With the re-election of George W Bush to the
White House, Iraq is all set to take more jolts than ever.
Pacifying Falluja seems like a resounding success as far as
US is concerned. And to prove that America rules, either by
proxy of the Iraqi interim government or through maneuvering
both the Iraqi law enforcement agencies and the formidable
coalition forces, US is doing the needful. Safe havens like
Fallujah are being flushed off of insurgents. With this aim
in mind, the US is about to embolden their efforts. Thousands
of troops are to join the existing redoubtable force, which
now stands at 138,000.
US claims to have killed more than a thousand of their enemy
during the assault that they dubbed Operation Dawn. The official
figure stood at around 1200 from the enemy camp and 51 of
their own, according to last week's count. The US claims that
1200 were active rebels fueling the insurgency; and they were
out to dislodge the stability of Iraq in the face of the elections
scheduled in late January next year.
While more and more Iraqis are burying their
dead, who knows how many civilian deaths remain unreported.
As for the first city that took the heat, Falluja has gone
through the full-fledged trial of cleansing. And the degree
of devastation was something that outraged many. Even the
Western media shoed-in in the role of the critic. Now they
are speculating a greater repercussion. As the rebels dispersed,
they are not only being weakened, they are also getting desperate
in their attempt to hit back. The US-led forces are over-stretched
as they are forced to hunt for these rebels seeking out newer
Ahead of the January elections, since March
of this year, Operation Dawn was the biggest assault mounted
in Iraq. And it has ushered in the extreme phase of the Iraq
War. Extreme in the sense that the US-led coalition has the
"end of war" in sight. If one is ready to rely on
the vision of the Americans, Operation Dawn and similar operations
in other rebel strongholds are their last resort before withdrawal.
This extreme phase as well as the third phase is marked by
its rise in civilian casualties and retaliation from the suicide
bombers and hostage takers. The first phase being the invasion
that led to toppling of Saddam and second being the tenuous
fight against insurgency, and the third, being the final battle
that aspires to end insurgency.
The US earlier announced a date of withdrawal.
It was ten months after the election that the occupying army
first envisaged their departure. But leaving is not an easy
task, as it involves rebuilding, which has an Asian interpretation,
'destroy and then rebuild'. Rebuilding the infrastructures
and normalisation of services are not an easy task in the
face of continuous incidents of suicide bombings and kidnappings
by the rebels. Even aid workers and bussinessmen are being
targeted by some extreme rebel outfits. Safety is one thing
that the Iraqi interim government continously fails to ensure.
Hence, the need of enforcement of marshal laws. US has complete
or at least partial pacification of the rebel strongholds
in mind. For this the time of withdrawal has been extended.
But can they deliver?
The US wants to leave behind a stable democracy,
which could be interpreted in many ways. Afghanistan can provide
a cue as fighting still rages on in different regions. Though
the international media is prone to brand this as 'sporadic
disturbances', Afghanistan's election has given the world
a glimpse of what lurks behind the facade.
Whether one is willing to look at Iraq as
a subsequent "disaster zone" that followed the Afghan
effort or misadventure, out of which US came out as a victor
of sorts is a matter of choice. And this choice is now defined
by geography. The Atlantic seems to be symbolising the rift
between Europe and America. France's President Chirac still
sticks to his argument that Iraq was a "mistake".
In most of Asia Iraq's bumpy and forceful ride towards democracy
is seen as nothing but an intervention by a superpower.
However ignominious it is for US to be branded
as an invader, it is even more shameful for it to turn around
and leave without pacifying this oil giant. The former dictator
helped lay the stone for the US to step in, and now, however
degenerating the scenario looks, US will do anything to restore
it to the "face saver" status. A status of cosmetic
precision is what they achieved in Afghanistan. Whether they
would be able to replicate it in Iraq is the only challenge
facing the US-led coalition.
Iraq is the stage where international politics
and power play are being acted out. It is also the ground
zero of media frenzy. Although the chunks of news that are
being served on the internationally reputed platters are not
necessarily the whole picture. They represent only a glimpse
of what is going on, -- a partial view.
As war gradually unfolds its newer phases,
there is no doubt about one thing, that America is unsparing
as ever. They intensified their resolve and stepped up their
actions. Newsmen cry out: Now US is killing even the unarmed.
Caught on videotape by an embedded journalist is the scene
of killing inside a mosque. Is it an aberration or a regular
practice? This question gnaws at our conscience. But did this
happen before in Iraq and any other country invaded by US.
At the onset of the Fallujah onslaught, apache helicopters
bombarded Falluja to bring it down to its knees, few newsmen
went looking for civilians killed during that time.
At present, Fallujah is a mess. While the
physical characters of Fallujah have been altered beyond recognition,
sporadic fights are reported to be taking place in a few remaining
pockets of the city. The formerly rebel-held city is now a
scene of devastation. It has seen its houses and commercial
buildings being leveled to the ground. Not even mosques were
spared. Perhaps the showering of bombs from air had left them
mostly untouched, but the marines who scoured through the
city did what was needed to oust the rebels from their last
resorts -- the mosques. Falluja may no longer remain a safe
heaven, but the rebels are yet to be fully cleansed out of
Operation Dawn was launched on November 8,
apparently to "wrest the Sunni Muslim city from insurgents".
Eleven days after the operation Lieutenant General John Sattler
declared the city as being secure but not safe. Safety could
not be won by enforcing full-throttle military might. The
Bushites and the generals who are planning the war for the
president, however, see it as the only option. There is enough
proof that the conditions in Iraq are deteriorating and it
is a direct result of the intensification of US-led assaults.
BBC claims that the US military is over-stretched
while trying to eradicate the rebels. Even though the prospect
of being able to overwhelm the enemy seems brighter, the rebels
are everywhere now. Several of the suspected Fallujah insurgents
were arrested from the streets of Baghdad. The task of cleansing
Iraq of its anti-American elements is becoming harder each
day. It certainly is a hard-to-win gamble that the US has
bet on. And in the hectic actions on the part of the coalition
forces, the common people are the worst hit. Even before the
US marines started sifting through Falluja, several thousand
inhabitants fled their homes, many more, who could not, are
facing the worst, -- death. Deaths that we may not see on
(R) thedailystar.net 2004