TE Lawrence On 'Iraq' Insurgency 78 Years Ago - Not Much Has Changed
Iraq's prime minister Maliki has announced that American forces can leave his war-ravaged country any time they want, though he would prefer that they stay and keep training Iraqi police and military :
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Saturday that the Iraqi army and police are capable of keeping security in the country...
The embattled prime minister sought to show confidence at a time when congressional pressure is growing for a withdrawal and the Bush administration reported little progress had been made on the most vital of a series of political benchmarks it wants al-Maliki to carry out.
Al-Maliki said difficulty in enacting the measures was "natural" given Iraq's turmoil.
Top aides to Maliki, and numerous members of the government are furious at the latest US assessment of progress in Iraq's government, widely given a failing grade by the CIA, the majority of the US Congress, and virtually every major news organisation.
Iraqis believe the US is treating their nation like "an experiment in an American laboratory."
One aide, Hassam al-Suneid, launched a savage critique of the US military, claiming :
it was committing human rights violations, embarassing the Iraqi government with its tactics and cooperating with "gangs of killers" in its campaign against al-Qaida in Iraq.
Al-Suneid's comments were a rare show of frustration toward the Americans from within al-Maliki's inner circle as the prime minister struggles to overcome deep divisions between Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish members of his coalition and enact the American-drawn list of benchmarks.
Journalist Robert Fisk wrote in the UK Independent quotes extensively from a 1929 entry on "Guerilla" for the Encyclopedia Britannica written by TE Lawrence. He said "it contains (a) ghastly message to the American armies in Iraq" :
....al-Maliki told reporters Saturday, "We say in full confidence that we are able, God willing, to take the responsibility completely in running the security file if the international forces withdraw at any time they want."
But he added that Iraqi forces are "still in need of more weapons and rehabilitation" to be ready in the case of a withdrawal.
On Friday, the Pentagon conceded that the Iraqi army has become more reliant on the U.S. military. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, said the number of Iraqi batallions able to operate on their own without U.S. support has dropped in recent months from 10 to six, though he said the fall was in part due to attrition from stepped-up offensives.
Al-Maliki told a Baghdad press conference that his government needs "time and effort" to enact the political reforms that Washington seeks - "particularly since the political process is facing security, economic and services pressures, as well as regional and international interference."
Al-Suneid, a Shiite lawmaker close to al-Maliki, bristled at the pressure.
He criticized U.S. overtures to Sunni groups in Anbar and Diyala, encouraging former insurgents to join the fight against al-Qaida in Iraq. "These are gangs of killers," he said.
"There are disagreements that the strategy that Petraeus is following might succeed in confronting al-Qaida in the early period but it will leave Iraq an armed nation, an armed society and militias," said al-Suneid.
Writing of the Arab resistance to Turkish occupation in the 1914-18 war, he asks of the insurgents (in Iraq and elsewhere): "... suppose they were an influence, a thing invulnerable, intangible, without front or back, drifting about like a gas? Armies were like plants, immobile as a whole, firm-rooted, nourished through long stems to the head. The Arabs might be a vapour..."
To control the land they occupied, he continued, the Turks "would have need of a fortified post every four square miles, and a post could not be less than 20 men. The Turks would need 600,000 men to meet the combined ill wills of all the local Arab people. They had 100,000 men available."
Now who does that remind you of? The "fortified post every four square miles" is the ghostly future echo of George W Bush's absurd "surge". The Americans need 600,000 men to meet the combined ill will of the Iraqi people, and they have only 150,000 available.
More from Lawrence on Arab/Muslim insurgencies in the land that would become Iraq :
"The printing press is the greatest weapon in the armoury of the modern (guerrilla) commander..."
Exchange 'printing press' for video and the internet and it's a close match to today.
Has President Bush read this definition of an Arab/Muslim insurgency by TE Lawrence, wonders Fisk. Did Rumsfeld? What about General Petraus?
"Rebellion must have an unassailable base ...In the minds of men converted to its creed. It must have a sophisticated alien enemy, in the form of a disciplined army of occupation too small to fulfil the doctrine of acreage: too few to adjust number to space, in order to dominate the whole area effectively from fortified posts.
"It must have a friendly population, not actively friendly, but sympathetic to the point of not betraying rebel movements to the enemy. Rebellions can be made by 2 per cent active in a striking force, and 98 per cent passively sympathetic ... Granted mobility, security ... time, and doctrine ... victory will rest with the insurgents, for the algebraical factors are in the end decisive, and against them perfections of means and spirit struggle quite in vain."
The likely answer is no, no and maybe. And even if they did it, they have already shown, numerous times, that they've learned little from history, from all the wars in the Middle East that have swallowed up generations from the West.
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