I know I shouldn’t be writing about the war so much, but it’s less disgusting than the gay bishop story. And one really puzzling thing did happen this week: on Thuersday and Friday, there were numerous reports that a large number of American troops had been killed in two ambushes, including eight of them (I think that was the Independent‘s figure) in one incident near Khaldiyah. Here, for example, is the BBC:
Three US soldiers have been killed in an ambush near Saddam Hussein’s home town of Tikrit, the latest in a continuing series of attacks on Americans in Iraq.
Two soldiers were injured in a separate attack on a convoy in the town of Khaldiyah, west of Baghdad, with unconfirmed reports speaking of a number of men killed.
The source for this appears to have been eyewitness accounts from a carload of journalists which were also fired on by the Americans, and from the Iraqis who were standing around. The Telegraph announced the three American deaths had taken place in Khaldiyah:
Three American soldiers were killed yesterday in a new type of roadside ambush.
A light lorry and a Humvee jeep were hit by a blast, possibly from a roadside bomb, on a busy road near Khaldiya, west of Baghdad. Then hidden attackers opened fire with machineguns on survivors trying to help the wounded.
The Times story, bylined from Khaldiya, and by the experienced Richard Lloyd Parry, found reports of eight dead quite credible, and talked about three destroyed US vehicles:
the Arab television station al-Arabiya reported that eight were killed, and eyewitnesses claimed as many as eighteen had been killed or wounded.
Scores of local Iraqis were last night celebrating what could prove one of the deadlist attacks on coalition forces since combat officially ended on May 1.
They danced around the wreckage of at least three American military vehicles, fired Kalashnikov rifles in the air and brandished posters of Saddam Hussein. They chanted: “With our blood, with our souls, we sacrifice ourselves for you, Saddam.”
Yet no deaths from this ambush have been officially acknowledged at all. The Bushies have got away with so many lies on so many subjects, that perhaps they believe that they can suppress the casualty figures. It’s also possible, of course, that they believe they have no choice because the truth unelectably too awful. Some reasons for this interpretation can be found in the extended entry, a very long quote from the almost infinitely longer Talking Points Memo interview with Joseph Wilson, a former American ambassador to Baghdad:
WILSON: for all intents and purposes, we have created a self-fulfilling prophecy. We have created this battleground in Iraq into which jihadists and perhaps al Qaida and like-minded Arabs and other Muslims are flowing. And we have presented them with 130,000 potential targets, there on the ground, in the battlefield that is Iraq. But more to the point, I think, “shock and awe,” which, from our perspective, kind of looks like a Fourth of July fireworks display, from the perspective of those who are watching al Jazeera and other international outlets, was the humiliation of a major Arab capital, at the seat of Islam for several centuries, and a foreign assault and invasion of an Arab and Muslim country. And this from a people who remember the expulsion of Arabs from Spain in 1492 far better than we remember the last election or the last Super Bowl.
The problem I have with the logic, is that fighting this battle, we are creating for ourselves, I think, a much larger potential war. We have taken a population of maybe tens of thousands of terrorists, as the president himself defined the al Qaida threat, coupled with their, say, use a factor of ten-to-one or even a hundred-to-one sympathizers, and you end up with a population of in the millions, perhaps, of terrorists and sympathizers. And we’ve blown that into, perhaps hundreds of millions, and you distill that down, and a factor of that becomes the actual terrorists. So I think that we have a much bigger potential terrorist threat. It will play out to a certain extent on the battlefield of Iraq. You will end up, much like you did in Afghanistan, with a bunch of battle-hardened jihadists–some of whom will form the next al Qaida.
TPM: Now, when you’re talking about Afghanistan, you’re talking about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan?
WILSON: Yeah. And in addition to that, you will have a population of up to a billion people who, for whom the view of the United States is forever changed. Now, historically, the view in that part of the world of America and the United States has been ambivalent. There has been, on the one hand, sort of grudging respect and desire to emulate what we have and too, there’s been I think a very real, real sense in the Arab world of the United States as that “city on the hill” that Reagan always said it was. Which gave Arabs a real personal identification with us. Now, I remember Arabs telling me, “Now I feel that I have the right to criticize you, whatever you do, because for me, your country is everything, is perfection, and when it doesn’t meet my personal view of what perfection should be, then I feel like I have to criticize. Also, I feel like I can criticize you when I can’t criticize my own government because if I do I get into much more trouble …” So, there’s been these ambivalent feelings you have, this grudging respect for who we are, this absolute hatred of our policies towards Israel. But that’s only been part of the larger picture: resentment of us because of us because of our position towards Israel and the Palestinians. Envy, jealousy, all that, I fear, as a consequence of “shock and awe,” as viewed from their perspective, will coalesce into just white-hot hatred of just everything we are and everything we stand for. The distinction, already, is being blurred between the U.S. government and American citizens, and that poses a much larger problem over the immediate to long-term. Now, I think that we can still solve it …
… At this point the conversation switches to Ambassador Wilson’s discovery that the “Nigergate” story about Saddam buying uranium in Africa was a crock of shit; and how his wife, a career CIA operative, was outed by the White House in revenge for this. So we never do get to hear the solution to these problems. How to get out of Iraq will remain another little mystery.