Friday, June 09, 2006

Of Twilight, Stealth, and Shadows in the Night

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s aim in Iraq was to drive the U.S.-led military coalition out of the country. In 2005, he called on Iraqi Sunnis to attack and kill Iraqi Shi’ites – “all-out war.” Experts analyzing the war in Iraq saw any number of reasons for this appeal to sectarian violence: historical enmity; restoration of the Sunni minority (a.k.a. al-Zarqawi) to power in an oil-rich nation; punishment of Iraqi Shi’ites for cooperating with the coalition authorities; curb the growing Iranian (Shi’ite) influence in southern Iraq.

Which of these, or which combination, is valid makes little difference now. Al-Zarqawi is dead, killed in a twilight air raid – a strike out of the blue. His demise may remove what had become a very unwanted complication for those Iraqi insurgents whose objective is to dislodge the U.S.-led occupation and who have little use for foreigners indiscriminately targeting Iraqis as well as coalition soldiers. I say “may” because it is still unclear who will emerge from the shadows to succeed al-Zarqawi and whether that individual will continue or abrogate ties to al-Qaeda. The “leading” candidate to take over is Abu Ayyub al-Masri, an Egyptian who was active in Iraq before al-Zarqawi came.

Meanwhile, Congress handed the “nationalistic” insurgents what amounts to a validation – perhaps vindication is more appropriate – of one of, if not THE, reason for continuing their battle against western military occupation. During its June 8 conference committee session to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the 2006 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill for the Afghan and Iraq wars and post-Katrina rebuilding, the conferees removed a provision that prohibited the use of any funds appropriated by the legislation for establishing permanent U.S. bases in Iraq. This “stealth” vote by the conferees comes despite the fact that a majority in each chamber had voted to restrict the use of funds for building or making any arrangements to build permanent U.S. bases in Iraq.

Reportedly, the committee vote was along party lines. The deaths in Iraq will not be.

In sum: a death at twilight; a successor only now emerging from the shadows; a stealth vote killing legislative language that, by refuting the allegation that the U.S. invaded and occupied Iraq to establish permanent bases and control Iraq’s “black gold,” could have further fractured the insurgency, buying time and reducing the number of battles with their inevitable death and destruction.

Instead, the perception is that U.S. military forces intend to stay indefinitely in a land whose people historically have fought and won against foreign occupation. Until this perception of a permanent U.S. presence is definitively refuted, the number of the dead – the “shades” and “shadows” of old, will continue to rise.

One can hear, echoing, Xerxes’ lament after Salamis (Aeschylus, “The Persians”):
“Thousands on thousands.
The numbers of the dead are awesome.
The mind reels at the magnificence of our destruction.”


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12:46 AM  

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