4 Ways Falluja Can End

News Abroad

Mr. LeVine is professor of modern Middle Eastern history, culture, and Islamic studies at the University of California Irvine and author of the forthcoming books: Why They Don't Hate Us: Lifting the Veil on the Axis of Evil; and Overthrowing Geography: Jaffa, Tel Aviv and the Struggle for Palestine, 1880-1948, He is also a contributor, with Viggo Mortensen and Pilar Perez, to Twilight of Empire: Responses to Occupation. He last spent time in Iraq in the early spring of this year.

As American forces penetrate ever deeper and more destructively into the city of Falluja, each of the major players in this violent drama is engaged in a complex, constantly shifting calculus involving ways of turning events to their advantage. Of the many possible outcomes to the battle of Falluja, the four which seem most plausible follow, starting with the one that might be viewed most positively by the Bush administration. In sum, they offer us a grim picture of how the window of success has closed on American strategists in Iraq. Even the "best" outcomes below (from the administration's point of view) have lost the trappings of freedom and democracy that helped justify the invasion nineteen months ago.

The Hama Solution: In 1982, Syrian President Hafez al-Assad put down a potential nationwide revolt of religious activists associated with the Muslim Brotherhood by killing upwards of 20,000 people in the city of Hama, essentially flattening its central districts in the process. In an Iraqi version of the "Hama solution," the Americans and their Iraqi allies would take Falluja relatively quickly -- at whatever cost to its essential infrastructure -- in the process killing the majority of the resistance fighters in the city along with uncounted civilians who were too poor, young, old or infirm to flee before the invasion. Falluja would then act as a terrifying example to other rebellious Iraqi cities. The end, however temporary, of Mutaqa al-Sadr's Shia insurgency in the early fall increased the likelihood of success for such a move, freeing up as it did American troops from Najaf in the south and from the Shi'i slum of Sadr City in Baghdad. At the same time, the many months-long threat of a massive attack on Falluja seems to have created fracture lines in the resistance between indigenous groups seeking political solutions that might avoid mass civilian casualties and smaller groups of foreign jihadists, unbound by local ties and determined to fight to the death.

On the other hand, all those months of saber rattling evidently allowed many local fighters and jihadist leaders to leave the city before the invasion began, a troublesome development for American strategists and the interim government of Iyad Allawi as they seek to pacify the larger Sunni Triangle in time for announced elections in January. In the last week, after all, insurgents reoccupied the city center of Ramadi, attacked fiercely in Samarra, fought it out in Baghdad neighborhoods, and left authority in Mosul tottering, while American troops were occupied with the battle of Falluja -- and these were just a few of the many indications that, no matter what happens in Falluja, the insurgency is anything but defeated.

Yet if enough resistance fighters are killed to reclaim Falluja and sap the force of the insurgency in other cities, American strategists can at least hope to be on their way to a limited pacification of Sunni Iraq. Sunni leaders might next be bought off or co-opted and enough followers, fighters, and civilians, killed elsewhere to quiet the country for the next several months. Iraq would then have its "successful" election, and the Bush Administration would breathe a huge sigh of relief. So would Prime Minister Allawi who, according to a senior Iraqi official with whom I've spoken in recent days, is still livid that the Americans bypassed him to negotiate an end to the siege of Najaf. (According to my source, the bandaged hand Allawi sported during his recent trip to New York came from "banging his hands on the wall" after leaning of a secret meeting between American Ambassador John Negroponte and Shiite rebel leaders.) In one fashion or another, in this scenario, "democracy" would mean an extension of the Allawi government via a limited and managed election.

The ongoing, seemingly ceaseless violence in the Palestinian Occupied Territories under Israeli occupation reminds us that pacifying an occupied population is an endless job. But if, as the Bush administration now hopes, the insurgency can simply be tamped down, when it resurfaces next spring it will be the problem of an elected Iraqi government. American troops, in the meanwhile, would largely be withdrawn to a dozen or more major bases lowering American casualties; yet they could be called back into action any time violence threatened to get out of hand. Iraq would then take its place beside Colombia, Israel, and Sri Lanka, to name only a few of the many countries plagued by ongoing but "manageable" political violence -- while the United States would remain astride the second largest oil reserves in the world. This is today the best option available to the Bush administration.

The Jenin Scenario: If Falluja is largely subdued but low-level fighting continues for weeks or months in its back streets, chaos and anarchy might increase across the country, forcing a curtailment or postponement of the January elections, and yet the overall situation might not spin completely out of American control. The Allawi government would remain more or less in power in Baghdad and American troops could continue to occupy the country indefinitely (under the argument that the United States can't leave Iraq in the midst of chaos). The insurgency would be slowly exhausted over a longer period of time, laying the groundwork for a post-independence system favorable to American interests.

Here, the example of the 2002 Israeli siege of the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin might prove the model for the present Falluja campaign. It stirred up incredible anger, violence, and chaos in Palestinian society and outrage internationally, but when the dust settled -- as it usually does --Israel's strategic position was actually stronger than before.

Even if the dust doesn't settle quite as advantageously in Iraq, or settle at all, Bush Administration hawks could turn the ensuing low-level chaos to their immediate advantage by allowing it, or encouraging it to spread to Syria (near whose border the U.S. recently staged a bloody invasion of the Iraqi town of Tal Afar) or Iran (already in the sights of senior Administration officials, regardless of any nuclear deal its leaders may sign with the Europeans). In fact, it is well known that Israeli operatives have been working with Kurds in both border regions to gauge the feasibility of such a scenario. In the meantime, according to Iraqi officials I've spoken with, American oil companies are quietly exploring the 90 percent of Iraq where oil deposits have yet to be tapped, free of potentially embarrassing scrutiny by a media focused on urban violence rather than desert oil. American casualties would also remain limited; media attention modest; and so a Jenin scenario would be seen, under the circumstances, as a quiet but significant victory by the Bush administration.

The "British" Solution (or 1920 Revisited): If the invasion of Falluja backfires -- if the fighting drags on and, for instance, there is evidence of large-scale civilian casualties, perhaps broadcast to the world by a dreaded al-Jazeera reporter via video phone -- Iraqi public opinion might be inflamed to the point of sparking a more general Sunni or yet more significantly Sunni-Shi'i revolt. This actually happened in 1920 when occupying British troops tried to use massive force to pacify the country and the results were devastating for the occupiers (as well as the occupied); or if the resistance in Falluja proves more resilient or better armed than American military officials assume it to be and is capable of dragging out the fighting until a desperate compromise solution along the lines of the deal to end the Najaf siege becomes inevitable, a revolt might also be encouraged; or if the insurgents, with months to plan, left only a minimal force in Falluja to fight a delaying action against the Americans and their Iraqi allies and are able to conduct a larger, sustained insurgency across Sunni (and parts of Shiite) Iraq, as seems increasingly likely, the result could be the same.

Any one of these developments or any combination of them would destroy what is left of the credibility of the Americans and of the Interim Iraqi Government. If not contained, the present insurgency, facing overwhelming and relatively indiscriminate American power, could spark a more general revolt, joined by significant number of Shi'ites (whose leaders, unlike during the first siege of Falluja in April, have so far remained relatively quiet). It would capitalize on the intense anger felt by a country that has seen as many as 100,000 of its citizens killed in the last eighteen months. With the political costs of retreat almost incalculable, the Bush administration in turn might ratchet up the violence (as the Nixon administration did in Vietnam) before considering real withdrawal strategies, hoping that the prospect of tens of thousands of further deaths in the next year would lead Iraqis to accept some continued American military presence in the country and, most important, a continued hand in the management of the country's petroleum resources.

The "French" Scenario: Any version of the "British" solution might, sooner or later, lead the Bush administration into the thickets of the even more unsettling "French" scenario. In this, a growing awareness of the human toll of the occupation, coupled with levels of political corruption that are already staggering would lend force to a desire to internationalize the next phase of Iraq's transition to full sovereignty. (A former top Allawi aide, who recently escaped the country, summed up Iraqi despair on the issue of corruption in lamenting to me that "the new regime is the same as Saddam's, just with different faces.") The "French" scenario might involve the intercession of France, Germany, and Spain, joined by UN Secretary General Kofi Anan and supported by a resurgent worldwide anti-war movement aroused by the ongoing horrors of Iraq. With the insurgency still under way, pressure would be applied for a cease-fire coupled with an internationalization of the transition to sovereignty based on the complete failure of the United States and the Allawi government to stabilize the country. French President Chirac's stated desire to build a counterweight to U.S. power and Kofi Anan's rising displeasure with U.S. actions could encourage such a development, as could the resignation of the Sunni members of the interim government and a full-scale Sunni boycott of any future American-organized elections. While the United States and the British would likely veto any Security Council resolution to mandate such a move, the groundswell of support for it could lead to major changes in the management of the occupation in the lead-up to elections.

If all four outcomes described above are striking for what they reveal about the narrowing of the Bush Administration's grand vision of a democratic and prosperous Iraq, the last one -- a kind of final humiliation -- would certainly be fiercely resisted by American officials and the Allawi government (nor would some factions of the insurgency be any too pleased by the possibility).

The wild card in the current crisis is the Iraqi people who, since the toppling of the Hussein regime, have more often than not remained horrified spectators while their country's political landscape has been reshaped. This passivity, though understandable given the Iraqi experience over the previous two decades, has proved as disastrous for them and their country as the passivity of Palestinians was during the crucial early years of the Oslo peace process (which in actuality allowed Israel to increase significantly its West Bank and Gaza settlements, while Yasir Arafat cemented his autocratic and corrupt rule virtually cost-free).

Ayatollah Ali Sistani's call for a massive nonviolent mobilization to end the siege of Najaf and the success of women's groups in preventing a rollback of their social rights, both demonstrate that the Iraqi people can become active shapers of their own destiny. Were the Shiites to pour into the streets nationwide, as they did in Najaf in response to Sistani, the Iraqi situation would immediately take on a different look and the American occupation might find its days quickly numbered. But can Iraqi society challenge the violent calculus of American military planners and insurgents alike with a vision of a future free of occupation and autocracy, corruption and extremism? More than wishing the Iraqis well, the international community needs to get its hands dirty to ensure that they have a fighting chance.

This article first appeared on www.tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, a long time editor in publishing, the author of The End of Victory Culture, and a fellow of the Nation Institute.

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Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

This list of scenarios does not reflect the alchemy of Rove's spinning machine, to which even Richards Cheney and Perle must pay obeisance, especially in a Situation Normal All Fallujahed UP like this one.

What if Allawi were to suddenly develop an "as yet undisclosed illness" only treatable by specialists at the Marquer-les-Jeues hospital in Monte Carlo ? Then, a photogenic eighteen year old female Fallujian beaming at the camera while stuffing a blank sheet of paper into a brightly painted empty ballot box. A miraculously precisely balanced mixture of Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish warlords then wins the elections which are so free and fair that no international monitoring organization dares sully their purity by coming within hundreds of miles of the "polls".

Deja voodoo mission accomplished all over again.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

If we only had bombed more of those "sanctuaries" in Cambodia, Rambo ?

It is wake-up call time. Unlike Vietnam, which was ready to fight an undefeatable guerilla war against any foreign invader long before we moved in, our hapless so-called leaders in Washington have turned the Iraqi masses into enemies, as a horrible side effect of their corrupt desire to dupe U.S. voters into getting them legitimately elected as a war presidency.

At the incompetent hands of Cheney and Bush, the "IFSBs, (Islamist-Fundamentalists-Sunni-Baathist-somethings)" are rapidly growing from a small minority to a large majority in central Iraq. Iraq did not have to become a quagmire, but these deceit-ridden, crooked and treasonous chickenhawks have turned it into one.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Taliban-like intimidation, brutality, and murder.

This is Bush's "free" and "democratic" Mideast ?
No wonder he is so despised by so many millions of Iraqis.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Apparently talk how "the war" could "end" makes some nostalgic for the continental carvings of 19th century imperialism. Mr. Todd neglects that fact that the only internationally legitimate war in that region in recent decades was the 1991 war to defend the sanctity of existing borders (e.g. of Kuwait). On the other hand, he makes an important demographic point. The more likely result of water shortages, however, is not some grand Risk Game redrawing of lines, but a great increase in refugees living off international handouts, with occasional decimation by periodic epidemics.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Read the preamble to the United Nations charter for an introduction to what I meant by "INTERNATIONALLY legitimate" war (and, for that matter, to start obtaining the basic understanding of what the UN is (a set of treaties and agreements) and isn't (a sovereign entity) which you clearly lack).

N. Friedman - 11/14/2004


What follows is the UN Charter's preamble. It does not speak about wars being legitimate. Instead, it reads as follows:


to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and

to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and

to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and

to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and

to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and

to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,

Accordingly, our respective Governments, through representatives assembled in the city of San Francisco, who have exhibited their full powers found to be in good and due form, have agreed to the present Charter of the United Nations and do hereby establish an international organization to be known as the United Nations.

Andrew D. Todd - 11/14/2004

Yes and no. Of course, there is the ultimate fear of a bullet in the back of the head, KGB fashion. However, when officials in western democracies fail in their duty, they usually do so on account of the more mundane fear of being "selected out," that is, being retired or dismissed for comparative incompetence. The commutation of pension rights offered under such circumstances is likely to work out to about ten cents on the dollar, which is to say that premature termination may very well work out to the equivalent of a million-dollar fine, levied without anything resembling Due Process. Nevil Shute observed from his experience in the Royal Navy that officers and officials who displayed courage vis-a-vis their superiors invariably proved to have private means.

Quoting from the Army Officer's Guide, it is possible to effectually damn someone by describing him as: "lackadaisical, meddlesome, callow, erratic, pretentious, saturnine, surly, obstinate, dogmatic, inflexible, obtuse, naive, specious, procrastinating, indolent, ineffective, questionable, and unsound." Yet, none of this rises to the level of a criminal offense, or a court-martial offense either. Above a certain level of employment, good judgment is an indispensable quality, but people who disagree with the boss over policy are commonly held to exhibit poor judgment. That is the way of the world.

Michael Barnes Thomin - 11/13/2004

Your post immediately reminded me of an interview with Seymour Hersh that I saw about one month ago. At the end of the interview (which was more or less just Sy going off on the Iraq war) he was discussing whistleblowers and what role they are playing now in the Bush administration. He began commenting that there was indeed dissent among officials that he had talked to (confidentially) concerning their dissatisfaction with the current policies in place, but he said there was not much action because of fear. Near the end of the interview Sy then related to a conversation he had with a source/friend who disclosed information about Lyndon Johnson using the CIA to spy on Americans, and when Sy asked him why the hell he did not blow the whistle on the Johnson administration for doing this, his friend told him about the story of Khrushchev’s secret speech at the 20th Congress of the CPSU on February 24-25, 1956. In Hersh's words:

“Remember the famous 1956 Party of Congress in Moscow where Khrushchev made Stalin a “non-person”… One of the delegates stood up, this is what the guy says in response to my question [about why he did not speak out at the time], one of the delegates stood up and said, ‘Hey! Comrade Khrushchev, where were you when to speak out at day meant you were put on a train ride going out East! Where were you when to stand on the street corner and read a poem or read some translated Western work? Where were you when our grandmothers and grandfathers were sent off! Where were you when where it meant to be Jewish the NKPV took you away at night? Where were you?’ And Khrushchev, at that moment, said (pounding the podium): “Who said that,” this is what the guy says to me, “Who said that!” And I’m looking at him and he waits about thirty seconds… total silence. And then my friend says to me, “That’s where I was.” And, so I think what Bush has done, has done that to us. He has put us into this silence.”

http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2004/10/11_hersh.shtml watch the webcast (58:44)

N. Friedman - 11/13/2004


There are, according to the Boston Globe, currently 50 million refugees in the world. I doubt that Iraqi Kurdistan will much affect that dim total.

I am not, as you know, a fan of the Iraq war. However, there is no such think as a legitimate or illegitimate war. That is a delusion put forth by opponents of the Iraq war while proponents assert the equally preposterous view that the war is legitimate.

The word "legitimate" depends on the eyes of the beholder.

Obviously, the Bush and Blair administrations think the war is legitimate. Most Iraqi leftists - or so their spokesmen claim - think the war legitimate as well.

Most tyrranies, particularly those in the Arab and Muslim world, fear that the "legitimacy" of their regimes might come into play so they view the war as illegitimate. In that most people live under tyrannies, their opinions reflect the views of those who rule them.

In the West, it depends on the country and their view of the role of American power. That, rather than legitimacy, is the question.

Again, the legitimacy argument is nonsense. Some support the war and some oppose it.

You might do better by asserting that the war does not advance causes you espouse.

Andrew D. Todd - 11/13/2004

Kurdistan is the only part of Iraq which is remotely viable from a hydrological standpoint. Furthermore, though Turkey doesn't know it yet, it is going to become a lot more conciliatory in its dealings with Kurdistan and the Kurds. Shakespeare understood, of course. In King John, he has Eleanor of Aquitaine say to her illegitimate grandson.

Whether hadst thou rather be a Falconbridge,
And like thy brother, to enjoy thy land,
Or the reputed son of Cour-de-Lion,
Lord of thy presence, and no land besides?
I like thee well; wilt thou forsake thy fortune,
Bequeath thy land to him, and follow me?
I am a soldier, and now bound to France.

As the son of Mother Europe's old age, Turkey is going to be told more or less the same thing. Of course Eleanor was not the ur-vamp for nothing. The Bastard replies:

Brother, take you my land, I'll take my chance;
Your face hath got five hundred pounds a-year;
Yet sell your face for fivepence, and tis dear--
Madam, I'll follow you to the death.

King John, Act 1, Scene 1.

The implication is that Iraqi Kurdistan will be incorporated into a Greater Kurdistan, stretching to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, incorporating the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates; a buffer state separating Turkey from Asia, and itself a candidate for eventual EU membership. The Kurds are the only population in Iraq well disposed to the United States, and presumably Greater Kurdistan would inherit the Turkish NATO tie with the United States.

That leaves the Sunni Triangle, the Shiite area (including Baghdad), and the substantially unpopulated Syrian desert (containing the southern oilfields). The United States is under no military necessity to retreat from the Syrian desert, and, assuming that Bush does not succumb to panic, it can easily be annexed in the name of Kuwait. Presumably, Iran would absorb the Shiite area, and Syria the Sunni triangle. My estimate is that the ecologically sustainable population of Mesopotamia is probably not more than three to five millions, especially if the Kurds continue to develop the more ambitious Turkish irrigation schemes. Oil subsidies have carried the population to an artificial height. As water shortages develop, the tendency is going to be for people to retreat in the direction of their respective mountains. Over a period of years, people would move away to Tehran or Damascus. The Shiites, being furthest downriver, will be the first to be affected. Once everyone in the Middle East begins grabbing rain more or less as soon as it hits the ground, an independent state in Mesopotamia becomes ecologically untenable.

If Bush panics, the scenario is basically the same, except that Iran also occupies Kuwait, Quatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Eastern Saudi Arabia.

Michael Di Tore - 11/13/2004

ref# 46670. The money used to build walls could be better spent on Americans in America.

N. Friedman - 11/13/2004


The idea of splitting Iraq up has been in print. It may even be a good idea.

On the other hand, the real issue in Iraq may be a war between Sunni and Shi'a which might rage no matter how the country is, on a Western map, divided.

Perhaps, on your idea, our contribution could be to build a series of walls - albeit something the ICJ would, if it were consistent (which it is not) frown upon - which divide the country up into three parts so that it is much more difficult for the parts to fight with each other. It might even be possible, in such an endeavor, for our troops to be largely out of harms' way since the insurgents would need to come to us rather than the other way around.

John H. Lederer - 11/13/2004

"Fallujah residents, most of them now displaced by the fighting, said there were hundreds of non-Iraqi Arabs in town before the offensive began on Monday. However, they added, the ties of brotherhood had mostly unraveled and the remaining foreign fighters had tried to intimidate residents into staying as human shields.

A rebel-allied cleric who goes by the name Sheik Rafaa told Knight Ridder that Iraqi rebels were so infuriated by the disappearance of their foreign allies that one cell had "executed 20 Arab fighters because they left an area they promised to defend."

Other residents said foreign militants wore out their welcome months ago, when they imposed a Taliban-like interpretation of Islamic law that included public floggings for suspects accused of drinking alcohol or refusing to grow beards. Women who failed to cover their hair or remove their makeup were subjected to public humiliation. Those accused of spying for Americans were executed on the spot, residents said. "


Michael Di Tore - 11/13/2004

The solution to the conditions in Iraq is the U.S picks up their toys and goes home.

Say goodbye to Turkey . We owe nothing to them. Turkey has made its bed with the European Union.

So long Saudi Arabia. They are not our friends. Even after our invasion of Iraq, Saudi families are continuing to fund al-Qaida.

Rather than bother with Fallujah and decapitate al Sadr, divide this state of Iraq into its natural nations, while America still has the opportunity and the national will.

Give the Sunnis the triangle, give the Kurds the north, and give the Shiites Karbala and the south. Three separate countries along nationalist lines.

The women and children of this region, the starvation, the missiles and bombs that don’t care whether you are military or civilian, sick, old, young or infant,have done enough damage to continue this clash of civilizations between Islam and Christianity for another 100 years.

Kenneth T. Tellis - 11/12/2004

If at all there is going to be some semblence of justice, then we have to have whistel blowers. The point is, that whistle blowers in any army are considered traitors by those who are in the majority and have committed war crimes. Does anyone really believe that the US Dept. of Defense will prosecute US forces personnel that have committed war crimes? If the issue of Death Squads of the 101st Airborne Division operating in the Central Highlands of Vietname could have hidden by the US government for 30 years, surely there are many more crimes that are also hidden, and will never be brought to justice.

Steve Vinson - 11/12/2004

Excuse me, but in the West, we don't suppress our women. We arrange for them to have wardrobe malfunctions at every possible opportunity. That's what we call "sexual equality."

Andrew D. Todd - 11/12/2004

There is no need to worry that an Al Jazeera reporter might sneak into Falluja. The vast majority of the initial evidence for My Lai was produced by American soldiers. There was a certain fraction of dissidents, even in Charley Company. Warrant Officer Thompson's armed confrontation with Lieutenant Calley, and subsequent filing of a report, is sufficiently well-known. However, Private Stanley connived at the escape of Vietnamese villagers from his own comrades. Sergeant Haeberle took pictures, and ultimately delivered them to the press. Something on the order of ten to twenty percent of the troops refused direct orders to commit war crimes. Ron Ridenhour, not present at the massacre, conducted the first sub-rosa investigation. All of these men were hampered by their technological means of recording and communicating information.

They had comparative difficulty in contacting their parents, for example. One Vietnam case involved a soldier who was killed in action shortly after sending his parents a letter containing nonspecific allegations about war crimes carried out by his platoon leader. The dead man's parents jumped to the logical conclusion that their son had been murdered by a United States Army officer in order to prevent him from testifying. They enforced an investigation, and the upshot of this investigation was that while the lieutenant had not murdered the American enlisted man, he had executed, without trial, an ARVN deserter, and the lieutenant was duly prosecuted for this offense.

Nowadays, every GI, like any other young man, has a full range of all the neatest electronic toys. That was of course the implication of Abu Graib. The acts charged do not really compare in seriousness to Col. Anthony Herbert's allegations about the 173 Brigade's Military Intelligence unit in Vietnam. The cameraphones intervened before the troops could work themselves up to that level of brutality. One has to assume that there are ten potential whistleblowers in every company, and that they can do their whistleblowing within minutes of the offense in question. Their films are likely to be good enough to constitute incontrovertible evidence against particular soldiers and officers, to the point that they will turn state's evidence and implicate the chain of command.

I found an interesting episode in J. Glenn Gray's _The Warriors_ (1959, 1970). During the Second World War, Gray, a member of the Counter-Intelligence Corps, became aware that the French Moroccan soldiers were systematically raping children in Italian villages (p. 67, Harper Colophon Books Edition). When the matter was brought to the attention of the French general, his response was "Cest la Guerre," or words to that effect. The Americans felt obliged to let the matter drop, until, years later, Gray wrote about it in his book. They did not have the means to enforce a public response from Eleanor Roosevelt. Perhaps three quarters of the thirty or so officers citied in the Peers Commission reported were in essence charged with "letting the matter drop," or to be more legalistic, being accessories after the fact. One could make a case that the prosecution of My Lai was an artifact of better transportation, and the one-year rotation.

The implication of all this is that in order to conduct a draconian policy (either the "Hama Solutions," the "Jenin Scenario," or the "British Solution."), the President is going to have to specifically endorse all the incidental crimes. Otherwise, the troops will get to thinking about the Portsmouth Naval Brig and Fort Leavenworth, etc. The Israelis have managed to get themselves into some remarkably awkward situations because they felt obliged to protect soldiers who had killed American or English peace activists. In fact, of course, the administration is frantically trying to disassociate itself from people such as Lynndie England.

Joseph Goldstein, Burke Marshall, and Jack Schwartz, The My Lai Massacre and Its Cover-Up, 1976. (This is the Peers Commission Report with additional commentary and related matter).

Michael Hilton and Kevin Sim, Four Hours in My Lai, 1992.

John H. Lederer - 11/12/2004

"But can Iraqi society challenge the violent calculus of American military planners and insurgents alike with a vision of a future free of occupation and autocracy, corruption and extremism? More than wishing the Iraqis well, the international community needs to get its hands dirty to ensure that they have a fighting chance."

Right. The U.S. goal in Iraq is occupation, autocracy, corruption and extremism. Oh, and oil. Don't we want to suppress the women as well?

John H. Lederer - 11/12/2004

It seems to me that Fallujah posesses importance as a sanctuary for guerillas. Sanctuaries seem a historical necessity for a guerilla war to succeed (although Iraq is emphatically not a guerilla war it posesses some of the same characteristics).

To avoid controversy -- "terrorists", "rebels", "recidivists", "guerillas", "insurgents", "Baathists", "resistance fighters" -- let's call those shooting and bombing Itaqi and US forces, IFSBs, (Islamist-Fundamentalists-Sunni-Baathist-somethings)

Potential sanctuaries for IFSBs are Fallujah, other similar cities, and Syria or Iran.

Fallujah, Ramadi, and the other cities on the Euphrates have dual importance. On the one hand they are in themselves sanctuaries, but they are also a line of communications into Syria.

If the guerillas lose Fallujah, as now seems certain, it would seem likely, unless Fallujah is a civilian bloodbath, that they could similarly lose Ramadi, Haditha and the other towns on the Euphrates. So they would lose sanctuaries and a line of communication to Syria. That could be a big deal.

The border with Iran is less easily contained than the border with Syria (most of which is desert with few roads), but I am not sure of the degree to which Iran is willing to support Sunnis.

Loss of sanctuary and loss of communications, combined with the political pressure of the majority of the population, could mean loss of the war for the IFSB's.