Juan Cole on Chimpy’s Last Gasp.
Bush is thinking in terms of a conventional war, where armies fight to hold territory. But if a nimble guerrilla group can come out at night and set off a bomb at the base of a large tenement building in a Shiite neighborhood, they can keep the sectarian civil war going. They work by provoking reprisals. They like to hold territory if they can. But as we saw with Fallujah and Tal Afar, if they cannot they just scatter and blow things up elsewhere.
Bush admitted that the Sunni guerrilla destruction of the Askariyah (Golden Dome) shrine at Samarra set off an orgy of sectarian reprisals. But he does not seem to have actually absorbed the lesson here. The guerrillas did not have to hold territory in order to carry out that bombing. They just had to be able to sneak into a poorly guarded old building that Bush did not even know about and blow it up. The symbolic and psychic damage that they did to the Shiites was profound. Blowing up hundreds of worshippers on Ashura had not had nearly this impact, since the damaged shrine was dedicated to the hidden Twelfth Imam or Mahdi, the Shiite promised one. Many religious Shiites in Iraq are now millenarians, desperately waiting for the Promised One to reveal himself and restore the world to justice. The guerrillas hit the symbol of that hope.
Bush could not help taking swipes at Iran and Syria. But the geography of his deployments gives the lie to his singling them out as mischief makers. Why send 4,000 extra troops to al-Anbar province? Why ignore Diyala Province near Iran, which is in flames, or Babel Province southwest of Baghdad? Diyala borders Iran, so isn’t that the threat? But wait. Where is al-Anbar? Between Jordan and Baghdad. In other words, al-Anbar opens out into the vast Sunni Arab hinterland that supports the guerrilla movement with money and volunteers, coming in from Jordan. If Syria was the big problem, you would put the extra 4,000 troops up north along the border. If Iran was the big problem, you’d occupy Diyala. But little Jordan is an ally of the US, and Bush would not want to insult it by admitting that it is a major infiltration root for jihadis heading to Iraq.