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Politics

Letter From Iraq

12 February 2004

Letter From Iraq

By Gwynne Dyer

“Dear Mom:

Iraq is really fun, and us guys from al-Qaeda are doing great work. I personally have organised twenty-five suicide attacks already, and Osama bin Laden himself wrote to thank me. It’s a great pity that our ally Saddam Hussein didn’t get his weapons of mass destruction finished in time for us terrorists to start using them against the infidels, but that’s how the cookie crumbles. The dumb Iraqis are all grateful to the Americans and won’t help us, but with the help of other foreign terrorists I am now trying to get a civil war going between the Sunnis and the Shias in order to defeat the Americans and their stupid democracy. Gosh, how I hate their freedoms.

Your loving son, Ahmed

P.S. Thanks for the clean socks.”

I am not at liberty to reveal how the letter came into my possession — let’s just say that it came from a highly reputable US intelligence agency whose title includes the letters ‘C’, ‘I’, and ‘A’. According to what they told me, it was written by the same al-Qaeda terrorist from Jordan, Musab al-Zarqawi (real name Ahmed Fadil al-Khalaylah) whose 17-page letter from Iraq to al-Qaeda’s leaders was recently leaked to the ‘New York Times’. Like that letter, it proves that US President George W. Bush was absolutely right to invade Iraq: the Iraqis love Americans, and the problems there now are all caused by foreign terrorists.

I must confess that I did wonder for a moment if the intelligence service in question might just be trying to help the government that employs it, but that way lies doubt, disillusion, and the deadly sin of cynicism. These spies have professional standards, and they would never cook the intelligence they provide just to suit the needs of some passing administration.

Same goes for the soldiers: when Brigadier-General Mark Kimmitt, US deputy chief of operations in Iraq, said last Wednesday that the suicide bombing outside a police station in Iskandariya the previous day that killed 50 people had “al-Qaeda’s fingerprints all over it,” you just had to believe him. I mean, why would any Iraqi who doesn’t belong to al-Qaeda target a police station full of people who are collaborating with foreign occupation forces? And who else but al-Qaeda carries out suicide attacks anyway (apart from Palestinians, Tamils, Chechens, and a few others)? “When you see…these kinds of attack,” as Kimmitt put it, “one has the tendency to look at foreign fighters.”

OK, enough sarcasm. What kind of idiots do these people take us for? Having failed to find the weapons of mass destruction they allegedly invaded Iraq for, having failed to be greeted with open arms by grateful Iraqis, and having arrested only a handful of foreigners among the thousands of suspects they have rounded up since the resistance movement started blowing up American soldiers and local collaborators, do they really think that they can persuade us that this ‘foreign terrorist’ — they have just raised the price on his head from $5 million to $10 million — is the source of all their troubles in Iraq?

‘Al-Zarqawi’ is not really very foreign to Iraq — he is a Jordanian citizen, but he belongs to the Bani Hassan tribe which straddles the Iraq-Jordan border — and he is not very important either. He is a rather obscure member of al-Qaeda who was in Afghanistan during the period when the 9./11 attacks on the United States were planned and carried out, and there is no evidence that he or any other al-Qaeda member was in contact with the ruling Baathist Party in Iraq before Saddam Hussein’s regime was destroyed in the US invasion.

If he is in contact with underground members of the Baath party now — for which there is also no evidence — that would hardly be surprising: the enemy of my enemy is (for the moment) my friend. But the notion that he and al-Qaeda are behind the Iraqi resistance is purely an ideological fantasy. There are plenty of Baathists in Iraq who hate having been driven from power, plenty of Islamists unconnected with Osama bin Laden’s crowd (including even some Kurds) who hate the presence of arrogant infidels in their country, and plenty of plain Iraqi nationalists who regard the occupation as an intolerable national humiliation.

So far these resisters are mostly Sunni, since the Shia leadership has managed to keep its own people quiet in the hope that free elections will finally bring the majority population to power without a fight, but the US plan to install a ‘sovereign’ government in July without elections risks bringing the Shias into the fight, too.

Since unemployment has soared from 50 percent to 80 percent since the US invasion, it is no surprise that desperate Iraqis are willing to join the new police and army that the US occupation authorities are building to serve as sandbags between American soldiers (who have largely been pulled off the streets to minimise casualties) and the resistance. But it is equally unsurprising that the resistance regards these Iraqi police and soldiers in US pay as collaborators and high-priority targets. Sometimes their attacks employ suicide bombers, but almost all of them have been native-born Iraqis.

Still, you can see why ‘foreign terrorists’ is the preferred explanation in an election year. It makes the whole invasion of Iraq look less like barking up the wrong tree.

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To shorten to 725 words, omit paragraphs 4 and 8. (“Same…fighters”; and “So far…too”).