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Runnin' Trotlines With Human Bait-Washington's War Strategy in Iraq

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If reports from the military in various newspapers are to be believed, the differences between the so-called Al Qaida forces and nationalist forces in Iraq have broken out into occasional warfare. Specifically (and once again according to these reports), Al-Qaida in Iraq are now battling the 1920 Revolution Brigades and the Ansar al-Sunna Army. The three groups used to work in a loose confederation resisting US forces and their Iraqi clients, but political and tactical differences seem to be tearing that coalition apart. The primary reasons seem to revolve around Al Qaida in Iraq's targeting of Iraqi civilians as well as their extremist form of Islam, known as Wahabbism. Most Iraqis not only find Wahabbism too extreme for their tastes, they truly abhor the wanton carnage caused by bombs designed to kill civilians. The US forces are currently considering the internecine battle a boon for their mission. After all, goes their thinking, if the resistance is killing each other than they aren't killing US soldiers. This optimism will most likely be short-lived unless the US draws completely down. After all, no matter which side wins in this battle between resistance groups, the US forces will always be next (if not first) on their list of targets.

There is a fundamental difference underlying this conflict which the US is not talking about. That difference has to do with the reasons for the existence of the resistance groups involved. Groups like the 1920 Revolution Brigades and the Ansar al-Sunna Army exist primarily to end the occupation. They want the US and UK forces out of their country and a role in a future Iraqi government not tainted by US involvement. Al-Qaida, on the other hand, consider Iraq the front line in a global jihad against infidels-Americans, British, Christians, Jews, Shia and even other Sunni. In short, they want the battle to continue forever if necessary and the best way for that to happen is to keep the US in Iraq. Since the US military is currently operating from a belief that they can bring some kind of end to the violence and beat the "terrorists," the continued existence of Al-Qaida in Iraq (real or imagined) means a continued role for US forces. Indeed, Commander of US Forces in Iraq General Petraeus told the media on April 26th, 2007 that any withdrawal, in fact even any talk of withdrawal would be providing a victory to Al Qaida in the "global war on terror." Unfortunately for the Iraqis and the men and women actually facing fire in Iraq, the continued perpetuation of the lie that the desire of the Iraqi people to be left alone has something to do with the war being waged by extremist Wahabbist and others means that Iraq will continue to serve as a battleground for the mirrored holy wars being waged between those extremists and the extremists in DC and London. Unless, that is, those opposed to the occupation step up their protests and not relent until a withdrawal of all occupation forces is complete.

According to US sources, the recent attack on a forward post that killed nine US soldiers in one swoop on April 23, 2007 was committed by a group linked to Al-Qaida. That's the story, anyhow. Yet, if one reads closer, they discover that the only real link is the fact that the group that supposedly claimed the attack is part of the one of the broader fronts of groups fighting the occupation in Iraq. One of the other members of the front is the group that the US calls Al Qaida in Iraq. If anything, the link trumpeted by the US press in the immediate wake of the attack is tenuous at best.

Now, about those forward posts like the one in the aforementioned attack. I am reminded of a certain kind of fishing for catfish and other bottom feeders. Fishermen generally call it runnin' a trotline. In Maryland, my friends and I had our won version of this fishing method.. The way it worked was that my friends and I would set a half dozen poles in the ground along the bank of a river. Each pole would be stuck firmly in the mud on the bank and some kind of bait would be stuck on the hook--a piece of rotten meat or something similar that could sit in the water for several hours without disintegrating. Then we would go in to the woods or back to our cars to drink beer, waiting for the fish to smell out the bait and attack it. After a couple six packs, we would head back to the river bank and check the lines. Sometimes there would be a fish attached to a hook or two, and sometimes not. No matter what, the bait would always be gone, with a few shreds of it remaining in the water or on the bank. Another picture that comes to mind is the method once used by eel fishermen in northern Germany (appearing in a scene in the film The Tin Drum). They would take a horse's head that was attached to a rope or chain and throw it into the river. Within minutes dozens of eels would be frenziedly attacking the dead flesh and ripping it to shreds.

Essentially, that's what these forward posts are--bait for the armed resistance. The only difference is that the bait the US is using is alive. Indeed,the bait is US and Iraqi soldiers.. Hoping to catch a few of Washington's enemies, the generals and their strategists are running trotlines in areas of Iraq known to be unfriendly to the occupiers and their client army. After the attacks, one can assume that the scene remaining is somewhat similar to the one my friends and I found when we returned to the river bank to see what we might have caught.

It's not a pretty picture, but it's one the politicians who insist on continuing this war should see in their nightmares--nightmares they deserve to have but probably aren't. No matter how many times they talk about our beloved troops.
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Ron Jacobs is a writer, library worker and anti-imperialist. He is the author of The Way the Wind Blew: a History of the Weather Underground and Short Order Frame Up. His collection of essays and other musings titled Tripping Through the American (more...)
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