Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Happy Anniversary, Part II

A year ago a bedraggled Saddam Hussein was dragged from a hole in the ground to a chorus of self-congratulatory remarks from United States officials claiming that his capture marked a turning point in the war in Iraq.

"In the history of Iraq a dark and painful era is over," declared President George W. Bush. "All Iraqis can now come together and build a new Iraq."

The self-deceiving optimism of US military commanders was extraordinary.

Major General Ray Odierno, whose 4th Infantry Division was credited with arresting Saddam, declared a month later that the insurgency was "on its knees" and only "a sporadic threat."

Odierno went on to assure the press corps in Washington that "I believe that in six months you are going to see some normalcy". Other US generals echoed his words.

A year later American casualties showed how little the war was affected by the imprisonment of Saddam. Of the 1283 US soldiers who have died in Iraq since the invasion in March 2003, no fewer than 821 have died since his capture.

Six months after Odierno spoke, the US only fully controlled islands of territory. All the main roads out of Baghdad were unsafe. The resistance felt strong enough to openly establish its checkpoints around the capital.

Why did Saddam's capture accomplish so little compared to the expectations of the White House and US military? They appear to have believed much of their own propaganda about the resistance being orchestrated by remnants of Saddam's regime - Donald Rumsfeld's notorious "dead-enders."

Not news, of course. But "an essential part of the rear-guard action the truth must wage against the propaganda of power is to preserve the old lies so that they can be held up against the new." (Bluememe, 2004)


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