Jim Lobe

Despite a tidal wave of bad news from the Iraq occupation they did so much to promote, neo-conservatives are calling for US President Bush to pursue a military solution against resistance fighters there. The advice clearly goes against the general drift of US policy since last month’s politically disastrous siege of Fallujah and the outbreak of the Sadr rebellion in Baghdad and the predominantly Shiite southern part of the country. What with reports from more than one US intelligence agency that Ahmed Chalabi, a prominent Iraqi exile who championed the US-led attack on Iraq in 2003 and has been touted by the neo-cons as Iraq’s ‘’George Washington’’ for much of the past decade, has been doing the bidding of who neo-cons call the ‘’the terror masters’’ in Teheran, and the fact that virtually all of their pre-war predictions about the occupation have turned out to have been wishful thinking, one might think that Kristol and company would be inclined to reflect, at least a little, before ranting.

Neo-cons have been calling for months for their erstwhile ally, Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld, to send in tens of thousands more troops to bolster the occupation, if only to persuade the ‘’Baathist dead-enders’’, the ‘’Islamo-fascists’’, and ‘’foreign fighters’’ that resistance is futile against overwhelming US power. If all of Iraq had been subject to the ‘’shock and awe’’ of Washington’s military might, in neo-cons’ view, the Fallujah siege, which began Apr. 2 after US officials vowed to capture those responsible for the killing and mutilation of four US civilian guards and ‘’pacify’’ the city, would never have happened.

Commanders on the ground knew it was a disaster eventually agreed to lift the siege and permit a former Revolutionary Guard general, who had been cashiered under Chalabi’s ‘’de-Baathisation’’ programme, to organise a local security force that includes other ex-Baathists but which so far has also kept the peace.

Denounced as ‘’appeasement’’ by the neo-cons, that agreement is now seen by the uniformed military, as well as the realists in the State Department, the intelligence agencies and the British Foreign Office as the model for dealing with other restive parts of the country, including the Shiite South. But this infuriates the neo-cons who, despite their constant rhetoric about democracy and the importance of the ‘’war of ideas’’, have always considered military force to be the only language their enemies can ever really understand, be they Iraqis, Arabs, Muslims, Soviets, Communists or even Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Precisely how Fallujah or other towns and cities are to be ‘’conquered’’ without piling up horrendous civilian casualties that alienate people far beyond Iraq’s borders, is unclear.

Much of Hama, a city in northern Syria, was levelled by Syrian government forces in order to put down a radical Islamist uprising in 1982. From 4,000 to 20,000 people were believed to have been killed in the assault. Since then, ‘’Hama Rules’’, as used mainly by neo-conservatives, has referred to the ruthless of Arab governments in repressing challenges to their rule. — IPS