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Joseph Sobran’s
Washington Watch

Resisting “Liberation”

(Reprinted from the issue of September 11, 2003)

Capitol BldgThe U.S. occupation of Iraq continues to confound the hopes of the hawks. The early reports of Iraqis welcoming their American “liberators” already seem like distant memories. Our soldiers are being picked off by snipers daily; the UN headquarters has been bombed, the chief UN diplomat killed; a major mosque has also been bombed, and a “moderate” ayatollah died in the blast.

Many more troops will be needed to police the country. Sabotage is endemic. The cost of occupation will be much greater than expected, and seized oil assets won’t pay for it. The U.S. troops want to come home, but there is no end in sight.

The Bush administration’s recent optimism now sounds naive; it hailed its own triumph prematurely. It should have foreseen that foreign invaders would quickly wear out any brief welcome they enjoyed, if indeed that welcome wasn’t illusory in the first place.

Misleading World War II analogies have guided the administration all along, not least the relatively painless occupations of Japan and Germany, where there was no significant resistance to the victors after surrender.

Both Japan and Germany were much tougher enemies than Iraq, but they had been devastated and exhausted by a long war, and after their rulers had formally surrendered there was little point in fighting on without organized forces.

But this war was vastly different. The battles were brief and decisive, but Saddam Hussein disappeared without surrendering. He seems to be alive and in hiding, encouraging well-armed guerrillas to keep up their attacks on the invaders. He probably has no control over them and can’t supply them, but they are capable of fighting on without him. They may feel no loyalty to him; they have their own reasons to hate America; but the fact remains that the U.S. victory hasn’t been concluded.

The war hasn’t ended; it has merely entered a new phase that may not end until the United States withdraws.

“Bring ’em on,” President Bush said, with the bravado of the vicarious warrior. Even his supporters winced at this invitation to attack American troops. In any case, his challenge has been accepted.

The Bush team insists on calling the Iraqi resistance “terrorism” and on treating it as part of the war on terrorism. But this isn’t terrorism, which is aimed at instilling fear in the whole population with random violence; it’s old-fashioned guerrilla warfare, aimed at military targets and collaborators.

Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, says the guerrillas are “the criminal remnants of Saddam’s sadistic regime,” enemies of “the free world, which now includes Iraq.” So, according to Wolfowitz, the foreign invaders are fighting for Iraq’s freedom, while the resistance is fighting out of sheer sadism. If the Bush team really believes this, our troubles are just beginning.

If the guerrillas are terrorists, fighting for Saddam, we are forced to wonder why they aren’t getting and using those “weapons of mass destruction” we were told Saddam had in abundance. They were the reason the Bush team obsessively cited as the justification for preemptive war. Now we hear no more about them; even the administration has dropped the subject. But we are expected to believe that occupying Iraq and crushing the resistance are somehow related to the 9/11 attacks.

True, the Iraqi resistance isn’t fighting by American rules. But whoever thought it would? One thinks of the American diplomat who, attempting to mediate peace between Israelis and Arabs, urged both sides to settle their differences “like Christian gentlemen.”

The United States is not so rich and powerful that it can afford to conduct a misconceived war. The Bush scenario of democracy-versus-terrorism simply doesn’t describe the facts. Iraq isn’t getting democracy, unless a U.S.-installed puppet government counts as democracy, and the Iraqi resistance has nothing to do with the real terrorism we saw on September 11, 2001.
Free Pollard?

Lawyers for Jonathan Pollard are trying to gain access to a secret government report that led to his life sentence for espionage in 1987. They hope to void his conviction and secure his release.

As a civilian Navy intelligence analyst, Pollard, now 49, had given a roomful of secret U.S. military documents to Israel, which in turn bargained some of them to the Soviet Union. The U.S. government argued that he had done grave harm to American security. He was believed to have had an accomplice, who has never been identified or prosecuted.

At first the Israelis insisted that Pollard was part of a “rogue operation” they had known nothing about. This soon turned out to be a falsehood. Pollard’s Israeli handler, Rafi Eitan, was actually promoted after the episode. The Israeli government amassed a large pension for Pollard, which he may claim when and if he gets out of prison. He has become a national hero in Israel, and successive governments have tried to persuade American officials to free him. Meanwhile, the Israelis have refused to return or even identify the documents he stole.

Why prolong his imprisonment? Pollard has already served a longer term than many murderers. He has never been allowed to see the evidence that was used to put him away for life. And he has been made a scapegoat.

The salient fact about the whole affair is that the U.S. government has taken no action against Israel for stealing — and sharing with the Soviets — allegedly damaging military secrets. Congress has never even investigated Israeli theft of American intelligence, which goes far beyond Pollard. It makes no sense to punish one lowly agent with such severity, while taking absolutely no action against those who put him (and others) up to the crime.

Like Israel’s 1967 attack on the USS Liberty, which also remains unpunished and uninvestigated, the Pollard incident taught our “reliable ally” that it can do virtually anything to the United States with impunity — including killing American citizens.

Earlier this year an Israeli soldier drove a bulldozer over a young American woman, Rachel Corrie, who was trying to stop him, by peacefully standing in his way, from razing Palestinian homes. Then he finished the job by backing up over her crushed body. She died hours later. Her death was ruled an accident and the soldier was excused.

That soldier had felt free to make the quick decision to kill her without even consulting his superiors; he apparently knew he could count on their backing. The brave Miss Corrie couldn’t even count on the U.S. government to protest her killing. Some pundits wrote that she had gotten what she asked for.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2003 by The Wanderer
Reprinted with permission.

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