathological sense of entitlement who are pissed at having the keys to the vault taken away. Jim Hoagland:

    At one basic level, the guerrilla war waged by Baathist remnants of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship is about money and privilege. The Baathists and their enormous clientele — which stretches far outside Iraq — have one of history’s most extreme senses of entitlement.

    ….The warring Arab Sunnis of Iraq want the money. And they want to regain the privilege of dominating the country’s other population groups.

    This dead-ender sense of entitlement — to run the country or to reduce it to ruins so that no one else can — was underestimated by the Bush administration’s intelligence, military and political leaders in the Iraq war and its immediate aftermath. Wishful thinking about Sunni generals, intelligence chiefs and scientists rallying to a post-Hussein regime was quickly punctured by an insurgency that has taken on a life of its own.

    It is a misnomer to call the war against the U.S.-led coalition and its Iraqi allies a nationalist struggle. The country’s majority Arab Shiite population offers tacit political cooperation to the occupation force, and the Kurdish Sunni minority is allied with the coalition. That represents three-fourths of the nation’s population. This war is led and fought by a small, embittered minority of oppressors.

    They long for a return to power and to riches that existed on a scale most humans find unimaginable. Oil money enabled Saddam Hussein to build a machine of repression and death as well as his palaces. He and other Arab leaders used the West’s own misplaced sense of entitlement — to cheap oil and energy to waste — to enrich themselves and their supporters in places such as Samarra and Tikrit.

    The Baathists used oil revenue to buy government officials, television executives, academics, newspaper columnists and double agents in Jordan, Syria, Egypt and other Arab countries — and even in the West.

    ….The “culture” that spawned the Saddamist dead-enders is a gangster culture. The townspeople of Samarra and Tikrit have a vested interest in restoring it. They and Iraq’s Sunni Arabs in general must be convinced there is a better way to live and let live.

    The real question about U.S. policy now is not whether the toppling of Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do — it clearly was — but whether the Bush administration can focus on and accomplish achievable goals in a whirlwind of conflict. [Washinton Post]

We need to make it extremely clear to the Sunni/Baathists that their reign of terror is over, there is no hope of it returning, and they must either integrate themselves into the new order or be eliminated.

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About Eric Olsen

  • JR

    I saw this column too, and it strengthened my conviction that Iraq won’t be stable until the Baathists are all locked up or dead.

    But I also wonder if this applies to the other Arab regimes. The Kuwaiti and Saudi governments have made gestures toward democratization, but we haven’t seen a lot of follow up. Are they willing to eventually give up control or do they too feel entitled?

  • Eric Olsen

    There is a sense of entitlement among the ruling elites throughout the region, and this is why establishing a working democratic civil society in Iraq is so critical: it will be an example and serve notice.

  • mike

    The problem is that there is no reliable intelligence on who the guerillas, in totality, are. None, and certainly not in Hoagland’s article. He’s just stirring up a rhetorical sandstorm to hide the fact that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    Like Malaysia under the British, a well-armed minority with weapons and the tacit support of 15-20% of the population can easily drive out an occupying power.

    We are going to be driven out of Iraq by people employing techniques of fourth generation warfare. In fact, we are already being driven out.

    The only question is whether the Bush Administration can bamboozle the majority of Americans into believing this something other than defeat. I suspect it will be able to in the short run. The media in this country–which is little more than a privatized state propaganda apparatus-will see to that.

  • JR

    I’ll take Hoagland seriously because I don’t think his views on the Middle East have anything to do with support or opposition to the current administration. From what I’ve seen he’s been covering this beat for a good many years. If I’m not mistaken he actually interviewed Saddam Hussein back in the early ’80s. He just might know what he’s talking about.

  • mike

    But again, it would be helpful if he could cite a source for his emissions. The first thing most Americans–myself included–need to admit is that we know very little about the dynamics of the country or its history. We might as well be fighting Martians.

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    ” This dead-ender sense of entitlement — to run the country or to reduce it to ruins so that no one else can … “

    His story makes sense if you give him his central postulate, above. I’ve heard the same from others in the administration (the pro-war conservatives seem to like name-calling and throwing around words like “thugs”), but saw nothing in his article proving that he has any way of knowing whether it’s true or not.

    Sure, they were out for the money in this attack, but that could just as easily be Anti-American pro-Iraqi nationalists who want more funding to carry on their “patriotic” efforts.

    I have no way of knowing, nor does Hoagland. It’s an interesting opion piece, but that’s what it is.

  • jadester

    whoever they are exactly the fact remains they have ulterior motives (such as, i dunno, greed) and/or are terribly misguided. I don’t like the way regime change has been effected in Iraq, but now the deed has been done it is up to the doers (primarily the US but let’s not forget us the UKers, plus other countries, have also had a hand) to hold their ground. Pulling out of Iraq would be the worst thing we could do right now (assuming we are still trying to help Iraq and its people)

  • Eric Olsen

    I agree entirely.

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    As far as pulling out of Iraq goes, I’ve made my position clear: I think the administration is getting ready to pull out too fast.

    But that’s just a red herring – it has nothing to do with this particular topic.

    He made a claim and provided “support” from Hoagland but the support simply is not there.

    We have no evidence of who these people are, and the Army does not know who they are: about 16 minutes ago I watched the Army briefer on PBS claim, repeatedly, that they had never said the attackers were fedayeen, and he left it open as to who they were.

    I still see no factual basis for any of the opinions expressed by Hoagland and Eric. Based on the facts so far (as of 16 minutes ago), the attackers could easily be “primarily nationalists, jihadis, family members of war victims or anything else remotely ideological or principled.”

    Nobody knows, or if they know, they’re not telling.

  • http://existentialmoo.com/politicsunsual moo

    There is, of course, no proof for any of the assertions about who the insurgents are, or are not. This is more rationalization for our immoral and illegal war.

    Stop the BS.

    We seem to think we are “entitled” to tell others what to do, what to think and if they disagree, kill them.

    Of course, it’s all in the name of democracy.

    moo

  • Eric Olsen

    I do not agree with the convenient dismissal thta “we don’t know” who any of these people are. Of course we know who most of these people are, especially after the fact when they are dead or wounded we trace who they are and where they came from.

    Hoagland is making generalizations about where the preponderance of these people come from and their motivations, he is not dismissing the other sources of “insurgents,” just clarifying that the majority are Sunni and/or have Baathist ties, and they are outraged that their reign of privilege has been thwarted, that they are no longer in charge, that they are no longer free to impose their brutal will upon the general populace. The fascist fucks are beaten and they can’t stand it.

    I guess you can disagree with his interpretation of who these people are and where their animus comes from, but it is disingenuous to claim that we don’t know who they are, where they come from, their networks, etc., especially after the fact, or when an entire towns like Samarra and Tikrit are still under the sway of the old regime and wish for its return for their own selfish reasons.

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    I do not agree with the convenient dismissal that “we don’t know” who any of these people are.

    That’s just silly. That’s not what I said, and you can’t shift the argument that way. You made a general claim and I responded to that. Nobody said we didn’t know who _any_ of them are.

    Hoagland is making generalizations about where the preponderance of these people come from and their motivations, he is not dismissing the other sources of “insurgents,” just clarifying that the majority are Sunni and/or have Baathist ties, and they are outraged that their reign of privilege has been thwarted, that they are no longer in charge, that they are no longer free to impose their brutal will upon the general populace. The fascist fucks are beaten and they can’t stand it.

    He can make guesses and generalizations, but where’s his evidence? At best he may have had access to info on the relatively few insurgents that have been killed, and it seems to me that even those are going to vary depending on whether we got them in Tikrit or the Kurdish area or Baghdad.

    And pieces like his are particularly suspect when getting into motivations: it’s difficult to analyze the thinking of a corpse. Maybe he came to independent conclusions with no basis except his own best guesses, but his piece sure reads like what the administration has been putting out.

    … it is disingenuous to claim that we don’t know who they are, where they come from, their networks, etc., especially after the fact, or when an entire towns like Samarra and Tikrit are still under the sway of the old regime and wish for its return for their own selfish reasons.

    No.

    But what is disingenuous is to take an opinion piece like Hoagland’s then make a statement like:

    The “insurgents” in Iraq aren’t primarily nationalists, jihadis, family members of war victims or anything else remotely ideological or principled: they are Sunni/Baathist thugs with a pathological sense of entitlement who are pissed at having the keys to the vault taken away.

    as if it were a fact. At best, the various parts of that statement may be possibilities, with varying probabilities as to their truth.

  • http://www.slumdance.com/blogs/brian_flemming/ Brian Flemming

    The “insurgents” in Iraq aren’t primarily nationalists, jihadis, family members of war victims or anything else remotely ideological or principled.

    Time magazine:

    U.S. intelligence experts now believe the Iraq insurgents are a volatile mix of groups and free-lancers who include loyalists of the former ruling Baath Party, Fedayeen militiamen, former Republican Guard and intelligence agents, foreign jihadis, professional terrorists, paid common criminals and disaffected Iraqis, TIME’s Brian Bennett and Michael Ware report from Iraq.

  • mike

    “U.S. intelligence experts now believe the Iraq insurgents are a volatile mix of groups and free-lancers who include loyalists of the former ruling Baath Party, Fedayeen militiamen, former Republican Guard and intelligence agents, foreign jihadis, professional terrorists, paid common criminals and disaffected Iraqis”

    Well, that narrows it down.

  • Eric Olsen

    They neglected to mention the partridge in the pear tree. I have no doubt all of these and more make up the “insurgents,” Hoagland’s point was that the core are fighting for the return of personal privilege and out of nothing more noble and principled than venality.

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    So that bottom-lines to Hoagland parroting party propaganda, with no basis for saying the insurgents are or are not primarily anything except likely mostly Iraqis, right?