Saturday, November 20, 2004

Rebuilding Fallujah

Caesar’s clemency, as he knew, was familiar to all, and he did not fear that
severer action on his part might seem due to natural cruelty; at the same time
he could not see any successful issue to his plans if more of the enemy in
different districts engaged in designs of this sort
[rebellion]. He
therefore considered that the rest must be deterred by an exemplary punishment;
and so, while granting them their lives, he cut off the hands of all who had
borne arms, to testify the more openly the penalty of

Gaius Julius Caesar, De Bellum Gallico, Book VIII.44.

The United States and Iraqi Governments have announced plans to spend 100 million in US taxpayer dollars to repair damage from the late battle in Fallujah. Presumably, the funds are coming from the $18.4 billion Congress approved for Iraqi war reconstruction.

El Jefe understands the sound military and political reasoning behind spending large sums on needful public works and relief in the context of pacification and quelling insurrection, for the purpose of establishing and supporting a friendly government. Moreover, El Jefe fully supports hefty appropriations, larger even then those currently planned, for same. Nevertheless, El Jefe is of the opinion that spending such sums on Falljuah is worse than a crime, and is in fact a mistake. By all means, spend aid money in Iraq, but, with certain exceptions, not one penny ought to be spent in Falljuah, or anyplace else in the Sunni Triangle. Send the money to places (Shia or Kurdish) where the population is apt to be more grateful.

The avowed intention of the US military authorities and the Iraqi government to spend millions on Fallujah shows that these decision-makers are hopelessly naïve, and that they do not understand the nature of the current rebellion, because they do not take the Sunni Arab rebels seriously.

$100 million dollars on reconstruction of Fallujah is a stupid investment. No sum of money will ever reconcile Sunni Arabs to the overthrow of the Baathist state and the new dispensation in Iraq. The 25-30 percent of the Iraqi population that is Sunni Arab lorded-it over the remaining Shiite, Kurdish and Turkoman Iraqis from independence on. The fall of Saddam is a true disaster to Sunni Arabs, because it means the end of the Sunni monopoly on power, and a new Iraq dominated largely by the 60 percent of the population that is Shiite. From the Sunni Arab point of view, the only way to avoid retribution for 70 years of exploitation of the remainder of the population is by driving out the Americans and strangling the new Iraq in its crib. The Sunnis know full well that if Saddam’s victims consolidate their power, that there will be a reckoning.

Perhaps El Jefe is hard on the Sunnis, and in particular on the good citizens of Fallujah. True, he finds it hard to be kind to people who hacked American contractors to death and burned their bodies for television. Remember also the slaughterhouses for hostages, the bodies of the pro-American Iraqis, and the dead aid workers. Still, El Jefe is not as ruthless as some would be. El Jefe has been reading lots about the Romans lately – a people who knew more about dealing with rebels than Americans could even dream of learning. If the Romans were faced with Fallujah, they’d have killed everybody in the place, burnt it to the ground, leveled the ruins, and sowed the earth with salt. A little harsh for El Jefe, who is more amiable, but I bet that would end the nonsense in the Sunni Triangle.

Take the rebels seriously. They deserve that much. Yes, they are our enemies, and terrorist-bandit-thug murderers, but by their own lights they are patriots too. This war is everything to them, it is about power and existence; literally whether life as they have always known it is to be or not to be. The rebels are not children to be bought off with American aid money. They will gladly accept our cash today and gleefully return to shooting our soldiers and marines tomorrow. The rebels must be broken: that is convinced that their only choices are death or submission.

For now, spend the aid money elsewhere. A few more Fallujahs, and perhaps the Sunni population will get a clue, forget their stupid and murderous rebellion, and began to bargain with the Americans to protect them from the Shiites. Only then can we safely put aside the sword, and show clemency by sharing our food and ploughshares.

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