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Saturday, February 26, 2005

Iraq "insurgents" may be around awhile

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Myers, says that there is no quick fix to the "insurgency" in Iraq.
Myers said, however, that recent elections in Iraq were a sign that insurgents were not succeeding in their efforts to strike fear in the Iraqi people. American television was full of images in January of Iraqis whose fingers were stained with indelible ink after casting their ballots.

"They were sticking that ink-stained finger in the eye of the insurgents," Myers told a packed ballroom at the Beverly Hilton hotel.


He is, of course, absolutely right. Take large group of disaffected former Baathists who are now members of the minority and who have access to an incredible array of explosives buried hither and yon, mix in some assistance from anti-US, anti-democratic neighbors like Syria and Iran, throw in a little Al Qaeda-fed hatred and you've got a recipe for a long-lasting spree of violence and murder. Judging by the nature of the most recent Iraqi attacks, the bigger, organized "insurgency" has been defeated and Iraq is now facing a form of standard, garden-variety terrorism - random acts of violence against its population, meant to send a message to the citizens. Or, as the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) (gasp!)puts it,
it is a deliberate use of violence against civilians for political or religious ends.
Want more of a definition? Try this:
In another useful attempt to produce a definition, Paul Pillar, a former deputy chief of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center, argues that there are four key elements of terrorism:
1. It is premeditated- planned in advance, rather than an impulsive act of rage.
2. It is political- not criminal, like the violence that groups such as the mafia use to get money, but designed to change the existing political order.
3. It is aimed at civilians- not at military targets or combat-ready troops.
4. It is carried out by subnational groups- not by the army of a country. (cite)


How hard is it to fight such terrorism? The Council on Foreign Relations (gasp!) has information on various terrorist organizations around the world here.

Take a look at Peru against the "Shining Path," the Brits against the IRA... it can be a long hard slog. Of course, the goal is to reduce the level of terrorism, as John Kerry might say, to the level of "nuisance" so that it becomes a background noise in Iraqi daily lives, sort of akin to the place fatal auto accidents have in our society (we tolerate 10 to 15 such deaths per day in the US). Much of the possibility of reducing the level depends on the average citizen's willing cooperation with the government forces taking on the terrorists.

Why not try to stop terrorism completely? That's the ideal goal, but it's almost impossible because acts of terrorism are relatively so easy to commit. A random killing here and there, an explosive device planted here and there- pretty soon you've got a wave of terrorism going. Then lie low for a time and start again at the time and place of your choosing. It's especially hard when so there are so many willing "martyrs" who are not concerned with self-preservation. The CFR has it right:
Are religiously motivated terrorists like al-Qaeda less restrained than other terrorists?
Yes, generally speaking. Not only are these terrorists' goals often vaguer than those of nationalist terrorists- who want, for example, an independent state, a much more concrete goal than Osama bin Laden's sweeping talk of jihad- but their methods are more lethal. That's because, experts say,the religious terrorist often sees violence as an end in itself, as a divinely inspired way of serving a higher cause. ... But for al-Qaeda, the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo, the Palestinian group Hamas, and other religious terrorist organizations, mass killings are considered not only acceptable but "holy."(emphasis added)


One more morning thought of great cheer from the CFR(gasp!):
Have terrorists ever used weapons of mass destruction?
Yes. In 1995, members of Aum Shinrikyo, a Japanese cult, released sarin nerve gas into the Tokyo subway, killing 12 and wounding over 3,500- the first recorded use of chemical weapons by terrorists. The first deadly use of biological weapons by terrorists was the late-2001 U.S. mailings of anthrax-laced letters by persons still unknown.


Have a nice day.

Update: I don't seem to be the only one who has noticed the "war phase" is over. Captain's Quarter's quotes Jack Kelly
It will be some months before the news media recognize it, and a few months more before they acknowledge it, but the war in Iraq is all but won.
Now it's up to the Iraqis and their friends to fight back the terrorists.

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